Name these cars today and many folks will look at you with blank stares. “A Duese-what?” “Auburn? Isn’t that a college?” But, for Floyd Cooley, these names were as familiar as Ford, Chevy or Chrysler, or even Honda and Nissan, are today.
Floyd was born in 1898 in rural Fairfield, Illinois. His father, Fred, owned and operated a creamery in Yorktown, IL, and a garage in Tampico, IL. The latter was a small town of 900 at the time. It was in Tampico that Floyd took one of his first jobs – occasional chauffer for Mrs. Reagan of Tampico, while his sister babysat the Reagan children, Neil and Ronald.
The Cooley family later moved to McHenry, IL, where Fred became a very progressive businessman, owning and operating a local feed mill and selling farm machinery. There Floyd purchased and rode an Indian motorcycle.
There was a thread of logic to the idea that, at a young age, Floyd would work, in one capacity or another, with automobiles. It was the beginning of a life-long love affair. It was the beginning of a life experience that would make Floyd a revered expert on rare and early automobiles in years to come. But, that’s getting ahead of the story.
As a young man, Floyd moved from McHenry, IL to Auburn, IN, where he was employed as an auto worker. Over the years, he built Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg automobiles. During that same era, Floyd drove, and possibly owned, a Locomobile.
As the Great Depression hit, Floyd’s father lost his business and several rental farms that he owned. As a result, Floyd learned to be frugal and not let anything go to waste. Once retired, Floyd and Lenore hit the open road in their Buick sedan, keeping his newer "spare" tires in the backseat, while driving on his older, balding tires, so he could change them when they finally gave up the ghost.
Considering his love of the automobile, it made perfect sense that Floyd became a big fan of auto racing, attending many Indianapolis 500 races at the Brickyard. Floyd's contagious automotive enthusiasm transferred to his two nephews, as though it was bred into their genes.
In his later years, automobile enthusiasts and owners of rare-early automobiles sought out and were thrilled to meet Floyd. He offered a wealth of knowledge for the interested and those restoring old cars. And his deportment fit, too.
Floyd was a gentleman – always well-dressed with a well-groomed mustache. He looked as though he belonged in a Duesenberg, a Cord or an Auburn. He treasured opportunities to discuss his automotive passions, and it wasn't unusual for Floyd to produce an old car part from his jacket pocket, proudly displaying it as his "Show and Tell" item and introduction to one of his many interesting tales of automobiles from the days of true classics.