If you grew up in the muscle car era, cars such as GTOs, Camaros, Mustangs, ‘Cudas, or Cobras were the cars you either owned or wished you did. These high performance vehicles, which burst on the scene in the 1960s, set the automotive industry on fire, with the consumer’s increasing demand for big engines in sporty bodies. Of course, power was no stranger to the American car manufactures, since they had already been producing V8s, and even V16s, decades before. However, to many, particularly Baby Boomers, these earlier cars were viewed as either family sedans or luxury limousines. Certainly, few would consider cars prior to the 1940s as being high performance. But, if you take a closer look, you’ll find some real car gems that were produced in the mid-to-late 1930s. One of these special finds is the 1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster, a two-seater convertible. It was in production for only two years, but in that short time, it made quite a splash.
Auburn Automotive Company
In the 1930s, the Auburn Automotive Company was the parent company for three of America’s premier luxury car marques – Cord, Duesenberg, and Auburn.
The 1936 and 1937 Cord, with its distinctive hood, was often referred to as the “Coffin Nose” Cord. It had front-wheel drive and hideaway headlights, making it a car well ahead of its time.
The Duesenberg, the top-of-the-line luxury car of the time, set the standard for all motorcars that followed. Even today, it is one of the most coveted classic cars of all time. Fittingly, the phrase, “It’s a real Duesy,” which means that something is exceptional, originated from this automotive legend.
The third marque, the Auburn, was also a luxury brand, but emphasis was placed on making it appeal to those with an eye for a sportier look. This Auburn body style reached its high point when legendary designer, Gordon Buchrig, completed work on his 1935 Auburn Speedster masterpiece.
Auburn Boattail Speedster Body Style
There’s a good chance you’ve seen an Auburn Boattail Speedster, or a second generation model that closely resembles it, but you may have thought it was a customized ’40s-something hot rod. Like other timeless cars, such as Cobras, Willys, and Ford GT40s, there is still a strong market for this special Auburn, keeping independent builders busy turning out reproductions. Its art deco body style, with a low stance, long-powerful-looking hood, raked-back grill and windshield, and flowing fenders, make it a uniquely beautiful car. Then, with the V-shaped rear end and plenty of chrome, including chromed flexible exhaust pipes exiting the engine compartment, the cool factor of this car is off the charts. All you have to do is drop the top on this convertible, and you have a classic that will be welcome at any car event, except, perhaps, by those competing against you for Best in Show.
Auburn Speedster Power
The original Speedster was appropriately named, since it was powered by a 4.6 liter straight 8 engine that, when supercharged, produced 150 horsepower. Keep in mind, this Auburn was produced almost 80 years ago, when horse power ratings higher than 100 were rare. As part of the marketing strategy, a series of speed runs and endurance records, of the day, were challenged by the Speedster. When completed, the Auburn had set 70 new records, including a high speed run of 104 mph. Interestingly, each new car produced by the manufacturer had a plaque installed on the dash that certified the Speedster had been tested to 100 mph.
Auburn Boattail Speedster Cost
In 1935, the price for a Boattail Speedster was $2,245, which was higher priced than any other Auburn model of that year, and considerably more expensive than the average Ford or Chevy of the time. Even so, the company admitted that it lost money on each car sold as a loss leader . Today, an original Speedster could top $500,000, with a well-built reproduction running as high as $100,000. Despite the cost, however, if you’re in the market for a unique collector car, with loads of style, you can’t go wrong with the Auburn Boattail Speedster . For a good look at an original Speedster, as well as other beautifully restored cars of this period, visit the Auburn, Cord, Dusenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana.
The author is a car enthusiast who appreciates car designs of all eras. After seeing the Boattail Speedster at the Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg Museum, as well as auto events across the country, I have become a real fan of its uniqueness and style. Special thanks to Jon Bill, Director of Education and Archives at the ACD Museum, for providing information on this true American classic.