- Formerly of the Ervin “Bud” Lyon Collection; known history since new
- Original chassis, engine, and body; always a solid, well-maintained example
- High-quality older restoration in elegant colors
- Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic
THE AUBURN SPEEDSTER
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 1935–36 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!
SERIAL NUMBER 851 33175 E
The Elkhart Collection’s Auburn, one of only approximately 150 authentic original speedsters produced, has among the finest and best-known histories of any survivor. It was sold new by Sherwood Chevrolet-Auburn of Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, to A. B. Cole, owner of a local dairy. It was later acquired from Cole by another local businessman, Nathan H. “Cubby” Baer, in whose ownership it was regularly driven in his town of Meshoppen, becoming something of a local fixture. In 1956 it was actually entered in the Giants Despair Hillclimb at Wilkes-Barre, finishing 1st in the Antique Classic Division with Mr. Baer behind the wheel.
Mr. Baer and his descendants continued to care for the Auburn until 1994, when it was sold to Richard George, an enthusiast from New York, and finally left the area where it had been first sold nearly 60 years prior. Photographs in the file show a solid, original, and intact automobile that, had it been found today, might well have been left in unrestored condition. Nonetheless, it was fully restored in the factory-correct Auburn color of Ivory with a red interior. As many of the original components as possible were carefully preserved, down to the original body wood, which is still stamped with the original body number; in addition, the car retains its original engine. Both are indicative of just how well maintained this Auburn has been during its life.
Following completion of the restoration, the speedster was scored at 99 points in Classic Car Club of America judging and received First Senior and Preservation awards from the Antique Automobile Club of America.
Ervin “Bud” Lyon, the revered and much-missed enthusiast from Massachusetts, acquired the Auburn from Mr. George in 1998. It remained part of Mr. Lyon’s collection for the next five years, during which time it was faithfully maintained by Paul Russell & Company. In 2003 it traded hands to a private collection in Southern California, and there it remained, alongside several other highly significant Full Classics, until joining the Elkhart Collection several years ago. It has been inarguably the centerpiece of the small portion of the collection that honors local Indiana-built automobiles.
The Auburn speedster has always been highly collectable but has come into its own in the last few years, as a new generation of enthusiasts have discovered just how pleasurable these cars are to drive—and to admire. The best of the best seldom change hands. Relatively few of the survivors have the clean, “no stories” history of this car, which can safely be said to have been truly enjoyed by enthusiasts and well preserved since the first day of its existence. It is ideal for further enjoyment in CCCA or Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club events, in which its rich heritage will continue.