Auburn by Beuhrig

The Auburn Automobile Company grew out of the Eckhart Carriage Company, founded in Auburn, Indiana, in 1874 by Charles Eckhart (1841–1915). Eckhart's sons, Frank and Morris, experimented making automobiles before entering the business in earnest, absorbing two other local carmakers and moving into a larger plant in 1909. The enterprise was modestly successful until materials shortages during World War I forced the plant to close.

In 1919, the Eckhart brothers sold the company to a group of Chicago investors headed by Ralph Austin Bard, who later served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and as Undersecretary of the Navy for President Roosevelt and President Harry S. Truman. The new owners revived the business, but it proved unprofitable. In 1924 they approached Errett Lobban Cord (1894–1974), a highly successful automobile salesman, with an offer to run the company. Cord countered with an offer to take over completely in what amounted to a leveraged buyout, which the Chicago group accepted. Cord aggressively marketed the company's unsold inventory and completed his buyout before the end of 1925.

But after the 1929 stock market crash, despite advanced engineering and aggressive styling, Auburn's upscale vehicles were too expensive for the Depression-era market, and around 1935, Auburn started to produce a line of kitchen cabinets and sinks, to keep the company afloat. Cord's illegal stock manipulations would force him to give up control of his automobile holding company, which included the even more expensive Cord, and Rolls-Royce-priced high-performance Duesenberg brands, as well as Central Manufacturing Co., an 1896 coach-building company that built metal bodies for a number of different car companies, including Auburn. Under injunction from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to refrain from further violations, Cord sold his shares in his automobile holding company. In 1937, automotive production of all three marques ended.

Nevertheless, after a 1940 bankruptcy reorganization, the former Auburn Automobile and Central Manufacturing Companies merged into Auburn Central Manufacturing Corporation. in March 1941, Auburn Central Manufacturing (ACM) landed a contract with Willys-Overland for 1,600 jeep bodies. The first bodies were shipped in April, and more jeep body contracts were gained from both Willys-Overland and Ford Motor Company during World War II. In addition to jeep bodies, ACM also made trailer bodies and aircraft components. By mid 1943, the Connersville, Indiana company built its 150,000th jeep body, and during peak wartime production, ACM's large buildings complex, together with many more automotive industries there had formed an early industrial park, that earned the town the nickname "Little Detroit". Jeep body production would go on through 1948.

In March, 1942 Auburn Central changed its name to American Central Manufacturing, and in 1945, kitchen sinks, appliances, and cabinets were chosen to have the largest market potential for ACM's manufacturing capabilities. This indeed became ACM's core product after the war.