Auburn 852 Speedster

The Auburn Speedster is a two-door coupe manufactured by the Indiana-based Auburn Automobile Company in three generations between 1928 and 1937.

First generation (1928-1930)

The first-generation Auburn Speedster made its debut in 1928. Two variants were produced: the 8-88, rated at 88 hp, and the 8-115, which also had horsepower that matched its number. Some sources claim that Russian-American automotive designer, Alexis de Sakhnoffsky styled the chassis of the cars, but it appears to have been the work of Al Leamy, who was later credited for the design of the Cord L-29. The cars were powered by six-cylinder Lycoming engines. The Speedster's steering was relatively slow, it used a three-speed gearbox, and its maneuverability was limited, with wheelbases of 125 inches and 130 inches for the Model 8-88 and Model 8-115, respectively. The year of its debut, an Auburn 8-115 Speedster was used to cover the measured mile of Daytona Beach, Florida at a record-breaking speed of 108.46 mph. Another record was broken later that year at Atlantic City, New Jersey, by covering 2,033 miles in one day at an average speed of 84.7 mph. In 1929, the Model 8-90 and Model 8-120 were introduced, and were rated at 96 hp and 125 hp, respectively. The horsepower of the Model 8-90 was increased to 100 in 1930.

Second generation (1931-1934)

The Auburn Speedster made its reappearance in 1931. The former six-cylinder and eight-cylinder cars were discontinued, and the 1930 Speedster emerged again as the 8-98. It was rated at 98 horsepower and bored to 268.6 in3. It was available with a standard or custom trim (which was listed as the 98A) and built using an X-braced frame, which was first used on the Cord L-29. The custom trim featured free-wheeling, a popular, yet dangerous fad of the time. It rode on 17 inch wheels, and was built with elongated fenders, a high, elongated hood, slim windows, and a grille featuring dummy shutters. It was sold at a price of $945 (about 14,287.84 2012 dollars).

The 1932 Speedster's design was not different from that of the 1931 version, but several mechanical innovations were implemented, which included automatic starters, and on the custom, shock absorbers adjustable from the driver's compartment. Free-wheeling, which was previously an option on earlier models, became standard on all models, and custom models were also fit with a vacuum-controlled two-speed axle, which provided the driver with an option of "economy" or "performance" gearing. Also in 1932, the Model 12-160 was introduced, and was fitted with a 160 horsepower V12 engine. Rather than the cylinders being set at a 90 degree angle, they were set at 45 degrees, which reduced the width of the engine and the amplitude of torsional vibration. Prices for a 12-160 coupe started at $975 (about 16,355.45 2012 dollars), while a V-12 Speedster typically went for $1145 (about 19,207.19 2012 dollars), and a Custom usually sold for about $1275 (about 21,387.89 2012 dollars). Not many cars were sold this year due to the Great Depression.

Not many changes were made in 1933, but a salon trim was made for both the 8- and 12-cylinder series. Even less cars were sold this year than in 1932.

Millions of dollars were spent trying to develop a new Auburn for 1934. The styling of the new Auburn Speedster was made by Al Leamy. The six-cylinder series, which hadn't been manufactured since 1930, was reintroduced and powered by a larger and more efficient engine. It was priced as low as $695 (about 11,919.51 2012 dollars).

Third generation (1935-1937)

E. L. Cord, the owner of the Auburn Automobile Company, temporarily moved to England during March 1934 after receiving kidnapping threats against his sons. During this time, his chief lieutenant Lucius Manning was in charge of Auburn, but because his knowledge of automobiles was limited, Harold Ames, the president of Duesenberg, was appointed as executive vice president of the company. During the time, Duesenberg was not receiving much activity, and because of this, Ames also brought Gordon Buehrig and August Duesenberg with him, the chief stylist and chief engineer of Duesenberg, respectively. Buehrig was responsible for facelifting the 1934 Speedster, while August Duesenberg was tasked with enhancing Auburn's image with a minuscule $50,000. Ultimately, earlier chassis were adapted to the new 1935 one, and a new hood was fashioned to match up the 1935 radiator with a 1933 cowl. At the same time, August Duesenberg developed a highly efficient supercharger. The third generation Speedster was rated at 150 horsepower and was capable of reaching up to 100 mph. No changes were made in 1936 or 1937, but the car compiled over 70 speed records in the few years of its production. It sold for up to $2245.


Supercharged versions of the Speedster, the Model 851 and Model 852 were produced from 1935 to 1937. The chassis was designed by Gordon Buehrig and the vehicle was engineered by August Duesenberg. The rear-wheel drive 851s and 852s featured pontoon fenders and boattails inspired by a Duesenberg Buehrig previously designed. They were fitted with 4.6 litre straight-eight engines capable of reaching 148 horsepower. The 851 and 852 each had a top speed of 104 mph and were capable of going from 0-60 mph in 10 seconds. The supercharged cars rode on a wheelbase of 127 inches and weighed anywhere from 3565 to 3729 pounds. Because only 500 were made and the cars are some of the most recognised American classics made, they sell for extremely high prices at auctions. The 851 and 852, which were originally sold for anywhere from $1445 to $2245 now have collectible values between $300,000 and $500,000.