Elegant British and American Cars Coming to Food Lion AutoFair

CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 5, 2007) - A collection of elegant British and American classic cars from Jaguar and Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg will represent the best of both sides of the Atlantic during the Sept. 13-16 Food Lion AutoFair at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

On display throughout the four-day automotive extravaganza will be a 1935 Auburn 851; a 1930 Duesenberg replica, a 1936 Cord 810, a 1950 Jaguar Mark V and a 1960 Jaguar Mark IX.

No car manufacturer was more energetic and innovative in the 1930s than E.L. Cord's self-named corporation, which produced Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg from its factories in Auburn, Ind. While most Americans were barely able to afford one of Henry Ford's $500 Model As during the Depression, elite customers eagerly paid $2,000 to $3,000 to upgrade every time one of Cord's well-engineered cars set a new speed record.

The Auburn Automobile Co. had been turning out high-quality cars since its inception in 1900, but without real financial success when E.L. Cord became its general manager in 1924. After doubling sales during the next three years, Cord became president of Auburn and put the company on a path to profit with his emphasis on engineering and body design. The company enjoyed a stellar sales year in 1929, which saw the introduction of the radical Cabin Speedster, an enclosed car whose teardrop-shaped body had been influenced by the new science of aerodynamics.

By the mid-1930s, the Auburn line had expanded-some have said it was "watered down"-to include everything from six-cylinder coupes to V-12 limousines, and the extra costs were hurting profits. In 1935, Auburn introduced its 851 series, the bright star of which was a supercharged "boattail" speedster that sold for $2,245. Although the dying company lost money on each 851 speedster, it managed to turn out 500 of the 100-mph flyers before shutting the factory doors at the end of 1936. One of the surviving 851s will be on display at Food Lion AutoFair.

Founded in 1920 as an independent manufacturer of performance-oriented cars, the Duesenberg brand enjoyed a reputation throughout the decade as a symbol of speed and endurance-so much so that to this day we use the phrase "It's a Duesy!" to indicate something is the best in its field. Brilliant engineers but mediocre businessmen, the Duesenberg brothers sold their company in 1926 to Cord, who pushed them to develop the groundbreaking 1929 J model.

Immediately lauded as the most magnificent speed machine on the planet, the J chassis sold for $8,500, meaning buyers still had to pay extra for the custom body of their choice. Its race-inspired, 6.9-liter eight-cylinder engine was full of technology that would not become commonplace in other American makes for several decades, such as twin overhead camshafts that operated four valves per cylinder. With an optional supercharged engine, output climbed to an estimated 350 to 400 horsepower, giving birth to the legendary "SJ" model. Only the richest and most glamorous celebrities of the time owned Duesenberg Js-Hollywood legends Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, James Cagney and Greta Garbo, to name a few. The car coming to Food Lion AutoFair is a reproduction of a 1930 dual-cowl phaeton SJ.

As it goes with most captains of industry, E.L. Cord could not resist the temptation to name a product after himself, and in 1929 introduced the Cord L-29. Remarkable for its front-wheel drivetrain packaged in a conventional body design, the L-29 suffered slow sales and ended production in 1932.

In 1936, the Cord marque was revived in the form of the 810 series, which flaunted such Buck Rogers styling features as concealed headlights, a raked windshield and other aerodynamic tricks. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the car was its nose, which looks at first glance like a polished coffin from the school of Art Deco design. Early mechanical problems tainted the car's reputation, so an improved 812 was released for model year 1937. The 812 was available with the earlier car's 125-horsepower flathead V-8 engine or a supercharged version that produced an impressive 170 horsepower. Unfortunately, updates came too late to save the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg trio from extinction, its final product an 812 built in August. Only 3,000 of the 810/812 models were made, one of which-a 1936 810-is coming to AutoFair.

After World War II, in England, another competition-oriented company established itself as a leader in the fields of technology, styling and engineering. Jaguar's origins go back to the 1920s, when, as the Swallow Sidecar firm, it branched out to build bodies for Fiat and Morris. The name Jaguar was adopted after the war, when the company stepped up efforts to build its own world-class performance cars.

The first sign of brilliance came in 1949, with the debut of the XK-120 roadster, the British company's first sports car. Powered by a 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine that delivered 160 horsepower, the light XK was arguably the fastest production car from any country, and yet it offered a pleasant ride due to advanced suspension design. Because an early, aluminum-bodied version of the car had set a flying mile speed record of 132.6 mph, the company modestly claimed its customers could expect the car to reach 120 mph-hence the model's name.

Alongside the XK-120 for 1949 was Jaguar's new "saloon" line, the Mark V, whose independent front suspension, hydraulic brakes, sealed-beam headlamps, concealed door hinges and curvy body immediately set the design standard for European sedans. It was powered by either a 2.5-liter or 3.5-liter inline six-cylinder engine, depending on the customer's preference. The larger engine featured twin sidedraft carburetors and dual exhausts for an output of 125 horsepower. Available also with a "drophead coupe" body, the Mark V sold respectably during its three years of production; 10,466 went to new homes, more than half of which were in countries other than England.

A decade after the stylish XK-120 and Mark V were introduced, Jaguar's status in the world market took another leap with the 1959 Mark IX. Powered by a 3.8-liter inline six-cylinder engine that produced 220 horsepower, the body was remarkably similar to the previous year's Mark VIII. Sedans built for export to America were fitted with Borg-Warner automatic transmissions, power steering and disc brakes-equipment that was considered optional in all other markets. The Mark IX was as sporting as Jaguar's XK roadsters (top speed was 115 mph), but driver and passengers were surrounded in Old World appointments such as built-in folding picnic tables and burl-walnut trim.

Two examples of this golden age of Jaguar design-a 1950 Mark V drophead coupe and a 1960 Mark IX sedan-will be exhibited during the Food Lion AutoFair.

The Jaguars and the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg models belong to MotorCraft Ltd., a restoration shop in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Other attractions scheduled for the Sept. 13-16 Food Lion AutoFair include a trio of cars from Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s personal collection; TV host John Walsh's unique amphibious vehicle; Bumblebee and Ironhide from the hit movie "Transformers;" Dale Earnhardt's No. 3 "pass in the grass" Chevrolet from 1987; and world-class hot rods from Watty's Fabrications. Food Lion AutoFair is the world's largest automotive extravaganza. The four-day event includes a car show featuring various makes and models from more than 50 clubs; more than 7,000 vendor spaces that offer a plethora of automotive parts and memorabilia and a car corral that features nearly 1,500 vehicles available for sale or trade.

Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5. For information, contact the speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.