6-7 October 2016

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Lot 237

1935 Auburn Eight Supercharged Speedster

  • Chassis no. 2952
  • Serial no. 851 33952 E
  • Engine no. GH 5426
  • Body no. A-35-381
  • Supercharger no. 1698

Sold for $880,000

Series 851. 150 bhp, 280 cu. in. L-head inline eight-cylinder engine with a single Stromberg carburetor and Schwitzer-Cummins centrifugal supercharger, three-speed manual transmission with a Columbia dual-ratio rear axle, solid front and rear axles with semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 127 in.

  • Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club Certified Category One (A-256)
  • Amelia Island Concours Best in Class winner
  • A two-time 100-point car in 2016 Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) judging
  • Exhaustively researched and extremely authentic restoration
  • One of the finest Auburn speedsters in the world


In the days when Bugattis crossed France and 4½-Litre Bentleys tore through the British countryside, the American equivalent was the Auburn speedster. Indiana’s Auburn Automobile Company revealed its first version of this dashing body style, inspired by a Duesenberg show car, for the 1928 model year and would offer variations on the theme through to the end of production in 1936.

The 1935–1936 speedsters were designed by the legendary Gordon Buehrig. Audacious by the standards of their time, they featured curvaceous bodywork with a straight hood line shooting back from the radiator to a sharply vee’d windshield, down between pontoon fenders, over gently sloping doors, and descending in a graceful taper to the rear bumper. It was this distinctive rear design, elegantly outlined by chrome and striping, that gave the speedster its everlasting nickname, “the boattail.”

Underneath, the speedster shared the same exciting mechanicals as other supercharged Auburn models. The glistening chrome side exhaust heralded the presence of a Schwitzer-Cummins blower, which boosted the horsepower of the Auburn straight eight to 150 from a normally aspirated reading of 115. The 150 horsepower was sent to a Columbia dual-ratio rear axle, standard equipment on the supercharged models, which provided two ratios for each gear, one low and one high. The ratios could be changed as often as desired, while at very low speeds or at a stop, by moving the switch in the center of the steering wheel. This provided the supercharged Auburn with much greater flexibility, making it a true “driver’s car,” ideal for both purring through crowded cities and roaring down country lanes.

Each speedster bore on its dashboard a plaque inscribed, “This certifies that this AUBURN AUTOMOBILE has been driven 100.8 miles per hour before shipment.” It was signed by David “Ab” Jenkins, the speed record driver who achieved some of his greatest successes at Bonneville behind the wheel of a late Auburn speedster. Of course, the plaques were merely factory decoration installed on the production line. Then again, no one who has driven these cars since has ever complained about a lack of speed!


The car offered here, serial number 851 33952 E, is documented by the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club as being an authentic original speedster, which has received the Club’s vaunted Category One Certification. Furthermore, according to ACD Club historian Stan Gilliland, the car is one of two known that were equipped in-period with a rear-mounted spare, a feature installed on several Auburns and Cords by the West Coast distributor in Los Angeles.

The speedster was brought to Sonora, Mexico, in the late 1930s or early 1940s, and was discovered there in 1962 by Kenneth R. Wilson Jr. of Campbell, California. Mr. Wilson supplied a photograph of the unrestored car to the ACD Club Newsletter the following year, noting that “aside from being in the rough and missing some parts, the car is in every way stock from motor to body.” It was eventually acquired in 1982 by Frank D. Wilson II, no relation, of San Jose, and received its first restoration and was ACD Club Certified while in his ownership. Mr. Wilson retained the restored speedster until his passing in 2006, at which point it was sold to Mike Gartis of San Jose.

The car was acquired several years later by the present owner, a Classic Car Club of America member and enthusiast, who endeavored to have it freshly restored to a modern standard. To do so, he enlisted the best craftsmen he could find. Mechanical work was entrusted to Keith Pershing of Island Automotive in Marco Island, Florida, a vintage car specialist. The cosmetic work – body, interior, and top – was performed by David Copeland, senior restoration technician for the REVS Institute, who refinished it in the elegant shade of dove grey in which it appears today. Mr. Copeland notes that the grey was found on unrestored body wood inside the golf club door, which has been preserved, as he believes that this is the original color for the body from 1935.

In fact, authenticity was the byword for the restoration of this car. The restoration team consulted well-known Auburn speedster expert John Ehresman’s exhaustive records and files, as well as the ACD Automobile Museum’s archives, carefully studying factory photos and records to determine every correct piece of trim and original finish. Only total and complete correctness and authenticity were acceptable, including finishes under the hood and of the undercarriage.

The restored car has enjoyed a highly successful show career. It achieved AACA Junior and Senior First Prizes, and scored a perfect 100 points at the 2016 CCCA Grand Classic at Boca Raton, Florida, followed by another 100 points at the Ohio Region Grand Classic this July. Most prominently and also in 2016, the Auburn was awarded Best in Class at the renowned Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, out of a class of many fabulous automobiles.

The 1935 and 1936 Auburn speedsters are among the most desirable Full Classics on the market today, but it is rare to find one that has been taken to such a superb level of award-winning, painstakingly researched authenticity as that which is offered here. It is a wonderful car from an excellent home, deserving of taking center stage in any of the world’s great collections.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver


+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat


+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht


+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig


+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose


+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould


+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff


+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach


+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry


+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut


+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire


+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn


+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin


+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill


+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher


+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers


+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden


+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more