E.L. Cord had famously saved the Auburn Automobile Company from certain collapse in 1925 and in the process, elevated Auburn from a maker of perfectly good, though somewhat dull cars, into a leader in the entry-level luxury market. Auburn would become the cornerstone of Cord’s vision for a luxury automobile empire. Through clever marketing and the introduction of a line of Lycoming eight-cylinder engines, Auburn was reestablished as a value and style leader with the help of designers like Alan Leamy and Gordon Buehrig. As they forged into the 1930s, the effects of the Great Depression had pummeled the high-end automobile market and Auburn was feeling the pressure. Despite the looming losses, the company carried on with a series of increasingly stylish cars throughout the next several years. Chief designer Alan Leamy had joined Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg in 1928, and penned the legendary Cord L-29 and much of the exterior sheetmetal for the Duesenberg J – including its iconic radiator grille. He was then sent to over to Auburn to put his touch on range, which he did masterfully through a series of handsome, art-deco inspired open and closed cars, with the range-topping rakish Boattail Speedster a particular highlight of his career.
1933 models carried on largely unchanged from the previous year, but with tweaked styling by Leamy and some subtle upgrades. Prices had increased but in order to give a sense of value, the standard line was supplemented with the Salon model which added a folding windscreen to open models (or a fixed V-windscreen to closed cars) and the availability of steel artillery wheels. As before, the dual-ratio rear axle was an option which made for easy and relaxed high-speed cruising ability. Lycoming inline eight cylinder and V12 engines continued to be offered, each delivering excellent performance for the price. Despite their best efforts, however, the combination of economic conditions and E.L. Cord’s dubious business dealings would spell the end for Auburn just three short years later.
This 1933 Auburn 8-105 is a desirable Salon model wearing factory cabriolet coachwork. It is a charming piece that presents with a well-earned patina, coming most recently from long-term single-family ownership in California. The story of the most recent owners begins in the 1960s, with a young man named Ed who had struck a deal with his father: If Ed would quit smoking, his father would buy him a car. So the young man dutifully kicked the habit in hopes of waking up one morning to find something like a brand-new Impala convertible in the driveway. In the end, his father came through on the deal, but the car was quite a bit different from what Ed had hoped for. The car he bought his son was this 1933 Auburn cabriolet, which young Ed saw as “just an old car”, later confessing that he was pretty disappointed at first sight. But the charm of pretty Auburn quickly grew on him, even though it was clear that his father had really bought the car for himself! Soon, he and his dad were working on the car regularly and whole family grew quite attached to the Auburn. In fact, it would remain in their possession and care for the next four-plus decades.
In spite of its careworn appearance, this Auburn is in remarkably good mechanical condition and has been very well maintained through the years. The 2/4 passenger cabriolet body is in good order and is exceptionally solid underneath. The floors and chassis all appear to be sound and solid, thanks in large part to this car’s long-term Western ownership. The body is also quite straight and while the paint is glossy, it is fairly weathered is lifting in places. Accessories include dual side-mount spare wire wheels, cowl lights on the signature Auburn streamlined plinths, chrome trumpet horns and Stabilite headlamps. The chrome is in generally good condition, and while it is showing its age in places, it is sound and straight, including the beautifully curved bumpers.
The interior is trimmed in tobacco-colored upholstery and presents in fair condition, in keeping with the rest of the quality of the car. Original gauges in the beautiful art-deco instrument panel appear good, and the car features a rare factory-optional Philco radio. The upholstery is generally sound and serviceable, thought the canvas cabriolet top has deteriorated and will require replacement.
Mechanically, the 8-105 has been maintained to a very high standard and benefits from extensive service. A number of recent receipts are included in the history file, including one for a complete engine rebuild performed in 2016. This included regrinding of the crankshaft, new Babbitt bearings, balanced rotating assembly, and freshly machined mating surfaces on the block. The engine runs strong and the car drives very well, with that particularly pleasing quality of a well-loved original car. It is equipped with the desirable 2-speed rear axle, which was serviced along with the brakes and electrical system prior to the engine rebuild.
With an interesting, long term history in California and a recent mechanical overhaul, this honest and tidy Auburn is a fine example for casual use, or to serve as the basis of a straightforward cosmetic restoration. The sale will include receipts, numerous California registration cards dating back to the 1950s, and a period instruction manual.