Started in 1903 by Frank and Morris Eckhart of Auburn, Indiana was the Auburn Motor Company. With E.L. Cord the general manager in 1925, the Auburn Motor Company made a change concentrating on style while other car manufacturing companies were devoting time to engineering. It was a very good choice for Auburn, with Cord increasing their sales 15 times as much as they were in 1924.

1935 marked the year Auburn would produce the 8-851, an eight-cylinder, 115 horsepower vehicle. With the body designed by Gordon Buehrig, a supercharged version of the Boattail Speedster was also created to attract newer customers. But with the depression, Buehrig returned to General Motors and Auburn would have to stop production and finalize its closing in the next 2 years.

Kyle McMullenThe 2004 ACD Western Meet Best of Show, winner of the Ab Jenkens award for the Best Auburn, 1st place.

Division Primary and 1st place Division Senior, Multiple Award Winning 150 hp 280 cu. in. inline flathead eight-cylinder engine with Schwizer-Cummins supercharger, Columbia two-speed rear end and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 127'

Errett Lobban Cord knew humdrum cars would not cut it; if a car was to sell, it would need to have sizzle. When he stepped in to save the Auburn Motor Car Company in 1924, production and sales had fallen to a critical level and the company teetered on the verge of bankruptcy. Cord took a number of unsold Auburns being stored at the manufacturing facility, gave them stylish paint schemes and extra nickel plating and proceeded to watch sales recover.

This was the sizzle Auburn desperately needed.

On later model Auburns, engine horsepower was boosted which had the effect of creating excitement among Auburn dealers. In terms of sales, Auburn was soon taking on long-established marques like Packard, Peerless and Stutz. Unfortunately, the depression hit Auburn sales right where it hurt most, in the balance sheet.

It is ironic that the company produced what many consider to be its ultimate masterpiece in 1935, just as the end was drawing near: the 851 Supercharged Speedster.

As such, it is a testimonial to the fighting spirit of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Company, and to the legendary talent of one of greatest designers of the time.

Auburn had invested heavily in the largely new Al Leamy designed 1934 models. Although they sold better than the 1933's had, they were not the salvation the company needed. Worse still, Harold Ames, E.L. Cord's right hand man, hated the look of the cars. As a result, Ames' boss, Lucius B. Manning, decided he was just the man to solve the problem, and sent him to Auburn, putting him in charge of the company.

Clearly, a new look was desperately needed. With little money available, a completely new car was out of the question. Once again, the Ames called upon Gordon Buehrig to pull the figurative rabbit out of the hat. And once again, he delivered. Buehrig redesigned the front end of the cars, with a new grill and hood line. Auburn's signature new feature for 1935 was supercharging on the top-of-the-line models. Buehrig incorporated the external exhaust, which the American public had come to identify with supercharged engines, largely because of the mighty Model SJ Duesenberg.

Although the new 851 (and the next year's 852) models were certainly flashy enough, the 'new' was more than skin deep. The chassis was mostly carried over, although some updates were made. The car was fitted with a Lycoming-built straight-eight engine equipped with a new supercharger designed by Kurt Beier from Schwitzer-Cummins. In addition, the trusted and durable Columbia two-speed rear axle was fitted, allowing lower gearing for quicker acceleration, combined with a higher final drive ratio for improved top speed.

Still, something dramatic was needed to stimulate traffic in the showrooms. Taking a page from the company playbook, and knowing that Central Body Company still had more than 100 bodies left over from the 1933 speedster program, Ames decided that a new speedster would be the perfect attention-getter for the new line.

Ames, again, tapped Gordon Buehrig to design the new speedster. Buehrig decided to base the new design on a Duesenberg speedster he had designed for Weymann. The top, doors, windshield, and cowl could be used as-is, but a new tail would have to be made and the cowl would require modification to blend with the new 1935 front end. Finally, he added a stunning new set of pontoon fenders made up from multiple stampings of earlier Auburn front fenders.

The result was breathtaking, and the new car was soon seen everywhere from auto shows to newspapers to spark plug ads. To a public weary of the Depression, the new Auburn Speedster was automotive hope personified. Here was a car everyone could identify with, dream about, and wish for. It became, in many ways, the rolling icon of the art deco era.

Oddly enough, it was not a big seller, and dealers resisted taking the speedsters. While they proved to be excellent for public relations, in a sense they did their job too well, as the customers who were drawn to the showroom bought the more practical sedans or convertibles.

Auburn 851 Speedsters did not just look fast, they were fast! To prove this, famed race driver Ab Jenkins sat behind the wheel of an 851 Speedster and was the first American to set a 100 MPH average for a 12-hour period endurance record in a completely stock 851SC speedster. As a result, each Speedster built carried a dash plaque attesting to its over l00 MPH capability, bearing Ab Jenkins' signature.

Priced at $2,245 when new, estimates peg Auburn's loss per speedster at about $300 for every car built. But the logic behind Cord's decision was that this sleek model attracted customers to come in and purchase less expensive, but more profitable models. As a consequence, very few speedsters were built, making them highly prized today.

The current owner purchased the car from long time owner Fred Zaidian through Stan Gilliland of Auburn Cord Parts Company in Wellington, Kansas.

Notably, Mr. Zaidian owned the car for some 46 years before the Auburn was sold to the current owner.

The Auburn was on display at the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg museum during much of the 1980's before being moved on to Auburn-Cord Parts for a much needed restoration. Unfortunately, financial difficulties befell the Zaidian estate, requiring the sale of this automobile.

When the current owner purchased the Auburn it was complete, but quite unpresentable. It carried a certification (# A-150) from the A-C-D club as being a No. 1 - authentic Auburn Speedster with all numbers matching. In 2001, the current owner commissioned a show quality restoration by noted restorer Mark Clayton of Clayton Restorations of Castle Rock, Colorado.

The results - in black - are stunning, and at one of the car's first showings it won the prestigious Best of Show award at the annual West Coast meet of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club held in October 2004.

The following is a roster of the car's awards:

--West Coast - Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club 2004 Best of Show
--West Coast - Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club 2004 Best Auburn
--Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club 2004 1st Place, Primary, Speedster
--Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club 2004 1st Place, Senior, Speedster

Today the car is in pristine, show condition.

Paint, chrome, and upholstery are perfect, and engine bay and chassis detailing is exemplary.

Accordingly, the Speedster must be seen to truly appreciate the quality and correctness of it in its presentation and overall condition.

This car runs as it did when first off the assembly line in Auburn, Indiana. The engine, transmission and two-speed rear axle all perform in perfect harmony.

The odometer shows less than 100 miles from the time the restoration was completed in August 2004.

Source - Vehicle Owner

Vehicle Profiles

Coupe

Gordon Buehrig redesigned the Auburn models for 1935, bringing the Auburn cars to a new level. The front was redesigned with a new grille and hood line. Power was from a 280 cubic-inch 8-cylinder engine offering 115 horsepower. There was a three-s....[continue reading]

Phaeton Sedan

Chassis Num: 1148H

The Auburn 8-851 was available in both regularly aspirated and supercharged forms. The straight-eight produced 115 horsepower and with the addition of the supercharged increased that to 150 bhp. There were four-wheel Bendix hydraulic drum brakes, a t....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

Chassis Num: 33094E
Engine Num: GH4309

There were only 500 Speedsters of the Auburn 851 created during 1935 through 1936. In October of 1937, E.L. Cord sold his Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg holdings and brought a sad close to a very prominent set of marques. ....[continue reading]

Cabriolet

Manufactured in Auburn, Indiana, the Auburn Company first produced wagons in 1877 and started manufacturing automobiles in 1903. The 1935 Auburn features a Lycoming manufactured 280 cubic-inch inline eight engine that developed 150 horsepower and a ....[continue reading]

Cabriolet

Chassis Num: 33891M

Errett Lobban Cord became Auburn's General Manager in 1924. One of his acts of genius was to liven up unsold models sitting in the lots of the small town's factory. The new paint schemes with brilliantly nickel-plated trim coupled with savvy marketin....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

Chassis Num: 33222E

When the Auburn Boattail Speedster was introduced, it carried a price tag of $2,245 which meant about a $300 loss for the company. The reasoning behind this method was that the attractive car would lure buyers into the showroom, who may purchase the....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

The third generation of Auburn Speedster, the model 851, included 150 horsepower supercharged straight 8 Lycoming motor with a dual ratio rear axle. While these cars were guaranteed to go over 100 mph and, indeed, set 70 new stock car speed records ....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

Priced at $2,245, the elegant Auburn Speedster was a loss leader intended to stimulate showroom traffic. It was introduced in 1928. After Auburn discontinued its V12 models, Gordon Buehrig was called in to design a car from leftover Speedster bodie....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

The 1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster was designed by Gordon Buehrig and is considered one of the most beautiful cars ever built. The shape of the front bumpers, the sweep of the pontoon front fenders, the rake of the grill and the windshield, the swoo....[continue reading]

Phaeton Sedan

Founded as Eckhart Carriage Company of Auburn, Indiana in 1875, their evolution into the independent manufacturer of automobiles started in 1900. Auburn had built a following in the early depression years based on quality, flashy design, color selec....[continue reading]

Cabriolet

Chassis Num: GG4224

Al Leamy restyled the Auburn line-up in 1934. It was not well received and by mid-1934, production was halted and improvements began. Gordon Buehrig was given a $50,000 budget and tasked with improving the styling. The results were sensational. C....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

The supercharged Auburn Speedster was introduced in 1935 and this example was #9 in production. The Speedster was an effort by designer Gordon Buehrig and engineer August Duesenberg to save the struggling car company. Alas it turned out to be Aubur....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

Chassis Num: 33206E
Engine Num: GG3984

Chassis number 33206E spent its early life in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, where it resided until 1945. Possession of the car then transferred to Mr. Robert Probst of nearby Williamsport. At some point in the cars life, the supercharged engine was rep....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

Chassis Num: 32304E

This 1935 Auburn 851SC Boattail Speedster was the ninth speedster built and it was the Chicago Auto Salon show car. After the show, the car was sold to a Chicago area man as a new car. He sold it in the early 1950s to Mr. Maisnick from Oak Lawn, IL....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

A powerful Lycoming straight-8 engine, a Columbia two-speed rear axle, light body weight, and aerodynamic styling made the Auburn Speedster a snappy performer by any standard. E.L. Cord's automotive empire was built on niche marketing with a flair fo....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

The Auburn Speedsters, with their supercharged engines, were guaranteed to have been driven more than 100 miles per hour before delivery. Television and radio announcer Charles Arlington and wife actress Elizabeth Root owned this car and its twin in ....[continue reading]

Phaeton Sedan

Chassis Num: GH5262
Engine Num: 33262H

This 1935 Auburn 851 Supercharged Phaeton is a Classic Car Club of America First Prize Winner and is certified by the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club as a Category 1 car, correctly configured as it was delivered from the Auburn factory. Presented in maro....[continue reading]

Sedan

This Auburn 851 Sedan was purchased in 1992 by a former Auburn Automobile Company employee, Lester See. He was a lifelong Auburn resident and a long time volunteer at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. He worked for the Auburn Automobile Company in t....[continue reading]

Supercharged Dual Ratio Speedster

Chassis Num: 32923
Engine Num: GH 5022

Prior to 1935, Auburn Speedsters were bodied by Union City Body Co. 'in the white' without paint, trim and hardware. The first 100 Buehrig-designed 851s carried coachwork from Union City, most were Speedster bodies.....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

This 1935 Auburn Model 851, Supercharged, Boat Tail Speedster was purchased over 50 years ago. The 1935-36 Speedster was designed by Gordon Buehrig and is recognized as one of the outstanding designs in the 20th Century.....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

This Auburn 851 Boat Tail Speedster was purchased by the current owner in 1984 and then spent the next 25 years restoring it. The Boat Tail Speedster was built in limited quantities and at $2,000 represented a great value - a hand-built, custom-bodie....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

This Model 851 Speedster received an off-frame, complete restoration in 2000 and has since earned numerous awards in both club and concours competitions.....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

Chassis Num: 33811E
Engine Num: GH 4293

The Auburn 851 Supercharged Speedster had 150 horsepower which was sent to a Columbia dual ratio rear axle, standard equipment on the supercharged models, which provided two ratios for each gear, one low and one high. The driver could change the rati....[continue reading]

Supercharged Dual Ratio Phaeton

In 1934, designer Gordon Buehrig was given $50,000 to move from Duesenberg's Indianapolis facility to Auburn, Indiana, to fix the Auburn Automobile Company's styling problems. It was a partly sum for an experience and respected designer to be paid, s....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

One of the first prewar American Sports Cars, the 851 Auburn Speedster was stylish, powerful, and generally speaking, affordable. The Speedster was built between 1929 and 1937. Up until 1935, many of Auburn's models were powered by Lycoming's straigh....[continue reading]

Supercharged Dual Ratio Cabriolet

The Great Depression affected the sales of Auburns, but the marque stayed afloat due to E.L. Cord's marketing abilities. He was able to redesign models economically and introduce new models. Despite these efforts, Auburn succumbed to the financial re....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

Auburn's last series of Speedsters were the well-known 851/852 models, sold in 1935 and 1936 respectively. Approximately 600 of both were produced with an original price of $2,245.....[continue reading]

Custom Dual Ratio Coupe

Chassis Num: 1407M
Engine Num: GG 3199

The coupe model shares the same body as the convertible cabriolet, but its leather-covered roof was fixed in place by a wooden frame and heavy bolts. The rumble seat lid was reversed to form a lid for a trunk. The result was a car with the good looks....[continue reading]

Supercharged Dual Ratio Cabriolet

Chassis Num: 33826 F
Engine Num: GH 4465

Founded in Auburn, Indiana, the Eckhart Carriage Company would open its doors for business in 1874. Just 50 years later, what would become Auburn Automobile Company would be in the midst of hard economic times. Enter Errett Lobban Cord. Still utilizi....[continue reading]

Custom Dual Ratio Phaeton Sedan

Chassis Num: 2505H
Engine Num: GG3602

This Model 851 Custom Phaeton has been extensively restored over the course of nearly fifty years in its current ownership. It was found in the mid-1960s and acquired by him from its finder Roaring Twenties Autos, who they recall being in New Jersey.....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

Chassis Num: 33151E
Engine Num: GH4401

The 851 Speedster was designed by Gordon Buehrig and is considered one of his masterpieces and one of the most striking designs of the 1930s. The art deco Speedster is powered by a supercharged Lycoming 8-cylinder engine, delivering 150 horsepower. T....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

Chassis Num: 2952
Engine Num: GH 5426

This 851 Speedster has an in-line 8, supercharged 282 cubic-inch, engine fitted with a Schwitzer-Cummins blower developing 150 horsepower and is equipped with a three-speed transmission all riding on a 127-inch wheelbase. It has a dual speed rear end....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

Chassis Num: 851 32924 E

It is believed that this Auburn 851/852 Speedster was originally delivered in California, subsequently making its way to Lincoln, Nebraska, where it was owned by a local bank president in 1939. The next known owner was George Schubert, also of Nebras....[continue reading]

Coupe

In 1935, Auburn had just re-styled its entire lineup thanks to the talent of Gordon Buehrig and his design staff. However, absent from the 1935 offerings was a coupe. Without the financial resources to retool for such an undertaking, the designers si....[continue reading]

Club Sedan

This vehicle is a one-off creation that was built as a prototype to showcase how an Auburn 851 Club Sedan could be styled as a prestigious limousine.....[continue reading]

Boattail Speedster

One of the first prewar American Sports Car, the 851 Auburn Speedster was stylish, powerful, and generally speaking affordable. Speedsters were built from 1929 until 1937. Engines were becoming a problem for Auburn during this period, so they used wh....[continue reading]

Coupe
 
Phaeton Sedan
Chassis #: 1148H 
Boattail Speedster
Chassis #: 33094E 
Cabriolet
 
Cabriolet
Chassis #: 33891M 
Boattail Speedster
Chassis #: 33222E 
Boattail Speedster
 
Boattail Speedster
 
Boattail Speedster
 
Phaeton Sedan
 
Cabriolet
Chassis #: GG4224 
Boattail Speedster
 
Boattail Speedster
Chassis #: 33206E 
Boattail Speedster
Chassis #: 32304E 
Boattail Speedster
 
Boattail Speedster
 
Phaeton Sedan
Chassis #: GH5262 
Sedan
 
Supercharged Dual Ratio Speedster
Chassis #: 32923 
Boattail Speedster
 
Boattail Speedster
 
Boattail Speedster
 
Boattail Speedster
Chassis #: 33811E 
Supercharged Dual Ratio Phaeton
 
Boattail Speedster
 
Supercharged Dual Ratio Cabriolet
 
Boattail Speedster
 
Custom Dual Ratio Coupe
Chassis #: 1407M 
Supercharged Dual Ratio Cabriolet
Chassis #: 33826 F 
Custom Dual Ratio Phaeton Sedan
Chassis #: 2505H 
Boattail Speedster
Chassis #: 33151E 
Boattail Speedster
Chassis #: 2952 
Boattail Speedster
Chassis #: 851 32924 E 
Coupe
 
Club Sedan
 
Boattail Speedster
 

History

The success of the vehicles and the survival of the company up to this point were due mostly to Erret Lobban Cord. The Auburn Company had come into existence in 1877 producing wagons. In 1903 the direction of the company switched to creating automobiles, their first being a one-cylinder chain-driven runabout. The styling and diversity of the vehicles evolved over the years, as did the mechanical capabilities and technological innovations. The Great Depression had taken its toll on the Auburn Company and was headed to receivership when it was rescued by William Wrigley. Cord was recruited to assume the duties of general manager. This fast-talking, energetic, sales man, though less than thirty years old, was the right man for the job. By applying new paint to a parking lot of excess vehicles, Cord was able to sell over 750 cars in just a few months. This earned him the title of vice president and in 1926 he became president and primary stockholder of the Auburn Company.

Throughout the next few years, the Auburn/Cord Company would experience highs and lows. The L-29 featured front-wheel drive, a first in the industry.

Designer Gordon Buehrig and engine designer Augie Duesenberg were tasked with creating a new design for 1935. A V-12 Speedster was used as a starting point. The front-end, cowl, and bonnet were completely reworked. It was given a convertible body-style that was low and complimented its small side windows. The masculine look of the Auburn 851 was due in part to its teardrop headlamps, chrome exhaust pipes, pontoon fenders, and newly styled grille and hood.

Under the hood lurked a 279 cubic-inch eight-cylinder engine. An existing six-cylinder engine had been outfitted with two additional cylinders while keeping the bore and stroke the same. The result was a 115 horsepower in natural aspiration form and 150 when outfitted with the Schwitzer-Cummings supercharger.

The vehicle was put through its paces at a 24-hour endurance run in the Bonneville Salt Flats with driver, Ab Jenkins proving the vehicle was capable of exceeding 100 miles per hour.

The car was introduced in 1935 and expectations were high but sales were low. Just over 5,000 examples were sold during its initial production year. For 1936 the name was switched to 852 and this did nothing to help sales, with just 1850 vehicles sold.

Unfortunately, in 1936 the Auburn Company went out of business. The Auburn 851's exclusivity is guaranteed by it limited production. It is a wonderful creation and hinted at what might have been if the company would have stayed in business. It was unique and distinctive.


By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2006
 
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