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McKenzie’s Auburn Speedster Dry Lakes and Cross-Country Runs

1931 Auburn Speedster - Dry Lakes

Bob McKenzie behind the wheel of this Auburn Speedster may have started the his 20-plus year-long career of setting cross-country and city-to-city record runs. His timing might have been perfect as, during the very depths of the Great Depression, he and others made a living of setting records for automakers and suppliers.

The scene of the lead image appears to be at the Muroc Dry Lake with McKenzie and the crew from the Pennzoil Oil Company setting up for some sort of a run. The fact that the headlamps are mounted low and to the center indicates that it was likely an overnight or 24-hour run. As the next image will show, two of his sponsors in 1933 were Pennzoil and B.F. Goodrich, and both are also represented in the lead image.

A brief search of contemporary news reports and periodicals did not turn up any coverage about this run, so if you learn more about it please let us know. The image is courtesy of Auburn enthusiast Jerry Alward.

1931 Auburn Engine

  • The Auburn L-head straight eight 268.6 c.i.d. engine and chassis. Note the 8-inch wide by 3-inch deep frame channel section. – “Automobile Trade Journal” Jan. 1931.

The image below courtesy of Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg expert Randy Ema shows Bob McKenzie visiting one of his sponsors, the B. F. Goodrich Company in Akron, Ohio in 1932. Earlier in April, he set a New York to Los Angeles record driving time of 57-hour and 38-minutes in the Speedster. The Pennzoil Oil Company also assisted in this effort.

McKenzie was still in the game of setting records for automakers and suppliers as late as 1953. View more details of the Auburn’s construction shown in illustrations (below) from the Automobile Trade Journal, Jan. 1931 issue.

1931 Auburn Speedster - Coast to Coast

  • Bob McKenzie after his April 1932 57-hour and 38-minute record-setting run in the Speedster at his one of his sponsors, B.F.Goodrich in Akron, Ohio.

1931 Auburn X-member and freewheeling

  •                              X-type frame bracing, three-speed transmission and free-wheeling drive.

1931 Auburn Construction

  •    Double-drop frame and reinforced kick-up section with lever-action hydraulic shock absorbers.

7 responses to “McKenzie’s Auburn Speedster Dry Lakes and Cross-Country Runs

  1. Those events, promoting a car or cars, do not happen anymore. Have we become too sophicated? Marketing today promotes many other traits or attributes of the cars

  2. The Muroc -Corum (Original FamilyOwners of Muroc)Dry Alkali Lake has “HOURS” : WHAT? YEP! It is BEST to NOT be there in the afternoon — when the WIND comes up, both — for unsafe racing conditions AND Alaki dirt in everything and everyone!!! NOTE the very substantial table !!! My Grandfather bought a CHUNK of this “lake” & some nearby hills before WW-2: It’s now a significant part of the EAFB — USAF Base, which (under special conditions) allows Racing , once each YEAR. About the Auburn: Many of these high speed cars had a COLUMBIA 2- Speed Rear Axle, with Vacuum Shift Lever on the bottom of the dashboard. Many Hollywood Luminaries had their Auburn, Stutz, & Ford hot- rods prepared for racing at MUROC and several other popular dry-alkali lakes, within 100 miles of MUROC. Edwin – 30 –

  3. the depth and quality of you and your subscribers research and knowledge of the vast subject of “Automobiles” never ceases to amaze me.
    On behalf of all of us who very much appreciate this newsletter a very big heartfelt thank you and I hope to continue reading it for many years to come.
    kind regards.
    John

  4. I just cannot fathom how he could have done a 57 hour coast to coaster. I rode a 350 Kawasaki from San Angelo TX to the Cali/Ariz border in about 24 hours on good highways when the speed limits were over 100 mph in some places, but back in those days most roads were worse than the old Rte. 66 my dad drove on when I was a kid. What an accomplishment that record is….

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