Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
By 1930 Auburn had a stellar reputation for building highly desirable cars, particularly after one Erret Lobban Cord had taken control. Despite the economic hardships he inherited, his drive and passion for the automobile
would not only help Auburn survive, but survive at a time that would see many manufacturers fall by the way, particularly at the upper end of the market.
The Speedster was unquestionably designed for the well-to-do, and for 3 years would remain America’s most expensive car. The body was fashioned by designer Gordon Buehrig, while Augie Duesenberg was given the task of designing the engine. They used a V12 Speedster as a starting point, re-modeling the front-end, cowl and bonnet.
The low convertible body was complimented with small side windows, and the beautifully crafted teardrop headlamps gave the car an imposing look. Along the side were chrome exhaust
pipes, pontoon fenders, and a newly styled grille and bonet. Giving the car a graceful look was the wonderful boat-tail rear, highly fashionable for the time and stunningly beautiful.
The 851 was powered by a 279ci straight eight engine (the existing 6 cylinder engine being outfitted with an additional 2 cylinders). Good for a healthy 115 horsepower, when the engineers fitted it with a Cummings supercharger that figure jumped to a whopping 150!
Put through rigorous 24 hour endurance run at the Benneville Salt Flats, the design team knew their car was as powerful and fast as it was beautiful, and the magical 100mph was not only obtained, but exceeded. The car was introduced in 1935, with some 5,000 being sold the first year. Considering the price of the car many thought that sales figure to be extremely good, but Auburn were disappointed.
For 1936 the name was switched to 852, which did little to halt slide in sales, and only 1850 would be parked in a garage that year. By 1936 it was all over, the bean counters knew they were simply not selling in sufficient numbers, and besides the high cost of manufacture meant that every Speedster had been sold at a loss. It is one of those cars where giving it a collectability ranking of 5 stars seems rather pointless, as they are fast becoming priceless.