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Lot 639
1935 Auburn 851 SC Boattail Speedster


Selling on Saturday Evening


• 1 of as few as 143 original Speedsters built in the short two-year production run
• One of the most striking designs of the Classic Era
• Retains rare factory-original number stamping on floorboard
• Rare top-specification ‘SC’ supercharged model
• Features include Columbia rear axle and factory Crosley radio
• Offered from a respected Arizona collection
• Recognized by the CCCA as a Full Classic®

280 cid L-head inline eight-cylinder engine, Schwitzer-Cummins centrifugal supercharger, 150 HP at 4,200 rpm, three-speed manual transmission, Columbia dual ratio rear axle, solid front and live rear axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs, four-wheel Lockheed hydraulic drum brakes; wheelbase: 127”

While Auburn, the heart of E.L. Cord’s automotive conglomerate, confidently weathered the early stages of the Great Depression and became America’s 13th largest automobile manufacturer by 1931, plummeting sales for 1932 and 1933 and management issues were compounded by Cord’s waning interest in his core automotive businesses. In 1934, Cord handed leadership of Auburn to Duesenberg president Harold T. Ames, who brought designer Gordon Buehrig along with him to update the existing Auburn models. Key to the plan was an updated Auburn Speedster to drive showroom traffic and hopefully improve sales.

Working with tight funding and little time, Buehrig and his skeleton crew concentrated on only a few deft stylistic updates while conserving the best aspects of Alan Leamy’s 1934 designs. The gorgeous new Auburn Speedster, designated 851 SC for 1935 and 852 SC for 1936, remains likely the most memorable of all Auburn models and dare say, all pre-war automobiles. Featuring boattail styling, streamlined pontoon-style fenders, a raked V windshield, and a folding lid housing the soft top, the new Auburn Speedsters were boldly accented by flexible exhaust pipes already used to great effect by Buehrig at Duesenberg. For power, Auburn’s engine supplier, Lycoming, retained Augie Duesenberg to work with Pearl Watson in adapting the Schwitzer-Cummins centrifugal supercharger to its 115-HP GG straight-eight. The men engineered an ingenious 5:1 planetary-drive system for the supercharger, with the resultant GH unit boosted to 150 rated horsepower. A Columbia dual ratio two-speed rear axle provided six forward speeds.

The result was breathtaking. To demonstrate its performance, famed racing driver Ab Jenkins became the first American to record an average speed over 100 mph for 12 hours in a stock 851 SC Speedster. Commemorating the feat, each Speedster bore an engraved dash plaque bearing Jenkins’ signature, attesting to its 100-mph performance. Sadly, the excitement generated by the Speedster was short-lived. While priced at $2,245 when new, Auburn lost hundreds of dollars per Speedster built. The Auburn line continued unchanged into 1936, with the Speedster now designated 852 SC, but sales were dismal with few built. The lingering worldwide economic depression and E.L. Cord’s complex business affairs compounded the situation. By the time Auburn production halted in 1937, as few as 143 supercharged Auburn 851 and 852 Speedsters were hand-built. While small in number, the final-series Auburn Speedsters remain immensely collectible and never fail to capture attention today.

This 1935 Auburn 851 SC Boattail Speedster carries a very interesting history, having been sold new in California. More recently in 2010, it was acquired by collector Tom Gaughen, for the second time, when he purchased it from the R.E. Monical Collection, which had previously acquired the car in 2007. Mr. Gaughen first owned the Speedster in 1980 and retained it until 1991, when it was sold via a broker to Portugal where it remained until 2006, when it was then repatriated to the United States. Its next owner, our current consignor, has kept the Speedster housed in his collection alongside some other fantastic pre-war classics in the dry climate of Arizona.

As offered, this Speedster continues to benefit very nicely from its professional restoration and remains highly attractive throughout with an extremely pleasing color combination. The dash retains its factory-correct instruments plus a factory-installed Auburn-Crosley radio. Most importantly, it carries its original number stamping, which is very seldom seen, beneath the floor covering. Although this car has yet to return to Auburn for ACD Club Certification, the engine number, body frame stamp number, and chassis number all fall into the proper sequence, in mute testimony to the authenticity of this striking example. Speedster 33807E was recently gone over by noted restoration expert Lon Krueger, who has restored several Auburn Speedsters. In discussion with Mr. Krueger, he indicated that this car is in fact a late build and he agreed that, upon his inspection, it is entirely plausible though there is no way to confirm it, the engine could be original to the car and agreed that it was not uncommon back in the day for workers at many car companies to ‘grab the engine closest to them’ and put it in the car they were assembling. He also reiterated that the numbers he saw on the car all fell into a proper sequence.

It has become increasingly difficult to find authentic Auburn Boattail Speedsters, as the market has reflected in the past few years. Presented here is an exceptional opportunity to own one of the truly great American Classic Car designs. Thanks to its high-performance specifications, it would be a pleasure to take on Classic Car Club CARavans as well as participate in the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club’s many activities while its timeless styling would assure it a warm welcome at shows, concours and tours throughout North America.

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