1935 Auburn 851 Supercharged Speedster

While famed American industrialist E.L. Cord and his flagship Auburn marque confidently weathered the October 1929 stock market crash and entered the deepening Great Depression with a strong product line and balance sheet to match, sales dropped precipitously by 1932-33 in line with industry trends. Compounding the problems, Auburn styling for 1934 was not well received, hampering sales. However, rather than back down, company management, staff, and workers doubled down on style, performance, and solid engineering for 1935 in a valiant quest for renewed profitability. Leading the charge was the unforgettable new Gordon Buehrig-styled 851 model line, crowned by the gorgeous 851 Speedster of 1935, unchanged for 1936 and redesignated 852.

The supercharged 851 SC was the top Auburn model line for 1935 and the most unforgettable examples were the sleek Boattail Speedsters, crowned by a set of flexible chromed exhaust pipes already used to great effect on the rare Duesenberg SJ. For power, Auburn utilized the robust basic 280 CI ‘GG’ Lycoming straight-eight engine, upgraded by Augie Duesenberg and Pearl Watson, who adapted a Schwitzer-Cummins centrifugal supercharger. Their tweaks included a 5:1 planetary supercharger drive, with the resultant ‘GH’ engine specification delivering 150 factory-rated horsepower for 30 per cent increase, with a 10 per cent torque boost. The ‘GH’ was the standard engine for the Auburn Boattail Speedster, and it was offered as an option on the other Auburn 851 and subsequent 852 models for an additional $220 charge. A Columbia “Dual Ratio,” two-speed rear axle provided the best of both worlds with brisk acceleration on tap and strong top-speed potential with six forward speeds available.

The result was simply breathtaking on every level, and the new Speedsters backed up their fabulously sporting Art Deco-inspired style with plenty of substance. To demonstrate the Speedster’s performance potential, famed racing driver and American speed-record legend Ab Jenkins became the first American to record an average speed over 100 mph for a 12-hour period in a stock 851 SC Speedster. In commemoration, each Speedster built was fitted with an engraved dash plaque bearing Jenkins’ signature declaring the vehicle’s individually proven ability to exceed 100 mph in post-assembly testing.

Sadly, the excitement generated by the new Auburn Speedster was short-lived. While priced at a considerable $2,245 when new, it is believed that Auburn lost $300 per Speedster built. The Auburn line continued unchanged into 1936, with the Speedster now redesignated the 852 SC Speedster, but sales were dismal, and few were built. By the time Auburn production halted in 1937, as few as 143 supercharged Auburn 851 and 852 Speedsters were hand-built in all.

While small in number, the 1935-36 Auburn 851/852 Speedster remains a sporting, Art Deco-inspired design landmark that never fails to capture attention today. This example continues to benefit handsomely from an older ground-up restoration that has been very well maintained ever since it was completed. As offered, this 851 Speedster is the product of a thoughtful and well-orchestrated programme of cosmetic and mechanical refreshment performed over the past four years, in accordance with a mandate to make it a gorgeous car that can be shown or toured as desired. Among the works performed, the engine was re-sealed and the braking and electrical systems were rebuilt and restored.

ACD Club certification was accorded in 2021 and noted previous owners include Tom Barrett and Noel Thompson. The paint, leather upholstery, soft top, and chrome trim are all beautifully maintained and of a very high standard, and weather gear includes a pair of side curtains. Power is delivered by a correct, later-model ‘GH’ supercharged inline eight-cylinder engine, in concert with a floor-shifted 3-speed manual transmission and working 2-speed Dual Ratio (Columbia) rear axle. Wire wheels equipped with elegant chrome wheel discs and hubcaps featuring the Auburn script, complemented by 1930s-inspired Blackwall tires, ensure contact with the road. A rare, handsomely presented, and compelling CCCA Full Classic® automobile in all respects, this 1935 Auburn 851 SC Speedster is an unqualified Art Deco-inspired design landmark that will never fail to capture admiration or deliver an adventurous experience everywhere it is driven.


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Stock number 6597

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