Auburn was one of the few automobiles to see higher sales after the 1929 Wall Street crash. The 1931 model-year production zoomed to a record 36,148 on the strength of more dealers and a fleet of luxurious, bargain-priced Eights. Reflecting Auburn president E.L. Cord's edgy and sales strategy, the eight-cylinder engine was bored to 268.6 cubic-inches and 98 horsepower, and larger, more rakish bodies were placed on a longer 127-inch wheelbase chassis. Auburn offered speedster, coupe, cabriolet, brougham, phaeton, sedan and closed sedan bodies in two trim levels, prompting Business Week magazine to hail Auburn as 'more car for the money than the public had ever seen.' A fine example of a legendary body style, this vehicle has recently been refurbished and will be used on a regular basis when it returns home from the Amelia Island Concours to its home in Mississippi. The owner believes that cars should be exercised, along with the owner, for the benefit of both.
Sold for $176,000 at 2008 RM Auctions. Charles Eckhart established the Eckhart Carriage Company in Auburn, Indiana in 1874. His sons Frank and Morris built their first tiller-steered runabout in 1900 and formed the Auburn Automobile Company to build it. By 1905, twin-cylinder models were being produced followed by a four-cylinder version in 1909. By 1912, a six-cylinder version had been added to the list of models. In 1919, after enjoying modest success with the business, the company was sold to a group of Chicago investors that included chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr.
Under the new regime, the Auburn Six was introduced in 1919. Sales were slow mostly due to the post-World War I recession. Management turned to E.L. Cord to aid in selling the large inventories of unsold cars. Several creative ideas were executed and E.L. Cord was able to move large quantities of inventory. The Auburn Company would cultivate a strong performance image with land speed records and high-performance automobiles.
The Auburn 8-63 and 8-88 were introduced in 1925 with prices starting at $1,895. A boattail speedster version was added in 1928 and was an immediate success with sales doubling to over 23,000 units for 1929.
This 1931 Auburn 8-98 Boattail Speedster wears an older restoration finished in two-tone blue lacquer finish. There are dark blue painted wire wheels riding on wide whitewall tires. There are dual sidemounts with cloth covers and chrome side view mirrors. The front features Pilot Ray lights, dual chrome-plated horns, dual cowl-mounted accessory lights, a clock mounted within the rear view mirror, a Bijur chassis lubricating system, and free-wheeling capability.
In 2008 this 1931 Auburn 8-98 Boattail Speedster was brought to RM Auctions 'Vintage Motor Cars of Meadow Brook' where it was estimated to sell for $130,000-$160,000. As bidding came to a close, the lot had been sold for $176,000 including buyer's premium. By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2008
The Auburn 8-98 in 1931 featured an engine by Lycoming that produced 98 horsepower. There were only 945 Broughams produced in 1931, the first 'Center-X' bracing ever offered in a rear drive car. The car came equipped with Lovejoy hydraulic shock absorbers, and Bijur chassis lubrication system which lubricates all major chassis points. The suspension was semi-elliptic front and rear, and had the L.G.S. free-wheeling unit. It carried a base price of $1,195, and top end price of $1,395 - in the Great Depression. Fortune magazine reported the Auburn to be 'the biggest package in the world for the price.' And also described by Business Week as more car for the money than the public has ever seen.
This Auburn has twice been certified by the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club as a Certified Original Car. Formerly owned twice by the late Edward F. Murphy of Lexington.
It's safe to say that Indy and Auburn are never linked in word association games. Nevertheless, an Auburn did run in the 500-mile classic and inspired Chad Caldwell to create this modern replica. The inspiration - an Auburn modified for the 1930 race - was modest. Driven by Marion Trexler, the Auburn started 29th in the 38-car field and crashed out of contention just 19 laps into the race. A native of Indianapolis, Trexler was active in racing before and after 1930, but never returned to the Brickyard and neither did Auburn.
Chad Caldwell's replica began with a 1931 Auburn sedan. He and his crew removed the body, sectioned the frame longitudinally, reducing width and relocated the engine 12 inches rearward. The aluminum body was fabricated to resemble the Trexler car and Caldwell added hydraulic brakes and overdrive. Auburn was one of the very few companies to record increased sales in 1931, the depths of the Depression, thanks to strong performance and attractive pricing. There were two trim levels, Eight and Custom Eight, both powered by a new 269 cubic-inch (4.4 liter) inline eight from Lycoming, a Pennsylvania-based company acquired in 1927 by Auburn's dynamic boss, Errett Lobban Cord. The Lycoming eight was rated for 98 horsepower in 1931, and was followed by a V-12 in 1932.
Caldwell built the Speedster for the Great Race, an annual vintage car cross country rally. He has since put over 20,000 miles on the odometer in three Great Races, as well as a number of other rallies.
In 1928 Auburn introduced two Lycoming-powered eight-cylinder engines, one rated at 88 horsepower and the other at 115 horsepower. These became the bases for the 8-88 Model and the 8-115 Model; their designation obviously in reference to the engine. These new models were given hydraulic drum brakes to aid in stopping power and to help keep the Speedsters in the driver's control.
The styling was performed by either Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky or possibly Al Leamy. Al Leamy was a recent addition to the Auburn staff and would become famous in the years to come, with the design of the L-29 Cord automobile.
The Speedster models were very elegant and eye-catching. They featured hood louvers, a raked windshield, twin side-mounted spares, and a boattail rear-end.
The Model 8's were given a wide-ratio three-speed gearbox and rested on either a 125- or 130-inch wheelbase, depending on the model. The 8-115 had the larger size.
1929 brought few changes to the Speedsters; they were now known as the 8-90 and the 8-120. The naming scheme varied slightly from prior years, as horsepower was not rated at 96 and 125 respectively, but the names did not necessarily match. This increase in power was due to a change in the fuel system.
1929 was a great year for the Auburn 8 Models, and enjoyed record sales numbers. The company chose to make minimal changes for the following year, as the cars were selling well and most of their attention was diverted to the upcoming front-wheel drive Cord models.
In 1930 horsepower again improved, now rated at 100 for the smaller eight. The name 'Speedster' no longer appeared as part of the Model 8 name. It would re-appear the following year (In 1931), as the company wanted to put emphasis on performance.
The larger eight-cylinder engine was dropped, as was both of the six-cylinder engines. The 8-95 Model was bored-out to 268.6 cubic-inches and brought about the 8-98 model (and featured 98 horsepower). It was available in either Standard or Custom guise. The Custom line had an 'A' in the name to help distinguish it from the Standard line (appearing as 8-98A) and featured a free-wheeling, heavy, X-braced frame. Other options included dual-ratio rear axle, wire wheels, upgraded interior in hardware and fabric, and extra moldings.
Thanks in part to the onset of the Great Depression, the 8-98 sold for $350 less than the prior 8-95 Sedan of the 1930s. The Sedan sold for $995 while the Speedster for $945. Some experts say that the construction was not as solid as prior years, plus the Lockheed Hydraulics were replaced by Midland 'Steel-draulic' mechanical brakes. Still, Fortune reported the Auburn Model 8's as 'the biggest package in the world for the price.'
In 1932, the Styling remained mostly unchaged; mechanically, things were different. A new Startix automatic starter was added; Custom models were fitted with Delco ride regulations which were shock absorbers that were adjustable from the driver's compartment. This allowed a softer or firmer ride depending on the drivers needs at the time. Custom models also were given a vacuum-controlled two-speed axle known as Dual Ratio. This also gave drivers the freedom of selecting a 4.54:1 or 3.00:1 gear ratio. The 4.54 offered better performance while the 3.00:1 had better economy.
The Free-wheeling option, which had previously cost $85, was now standard on both the Custom and Standard models.
With all these mechanical improvements to the vehicle, it was amazing that prices continued to decrease. The Speedster sold for $845, a full $100 from the previous year.
In 1933, a Salon version was added to both the 8- and 12-cylinder series. By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2008
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