A real doozy
Doug Pray hopes to shock the automotive world at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival with his 1935 Auburn Speedster G3 automobile.
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.
Doug Pray stands next to the last vehicle built in 1981 which he designed for his father, Glenn Pray.