1935 Auburn 851
Chris Savers, Chicago, Illinois (acquired new)
John Troka, Chicago, Illinois (acquired from the above circa 1945)
Ron Schirmer, Indianapolis, Indiana (acquired from the above circa 1980)
Gilbert E. Horton, Jamestown, North Dakota (acquired from the above in 1983)
Dr. Donald Vesley, Tampa, Florida (acquired from the above in 1997)
Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2002)
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, Pebble Beach, California, August 2007 (First in Class)
, First in Class win listed on p. 17
A supercar in its day, Auburn’s 851 Boattail Speedster was endowed with styling that promised performance, and its drivetrain and chassis more than delivered. Auburn’s earliest boattail design first appeared in 1928, and performance was boosted in 1935, courtesy of the addition of a Schwitzer-Cummins supercharger. This car presents all the desirable Speedster attributes in a meticulously restored, show-winning example.
Master designer Gordon Buehrig inherited the earlier Auburn Boattail design and was charged with updating its appearance to create a halo car used to draw customers into the showroom. Inspired by his own “fishtail” Model J Duesenberg Speedster design, Buehrig’s masterful touch incorporated modern, enclosed pontoon fenders with a more streamlined front end. In his book , Buehrig compares the two Duesenberg Speedsters he designed to the Auburn, stating: “These two cars are extremely interesting in that they are similar to the Auburn Speedster I designed a couple of years later.” His preference for the Auburn is clear: “On the Auburn I got a better design.” His interpretation of boattail styling, primarily the domain of custom coachbuilders up to that time, brought this iconic design to a production automobile.
Not content with the normally aspirated Lycoming inline eight-cylinder engine, Auburn engineers added 35 hp, courtesy of the supercharger, which ran at six times the crankshaft speed. Off-the-line performance benefited with 0–60 mph times in the under-15-second range. Top-end speed and cruising ease also were enhanced, thanks to the Columbia two-speed rear axle, which provided a significant drop in rpms. These engineering enhancements were validated when Ab Jenkins shattered 70 speed records in July 1935 at the Bonneville Salt Flats behind the wheel of a stock supercharged Auburn Boattail Speedster. Period Auburn brochure verbiage proudly announced the Speedster as “the world’s fastest stock car,” with each example carrying a plate certifying a top speed of 100 mph or more. Priced at $2,245, it carried a hefty 30% premium over Auburn’s next-most expensive model with total production estimated at around 150 examples between the 1935 and 1936 model years.
The first owner of this car was Chris Savers of Chicago, and by 1945 Chicago dealer John Troka, added it to his inventory. Chassis 33212E returned to its production state of Indiana during ownership by Ron Schirmer of Indianapolis, in partnership with J.M. Walden. Its next owner, Gilbert Horton of Jamestown, North Dakota, acquired the car in 1983, enjoying it for 14 years. The next owner of this Speedster was Dr. Donald Vesley of Tampa, Florida, who owned an impressive stable of noteworthy performance automobiles including examples of Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Duesenberg, Mercedes-Benz, and Stutz. One of his last acquisitions was this Auburn Boattail Speedster, purchased in 1997.
The current owner acquired the car in May 2002, adding it to his significant collection, one of the finest of its kind on the West Coast. Authenticity was of paramount importance during its multiyear restoration, carried out by the artisans at Stone Barn Automobile Restoration of Vienna, New Jersey, with receipts totaling nearly $300,000. Finished in signature Cigarette Cream paintwork with tan leather upholstery, this example benefited from tasteful use of chrome on the headlights, the Art Deco wheel discs, and the four external exhaust pipes sprouting from the hood on the driver’s side of the car. Debuting at the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, this Auburn was awarded First in Class, particularly significant because this was one of that year’s featured classes, which included three other Speedsters.
Just 40 of the 1935 Supercharged Boattail Speedsters are currently known to the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club, and fittingly, that organization’s 2018 theme is “The Year of the Speedster.” Originally conceived as a draw to generate showroom traffic, the Boattail Speedster was never meant to be a practical car. Rather, it provided a select group of owners a thrilling driving experience coupled with unmatched styling panache. Auburn advertising proclaimed it “The King of the Road,” ad copy as apropos today as it was more than 80 years ago.