Upon arriving at Auburn Automobile Company in 1924, Errett Lobban Cord found the firm in dire straits. Years of conservative, uninspired designs in the face of increasing competition saw sales tank, and soon Auburn dealers were faced with a glut of unsold inventory. Needing to reduce existing stocks, Cord devised a simple plan to make the product line more appealing, which involved little more than applying bright paint colors and some creative marketing. The program saved Auburn from certain bankruptcy and Cord was offered a senior management position. Ambitious to a fault, E.L. Cord instead leveraged his offer and bought a controlling stake in Auburn. 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 smart performance cars at a competitive price point. For 1931, sales had continued to rebound despite economic conditions, and Auburn introduced fresh new styling that was inspired by the more upscale Cord L29. As a further boost to Auburn, a sporty new Speedster joined the lineup the same year.
Even as Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg flourished, E.L. Cord was losing interest in building cars and looking to invest heavily in aviation and shipbuilding. Cord spent fewer and fewer hours tending to the car business, and the dire economy caused sales to plummet 67% between 1931 and 1932. The addition of the sophisticated V12 engine did little to help. Again faced with reviving the struggling Auburn line, management brought in Gordon Buehrig in 1934 to redesign the Auburn line for 1935. He was apprehensive about the post since his friend and fellow designer Alan Leamy was rather unfairly fired over the failure of the 1934 range. For his redesign, Buehrig left much of the body alone, save for straightening out the controversial dipped beltline of the ‘34 model. He revised the front end with a new radiator shell and deep, full-figured fenders. The result was a beautiful design – neat and sophisticated in the typical Buehrig fashion. Across the entire line, Auburn used the proven Lycoming inline eight-cylinder engine, after the expensive and unpopular V12 was dropped. An optional engine-driven supercharger joined the line, developed by August Duesenberg and Kurt Beier of Schwitzer-Cummins. Despite the best efforts of the designers and marketing team, the new models failed to ignite sales. The impact of the Great Depression was too much to overcome, and allegations of E.L. Cord engaging in stock manipulations spelled the end for Auburn, which closed its doors after the 1936 model year.
This 1935 Auburn 852 Cabriolet is a marvelous example of the top-of-the-line Salon model, presented in beautiful colors and subject of a recent mechanical and cosmetic freshening. For the 1935 model year, Auburn re-introduced the Standard, Custom, and Salon to designate the respective trim lines. This car is a desirable Salon model, identified by its dual side-mount spare wheels with full steel covers, Crosley radio, folding windscreen, and the all-important dual-ratio rear axle. This car spent many years in the hands of a private owner in Illinois, who was an active member of the ACD Club and participated in their shows and events as well as with the CCCA, to which this car is welcomed as a Full Classic. The car was treated to a high-quality, CCCA Senior Premier Award-winning restoration some years ago, and recently freshened for continued enjoyment on the road or show field. It presents in exceptional condition, finished in a beautiful shade of bright red accented with subtle, dark red feature lines and straw-colored stripes. The body is outstanding, with straight and properly-aligned panels. Plating on the bumpers, grille, and trim is excellent, appearing clean and finely maintained since the initial restoration. Optional wire wheels with Firestone wide-whitewalls round out the sporty looks.
In its day, the Cabriolet was considerably more popular than the two-seat Speedster, as it offered superior practicality with similar performance. The additional rumble seat allows space for up to four passengers, while the roll-up windows and generous roof make for a roomy cabin up front. This car’s tan leather upholstery provides a pleasing contrast to the paint color and is in great condition, showing some light creasing and character from occasional use on the front seat. Door panels, rumble seat upholstery, and the brown carpeting are all in similarly fine order. Original instruments are set in the ornate patterned-alloy dash, and this car features the factory Crosley radio set in the center of the fascia. Finished in tan Haartz cloth, the top is in excellent condition and includes a matching boot.
Under the hood sits the original Lycoming inline eight, which displaces 279 cubic inches. The engine is recently and comprehensively rebuilt. Both the block and head were found to be in very sound condition, aside from normal wear. It was rebuilt with new rod/main bearings, ground and polished crankshaft, new rings, resurfaced head, all new gaskets, and new ancillaries including water pump and new tune parts. Before installation, it was professionally painted and detailed in the correct Lycoming green with satin-black accessories and proper decals and hardware. Naturally, it runs strong, sending power through the original 3-speed manual gearbox and two-speed rear axle. The Auburn 852 is a marvelous touring car, with power aplenty and the added benefit of overdrive for relaxed cruising.
Stylish, rare, and with robust performance, it is no surprise that the 852 Salon Cabriolet has become the enthusiast’s choice for an affordable alternative to exclusive Speedster. The Cabriolet offers virtually the same road manners and marvelous open-air driving experience in a cabin that is comfortable and practical for touring and regular use. With its beautiful presentation that encourages enjoyment, this is a truly outstanding example that is ready for ACD Club events, CCCA Touring, and casual show.