Auburn, the core of E.L. Cord’s automotive and industrial empire, confidently weathered the shocking October 1929 stock-market crash and the early stages of the Great Depression to become America’s 13th largest automobile manufacturer by 1931. While the marque’s success was well-deserved, based on Cord’s proven formula combining great styling and solid engineering at a surprisingly affordable price, plummeting sales for 1932 and 1933 and management issues were compounded by Cord’s waning interest in his core automotive businesses.
In 1934, Cord handed leadership of Auburn to Duesenberg president Harold T. Ames, who brought designer Gordon Buehrig along with him to update the styling of the existing Alan Leamy-designed Auburn models. In addition to Auburn’s foundational 6- and 8-cylinder model lines, versatile array of open and closed body styles, and progressive trim and equipment levels, a flashy new Auburn 851 Speedster was released to drive showroom traffic and – hopefully – improved sales now that the mighty Auburn Twelve line was to be discontinued after 1934.
Working with tight funding and little time, Buehrig and his skeleton crew performed a minor miracle by concentrating on judicious styling updates while conserving the best aspects of Alan Leamy’s 1934 Auburn body designs. Auburn engines were of course supplied by Lycoming, one of the many transportation-related companies owned at the time by E.L. Cord. Always offering more value for money than the competition, Auburn offered the innovative ‘Dual Ratio’ two-speed rear axle on all but its Standard lines. Supplied by Columbia, yet another Cord subsidiary, it effectively provided six forward speeds and uncanny driving flexibility on command.
Representing the high end of Auburn’s 8-cylinder model lines for 1935, this dashing Salon Dual Ratio Phaeton continues to benefit very nicely from a quality older restoration with a CCCA (Classic Car Club of America) National First Prize to its credit and CCCA badge #9268 duly affixed to the Phaeton’s right cowl in confirmation of this high-level judged accolade. Colors are excellent, comprising a beige main body, accented by rich burgundy to the fenders, side-mounted spare-tire cases, and a snug convertible top. While upon closer inspection a few edge chips are visible, the venerable Auburn features nice and shiny paint with consistent finish quality, accented by good chrome notwithstanding some light polishing marks.
Trimmed in supple burgundy leather upholstery, the interior continues to display great character, being nicely broken in and remaining most presentable with a pleasing patina. Well-equipped and elegant, the Phaeton’s interior features Auburn’s visually captivating dash insert panels, twin electric windshield wipers, a locking glove box with an inset clock, a tachometer, rear-passenger robe/grab bar, and even a very rare Auburn-Crosley AM radio. Wonderful design cues and period accessories exude sophistication, including the gently curved V-shaped chrome front bumper, Auburn ‘Flying Goddess’ mascot, twin Trippe Safety Lights, sleek bullet-type chrome headlamps, twin front-fender lamps, and full-length hood louvers, plus twin chrome side mirrors, a folding windscreen, roll-up windows, and color-keyed integral trunk compartment.
Recent maintenance work includes a top-end engine service and resealing of the 115-horsepower Lycoming straight-eight engine, as well as attention to the Columbia 2-speed rear axle. Pleasingly mellowed in the time since its restoration, this wonderfully stylish and well-equipped 1935 Auburn 851 Salon Dual Ratio Phaeton is a lovely and desirable CCCA Full Classic® automobile, very well suited to continued enjoyment on CARavan tours and similar classic events.
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