Lot 148

Amelia Island 2023

1932 Auburn 12-160A Custom Speedster


$450,000 USD | Sold

United States | Amelia Island, Florida



Serial No.
12-160A 1945 E
Chassis No.
Engine No.
BB 1521
US Title
  • One of the most beautiful American designs of the Classic Era
  • Award-winning restoration by Stone Barn
  • A Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic

Auburn’s 12-cylinder speedster of 1932–1933 is widely regarded as one of the few true American sports cars of its era. The Twelve chassis provided for extraordinary proportions, with a very long nose concealing the potent 491-cubic-inch V-12, followed by a two-passenger compartment that wrapped and swept around into the blunted curve of a “boattail.” With a two-tone color scheme and dazzling Art Deco detailing, it looked quick, and for its era it was, with one famous example actually competing in early SCCA events. It is among the most sought-after automobiles of its time, and, like its corporate stablemate the mighty Duesenberg, has the distinction of having always been fiercely desirable, even in the 1940s and 1950s when most of its generation were still “used cars.”

In that period, the rarity of 12-cylinder Auburn speedsters forced early enthusiasts seeking such a model to act creatively. Harold A. Smith of Westlake, Ohio, a very early member of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club and a devotee of the Twelve, was one such man. “Smitty,” as he was known to friends, assembled this particular Twelve speedster as his personal showpiece, using, according to a 1968 Cleveland Plain Dealer article, “the frame he discovered in Pennsylvania, the motor he found in Greenfield, Mass., the body he picked up in Fort Wayne, Ind., and the parts he searched out in trips all over the country.” Unlike many of these cars fitted with reproduction coachwork, inspection indicates the body to be authentic, the Fort Wayne source referenced in the article likely being restorer Paul Freehill, and the remainder of the car constructed of original Auburn components accumulated and restored over a five-year period. Custom level trim was fitted, including chrome wire wheels, chromed headlights and driving lights, and Auburn’s trademark Flying Man mascot.

The car was advertised by him for sale in the May 1968 ACD Newsletter, with “600 miles since restoration” as well as being featured in a 1969 Timken advertisement printed in Business Week magazine. In 1971 it was acquired by Don Screes of Indiana at the first Kirk F. White auction, who exhibited it in CCCA judging, earning Senior badge number 533; it was recorded with the present serial, frame, and engine numbers in CCCA records at this time. Mr. Screes maintained the Auburn for many years, then passed it in 1994 to Jim Steichen. Later it was acquired by noted Hoosier collector and dear friend to many enthusiasts, Frank Kleptz of Terre Haute, Indiana.

Longtime enthusiast David Kane of Bernardsville, New Jersey, purchased the speedster from Mr. Kleptz in 2002, and began a full restoration at Stone Barn of Vienna, New Jersey which was completed under the ownership of Ray Scherr. Mr. Kane later reacquired the car from the estate of John O’Quinn, and, following scores at 99.5 and a perfect 100 points in CCCA judging in 2014, which elevated the car to Premier status, it received an Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club Senior First Place Primary award along with the People’s Choice Award at the Lehigh Valley ACD meet in May of that year. Mr. Kane then passed it to a prominent West Coast collector; offered from that stable today, it remains in excellent cosmetic and mechanical condition, having been beautifully maintained to a high standard.

Bearing a gorgeous restoration with all authentic Auburn components, a well-known enthusiast history, and numerous awards to its credit, this spectacular Twelve would turn heads on virtually any concours field or on the highway. It is every bit the showstopper that Auburn intended it to be.