1935 Auburn 851SC Boattial SpeedsterSOLD
See all the Images for this Car
Estimate: $450,000-$550,000 US

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of $506,000

150hp, 280 cu. in. inline side valve eight-cylinder engine with Schwizer-Cummins supercharger, Columbia two- speed rear end, leaf spring and solid axle front suspension and leaf spring and live axle rear suspension and four wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 127"

It is ironic that Auburn produced what many consider to be its ultimate masterpiece in 1935, just as the end was drawing near – the 851SC speedster. As such, it is a testimonial to the fighting spirit of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Company, and to the legendary talent of one of greatest designers of the time.

Auburn had invested heavily in the largely new Al Leamy-designed 1934 models. Although they sold better than the 1933s had, they were not the salvation the company needed. Worse still, Harold Ames, E.L. Cord ’ s right hand man, hated the look of the cars. As a result, management decided he was just the man to solve the problem and sent him to Auburn, putting him in charge of the company.

Clearly, a new look was desperately needed. With little money available, a completely new car was out of the question. Once again, the Ames called upon Gordon Buehrig to pull the figurative rabbit out of the hat. And once again, he delivered.

Buehrig redesigned the front end of the line with a new grille and hood line. Auburn ’ s signature new feature for 1935 was to be supercharging on the top-of-the-line models; Buehrig incorporated the external exhaust that the American public had come to identify with supercharged engines, largely because of the mighty Model SJ Duesenberg.

Although the new 851 (and the next year ’ s 852) models were certainly flashy enough, the “ new ” was more than skin deep. The chassis was mostly carried over, although some updates were made. The car was fitted with a Lycoming-built straight eight engine equipped with a new supercharger designed by Kurt Beier from Schwitzer- Cummins. In addition, the trusted and durable Columbia two speed rear axle was fitted, allowing lower gearing for quicker acceleration, combined with a higher final drive ratio for improved top speed.

Still, something dramatic was needed to stimulate traffic in the showrooms. Taking a page from the company playbook, and knowing that Central Body Company still had more than 100 bodies-in-white left over from the 1933 speedster program, Ames decided that a new speedster would be the perfect attention getter for the new line.

Once again, Ames tapped Gordon Buehrig to design the new speedster. Buehrig decided to base the new design on a Duesenberg speedster he had designed for Weymann. The top, doors, windshield and cowl could be used as-is, but a new tail would have to be made and the cowl would require modification to blend with the new 1935 front end. Finally, he added a stunning new set of pontoon fenders.

The result was breathtaking, and the new car was soon seen everywhere from auto shows to newspapers to spark plug ads. To a public weary of the Depression, the new Auburn Speedster was automotive hope personified. Here was a car everyone could identify with, dream about, and wish for. It became, in many ways, the rolling icon of the Art Deco era.

Oddly enough, it was not a big seller, and dealers resisted taking the speedsters. While they proved to be excellent for public relations, they in a sense did their job too well, and the customers who were drawn to the showroom bought the more practical sedans or convertibles.

Auburn 851 Speedsters didn ’ t just look fast, they were fast. To prove this, famed speed demon and race driver Ab Jenkins sat behind the wheel of an 851 Speedster and was the first American to set a 100mph average for a 12 hour period endurance record in a completely stock 851SC speedster. As a result, each speedster built carried a dash plaque attesting to its over 100mph capability, bearing Ab Jenkins ’ signature.

Priced at $2,245 when new, estimates peg Auburn ’ s loss per speedster at about $300 for every car built. Although, the logic behind Cord ’ s decision was that this sleek model attracted customers to come in and purchase less expensive, but more profitable models. As a consequence, very few speedsters were built, making them highly prized today.

This remarkable 1935 Auburn 851SC Boattail Speedster is a well-known example within the ACD Club, nicknamed the Arlington Speedster. Charles G. Arlington (1905-1989) of North Hollywood, California was a prominent radio and television announcer in Los Angeles and San Francisco from the 1940s through the 1970s. He owned this car and its twin, separated by one digit on the serial number, for many years. Arlington had both cars restored to immaculate original factory specification, and as a result they were identical to the smallest detail. During his ownership, Arlington frequently rented the Auburns to the film studios and loaned them to popular car magazines of the day including Road and Track, Motor Trend and Car Life. Because the two cars were identical, and usually only one was featured in the articles or films, it is impossible to say definitively which Speedster appeared where.

Eventually Arlington would part with his Auburns and one was sold to Phil and Betty Hedback of Indianapolis who, after 20 years of loving ownership, eventually donated the car to the ACD Museum in 1987 – where it resides today.

In 1966, Glenn Pray, after an exhaustive search for the best Auburn Boattail Speedster in the country, purchased this example, chassis 33222E, the Arlington Speedster. Months earlier Pray had abandoned his Cord 810/812 replica building company to start producing replicas of the Auburn Boattail Speedster. Pray had selected chassis 33222E to be the model for these replicas as he felt it was the most complete and well-built example in existence. These replicas would be built from 1967 to 1975 with a fiberglass body and a succession of powerful Ford V8s.

In the mid-nineties the Arlington Speedster was treated to a complete and thorough restoration by John Ehresman, who at the time was the official technician for the ACD Club. Needless to say, the Auburn was restored to meet grueling ACD Club specifications. Following the restoration, the owner of 33222E decided to have the Boattail Speedster judged by the Classic Car Club of America as a test of the quality of restoration. After bringing home his 1st Place prize, he was content knowing the Arlington Speedster was once again one of the finest Auburns in the country, and never showed it again.

Having been properly stored and maintained since completing its restoration, even without any preparation at all, the current owner believes the Arlington Speedster would score in the high nineties. Also in outstanding condition mechanically, the Auburn is reported to be an excellent driver and a great handling car. The Arlington Speedster, with its remarkable history and impressively preserved concours quality restoration, would be the perfect car to campaign at any of America ’ s great concours events.

Reference Number 11092

as of 7/11/2007

Car 1935 Auburn 851SC Boattial Speedster
VIN 33222E 
More Images
See all the Images for this CarSee all the Images for this CarSee all the Images for this CarSee all the Images for this CarSee all the Images for this CarSee all the Images for this Car