Since its inception in 1903, Auburn was noted for producing reliable, good quality automobiles, though it wasn’t until E.L. Cord’s arrival in 1924 that they began to offer the more exciting products they are best known for. The late 20’s and early 30’s were the firm’s most successful years, with sporting Auburns finding favor with celebrities and stars of the time. But by 1935, things were starting to look fairly grim for the Auburn Automobile Company. Their parent, the Cord Corporation, was pulling back financial support of automobile production to focus their efforts on the burgeoning aviation industry. E.L. Cord had admitted several years prior that he was losing interest in car production, as the economies of scale enjoyed by the likes of Ford and GM were too much for a smaller manufacturer to handle. Despite the writing being on the wall for Auburn, the company brought in Gordon Buehrig to handle a restyling of the line for the 1935 season. As so often happened when independent manufacturers were facing the end, their final product was among the best they ever offered, and the sporty, dramatic styling from Buehrig certainly helped attract plenty of attention.
Mechanically, the Lycoming inline eight-cylinder engine was largely unchanged with the notable exception of the optional Schwitzer-Cummins centrifugal supercharger which added a healthy and welcome boost in power above 2,000 rpm. Few changes were made for 1936 which proved to be the final year of Auburn production. E.L. Cord had one more flourish with the Cord 810/812, but he was essentially out of the car business by the end of 1937.
This 1936 Auburn 852 Supercharged Phaeton is from the final year of Auburn production, wearing a good quality older restoration and well-equipped with many desirable options. The pretty Gordon Buehrig styling is finished in Cigarette Cream, a period correct color made famous on 852 speedsters as well as on the Cord 810. The body is very straight, showing a high quality restoration, and the doors and deck lids exhibit very good shutlines. The paintwork does show a few minor flaws and chips that are expected from a car that has been enjoyed since completion, but it remains inherently sound with no peeling or cracking in the finish. This was a very high-end car when new, and is well accessorized with polished cover on the single side-mount spare wheel, polished outside exhaust pipes unique to the supercharged models, disc wheel covers, Trippe lights and a fold-down windscreen. Chrome quality is generally quite good, though a few areas such as on the rear bumper do show some age.
Like the exterior, the interior presents very well, having been nicely preserved since the restoration and showing little wear. The brown leather upholstery and light brown carpets complement the cream-yellow paint nicely. Likewise, the dark brown canvas top is a well-judged touch that brings the paint and interior together quite well. Upholstery quality both front and rear is very good, with good door panels and driver-quality chrome fittings, while the steering wheel and switchgear are in very good original condition. The interior design eschews traditional wood trim for a modern, streamlined approach. The dash in particular is fabulous; with deco-style instruments arranged in damascene-pattern instrument panel, topped with a chrome header. Auburn’s Phaeton body style is much like a convertible sedan, offering all-weather comfort with roll up windows that seal against a full folding top. In addition to the side glass, the B-pillars and windscreen fold away for a fully open and sporting experience.
With the top folded and windows down, the factory supercharged Lycoming inline eight-cylinder engine can be fully enjoyed. It has been recently detailed and presents very well in correct colors. It is tidy and clean, showing light use, and benefitting from fresh paint with good quality, period-correct fittings. The engine is mated to a manual gearbox which sends power through the optional Dual Ratio rear axle, essentially giving the car an overdrive and allowing for surprising top-end performance.
All told, this is a very nice quality example of the rare and desirable Auburn 852 Supercharged Phaeton. The older restoration has held up well and it remains very attractive, quite well suited for CCCA CARavan tours, ACD Club events or family enjoyment.