By 1930 Auburn had a stellar reputation
for building highly desirable cars, particularly after
one Erret Lobban Cord had taken control.
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
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
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.
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.