Established by brothers Frank and Morris Eckhardt in 1900, their new company took its name from the town of Auburn, Indiana, USA. The company started out making horse drawn carriages; three years later they decided to try their hand at the manufacture of a single-cylinder chain-driven car, known as the Runabout.
In a time of rapid automotive technological change, the single-cylinder engine was dumped in favour of a twin cylinder unit in 1905, a four cylinder engine followed in 1910 and by 1912 a six cylinder engine was used. None of these engines, however, were developed by Auburn, rather they sourced them from Continental, Rutenber and Teetor. 1919’s Beauty Six was a solid and reliable car, and would morph into the 6-51 sports car.
Despite the popularity of these cars, the cost of automotive innovation in keeping pace with the plethora of other start-up automotive manufacturers took a heavy financial toll, the company being rescued by William Wrigley who enlisted Erret Lobban Cord to assume control. A new range of Auburns was commissioned for 1925, and the company bounced back for a time, enough to ensure Auburn would survive the depression. While the straight six, straight eight and V12 Auburn’s were always popular, the 1931 8-98 set the benchmark for modern styling, and it’s bigger brother the 851 supercharged speedster caused something of a sensation.
Guaranteed to reach 100 mph, the magical figure to which all automotive manufactures aspired, ensured the Auburn Speedsters would forever be remembered in automotive history. The Speedsters were extremely expensive to manufacture, Auburn losing money on every single one sold. It was a recipe for disaster, and demonstrated very early the difficulties any super-car manufacturer would face. Auburn went into liquidation in 1937.