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The Super-charged Auburn Speedster – Beauty at 100 MPH

In the past, a number of images of poorly customized versions of elegant 1935-’36 Auburn 851-852 and Cord 810-812 models, both of which were originally designed by master stylist Gordon M. Buehrig have been featured on The Old Motor. Today’s post includes yet another photo of a modified super-charged Auburn 852 “Speedster”, and three examples of the companies artwork shown beforehand to demonstrate how easily the clean lines of one of Buehrig’s creations could be ruined.

  • The lead photo above of an advertisement by the H.O. Harrison Co., a San Francisco Auburn dealer, shows the typically exaggerated artwork used by Auburn and most automakers at the time.


  • “Automobile Trade Journal” illustration used for announcing the new 1935 super-charged 851 Auburns.

The “Automobile Trade Journal” announced the new model 851 in its January 1935 issue and included a more  realistic version shown above of the companies artwork of the “Speedster.” The correct grille shell and windshield rake, and the shortened length of the body and fenders are quite noticeable when compared with the colored illustrations.

In its article the magazine described the new offering as follows. “Auburn has announced seven models of the super-charged cars with a certified speed of 100 m.p.h. or more. The new straight eight Auburn’s are built on a wheelbase of 127 in. and are powered with a Lycoming engine that develops upward of 150 h.p. The supercharger is of the centrifugal type being driven at six times engine speed by a friction drive. Each car carries a plate certifying its 100-mile-an-hour speed and is broken in and checked by the Factory.”


  • A second example of Auburn “Speedster” artwork includes other detail views of its features.

The customized Auburn referred to earlier in the text is shown below; it is a perfect representation of the “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” school of thought. This car’s clean original lines have suffered a number of extra additions: upholstery around the edges of the cockpit, a pair of spotlights, two gewgaws on the hood – the lower one may contain a lamp, later bumpers that are installed upside down, lamps on the top of the front fenders, three extra pieces of trim on the front fenders, and finally fender skirts carrying the same trim on the rear.

The color illustrations are courtesy of Alden Jewell. The black and white photo below is via contributor Benjamin Ames.



9 responses to “The Super-charged Auburn Speedster – Beauty at 100 MPH

  1. The owner of the modified Auburn may have also owned (or been inspired by) an American Bantam roadster. The 1938-39 Bantams’ rear fenders were factory-skirted and trimmed with three staggered chrome strips that match this Auburn.

  2. Less is always more. By today’s standards customizing or accessorizing an Auburn is not exactly the thing to do.

    On the other hand customizing and accessorizing the old classics most likely increased the numbers of survivors. Whether or not one likes what was done in the above picture, the car was in the hands of someone who cared and helped maintain and preserve it. This was 10 to 20 years before the classics were appreciated for what they were.

  3. Well sure,. I’d rather have the navy blue one racing across the banner at the top of the screen but golly, I’d take that custom machine with the fender skirts. First or second choice, doesn’t matter! Notice the whitewall up front and the blackwall in the rear. Elvis demonstrated that same style on his old Duo-glide. I did the same thing w my Heritage. If it’s good enough for the King of rock n roll, it’s good enough for me.
    It seems to me that wheels have been customized since Moses. (They drove their chariots with zeal!) The teamsters all had flashy livery if they could afford it. The model T speedsters, the big sedans cut down for tow trucks, the kids and gow jobs, the list is endless. I think this is great and would love to see one in unrestored condition. Keep it coming!

  4. The photograph of the Austin reminds me of way too many cars seen at today’s auto shows. For example, why does EVERY Model A have EVERY possible accessory that could be shoehorned onto it on it? Why does EVERY 50’s Chevrolet have a tissue dispenser? And a Continental kit? I could go on and on, but you get the point.

    This Auburn has everything conceivable for its time pasted on it. Just what are the bumps on the hood just above the “supercharged” medallion?

  5. Far worse things were done to old Auburns and Duesenbergs than that! As I was reading the decription I was expecting something grotesque but that white speedster was downright tasteful compared to many
    . I think at one point the Duesenberg French Speedster by Figoni had tiger pattern upholstery!!

  6. My first impression of the Auburn Speedster was that possibly it was done by the Dad of one of the designers of the 1958 General Motors line up. When the ’58 GM’s were introduced, I thought : What on earth are they thinking ?
    Anyway, I hope that this car has survived.

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