As one of the few prewar American sportcars, the Auburn Speedster was a powerful, affordable and stylish car. It featured a characteristic boat tail body and a supercharged engine that that set American trends: large proportions and straight line performance.
In 1932, a stock supercharged speedster driven by Ab Jenkins at the Bonneville Salt Flats and was clocked at 100 mph through the flying mile. Auburn were particularly pleased with these results and plaqued subsequent cars with a memo on the dashboard.
Produced from 1929 to 1937, the Speedster benefited from E.L. Cord’s empire which included many talented designers from Cord, Duesenbreg and Lycoming. As different engines became available, the Speester was manufactured in three distinct phases. The last of these was the 851/852 Speedster which benefited from styling upgrades and a reworked Inline-8 engine.
Up until 1935, many of Auburn’s models were powered by Lycoming’s V12 engine, which could be sold at a very affordable rate. Unfortunately, as this engine became unavailable, Auburn were left to rethink their straight-6, and Duesenberg helped them retool to include two more cylinders.
While changing engines, Harold Ames hired Gordon Buehrig of ex-Duesenberg fame to touch up the Speedster design. Buehrig reduced the ornamentation on the car, and added a more flowing touch, especially with his recessed radiator.
Of the four decades of Auburn production, the companies’ history can be highlighted by the 851 and 852 Speedsters. These were the last few cars made by Auburn before the factory shut down in October of 1937 along with the rest of the Cord Empire.
Story by Richard Owen for Supercars.net
$2 245 USD
Water Cooled, Inline-8
2 Valves per Cyl
4589 cc / 280.0 in³
77.78 mm / 3.06 in
120.6 mm / 4.75 in
111.9 kw / 150.1 bhp @ 4000 rpm
32.71 bhp per litre
bhp per tonne
311.8 nm / 230.0 ft lbs @ 2750 rpm
body / frame
Steel Body on Steel Cross-Braced Chassis
Lockheed Drums w/Hydraulic Assist
f brake size
mm / in
Lockheed Drums w/Hydraulic Assist
r brake size
mm / in
Worm & Peg
Non-Independant w/ Semi-Elliptic Leaf Springs, Hydraulic Dampers
Live Axle w/ Semi-Elliptic Leaf Springs, Hydraulic Dampers
The current owner purchased this Auburn speedster from R.A. Straker of Zanesville, Ohio in 1969. It has been in the same collection ever since. Straker had bought it a few years earlier from Pierre Fontana, another Ohio collector. At the time, it was missing three fenders and one door. As a matter of expediency, Fontana restored it with fiberglass replacement parts, the way the car is presented today. The car is known to have matching chassis, engine and supercharger numbers. Complete with California black plates from the time of the vendor’s early ownership, this is an exceptional Auburn speedster.
Restored in archetypal red by Coronal SA of Montevideo, Uruguay, this Supercharged 851 speedster has a beige leather interior and brown cockpit carpet. It is clean throughout and presents very well, with good gloss to the paintwork and excellent brightwork. For the last 20 years, the car has been on display at the Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim, Germany, a showcase of air and land transport technology. It has since been recommissioned by the vendor.
While most Auburn Boattail Speedsters have lived quiet lives of privacy and privilege, this regal example was pushed into the spotlight at the tender age of one year, when it played a central role in the 1936 romantic comedy hit “Desire”, starring Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich. Auction Source: 2010 Mecum Kissimmee, FL Auction
This remarkable 1935 Auburn 851SC Boattail Speedster is a well-known example within the ACD Club. The ninth speedster built, it was the Chicago Auto Salon show car. Following the show it was sold to a Chicago area man as a new car. He sold it in the early 1950s to a man named Maisnick from Oak Lawn, IL. In 1953, while Maisnick owned the car it was lightly damaged in a garage fire – another car caught fire, but the owner was able to save the speedster and two other cars by pulling them out of the garage.
Today the car remains in show quality condition, showing little or no evidence of aging since completion, a testimonial to both the quality of the restoration and the conditions under which the car has been kept. Paint, chrome and upholstery are near perfect, and the engine bay and chassis detailing is exemplary. The restoration of the Auburn, which took place over a two-year period, cost in excess of $180,000, a substantial amount at the time. Accordingly, the Speedster must be seen to truly appreciate the quality and correctness of it in its presentation and overall condition.