E.L. Cord had worked wonders at Auburn in his relatively short tenure at the head of the company. When he arrived in 1924, Auburn cars were staid, dull and unappealing. With a stroke of genius, Cord revitalized the brand simply by repainting unsold stock in bright colors and launching a vigorous advertising campaign. As reward for saving the company, he was offered a seat at the director’s table, but instead he bought the whole company and put himself in charge. Within a few short years, the marque’s image was transformed, with sports stars, business moguls and Hollywood actors seen in stylish Auburn automobiles. E.L. Cord had carefully positioned the brand within his fast growing automobile empire by offering stylish performance cars at a much lower price point than Duesenberg. For 1931, sales had continued to rebound despite economic conditions, and Auburn introduced fresh new styling that was inspired by the designed Alex Leamy’s Cord L29. As a further boost to Auburn, a new Speedster was unveiled in 1931. The car featured a sleek look with its split radiators shell, split and heavily raked windscreen and signature tapered boat-tail.
All along, E.L. Cord was losing interest in building cars and looking to invest heavily in the field of Aviation. Sales began to slump and Auburn looked for a way to revive the brand yet again. Gordon Buehrig was brought in to redesign standard Auburns and charged with creating a new Speedster, inspired by a Duesenberg J he designed that was built by Weymann. The caveat being he had to utilize leftover ’33 bodies from Union City Body to save money. The new car utilized very little of the old bodies, mainly the mid-section of the cabin and top frame. The fenders, tail, and most of the cowl were all new and in the end, Buehrig felt that this new car was even better balanced and prettier than the Duesenberg that inspired it. Lycoming 8-cylinder engines were again utilized, with the ultimate version found in the 852 with its engine-driven Schwitzer-Cummins supercharger adapted by August Duesenberg. The 852 Speedster, with its lightweight coachwork and 150 horsepower engine could top 100mph, and each car was sold with a dash plaque emblazoned with the signature of the great racer Ab Jenkins proclaiming its performance.
The Auburn 852 Speedster has become a truly iconic American performance car that has earned its place among the most collectible and desirable motorcars of the era. Many have copied its looks, but of course, nothing can capture the magic of the original thing.
We are very pleased to offer this genuine 1936 Auburn 852 Supercharged Speedster. The story of this remarkable car picks up in the early 1950s when it was purchased by Mr. Cal Grosscup of Auburn, Indiana. Through conversations and written correspondence with Cal Grosscup Jr., we learned that his father’s Auburn 852 was enjoyed by the family for several years and while in his father’s care, it was handed over to Dallas Winslow at ACD for a cosmetic restoration. Mr. Winslow made his fortune buying and liquidating failed industrial and automobile companies. He purchased the remaining assets and naming rights for Auburn Automobile Company in 1938, and rather than liquidating what was left of Auburn, he set up shop in their magnificent administration building and offered parts and services for the now-orphaned Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg automobiles.
Upon receiving Cal Grosscup’s Speedster, Winslow’s team carefully disassembled the exterior trim from the car, restored the chrome and repainted the body in the distinct terra-cotta color it still wears today. The period correct air horns were added at this time and the rear axle was rebuilt using genuine NOS parts from Winslow’s stocks. The car and its “rehabilitation” were featured in an article as well as on the cover of the very first issue of Car Life Magazine, February, 1954. A copy of the magazine, as well as period photos provided by Cal Grosscup Jr. accompany the sale of the car.
The Junior Mr. Grosscup recalled borrowing his dad’s car and thoroughly enjoying the attention it brought, particularly from the local ladies! Like most good things, the Grosscup’s time with the Auburn came to an end when Cal Sr. sold the Speedster in approximately 1957. The car then went to Leo Gephart, one of the founding fathers of the Collector Car hobby and one of the first people to consider car collecting as a serious business. In approximately 1962 the Speedster changed hands from Mr. Gephart to Mr. Ed Stolarcyk of New York; the car remaining in the Stolarcyk family for the next 55 years.
Ed passed the car on to his son Mike in the early 1970s, who informed us that he thoroughly enjoyed the power and style of the Auburn Speedster, driving it at virtually every opportunity. He always maintained the car in good working order, and the restoration from the 1950s took on a wonderful patina through the years. After many years of using the Auburn on the road, the car then disappeared from view for many years until now.
Today, this stunning and important motor car presents in fine condition, still proudly wearing the restoration as performed by Dallas Winslow’s team at the Auburn factory. Through careful recommissioning it now runs and drives, and the body has remained straight and attractive in its unusual but well-suited terra cotta paint. It certainly shows some signs of age but what is truly remarkable is that it has never been fully restored and its original drivetrain remains intact. It is a highly original, very correct example that has been recognized by ACD Historian and archivist Randy Ema, who has even found period photos of the car when new. With reasonably minor mechanical fettling, it could be made into a fabulous road car with a fantastic, care worn appeal. Yet its inherent value is such to warrant a full restoration should someone wish to choose that route. Regardless of this Auburn Speedster’s future, this rare and massively desirable machine wears its history with pride and is ready for the next chapter in its remarkable story.