Errett Lobban Cord’s meteoric rise from salesman to a captain of industry is well documented. Shortly after rescuing Auburn Automobile Company from the receivers, he counted Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg automobiles, Continental Engines, New York Ship Building, Stinson Aircraft, Checker Cab and American Airways in his massive industrial empire. However, by the mid-1930s, other businesses drew Cords attention away from automobiles. Duesenberg was left to flounder and die, while Auburn and Cord attempted survival with some genuinely spectacular cars that would ultimately fail due to lack of investment. E.L. Cord had lost interest in cars in favor of aviation, and the final nail in the coffin came when a stock-fixing investigation led him to cash out, move west and invest in real estate.
In 1937, in the wake of the collapsed Cord Empire, the remaining assets of the defunct Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Company were quietly sold off to Dallas Winslow, a Buick dealer and entrepreneur from Flint, Michigan. In the deal, Winslow acquired the rights to these famous names as well as remaining parts stocks. Operating out of the former Auburn administration building, he provided much-needed support and service to owners of original cars. In 1960, Winslow went in search of a buyer for the company and found an unlikely taker in the form of an Oklahoma high school shop teacher named Glenn Pray.
Glenn Pray was a passionate A-C-D enthusiast, and he somehow scraped together enough to purchase the whole operation from Winslow, moving the remaining stocks to a former cannery in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma – a building famously known by enthusiasts as “The Pickle Plant.” There, he became the foremost dealer in Auburn and Cord parts. A visit to the “Pickle Plant” became a rite of passage where enthusiasts would painstakingly search the bins for the elusive new-old-stock parts they needed. It is thanks to Glenn Pray that so many factory parts for these magnificent cars were saved, so that owners could faithfully restore their beloved cars.
As a natural extension of his passion and unmatched depth of knowledge for the cars he supported, Glenn Pray eventually developed a line of “continuation” series of Cord 812 and later Auburn Boattail Speedsters. With precision fiberglass bodies and contemporary Ford or GM running gear, they were sold as complete, fully built vehicles or as finished rollers ready for their drivetrain. In either case, the cars were built to a very high standard of quality. While the uninitiated may be tempted to refer to them as replicars, Glenn Pray derided this term. He referred to his cars as “second generation” models, as they were built with careful consideration to proportion and accuracy and under the auspices of the official Auburn name, which he owned. Now, some 51 years after the first examples were built, these automobiles are classics in their own right and are welcomed by the A-C-D Club, who respectfully uses Glenn’s Second Generation moniker, and welcomes and encourages owners to attend club events.
We are pleased to present this highly original, unrestored Glenn Pray Auburn 866 boattail speedster; a finely crafted and true continuation of the legendary Gordon Buehrig-designed 852 Speedster. This particular car dates from 1976, and it utilizes contemporary Ford running gear, with coil-sprung independent front suspension, front disc brakes, automatic transmission, and a mighty 429 cubic inch V8. The body is highly accurate and well detailed, complete with a single side-mount spare, V-shaped chrome bumpers, and nice touches such as original Auburn tail lights. Wide chrome wire wheels with wide whitewall radial tires are about the only giveaway to this car’s later origins. These are well-built cars, displaying very respectable levels of fit and finish and this example is no exception. Paint is a period appropriate shade of Cigarette Cream, a popular color used on many Auburns in the 1930s. It presents well with a few minor touch-ups, and some age-related fading, however, it is consistent and sound. The most recent owner purchased this car in 1983 and enjoyed it sparingly while maintaining its highly original condition.
The cabin is completely original and exceptionally well preserved. Primrose leather covers the front seat, and it remains amazingly supple with only light creasing on the surface that is consistent with this car’s low mileage. Carpets and interior panels are also very good originals. The sporting essence of the original Auburn speedster is echoed in the engine-turned instrument panel, equipped with an array of Stewart-Warner gauges. Switchgear is a mix of Ford-sourced and aftermarket, and this car even retains its original radio and air conditioning unit. A black folding canvas top in excellent condition stows neatly under a cover behind the seat.
The big Ford 429-4V presents nicely in the engine bay. It is appropriately detailed for an original, low mileage car, dressed up with a chrome air cleaner and aluminum valve covers. Road tests reveal it to be a fine driving example with strong performance from the big block Ford. Recent light recommissioning ensures it runs and drives very well, with performance and handling that belies its full-size underpinnings. The undercarriage is tidy and in good condition, and this car benefits from all the modern conveniences of power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning.
Through the years, several companies have re-created the legendary Auburn Speedster, some more successfully than others. However, it is essential to recognize that only the cars built by Glenn Pray are considered genuine Second Generation models, and as such, they are the only cars of their kind that can be called true Auburns. This attractive and well preserved Auburn 866 will surely make an excellent companion for casual driving and A-C-D Club events.