- An early example of one of the Classic Era’s great designs
- Notably one of the first 50 Eight Supercharged Speedsters produced
- Benefits from a full concours-quality restoration in dramatic black over red with a black top
- Fitted with a correct supercharged engine producing a punchy 150 hp
- A CCCA Full Classic and ACD-Certified Category 1 car well-suited for touring and exhibition
Fast and flamboyant, the Auburn Eight Supercharged Speedster is universally regarded as one of the great cars of the Classic Era. It was also something of a last-ditch effort by Auburn—struggling mightily in the face of the Great Depression—to revive its flagging fortunes. An exclusive high-performance offering with jaw-dropping looks, it would, it was hoped, create buzz and drum up sales across the Auburn model lineup.
In its first objective, there can be no doubt that it succeeded. From its bold grille and glistening chrome side exhaust pipes to its “boattail” rear, the Supercharged Speedster embodies Art Deco design at its finest.
Rakish boattailed automobiles were nothing new for the Indiana automaker, which had debuted the 8-88 Speedster in 1928. The introduction of optional Schwitzer-Cummins superchargers to the Auburn model lineup in 1935, however, which boosted the straight-eight engine from 115 normally aspirated horsepower to a respectable 150 horsepower, produced output to match the Speedster’s sleek looks. This power was sent rearward through a Columbia dual-ratio rear axle (a standard feature on supercharged Auburns) that provided low and high ratios for each car, selectable via a switch on the steering wheel.
This gave the supercharged Auburn much greater flexibility, making it a true “driver’s car” ideal for both purring through crowded cities and roaring down country lanes. A plaque on each Speedster’s dashboard, which featured the engraved signature of racer Ab Jenkins, asserted that each car had “been driven 100.1 miles per hour before shipment”—a fanciful claim, though one based in fact (Jenkins did top the century mark in a stock Speedster at Bonneville).
Thanks to its stunning lines, designed by the legendary Gordon Buehrig, these Supercharged Speedsters were beautiful at any speed. 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.
ONE OF THE FIRST 50
Badged as the “851” in 1935 and “852” in 1936, Supercharged Speedsters were built in limited numbers before Auburn production wound down. Each survivor is coveted by collectors today, but the first 50 off the production line are of particular note: These initial cars were constructed from unused previous-generation Speedster bodies that Auburn had stashed away, modified and updated to Buehrig’s new design in a masterful feat of creative repurposing.
This car, serial number 851 32724E, is one of these early cars. Although its earliest history is unknown, it was by the 1960s in the possession of H.L. Potts, and later by Fred Buehring, both of Texas. While in Mr. Buehring’s ownership, the Auburn, restored in the popular factory color Cigarette Cream, was awarded a CCCA First Prize winner with 99 points. It was subsequently acquired by an enthusiast in 1980, and it would remain in the possession of that family until 2014.
At the time of purchase in 2014, the Auburn still wore its older restoration in Cigarette Cream and was in complete though somewhat timeworn condition with an incorrect Lycoming eight-cylinder engine block fitted. Its new owner decided to completely restore the car to the highest standards, with much of the work carried out at RM Auto Restorations. As part of this comprehensive overhaul, a correct engine block for supercharged cars was sourced and rebuilt. Its well-chosen livery of black over a red interior with a black top, finished with subtle red pinstripes and black wire wheels wrapped in blackwall tires, give it a particularly dramatic look.
Following the completion of its concours-quality restoration, the Speedster achieved Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club Category 1 certification; it is accompanied by certification documentation copies, which also summarize the car’s known history. Since joining the collection of the consignor, it has benefitted from care as needed. Most recently, in February of 2022, its honeycomb radiator was refurbished; upon inspection, it was said to be in good condition, without buildup. The car continues to present in excellent cosmetic and mechanical condition inside and out.
Auburn’s Supercharged Speedster is a car of timeless appeal, instantly captivating enthusiasts of all ages and stripes—just as its designers intended so many years ago. A Classic Car Club of America Full Classic, this Auburn is an obvious candidate for CCCA gatherings and tours, as well as ongoing participation in ACD Club activities. Of course, it would also look fantastic parked in one’s private stable—and its compelling style and wonderful restoration will no doubt make it the centerpiece of any collection it joins.