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A Proud Owner and a Near New Auburn 8-90 Speedster

When is the last time you saw an Auburn 8-90 Speedster with black wall tires wearing tire chains driving in the snow? Probably never, but Smith Hempstone Oliver, an early antique car enthusiast was on the scene, apparently on two different occasions and photographed this 1929 Auburn for its proud owner.

Even though this rakish-looking example has 1928 Rhode Island license plates, the AAA badge on the radiator is from New York and Oliver was based in the New York City area, so there is a good chance that is where the photos were taken.

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  • 1929 Auburn 8-90 Speedster with tire chains on snow-covered streets late in 1928.

The Auburn Speedster, first introduced in 1928 was available in two different versions. Both are powered by Lycoming L-head straight eights; the 8-90 by the 90-h.p. version and the Model 120 by a larger and a more powerful engine producing 120-h.p.

The Auburn was a moderately-priced car with a conventional chassis and drive train, but it was capable of setting records. In 1928 Wade Morton driving an 115-h.p. model set a record at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and sped to 108.46 over a one-mile distance at Daytona Beach. He also covered 2033 miles over 24-hours on the Atlantic City Speedway board track at an average speed of 84.7 m.p.h.

You can learn more about the late-1920s cars the company produced, including the famed 1929 Auburn Cabin Speedster in earlier articles here on The Old Motor.

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  • The rear end view of an Auburn Speedster is what most motorist’s of the day were familiar with.

The images from the Smith Hempstone Oliver Collection are courtesy of The Revs Institute Research Library. The Institute is looking to expand its collection of over 700,000 photographs to include content much like that seen on these pages. Their goal is to acquire collections of images of all types of powered wheeled-vehicles that were involved with the advancement of society in some way, ranging from the pre-WWII days to the 1950s. If you or someone you know has a collection that is available contact them directly.

If you are heading to Florida this fall, winter or spring, be sure to make reservations to visit The Revs Institute and view the world-class Collier Collection of automobiles.

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15 responses to “A Proud Owner and a Near New Auburn 8-90 Speedster

  1. An Auburn Speedster… with chains ? Something about those two concepts that doesn’t work together.

    Top down, winter in Manhattan…and to be era correct, a 1/5th under the seat ?

    Note the Firestone shield on the tire sidewalls ( I notice that stuff as I paint them today ).

    If the was a top, looks like the driver would have to be hatless.

    Could someone explain the ‘ straps’ under the front bumper ?

    Thanks for sharing, Great. JB

  2. The bumper appears to be supported by those looped brackets, allowing some flexibility in minor bumps.
    Note the amused glances from the bundled up gentlemen in the first photo. The driver was out to attract attention and succeeded!

  3. The straps look like a loop spring shock absorber. I noticed that the bumper itself is fluted or reeded and seems like an accessory piece. For sure, someone will know and report in. This is a very cool car. RE the tire chains… I did see a 29 Ruxton going thru the mud at Hershey one year. Up to its axles in the goo. It had Woodlytes. Does that count?

  4. The bumpers are Ballcrank brand or an imitation (or Ballcrank is the imitation) – but they are a tubular bumper with a spring steel bracket (like a leaf spring) – they were “the best thing since sliced bread for many manufacturers and also aftermarket trade. The Auburn I believe had them as standard equipment (ie the bumpers are original equipment).

    Our 1931 Cadillacs interestingly enough all had tire chains in the toolboxes (and in Cadillac script bags)- I pulled out the accessory manual – $8.50 to 14.00 pair. Here is the caption: “Although generally overlooked as necessary equipment for the motor car, chains are, in reality, a distinct necessity, for without warning the motorist often finds himself in dire need of anti-skid equipment …..”.

    We were caught out with the 1941 Cadillac 60 Special (in about 1980 – I was 15 years old and had bought car a year earlier) returning from a late fall car tour when a snow storm that hit a couple blocks from the house (the car had a couple week old set of new set of Firestone whitewalls on it) – IT WAS TOTALLY UNSUITED FOR DRIVING. And, When we got to our drive we could not even get the car over the 2″ bump to get into the driveway – we shoveled the street.

  5. I suspect that this is someone that summered in Newport and the car was usually kept there. And, that the man in uniform is the ladies chauffeur. Years ago a friend of mine had a little pamphlet listing all the cars registered in RI in 1914. It included something like 27 Rolls Royces (they would all have been Silver Ghosts) and I suspect most of those were registered in RI but the owners spent most of the year elsewhere.

  6. What a glorious machine! I find myself wondering about space for luggage – is it accessed by folding the seat/s forward, or do you have to use the “golf bag” door? The compete absence of a top (no doubt neatly stowed) says it all. Odd as it may seem, my ’14 Sunbeam has similar characteristics..

  7. I am not convinced this driver is a chauffeur. He seems to have an insignia on his right sleeve, and what seems like service stripes on his left. The lady is looking at him with a pretty intimate gaze, he is far too non-chalant in the other photos, especially that one with his foot on the running board and a cig in his fingers. Plus, it is hard to believe a wealthy woman would be taken out for a cold drive with her chauffeur and not her handsome husband in uniform.

  8. “Hemp” made some great photographs: early races, car shows, 1950 Le Mans with Briggs Cunningham, etc., etc., so it’s good to know that his work is preserved in an appropriate place.

  9. I think the man is a USN Chief Petty Officer with 12 plus years of service, although he doesn’t display any service ribbons. Newport was the site of a large navy base up until the 1970s. Now could a chief afford such a car in those days?

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