A real doozy

Doug Pray hopes to shock the au­to­mo­tive world at the Auburn Cord Due­sen­berg Fes­ti­val with his 1935 Auburn Speed­ster G3 au­to­mo­bile.

The Oklahoman - - BUSINESS - BY MIKE COPPOCK

BRO­KEN AR­ROW — Doug Pray has a fixed date in mind that he is work­ing hard to­ward.

This La­bor Day, he hopes to shock the au­to­mo­tive world at the Auburn Cord Due­sen­berg Fes­ti­val in In­di­ana by un­veil­ing his man­u­fac­tured 1935 Auburn Speed­ster G3 au­to­mo­bile.

The ve­hi­cle will not be a replica, but a man­u­fac­tured ve­hi­cle using 1935 Auburn parts. It will be the first of a se­ries of Auburn G3s to be man­u­fac­tured in his small Bro­ken Ar­row man­u­fac­tur­ing plant with a price tag of $750,000.

“The prob­lem with a 1935 new car with 1935 parts is they drive like a 1935 car,” said Pray, 64. “What we are do­ing is up­grad­ing the en­gine from 150 horse­power to 250 horse­power with a new su­per­charger, alu­minum bil­let, pistons and rods along with im­proved brakes and steer­ing.”

The price tag was de­rived from how much his firm charges per hour for restor­ing the Auburns and Cords of clients — $70 to $80 an hour for a usual restora­tion. Pray cur­rently has four frames to build up into his Auburn Speed­ster G3 (G3 stands for third gen­er­a­tion). The Auburn-Cord-Due­sen­berg Fes­ti­val is one of the largest car shows in the U.S. for the past 60 years. Pray be­lieves it is the ideal for­mat for un­veil­ing his new ve­hi­cle.

From In­di­ana to Bro­ken Ar­row

Pray in­her­ited the Auburn Cord Due­sen­berg Co. after his fa­ther, Glenn Pray, died in 2011. When his fa­ther moved the car man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany in 1963 from In­di­ana to his home in Bro­ken Ar­row, he brought with him more than 700,000 pounds of Cord unassem­bled parts, not count­ing the Auburn and Due­sen­berg parts.

The older Pray’s dream was to man­u­fac­ture the Cord as well as the Auburn from out of an aban­doned pickle can­ning plant in Bro­ken Ar­row.

“When I took over the place, peo­ple asked me if I was go­ing to man­u­fac­ture those cars and I said, ‘no.’ I had al­ready gone through that and saw my dad go through that,” Doug Pray said.

He said his fa­ther was a poorly paid auto shop teacher at Tulsa Cen­tral High when he learned the Auburn Cord auto plant was up for sale in 1960. Glenn Pray had a grow­ing ob­ses­sion with the Cord. He called the au­tomaker’s owner, Dal­las Winslow, ask­ing how much he wanted for the en­tire Auburn-Cord-Due­sen­berg Com­pany. When Winslow said $75,000, Glenn Pray set up an ap­point­ment time.

The prob­lem was Glenn Pray did not even have gas money for a drive to In­di­ana and his car had bald tires. He “bor­rowed” trav­el­ing money from the PTA Fund. A friend agreed to drive him to In­di­ana in his Lin­coln Con­ti­nen­tal, but that car had its left side bashed in. The two did not have the money for a ho­tel room, just enough to drive straight to In­di­ana and back to Tulsa.

When they ar­rived at the plant, they parked the Lin­coln so the right side only could be viewed from Winslow’s of­fice. Glenn Pray and Winslow agreed to terms, but then Winslow asked the Tulsa shop teacher where he was go­ing to bor­row the money from to buy the auto plant.

Glenn Pray said, “From you.” He re­called in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy that Winslow at first was stunned, but agreed.

The Glenn Pray Cord

From his con­verted can­ning plant, Glenn Pray be­gan man­u­fac­tur­ing Cords in 1966 and even­tu­ally be­came well­known among clas­sic car en­thu­si­asts. Go­ing into part­ner­ship with others — in­clud­ing the owner of a car deal­er­ship — al­lowed the firm to man­u­fac­ture 97 Cords, called the Glenn Pray Cord. Mis­man­age­ment by his part­ners caused Cord pro­duc­tion to cease. By the time of his death, the plant was re­duced to just sell­ing a few parts now and then out of his one­man of­fice, his son said.

“When Dad passed away, the fam­ily sat down to dis­cuss what to do with this plant and I said I’d like to see if I can bring the com­pany back,” Doug Pray said. “When I came in, the only high-tech item here was a rotary phone.”

At that point, Doug Pray had the le­gal rights to the Auburn and Cord name, and thou­sands of pounds of parts to man­u­fac­ture the ve­hi­cles.

“The goody stuff, like most of the chrome, had been sold off,” he said. “But even though I had fewer parts, they brought a higher price.”

He would work the phones sell­ing the rare parts to col­lec­tors while also work­ing as a chi­ro­prac­tor. Grad­u­ally Doug Pray put a staff to­gether do­ing restora­tion work for Cord and Auburn own­ers across the coun­try. And when he could, he would buy Cords and Auburns to add to his in­ven­tory.

Pair of pick­ers

“What re­ally got us off the ground was when the Amer­i­can Pick­ers TV show came in and did a show on us. Right after it aired, we got 30,000 hits on our web­site,” he said.

To­day, Doug Pray’s ACD plant hums with ac­tiv­ity as 16 work­ers hover over 37 restora­tion and re­pair projects in­volv­ing var­i­ous Cord and Auburn models. Clients come from both North Amer­ica and Europe.

“I will get one call from a guy look­ing for a Cord and I would get an­other call from a guy want­ing to sell a Cord. So an­other as­pect of my busi­ness now is putting these peo­ple in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with each other,” Doug Pray says.

Clas­sic car re­storer Dale Adams is the en­gi­neer be­hind the re­birth of Doug Pray’s Auburn Speed­ster G3.

“The gaso­line back then wouldn’t al­low cars to have the power we see to­day,” Adams said. “But with to­day’s fuel, it’s not too hard to kick them in the pants. After all, an en­gine is still just an en­gine. It’s a pump.”

Now 65 years old, Adams worked for Doug Pray’s fa­ther when he was 20 be­fore mov­ing off on his own four years later. Since then, Adams has won 15 na­tional awards for restor­ing clas­sic ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing first place in 2013 for his re­stored 1934 Packard at the Peb­ble Beach Auto Show.

“Doug is in a unique sit­u­a­tion be­cause he’s got the orig­i­nal parts,” Adams said.

Ac­cord­ing to Steve Hawkins, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor for the Oklahoma His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, Ok­la­homans started up sev­eral auto man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies. Oklahoma saw its first car in 1909 man­u­fac­tured in Fred­er­ick. A heavy duty oil field truck called the OK was built in Muskogee in 1915. Oklahoma City had a truck man­u­fac­turer in 1917 pro­duc­ing the Ozark. That same year, Enid was pro­duc­ing a high-end ve­hi­cle called the Geron­imo. Be­fore Pray’s ven­ture with the Cord, the last Oklahoma-man­u­fac­tured ve­hi­cle was in 1918 called the Tulsa Four.

[PHOTO PRO­VIDED]

Doug Pray stands next to the last ve­hi­cle built in 1981 which he de­signed for his fa­ther, Glenn Pray.

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