These photos, courtesy of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Automobile Museum of Auburn, Indiana, are of the stunning E-1 Cord prototype. As I stared at these photos a wide array of thoughts and fantasies danced through my mind.
Our view and understanding of history is tainted because we are seeing it in the broad focus of history and not in the narrow focus of the present moment. It is tainted because we have skipped to the end of the book and know how the story will end.
Today we see this Cord as epitomizing the very ideal of a classic car because we are seeing it through the luxury of hindsight, not in context. When first conceived in 1929 this was to be a limited production luxury car that would establish Cord as a builder of quality automobiles. It was also an excercise in automotive engineering. When completed in 1931 it was a dinosaur, a luxury car without a market.
Applying this train of thought to the collecting of vintage cars we see that our view of what constitutes a stylish car or dependable car is tainted by time. The 1957 Chevy is an American icon but when new it sold poorly compared to Ford. When was the last time you saw a 1957 Ford?
The Chrysler products of the 1940s offered consumers excellent value for the dollar. However, by the late 1940s the fresh, sleek styling of Ford, Nash, Hudson, and Studebaker presented the illusion that the cars being built by Chrysler were dated. Adding to this perception was the trumpeted performance of cars such as the Olds Rocket 88 and “step down” Hudson. Today, however, this battle for dominance among manufacturers in 1950 is only of importance in philosophical discussion on history.
With the exception of those who view vintage cars as investments it is fun and memories that give classic automobiles value. When new the Model A Ford was an ideal vehicle for those who traveled the back roads and a poor one in comparison to a Plymouth for those who ran the highways. Who today buys a Model A to run the back roads or a 1930 Plymouth to run the highways as a daily driver?
These cars are sought after, cherished and refurbished because they are fun, because of the memories. The memories of a first car and the adventures in it will do more to give a car value than how well it sold in 1940.
If my wallet was a bottomless well of cash I have a long and lengthy list of vehicles that would fill my garages. They would run the gamut from the simplistic Model A Ford pick up truck to the mechanical perfection of the legendary Duesenberg.
As it is not a bottomless well of finance my choice for vintage vehicles tends to be a bit more practical with an emphasis on reliable transportation. It is also why I enjoy the vicarious thrills of a car show or rally where the folks who have a ’57 Chevy, a 1954 Harley with a vintage side car, a 1957 Corvette or a Model T Ford are using them for more than mere transportation.
Hope to see you at the Fun Run!

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