By: Roger Learmonth: This Speedster was originally ordered from the Auburn Automobile Company by Philippines plantation owner Eduardo Montinola. In 1934 Eduardo was courting Philippines socialite Susan Magalona. In an effort to win her hand, he asked what she most craved and she told him, “a fast sports car”. He ordered an Auburn Speedster that was delivered in 1935 and the courtship went into overdrive. For some reason, Eduardo’s father thought to cool his son’s ardor and sent the lad on a world cruise.
Home again in 1938, Eduardo was heartbroken to discover that his love had found another, and he lost interest in the Auburn. His brother Renato took over and used the car as part of a playboy lifestyle until 1941 when the Japanese arrived to stop all play, and the Montinolas hid the car from enemy eyes at their island sugar plantation.
- Eduardo Montinola the original owner with the car at his estate in the Philippines.
By 1968 the Speedster was still in the Philippines where it sat forlornly for many years while Senor Montinola fought off all attempts by eager buyers. In 1986, however, the RHD Auburn was discovered and purchased by a garage proprietor from the United Kingdom and he shipped it home for restoration. In 2000 the restored car found its way back to the US before, in 2011, being bought by the current UK owner who carried out a second restoration which included a simulated alligator skin interior à la the famous Barbara Hutton Speedster bought for her umpteenth husband. The car has had seven owners over the years and has done only 17,000 miles from new.
In 2000 the car was sent from the restorer to one of the large auctions in Arizona. The present day owner, keen to acquire an Auburn, called the restorer only to discover the car was already at sea on its journey back home to the US. Undaunted, he and a pal bought a couple of cheap airline tickets and flew to Phoenix and then drove to Scottsdale. It didn’t work out and he failed to acquire the car at auction. In 2011, after it had been passed through three other owners, the Auburn was back in England and consigned to be sold through a dealer. The car was finally acquired by the current owner who undertook its second major refurbishment. He has been lucky enough to have spoken with all the previous keepers or their offspring to verify its ownership history.
- The world traveling 1935 Auburn 851 Speedster at its present home in the United Kingdom.
Only eleven right-handed Spreedsters were built in the years 1935 and ’36. The updated model was a last gasp attempt to save the terminally ill Auburn Motor Company by putting a bit of eye candy into the showrooms. Engineering by the legendary Augie Duesenberg and hastily designed by Gordon Buehrig of Duesenberg and Cord fame the car was an amalgam of ostentatious styling and parts bin engineering.
The engine was a rather pedestrian 279 cubic inch Lycoming flat head straight eight and to improve performance a Schwitzer-Cummins centrifugal blower was added which hiked output to a reputed 150 bhp.
- Automobile Trade Journal April 1935, specifications, model numbers, and available coachwork.
Auburn used a three-speed gearbox but achieved a combination of acceptable acceleration and high-speed cruising by adding a vacuum operated two-speed axle. By twiddling a knob on the steering wheel and depressing the clutch the driver can engage, through an epicyclic drive, either a stump pulling 4.5:1 or a more comfortable 3.5:1 ratio for cruising.
The design of the car makes no concession to practicality except for the inclusion of a door for the golf club compartment on the passenger’s side. Strictly a two-seater and a none too generous one at that, there is no provision for easy access to a luggage compartment. I suppose it was expected that well-healed customers would only be using the car to cruise American boulevards in fine weather.