Celebrating the Spirit of Competition

1935 Auburn 851 Boat Tail Speedster

Chassis Number : 33513E             Horsepower : 150           Displacement : 8-cylinder, 4.58 L           Wheelbase : 127"

These Cars

In designing the sporty cars section one realizes that throughout the entire 1930s, there was essentially only one company that truly attempted to produce a series of two-passenger, extra sporty cars. The Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg firm emphasized performance, good looks, and tried to reach a market which was either untapped or uninspired. Because the Auburn speedster was basically the most significant choice for an American sports car in the 1930s we have in the collection the three versions of the speedster, starting in the late 1928 and extending to 1936 with the demise of the company. Auburn Speedsters in their various form, notably the V-12, actually set stock car records.

An interesting phenomenon evolved about all these callipygian cars which, obviously, were very desirable at the time. They appeared in movies with the lovely heiress driving to her Beverly Hills mansion, usually in a white speedster. Every 15 year old in 1935 lusted for an Auburn speedster. Flash forward 40 years, when he or she had a few dollars, there were simply no speedsters around so a series of fiberglass replicas, on modern chasses, concocted by a variety of small production manufacturers. These did reasonably well, and there are always a few around for sale at any one time. As these 15 year olds ultimately became septuagenarians, interest in the Auburn speedster lookalikes faded. Beware of the conversions forged from standard Auburn sedans, converted with fiberglass or even metal pointy tails but purported to represent the authentic car. These are very easy to detect and, of course, Auburn historians or the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg are available to provide authentication services.

Our Car

Dad bought this 17,000-mile beauty in the mid-1960s and had always intended to restore it. Clearly, nowadays, I would not consider doing such to a well-preserved vehicle. However, the paradigm at the time was 100 point restoration. There is very little to say about this car which really has no faults. But as a driver, it has few rewards, however. Big, heavy, certainly with no real sports car feel. The whining supercharger gives some bump to the engine and these cars were “guaranteed” to go 100 miles an hour.

Each of the Auburn speedsters did, in fact, carry a plaque which implied that the car was tested and made some fractional number over the century mark, but of course they were not individually tested. It seems that Ab Jenkins took one of them for a speed trial at Bonneville and successfully proved that performance. In 1935 the Speedster was advertised as “the world’s fastest stock car” as the result of Ab Jenkins January 1st record at Bonneville. The restoration was completed to dad’s standards sometime in the 1970’s and we have used it periodically since.