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1935 Auburn 851 Boattail Speedster

There were a few grand American automakers which were strong enough to survive the Depression, but Auburn was not one of them. Among the last most alluring luxury models that the manufacturer created during the 1930s was the 851 “Boattail” Speedster.

Launched in 1935, the car flaunted a unique design by famed automobile designer Gordon Buehrig, with pontoon wings and a tapered tail, features that were meant to evoke the design of sleek watercraft.

The car had a maximum speed of 100 mph and it needed 15 seconds to complete the 0-65 mph sprint. Clearly, Auburn targeted the young and dynamic customers with the 851 “Boattail” Speedster. The car was powered by a 4.6 litre straight-eight engine with an optional Schwitzer-Cummings supercharger giving 150 hp instead of 115 hp for the standard version. There was also a diesel version of the car, which was not a common feature among luxury vehicles of the time.

  click on any image to enlarge

The supercharged models were easily recognizable thanks to the four external exhaust headers.

The Speedster has a steel body on an x-type ladder frame, rigid axles, semi-elliptic springs and hydraulic shock absorbers. The car had worm and peg steering and drum brakes all round. The rear wheel drive manual dual ratio transmission had 3 speeds. The Lycoming 8 cylinder 279 cu in straight-eight side valve engine had a cast-iron block and aluminium head with 2 valves per cylinder.

  With racing driver Ab Jenkins at the wheel, the Auburn Speedster set more than 70 speed records and, at one time, held all U.S. stock-car speed records up to 24 hours and 15,000 miles. A dashboard plaque on each car contained a signed guarantee by Jenkins that it had been driven to more than 100 mph before shipment.

Today, good examples of the Aubern Speedsters have been known to sell at auction for $400,000 and the rarity ensures ongoing high prices.

Just over 5,000 examples were sold during the first year of production. In 1936 the name was changed to 852 but this did nothing to help sales, with only 1850 more cars sold before Auburn ceased trading.

     
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