Shortly after E.L. Cord’s takeover of Auburn in 1924, the Indiana-based manufacturer was enjoying quite a renaissance. After years of building good quality but rather staid cars, E.L. Cord transformed them into one of the most exciting American automobile companies of the time. Using engines supplied by Lycoming (part of Cord’s ever-growing business empire), Auburn established itself as a leader in the entry-level luxury market, with some of the most affordable and stylish 8-cylinder cars in the segment.
Despite the onset of the Great Depression, Auburn was still enjoying brisk sales in 1931 thanks to the 8-98 (8 cylinders, 98 horsepower). While traditional sedans and touring cars made up the bulk of the sales figures, it was a new Speedster would be the sporting leader of the lineup. With a fabulously sleek body designed in-house by Alan Leamy; the Speedster featured a V-shaped windscreen, sweeping fenders, a disappearing top and a fabulous and flamboyant boat-tail treatment to the rear bodywork. A sportsman’s dream, the new Auburn Speedster stood at a mere 68 inches tall, and thanks to that sleek and lithe bodywork, the Speedster lived up to its name with robust performance and handling. The Auburn Speedster soon became one of the most sought-after motorcars in high society, despite it being one of the most affordable cars in the class, it served as the stepping stone to the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Empire.
Our featured 1931 8-98 Speedster is a sound example wearing an accurately created speedster body built in steel on a genuine 1931 Auburn chassis. It presents in fine condition, wearing an older restoration that has seen a fair amount of use, remaining in excellent mechanical order and is a real pleasure to drive. It is finished in an attractive tan color scheme with blue accents and wheels, a combination that lends a touch of a nautical feel to the stylish Auburn. One could easily imagine this fabulous machine cruising coastal boulevards of toney playgrounds like Newport, Rhode Island or Charleston, South Carolina in the 1930s. While the restoration has taken on a bit of patina, including some crazing and blemishes in the paintwork, it remains generally shiny paint and good-looking with straight, well-aligned panels. In keeping with the sporting nature of the Speedster, the body wears a variety of accessories including dual Pilot Ray driving lamps, a winged Auburn radiator mascot, dual side-mount spare wheels with metal covers and Auburn mirrors, and a set of very interesting period-look turn indicators. The quality of the chrome and brightwork is good, appearing to have aged well since the restoration.
Seats and door cards are trimmed in navy blue leather in the sporty two-place cockpit, while dark blue carpets nicely tie together the exterior paint scheme. Original instruments, switches and controls all remain in very good order and chrome interior fittings show nice quality plating. A tan cloth soft top functions properly, hiding beneath a body-color cover when open.
Lycoming’s robust inline-eight cylinder is a marvelous engine, with smooth, unflustered power and plenty of low-end torque for easy motoring. It is well detailed with correct paint colors and finishes, showing in good, sound order throughout. It runs and drives exceptionally well, feeling very well-sorted in the chassis and engine all while emitting a fabulous, 8-cylinder baritone exhaust note that pairs perfectly with the sporty, racy bodywork. With its impeccable period style and mechanical quality, this Auburn Speedster is a good example that is a delight to drive and can be toured and enjoyed as is, or form the basis for a straightforward cosmetic freshening. It has proven itself worthy in the AACA with a Senior Award in 2008 and is ready to be enjoyed in the CCCA, ACD Club, or on classic tours and rallies.
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