While E.L. Cord gets the credit for saving the ailing Auburn Automobile Company in the mid-1920s, he is also responsible for the company’s eventual demise a decade later. After enjoying a renaissance of sorts, the company soon faced numerous obstacles. In the early 1930s, The Great Depression showed no signs of relinquishing its grip on the economy, and competition from large automotive conglomerates like Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler left little room in the market for smaller independent firms like Auburn. Increasing opportunities in the field of aviation lured Mr. Cord’s finances and leadership away from the automobile business, and soon, Auburn faltered.
Despite the apathy from the board room, Auburn forged ahead with new models and fresh new designs for the 1932 model year. The big news was the arrival of Auburn into the hotly-contested V12 market with the flagship 12-160. The most potent Auburn yet, the 12-160 boasted 160 horsepower from a 391.2 cubic inch unit. Designed and built by Cord Corporation subsidiary Lycoming, the V12 was a fascinating design with a narrow V-angle with nearly horizontal valve train that resembled an overhead cam design, yet still had the cam in the middle of the block. To handle the additional power, the 12-160 chassis featured hydraulic internally-expanding drum brakes, variable ratio steering gear, 17-inch wheels, and an optional dual-ratio rear axle on top-line models. Despite the initial promise of its impressive spec sheet and beautiful styling, the Auburn Twelve was a slow seller, primarily because the competition from Cadillac, Packard, and Lincoln was simply too much to bear.
In a last-ditch attempt to lure buyers from its rivals in Detroit, Auburn added the Salon model to the range in 1933. Designated 12-165, the Salon had a host of unique features to set it apart from lesser models. A specially strengthened chassis boasted adjustable vacuum boosted brakes and two-speed rear axle. Styling highlights included the beautiful “ribbon” style bumpers, vee-shaped radiator grille, chrome-trimmed fenders, and folding windscreen on open models. The design of the Salon Twelve carried over to 1934, even as eight-cylinder cars got an entirely different look. Unfortunately, the new car was not enough to kick-start sales, and 1934 proved to be the struggling model’s final year. Most enthusiasts agree that the 1933-1934 Salon Twelve stands as one of the prettiest Auburns of all. They are also among the rarest and are highly sought after for their elegant presence as they are for their performance.
One of just seventeen Auburn Salon Twelves produced in 1934, this magnificent Phaeton is an exquisite example, recently restored to a high standard by marque specialists. Serial number 1250-1189H comes to us via a well-known and respected expert who restored the car to concours standards at the official home of Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. This car was previously restored to a high standard, as evidenced by a 1992 AACA Senior Grand National First Prize and CCCA Senior badge; however, a road accident prompted its most recent restoration by ACD, completed in 2019. While in Broken Arrow, repairs were made using new-old-stock parts wherever possible, with meticulous attention to detail and correctness. It presents today in beautiful concours condition, retaining all of its unique Salon model components and features.
As expected of a high-level restoration, the paintwork is excellent. Fit and finish of the body is exceptional, with the doors and hood exhibiting precise alignment. This car retains the correct, Salon-specific polished trim on the leading edges of the fenders and hood louvers, dual side-mount spare wheels with painted covers, dual cowl lights, and a body-color trunk. Brightwork is also in excellent condition, particularly the correct ribbon-style bumpers and gorgeous chrome knock-off wire wheels; fitted with Firestone double-sided wide whitewall tires. The black canvas top accentuates the long and low profile of the Auburn’s styling, giving it a sporty, aggressive “chop top” appearance.
The luxurious cabin features supple gray leather accented with maroon piping and highlights. The seats present in fine condition, with fresh, recently restored upholstery. Door panels and kick panels are similarly presented, and dark maroon carpets are in fine order. Lovely, factory-correct instruments sit in a central cluster in the dash, all restored to a high standard. The switch for the two-speed axle is front and center, while to the left, an additional switch adjusts the vacuum assistance of the brakes to dial in the performance for varying road conditions.
Beneath the hood rests the Lycoming V12 engine which is properly detailed with correct hardware, paint finishes, and plumbing. The engine runs well, coming to life readily with assistance from the “Startix” automatic starting device. A pair of Stromberg carburetors individually feed one bank of cylinders via separate intake manifolds. The unconventional valve train makes the V12 remarkably narrow, though it is quite tall, requiring the upright radiator shell and the high beltline that lend the Auburn Twelve its stately, purposeful appearance. The undercarriage is finished to a similarly high standard, appearing quite fresh with minimal signs of road use.
Standing among the rarest and most desirable of all Auburn models, this 1934 V12 Salon Phaeton benefits from a fresh, expert restoration with exceptional results. With abundant power and style, it is ideally suited for touring and concours.