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Missing Link

AUBURN, IND. (WPTA21)-Designing a new car is a mix of old technology and new. It starts with a hand drawn sketch, the sketch then turned into a small three dimensional clay model, the small model into a full size clay model and that used to create the steel body panels. And the process hasn’t changed much in one hundred years.

A stylish example of century old new car development is visiting Auburn’s Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, a model ‘Y’ body prototype for what would become the Duesenberg Model ‘J’, the most extravagant most stylish American automobile ever built.

Having a body prototype like this, it just helps the designer and the way the car has to sit the way the car looks the way the engine would fit inside,” says museum curator Sam Grate. “It helps keep everything on track to get the finished product.”

The Model ‘Y’ was hand built 92 years ago from the same sketch to prototype process used today and a critical bridge along the road to the Model ‘J’. Experimental design elements include a lower door line, very sporty for the day. A split windshield and various new body lines. Even the placement of the engine on the frame. The sporty low door line never made it into Model ‘J’ production, neither did the split windshield. But a stainless steel extension of the running board trim up onto the rear fender was used on the Model ‘J’ and the subtle curves of the hood. But not much else. When the designers were done all Model ‘Y’ prototypes were ordered destroyed and they were. Except this one. One of the company’s founders, Augie Duesenberg, loved the car and kept it car for himself and drove it for years ensuring its survival. It’s a stunning chapter in the story of how our ancestors created these works of rolling art, clues to their thinking process and what they saw as beautiful. And now it’s rolled into in 21 country for all of us to enjoy. This is Eric Olson reporting.

Eric Olson

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