Auburn 851SC Boattail Speedster

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 851SC 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 1933s 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, Manning, decided he was just the man to solve the problem, and sent him to Auburn, putting him in charge of the company.

Auburn’s signature new feature for 1935 was supercharging on the top-of-the-line models, so 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.

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.

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.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in March of 2009 at the The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida, in July of 2010 at the Shotwell Gustafson Pavilion at Meadow Brook Hall, Rochester, Michigan and in March of 2011 at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida.

150bhp, 280 cu. in. inline side valve eight-cylinder engine with Schwitzer-Cummins supercharger, Columbia two-speed rear end, four wheel semi-elliptical leaf spring, solid front axle and live rear axle suspension, and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 127".

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel

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