London

31 October 2012

Lot 149

1936 Auburn 852SC Boattail Speedster

To be auctioned on Wednesday, October 31, 2012

High Bid of £290,000

  • Chassis no. 85235209E
  • Engine no. GH5349


150 bhp, 280 cu. in. inline side valve eight-cylinder engine with Schwitzer-Cummins supercharger, Columbia two-speed rear end, suspension via four wheel semi-elliptical leaf springs, front beam axle, live rear axle, and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 127 in.

• Legendary, Art Deco, American, supercharged speedster
• Formerly owned by David Tunick for over three decades
• Villa d’Este Best in Class winner
• Professional restoration at great expense
• Black over red, as per original specification

The Auburn Motor Car Company produced what many consider to be its ultimate masterpiece in 1935, just as the company’s end was drawing near: the 851SC speedster. As such, it is a testament to the fighting spirit of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Company and to the legendary talent of one of the greatest American automotive designers.

Auburn had invested heavily in the largely new Al Leamy designed 1934 models. Although they sold better than the ’33s, they were not the salvation the company needed. But with little money available, a completely new car was out of the question. Gordon Buehrig was called upon to pull the figurative rabbit out of the hat. Buehrig redesigned the front end of the line with a new grill and hood line. Auburn’s signature new feature for 1935 was to be supercharging the top-of-the-line models. Buehrig incorporated the external exhaust, which the American public had come to identify with supercharged engines, largely because of the mighty Model SJ Duesenberg.

Although the new 851 (and the following year’s 852) models were certainly flashy enough, the “new” was more than skin deep. The chassis was mostly carried over, although some updates were made. The car was fitted with a Lycoming-built straight-eight engine equipped with a new supercharger designed by Kurt Beier from Schwitzer-Cummins. In addition, the trusted and durable Columbia two-speed rear axle was fitted, allowing lower gearing for quicker acceleration, combined with a higher final drive ratio for improved top speed.

Still, something dramatic was needed to stimulate traffic in the showrooms. Taking a page from the company playbook, and knowing that Central Body Company still had 50 bodies in white left over from the ’33 speedster program, Ames decided that a new speedster would be the perfect attention-getter for the new line.

Once again, Ames tapped Gordon Buehrig to design the new speedster. Buehrig decided to base the new design on a Duesenberg speedster he had designed for Weymann. The top, doors, windshield, and cowl could be used as-is, but a new tail would have to be made, and the cowl would require modification to blend with the new ’35 front end. Finally, he added a stunning new set of pontoon fenders.

The result was breath-taking, and the new car was soon seen everywhere from auto shows to newspapers to spark plug ads. To a public weary of the Depression, the new Auburn speedster was automotive hope personified. Here was a car everyone could identify with, dream about, and wish for. It became, in many ways, the rolling icon of the Art Deco era.

Auburn Speedsters didn't just look fast, they were fast. To prove this, famed speed-demon and race driver Ab Jenkins sat behind the wheel of an 851 speedster and was the first American to set a 100 mph average for a 12-hour period endurance record in a completely stock 851SC speedster. As a result, each speedster built carried a dash plaque attesting to its over 100 mph capability, bearing Ab Jenkins’ signature.

Priced at $2,245 when new, estimates peg Auburn’s loss per speedster at about $300 for every car built. But the logic behind Cord's decision was that this sleek model attracted customers to come in and purchase less expensive but more profitable models. As a consequence, very few speedsters were built, making them highly prized today.

The example offered here is one of the best known examples in ACD circles, having spent more than 30 years as part of the David H. Tunick Collection. Since the dispersal of the Tunick Collection in 2005, the car first resided with a collector who arranged for the car to be sent to noted restorer Jim Stranberg, of High Mountain Classics in Denver, Colorado. Stranberg carried out a comprehensive restoration to the highest standards, at a cost of $480,000. Completed in time for the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance, the car was stunning. It was finished in a two-tone maroon and silver paint scheme, which, although attractive, was not correct, and consequently, the car failed to earn a class win. Wisely, the vendor immediately commissioned a high quality repaint in the car’s original black, but the correct dark red leather interior was retained, returning it to the way it would have looked when delivered new more than 70 years ago.

The most recent owner has maintained the car to his exacting standards since acquiring it in 2008. After importing the car to the UK, it was registered and has since also been honoured with a Best of Class award at the prestigious concours at Villa d’Este on Lake Como. Today, the car is simply stunning, as befits the quality of the restoration. There is no evidence of even minor ageing since completion, a testament to both the quality of the restoration and the conditions under which the car has been kept. Paint, chrome, and upholstery are near superb, and the engine bay and chassis detailing is exemplary.

Any Auburn 852 speedster is a joy to behold and a pleasure to drive. This particular car is certainly one of the finest examples RM has ever had the pleasure of offering and is unquestionably one of the finest in existence. Given this car’s outstanding restoration quality and award-winning provenance, we strongly encourage close attention to this exceptional motor car’s offering.

Addendum

Please note the correct engine number for this car is GH5349.

Alain Squindo


Detroit, Michigan

Alain Squindo joined RM Auctions in 2007, after graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in History. R... read more

Alex Classick

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United Kingdom

Alex Classick joined RM Europe in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Nottingham University with a degree in Business Mana... read more

Alexander Weaver

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California, USA

Alexander Weaver joined RM Auctions in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born into ... read more

Annette Abaci

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Germany

With post-secondary degrees in Economic Science and Mechanical Engineering, Annette Abaci initially worked part-time at Mercedes-Benz ... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a senior car specialist, after more than a decade in the collector car hobby... read more

Dan Warrener

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Ontario, Canada

Possessing a degree in Economics from Brandon University, Dan Warrener spent the initial stages of his career working around the globe... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don Rose joined RM Auctions in 2006, after many years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputatio... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, USA

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

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Ontario, Canada

Gord joined RM Auctions in 1998, initially responsible for the transportation and logistics of the company’s auction and restora... read more

Ian Kelleher

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+1 212 894 1301
New York, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College, with a B.A. in Political Science. ... read more

Jack Boxstrom

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+1 818 703 2816
Ontario, Canada

Jack Boxstrom joined RM Auctions in late-1996 to assist with the recently acquired, and subsequently record-breaking, auction in Monte... read more

Max Girardo

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+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Max Girardo started his career in the vintage automobile industry in 1998, joining Brooks Auctioneers (now Bonhams) as a car specialis... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Auctions, Mike Fairbairn has a longstanding interest in the classic car industry. Graduati... read more

Peter Wallman

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+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007, following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, read more

Peter Giddings

pgiddings@rmauctions.com

+1 925 831 2048
California, United States

A life-long car enthusiast, Peter joined RM’s California office with over half a century of experience in the automotive and rac... read more

Peter Blond

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+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Blond joined the RM Europe team in 2013 after being immersed in the collector car industry for more than 60 years. An... read more

Rob Myers

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Ontario, Canada

As chairman and founder of the RM Group of Companies, Rob Myers’s entire career has been devoted to the classic car industry. Ro... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, USA

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

Vinnie Mandzak

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+1 310 559 4575
California, USA

Vinnie Mandzak joined RM Auctions’ California office in 2012 as a car specialist, following more than 30 years’ experience... read more

Jeff Whiteside

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+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jeff Whiteside joined RM Auctions as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer following almost three decades in a diverse r... read more