The Most Beautiful Cars Ever Built

1935 Auburn 851 Supercharged Speedster

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Sold for: $423,500 on August 31, 2014

As with many Classic Era manufacturers, Auburn Automobile Company produced its finest automobiles during its last years of existence. Great things came out of dire straits, in this case the final Alan Leamy-designed model of 1934, in which the company had invested heavily. The model sold better than the 1933s, but was nonetheless a sales failure, and was halted after just a few short months of production. Designer Gordon Buehrig was called upon to give the 1934 design a fresh, saleable new look, on a shoestring budget.

Buehrig focused on the front end of the Auburn design, giving it a new grille, hood line, and headlights. Copying the famous Duesenberg SJ, Auburn’s “big brother,” a Schwitzer-Cummins centrifugal supercharger was to be made available on the top-of-the-line 280-cid, 150-hp inline eight-cylinder Auburns for 1935, complete with the iconic external exhaust, the calling card of supercharged Cord Corporation products. Supercharged models came standard with the trusted, durable Columbia two-speed “Dual Ratio” rear axle, which provided both low gearing for fast acceleration and a higher final drive ratio for improved top-end speed.

The final trick Buehrig pulled out of his hat was a dramatic new body style that would stimulate traffic into Auburn showrooms. Recalling the famous Leamy-designed speedsters of 1931-34, and, more pointedly, recognizing that fifty of those bodies remained unused in storage, Auburn’s Harold Ames designed a new speedster that would be just the thing. Buehrig based his design on a Duesenberg speedster he had created for Weymann of Indianapolis. The first fifty speedsters produced in 1935 would utilize the top, doors, windshield, and cowl of the leftover bodies, but with a new tail and modifications around the firewall to blend with the new 1935 front end. To modernize and further streamline the design, Buehrig added flowing, aggressive pontoon-style fenders.

The bodies were extensively reworked and reshaped to the new Buehrig design, and then mounted to chassis at the Auburn factory in Connersville, Indiana. After these bodies ran out, with demand for speedsters still intact, a number of all-new bodies were produced during the remainder of the 1935-36 run.