Auctions and Brokerage
Ray Bowersox, Milton, Pennsylvania (acquired circa 1970)Bob Perry, Birmingham, Alabama (acquired from the above via Al Pruitt in 1987)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
Ironstone Concours d’Elegance, Murphys, California, September 2013 (Best of Show)Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Pebble Beach, California, August 2013
Following a stunning turnaround engineered by E.L. Cord in 1924, the Auburn Company represents an important chapter of the Classic Era in America. Brimming with innovative engineering, captivating style, and surprising value, Auburn shook up the automotive establishment and competed successfully with Packard, Cadillac, Stutz, and other respected marques, eventually rising in sales and production volumes to become America’s 13th-largest automobile manufacturer by 1931.
Gifted designer Gordon Buehrig delivered a triumphant stylistic makeover for the Auburn for 1935. Since about 50 unused bodies in white remained from the prior 1932–1933 speedsters, Buehrig was again tapped to design a new version for 1935 and penned a variation known as the “tapertail,” based on a Duesenberg speedster. Buehrig left the existing top, doors, and windshield untouched, integrated the cowl with the new Auburn frontal treatment, created a new tail section, and added sensuous pontoon fenders.
Performance engineering matched the speedster’s gorgeous lines. Augie Duesenberg and Pearl Watson adapted the Kurt Beier-designed Schwitzer- Cummins centrifugal supercharger to the Lycoming GG-series straight-eight engine, using an innovative planetary-drive system. The resulting supercharged GH-series engine was rated at a robust 150 hp. Standard on the boattail speedster; the GH engine was optional on the higher-volume 851 and final 852 model lines for an additional $220. A Columbia “dual-ratio” two-speed rear axle provided brisk acceleration and top-speed potential, with six forward speeds available.
The result was breathtaking, and the new speedster backed up its style with substance. To demonstrate its performance, famed racing driver and American speed-record legend Ab Jenkins became the first American to record an average speed over 100 mph for a 12-hour period in a stock 851 SC speedster. In commemoration of the feat, each speedster built was fitted with an engraved dash plaque bearing Jenkins’ signature, attesting to its over-100 mph capabilities.
However, the excitement was short-lived. While priced at $2,245 when new, it is believed that Auburn lost $300 per speedster built. The Auburn line continued unchanged into 1936, with the Speedster now designated the “852 SC Speedster,” but few were built. The lingering economic malaise and E.L. Cord’s complex business affairs compounded the situation and, by the time production halted in 1937, as few as 143 supercharged Auburn 851 and 852 speedsters had been hand built. While small in number, the Auburn speedster remains an Art Deco-inspired landmark that never fails to capture attention today.
Owned by noted Auburn enthusiasts since the 1970s, this 1936 Auburn 852 SC Boattail Speedster is the penultimate example produced. It was completely and painstakingly restored to strict ACD Club guidelines with the project overseen by the consignor and the Club’s senior judge for 1934– 1936 Auburns using an untouched time-capsule Auburn speedster as a reference. Countless hours were spent ensuring proper panel ft and the correct finishing of myriad pieces of factory hardware and trim. Painted in a deep, rich shade of claret burgundy with correct black leather interior, and custom-made Diamond Back double whitewall tires, this speedster has an electrifying and stunning presence. In addition to earning ACD Club certification in February 2013 (Certificate A-518), the speedster was shown just twice during 2013 – once at Pebble Beach and then at the Ironstone Concours d’Elegance where it won Best of Show. Additionally, the Speedster completed the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance in 2013 without fault, and it even reached 90 mph at Laguna Seca during the Monterey Week festivities.
Interestingly, this speedster is one of just seven current ACD Club certified examples from 1936 and notably it retains its factory-original “A35 390” stamp in the wooden fooring – confrming it has its original fooring and that the body was built by Auburn itself and not an external supplier as were all other speedsters except those at the very end of production. Only 143 speedsters are commonly agreed to have been built, with this example being the second to last and the fnal car apparently being lost to time.
Correctly and impeccably restored, handsome in presentation, and having received the all-important ACD Club certifcation, this stunning 1936 Auburn 852 SC Boattail Speedster is, simply put, an undisputed Classic Era masterpiece in all possible respects and may be the best known example extant.