On the weekend of September 11, 2010, classic Pontiac’s invaded the “City of Classics”: Auburn, Indiana. “Pontiac’s at Auburn” was a non-judged gathering open to all Pontiac’s, organized by our own Chapter Prez, Steve Fleury, with critical help from a few local members.

This is from Ron Panzer. We need to mention the incredible help from Indiana locals Bill Gallivan and Larry Spade, both of whom made the show possible. Bill contacted me the moment he saw our show ad in the SMOKE and talked about the annual gathering he did in Auburn every fall honoring the ’67 GP. We quickly decided to hold a joint meet with emphasis on the ’67. Our next gathering in Auburn will probably honor another model year.

Larry Spade, who is actually the town plumber and knows just about every person in town, arranged almost everything for us and should receive the most credit. He gathered up all the goodies for the goody bags, arranged for the police escorted parade to the ACD Museum, secured the town square for Friday evening’s cruise-in, arranged for Fleury and me to speak about our event on the local radio station on Friday morning and got us discount tickets to both museums, ACD and NATMUS. Since he does all the plumbing work for RM Auction’s building, he inquired about us doing an inside show should the weather be an issue, which it was. He arranged all of this.

Larry has inside contacts everywhere in Auburn, also just happens to own a ’67 GP convert, and made all this happen easily for us. I sent him a thank you note afterwards. I’m also thinking we should make him an honorary member of our chapter for life. I’ve been dealing with on-going health issues since Auburn or would have pursued this further. (Just saw a doctor for a thorough going over.) His info is: Larry Spade, 1546 CR 28, Corruna, IN 46706. Ph H260-281-2159 or C260-570-0570.

Early on as the show took shape I called him and asked if he could send flyers or pamphlets to me, a week later I received a huge box of 1,000 pamphlets each from the ACD Museum and a local theater company that did musicals just around the time we’d be there. His help made the event happen as smoothly as it did. Bill Gallivan kept in constant touch with me to see that everything went ok and still calls occasionally as we’ve become friends. Sadly, Bill just sold his own ’67 GP due to finances most Americans are facing with this sick economy.

Scheduled events consisted of an evening cruise-in downtown, a Pontiac parade, a tour of local museums, and two seminars, culminating in a display-only car show on Saturday afternoon. To avoid conflicting with other events and booked-solid hotels, the event was intentionally scheduled for the weekend after Auburn’s huge annual car event, the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival, which takes place every Labor Day weekend.

Auburn, Indiana was the headquarters of the Auburn Automobile Company, which produced its first cars in 1903. Its predecessor, The Eckhart Carriage Company, had been founded in 1875 by Charles Eckhart. When Auburn fell on hard times due to the recession and material shortages in the wake of World War I, the company was purchased and revitalized first by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, then by visionary race car driver and car salesman Errett Lobban Cord. The newly-formed Cord Corporation also acquired Duesenberg, Lycoming, Lexington, and Checker Cab, and their non-automotive holdings included Stinson Aircraft, New York Shipbuilding, and American Airways.

E. L. Cord wasted no time creating his own car, the Cord L-29. Featuring superb styling, and a Lycoming straight 8, it was the world’s first front wheel drive production car. Other milestone cars produced by Cord were the Duesenberg Model J, the Auburn 851 Speedster, and the Cord 810. The company spent eleven years building the world’s finest motorcars, all of which are acknowledged as full classics today. Despite employing well-respected designers like Gordon Buerig and Allan Leamy, and implementing the most advanced engineering of its time, the Great Depression finally forced the company to close its doors for good in August 1937.

The company’s service, manufacturing, and showroom facilities in Auburn are National Historic Landmarks, and now house two world-class museums dedicated to these amazing cars and other milestone makes. The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum and the National Automotive and Truck Museum of the United States not only have dozens of examples of cars manufactured by Auburn and Cord, but many of these cars have special provenance. Among these are E.L. Cord’s personal Cord 810, an Auburn ordered new by Frank Lloyd Wright, and a hand-built prototype Cord 810 that was one of about 60 that were ordered buried in the woods behind a second Indiana factory just to dispose of them.

The stunning classics housed in the ACD Museum are especially meaningful to the owners of 1960’s Pontiacs, as these were the cars revered and collected by the people who created their own classics. John DeLorean himself was a big fan of the ’29 Duesenberg Model J and the supercharged SJ, even naming the ’69 Grand Prix after them. And, Pontiac Design Studio chief Jack Humbert owned and restored a black ’37 Cord 812 Phaeton powered by a supercharged V8.

The city of Auburn really rolled out the red carpet for the Pontiacs, closing the streets downtown for the well-attended cruise-in, and providing the most extensive police escort for the parade this side of a Presidential motorcade. The Pontiac owners in attendance returned the favor with lots of rare big-inch HO motors, Tri-Powers, and 4-speeds. Friday night’s cruise-in took place around the town square, and the striking 19th century architecture made a perfect backdrop for the Pontiacs’ classic styling. Hot food and cold beverages were within easy reach at several establishments, and a good time was had by all.

Scores of Pontiacs lined up at the host hotel Saturday morning to participate in the parade through the streets of Auburn. Even though the locals are used to being surrounded by classic cars, this was undoubtedly the first time they had seen so many Pontiacs in town. The weather held out for the parade, but the rain moved in while everyone was inside the museums. The high-performance all-American classics from Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg housed in the ACD Museum were the high-end muscle cars of their day.

After eating lunch at a 5-star Italian restaurant just around the corner, the hardcore Pontiac people braved the constant drizzle to make their way to the Auburn Auction Park. New owners RM Auctions had graciously offered their main auction building as a contingency location for the car show in the event of rain. The dampened crowd of gearheads was grateful for the shelter, and just blown away by the raised platforms, ramps, and display turntables provided. At one point, they had one of the turntables spinning so fast that ‘69 owner Mike Baumgardner had to tell them to slow it down to let him off!

Once all the muscle Pontiacs were safely parked inside, participants spent the next hour drying off their cars and sharing road trip stories of the drive in from Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ontario. This is one club geared toward driving their cars! After wandering around to check out each other’s rides, they lined the provided bleachers for two Pontiac-related seminars by our own award-winning Editor Tim Dye and Chief Mechanic Ron Panzer. A nice participation award was presented to each registered entrant.

Everyone that we talked to had a great time at Auburn despite Saturday’s rain, and they are awaiting announcements of future shows with baited breath. This may turn into a solid annual event, and there has been talk of doing one or two more like this in different regions. If you’d like to host a show like this in your area, or if you have an idea for a different kind of event, like a fall cruise, a backyard Cruise-B-Q, or something completely different, contact the Pit Crew or Steve Fleury and suggest the idea. Remember, the Grand Prix Chapter is YOUR club! As always, check the Chapter web-site for upcoming show dates and locations.

Story by Ken Godfrey


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