1929 Auburn 8/90 Cabriolet

The Auburn Automobile Company started life in Auburn, Indiana as the Eckhart Carriage Company in 1875, founded by Charles Eckhart. Near the turn of the century, Eckhart’s two sons grew intrigued by the up and coming horseless carriages and began to experiment with building one of their own. In the early 1900’s, they began the transformation into a mainstream car maker. In 1909 they consolidated two small car manufacturers and moved the newly formed Auburn Automobile Company into a new plant. They enjoyed moderate successes early on, but by the time the 1920’s rolled around, they began to struggle. In 1924, Auburn was stuck with a glut of approximately 800 unsold cars and was facing bankruptcy. A highly successful car salesman named E.L. Cord was hired in a desperate attempt to shift the inventory. His idea was simple but very effective. He had the unsold cars repainted in bright colors and positioned in store windows and out in the public eye. The brightly colored cars found buyers, and the company was saved from receivership. As a reward for his work, E.L. Cord was offered a position as head of Auburn Automobile Company. But Cord countered the offer given to him from the board of directors, and effectively took control of the entire company in a leveraged buyout. Sales skyrocketed under his control, and by the late 1920’s the Auburn was seen as one of the finest cars in America. E.L. Cord proceeded to build an empire of corporations that included Auburn, Duesenberg, Cord, Checker Cabs, Lycoming Engines, Stinson Aircraft Company, and American Airways and many others.

1929 was one of the most successful years for Auburn, with the 96 horsepower Lycoming-powered 8-90 selling very well in all body styles. This breathtaking 8-90 cabriolet is fitted with one of the rarest of all body styles. It combines the sporting nature of the speedster with a more practical full cabriolet top, glass side windows and rumble seat for occasional rear passengers. This example wears an older restoration that has aged gracefully, evident of the very high quality work it originally received. The black paint has a warm luster which is accented by striking gold pinstripe work and beautiful chrome trim. A richly colored oxblood red interior adds just the right flash of color. The leather upholstery has an inviting broken-in look. This wonderful car has clearly been cherished, but also used and enjoyed since its restoration. Chrome wire wheels with dual chrome sidemount spares with blackwall tires combine to give this example a handsome, elegant look with just a touch of sporting character. This example is very well accessorized with monogram drum headlights, matching cowl lamps, a chrome trunk rack and clever “mud scrapers” integrated into the running boards. It is also equipped with the aforementioned rumble seat with matching oxblood leather upholstery, and a side-access golf bag door. The full cabriolet top is upholstered in tan canvas, and trimmed with finely finished wood and chrome fittings.

Under the long hood lays a big Lycoming straight 8, displacing 268 cubic inches, good for 96 horsepower and backed by a smooth shifting 3 speed transmission. Engine bay detailing is nice, with most finishes and fittings correct, though it has seen some regular use since the restoration. The engine is strong running and this 8-90 is ready for enjoyment on the road or casual show. It was last shown at the 2011 Ault Park Concours d’Elegance where it performed well against the competition. While it is still certainly nice enough to be shown again, it is perhaps best suited for casual use or even CCCA touring, as the strong Lycoming engine and full convertible top make it a great choice for long distance tours. This is a fine opportunity to acquire a rare and very elegant Auburn from the golden era of American grand classics.

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