Frank and Morris Eckhart of the Eckhart Carriage Company were responsible for founding the Auburn Automobile Company in 1900 and by 1903 they produced their first car. It was a small center-engine chain-driven one-cylinder runabout with nothing but the basics, though it did ride on pneumatic tires. The company grew gradually going from two- to four- to six-cylinders and by 1918 it offered four body styles, all six-cylinders. Hit hard by the post-War depression, Auburn was facing insolvency by 1924. Along came Errett Loban cord. Cord arrived in Chicago in 1919 with just $45 to his name. He was hired by the Quinlan Motor Company to sell Moon automobiles; quickly rising through the ranks becoming general manager and ultimately purchasing an interest in the company. Now with $100,000 in his pocket, he was hired by Auburn as general manager whereby he purchased a controlling interest in the company. By 1924 he became president of the company and bought the famous Duesenberg marque as his crowning jewel.
A young designer named Alan Leamy, himself arriving at Duesenberg when he was just 25 years old, was the man responsible for penning the Auburn Speedster just three years into his career at the age of 28. George Kublin, Auburns chief engineer, designed the 160 horsepower Lycoming-built V-12 which powers this Speedster. Auburn built just 59 Speedsters including 37 highly appointed 12-160A models like this at a base price of $1,425. Included was a newly developed Columbia 2-speed rear-end, effectively giving the car six forward speeds, as well as cockpit adjustable shock absorbers and Startix automatic re-start. Today it seems hard to believe that a car this stylish was America's lowest price V-12 when new.
The group formed by Errett Lobban Cord was one of the most creative in American automotive history. They were responsible for the Duesenberg J in 1928, the Cord L-29 in 1929 and the Auburn V12 in 1932. The 391 cubic-inch V12 engine developed 160 horsepower and had a top speed of 93 mph. An Auburn V-12 set many speed records in 1932, some of which survived until after World War II.
The most distinctive characteristic of the new Auburn was its outstanding price, which is very affordable. They offered five versions: a coupe, cabriolet, brougham, sedan, speedster, and a phaeton. None of them cost more than $1,145 in 1932.
This vehicle is equipped with wood 'Artillery' wheels, which are somewhat unique as most 12-160As were purchased with wire wheels and dual side mount spare tires. According to records, this is one of the few remaining (if not the only one) examples with these 'Artillery' wheels.
High bid of $210,000 at 2014 RM Auctions. (did not sell) In the 1930s E.L. Cord's Auburns offered multi-cylinder performance and dramatic styling at a price that was noticeable lower than that of many other luxury cars. This V-12 convertible Phaeton, with a Lycoming-built V-12 engine and a 2-speed rear axle, is an excellent example of why the cars were such a success during the difficult economic times of the early 1930s.
This car is Adam Leam's design, known as the 'Baby Duesenberg.' It has a Lycoming twelve-cylinder overhead-valve engine, with 160 horsepower, and a Columbia two-speed differential. The price new in 1932 (during the height of the Great Depression) was $1,545.00.
This Auburn Coupe is one of only four known to exist. The Auburn Twelve cylinder line was introduced in 1932 and was the least expensive twelve cylinder automobile ever marketed. The Auburn Company had hoped that marketing a twelve cylinder vehicle in a price class of eights would be the key to its success. Unfortunately, the car never sold in sufficient numbers.
The current owner purchased this car in 1959. By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2010
This 1932 Auburn 12-160A Sedan has been driven only 8800 miles since new. It was purchased in 1932 by Mr. Robert Heinemann of Hamiliton, Ohio. It was properly stored and maintained for several decades by the original owner. It is believed to be the lowest mileage Auburn twelve cylinder vehicle to exist. This is a very complete vehicle, even retaining the operating instruction tag for the two speed rear axle and free wheeling device. By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2010
Automobile enthusiasts Baron Jr., Miles, and Sam Collier of New York's Collier Advertising dynasty were instrumental in forming the Airmobile Racing Club of America in the 1930's. This 1932 Auburn Speedster was owned by Sam Collier who nicknamed the car Beelzebub. The vehicle was somewhat modified for racing by adding the small windshields, the large tachometer and the copper cooling coil. The vehicle was road raced in Europe in 1933 against smaller cars such as MGs, Bugattis, and Model A Fords. In 1936 Sam raced it at the Cotton carnival Road Race in Memphis where he took top honors for the Touring Class. In 1937, Sam's brother Baron Jr., sped to a second place overall victory in the Climb to the Clouds race held at Mt. Washington.Source - ACD Museum
Sold for $110,000 at 2010 RM Auctions. This Model 12-160A has a two-tone red color scheme with orange pinstriping and a tan canvas top and matching cover for the rear-mounted trunk. The car is fitted with Trippe driving lights, and dual side-mount spares that carry mirrors at the top. The interior is upholstered in brown leather with tan contrasting tan carpets. The odometer currently shows 2,025 miles which may well be the mileage accumulated since the restoration. A Philco accessory radio is fitted, installed under the dashboard with the control head on the steering column.
In 2010, this Phaeton Sedan was offered for sale at the Vintage Motor Cars of Meadow Brook event presented by RM Auctions. The car was estimated to sell for $100,000 - $150,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $110,000, including buyer's premium. By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2010
High bid of $210,000 at 2014 RM Auctions. (did not sell) The V-12 engine found in the 1932 Auburn was designed by chief engineer George Kublin. It had a narrow 45-degree 'vee' and an unusual combustion chamber, which was set on an angle to the cylinders. The valves were in the heads, but they were horizontal, and they were operated by a single camshaft through the rockers. The 391 cubic-inch engine offered 160 horsepower. Though the engine was smaller than its competitors, it was no less powerful. Standard equipment on the Custom models included the famous Dual-Ratio rear axle, allowing the car to be driven in either high gear ratios, for open country roads, or in a lower ratio, for city driving.
At Muroc Dry Lake, Eddie Miller drove a Speedster model to 31 American speed records from flying starts and nine international records from standing starts.
These cars were produced for only a short period, lasting from 1932 to 1934. They were the first 12-cylidner car to have a starting price under $1,000.
This Auburn Twelve Custom Phaeton model 12-160A was formerly owned by Larry Dorcy who displayed it at the 2009 edition of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The car was restored several years ago in a two-tone blue, using shades similar to the factory-correct Auburn Blue. There is a leather interior, a canvas top, and blue Wilton wool carpets. During restoration, the car was upgraded with the Salon model trim, including chrome inserts below the windows, Salon door handles, and polished stainless trim on the hood louvers. It has chromed headlamps, headlights, and wire wheels with covered side-mounts. The engine was fully rebuilt during the restoration, and given an American-LaFrance V-12 engine block. By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2014
Alan Leamy designed the Auburn speedster at the young age of 28, and George Kublin, Auburn's chief engineer, designed its 160 horsepower Lycoming V12 engine. The car was very advanced for its day, yet it was quite reasonably priced at $1,425. It featured Auburn's newly developed Columbia 2-speed differential, which effectively gave the car six forward speeds as well as cockpit-adjustable shock absorbers and a Startix system that automatically restarted the engine if it stalled. In 1932 Auburn built 37 speedsters, and this is one of just six known to survive. This car's history can be traced back to the late 1950s, but it has recently been restored.
At the tender age of fifteen Errett Lobban Cord, commonly known as E.L. Cord, left school in pursuit of a job as a car salesman. After a successful stint in that profession he began working as a mechanic in a service station located in Los Angeles. This led to modifying his Model T's to include bodywork and engine modifications. He later moved to Chicago where he went back to selling vehicles. He moved to Milwaukee where he opened his own car distributor company and by 1924 was looking to purchase his own manufacturing company.
When the Auburn Automobile Company prompted Cord with a top level management position, he accepted but under conditions. He demanded that he be given 20% of the profits and complete control of the company. He also stated that he wanted the option to buy the company once it recovered. The partners, at this point, were on the verge of bankruptcy, so they accepted the offer.
Cord had a profound knowledge of marketing and was very business savvy. During his career he purchased Duesenberg, cab companies, Aircraft Company, and a New York shipyard. By 1932 he purchased controlling interests in the Aviation Corp, which later became American Airways and is currently known as American Airlines.
His fortunes turned during the mid-1930's as the stock market crashed and the Great Depression brought many of his business to a bitter end.
The Auburn Company had turned a considerable profit during the 1920s but keeping up with the changing market was difficult. The cylinder wars of the early 1930s sent many companies struggling to keep up with the changing technology and mechanical advancements. Auburn answered this challenge in 1932 with the creation of their twelve-cylinder engine in 'Vee' configuration. To stimulate even more interest, the 12-160A was offered at an incredibly low price, at just under a thousand dollars. At that price it has remained in history as the lowest 12-cylinder vehicle ever produced. Many people feared that the quality of the engine or the vehicle was reflective of the price. This mindset backfired and as a result did not sell as well as intended. By years end the company had lost more than a million dollars.
The 6.5-liter Lycoming engine produced a respectable 160 horsepower and enough torque to propel the vehicle to around 100 mph. One of the most ingenious components of the vehicle was the 'Dual Ratio' differential which was operated by a dashboard lever. There were high and low ratios available for each of the three gears which improved fuel and oil consumption. The end result was less strain and wear-and-tare on the engine.
Cord had encountered problems with the Securities and Exchange Commission and fled to England in 1933. Harold Ames was left in control, though times were difficult since production had fallen nearly 85%. The 12-161A was introduced in 1933 though never achieved the desired success. The Great depression, struggling economy, and near-bankrupt company were part of the problems.
The Auburn 12-160A Speedster body was the most exclusive of the offering. With its low price tag, the vehicles were a bargain. Tough times and consumer fears were its ultimate demise and its potential was never realized. By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2009
An exceptional value for their day, the Auburn was the least expensive marque in the Cord Empire that also comprised Duesenberg. Priced at $1,250, the Auburn was a spectacular value for a twelve-cylinder automobile. From 1927 to 1938 the Auburn/Cord/Duesenberg Company manufactured hand-built custom vehicles of the highest quality in Auburn Indiana. Rated at 160 horsepower, the 1932 Auburn 12-160A featured a twelve-cylindered Lycoming engine. The car weighed 4,165 lbs and had a wheelbase measured at 132 inches.
From 1900 through 1937 Auburn was a brand name of United States automobiles. The Auburn Company was grown out of the Eckhard Carriage Company which was started by Charles Eckhart. On an experimental basis, Eckhart's sons, Morris and Frank began building vehicles before entering the business in earnest. In 1909 they moved into a larger plant. Modestly successful, the company did well until World War I forced the plant to close due to material shortages.
A touring car model, the 1904 Auburn was equipped with a tonneau that could seat 2 or 4 passengers. The touring was priced at $1000. Producing 10 hp (7.5 kW) the flat-mounted single-cylinder engine was placed in the center of the vehicle. Weighing 1500 lbs, the angle-steel-framed vehicle used half-elliptical spring and was fitted with a 2-speed planetary transmission.
The Eckhart brothers sold their company to a group out of Chicago investors in 1919 headed by Ralph Austin Bard. Though the business was revived, the new owners failed to produce the profits that they had hoped for. The new owners approached Errett Cord in 1924, a successful automobile salesman, with an offer to run the company. In an offer that amounted to a leveraged buyout, the Chicago group accepted the offer.
Before the end of 1925 Cord completed his buyout and aggressively marketed the company's unsold inventory. In 1926, Cord partnered with Duesenberg Corporation and used it as the launching platform for a line of high-priced luxury cars. Cord built vehicles that became famous both their advanced engineering and their striking experience. He also employed imaginative designers such as Gordon Buehrig and Alan Leamy.
Unfortunately Cord's vehicles were priced too expensively for the Depression-era market and Cord's stock manipulation eventually forced him to give up control of his car companies. Cord was forced to refrain from further violations by injunctions from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He sold his shares from his automobile holding company and in 1937 all production of Auburns, Duesenbergs and Cords ended.
The Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum is now housed in the company's art deco headquarters in Auburn and was made a National Historic Landmark in 2005.
The last few cars that made the Auburn Company famous before it the factory was shut down were the 851 and 852 Speedsters, and the Aubern 12.
The Auburn Twelve was produced in the early 1930's and was designed with innovation, elegance, power, style and speed. The Auburn Model 12 – 165 was introduced in 1933. The 1931 Auburn came with a 127 inch wheelbase, 98HP straight 8, and a long large roomy car that came with a door so wide that rear seat passengers could enter without disturbing those in front. The price was $945. The 1934 Auburn 12 Cabriolet came with a 12-cylinder engine and had wide whitewall tires and wire wheels. The 1934 model also came with an auxillary trunk that was mounted on the back.By Jessica Donaldson
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