The 1933 Auburn 12 featured in this article was the top of the line Auburn model at that time and today is a very rare and high priced collector vehicle. These were luxury automobiles and Auburn had a reputation for great styling and superb engineering. Designed by chief engineer George Kublin, Auburn unveiled their new 391 cubic inch V-12 engine that delivered 160 HP at the end of 1931.
Interesting fact is that Auburn is said to have spent about one million dollars to develop their V-12 in 1930. A very high sum in those days and especially after the shocking stock market crash of 1929. Some have said that the company's president, as well as a few others, believed the economic downturn would be short lived and the go ahead was given to spend the money. Obviously it wasn't a short bump in the road and while 1931 was Auburn's best year ever, the company lost about one million dollars in 1932.
E.L Cord priced his dramatically styled and multi cylinder high performance luxury cars at prices noticeably lower than luxury competitors which may have been a big reason for profit shortfalls. By the same token, selling luxury automobiles during the early 1930's required superb marketing which Cord did have a gift for.
The Auburn Automobile Company
The Auburn Automobile Company was founded in 1900 and began by producing a one cylinder automobile. The company grew out of the Eckhart Carriage Company, founded by the Eckhart brothers in 1875 in Auburn, Indiana.
Auburn found itself in financial trouble in 1919 and was purchased by a group of Chicago investors. These Chicago investors also had a difficult time trying to make a profit, not helped by the recession of 1921-22, and as a result eventually hired a man named E. L. Cord with the goal of turning things around.
Cord was a Chicago car salesman with a keen ability to market automobiles. Cord's overall ambition was to someday own a car company and reportedly had a deal with the investors to at some point take over the company himself.
Cord did indeed increase sales and was named company president in 1926. E.L Cord would later partner with Duesenberg and also build the Cord automobile. That first automobile was the 1929 Cord L-29. Eventually, the Auburn Automobile Company became part of "Cord Corporation" led by E.L. Cord.
Like any luxury automaker, Auburn and E.L. Cord were hurt by the Great Depression. The problem was building a luxury automobile at a cost where a profit could be made. Price pressure from competitors was a major factor during the 1930's and profits were being squeezed like never before.
One great venue to view and learn more about the cars from Auburn is a visit to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in Auburn Indiana. The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is a National Historic Landmark and is located in the building that was once the national headquarters and showroom for the Auburn Automobile Company.
The 1933 Auburn 12
There were only about 100 of these Auburn V-12's produced. Today, there are only a very small number in existence. The high styled and elegant body is credited to Chief stylist Alan Leamy. Leamy was a self taught designer who built some very good looking cars for Cord during the 1920's and 30's.
On the engineering side, which Auburn had a fine reputation, the company utilized their V-12 with a Dual Ratio rear end that by using a lever on the dashboard would offer either a 3.0 or 4.5 ratio for each of the transmissions three gears. Because this reduced engine strain better fuel consumption was attained. This was even with a 160 HP engine and a high cruising speed.
Another novel addition to the 1933 Auburn 12 were headlights that turned in conjunction with the steering wheel.
1933 Auburn 12 Specifications
Engine for the Auburn 12 was a Lycoming 391 cubic inch V-12 that put out 160 horsepower. As mentioned above, Auburn invested one million dollars to develop their V-12.
Transmission was a three manual with overdrive.
Brakes were four wheel vacuum assist hydraulic drums.
See these Auto Museum Online articles on the links below...
Reference material for this article includes...Auburn & Cord by Lee Beck and Josh B. Malks...Errett Lobban Cord: His empire, his motorcars : Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg by Griffith Borgeson...Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg by Don Butler and George H. Dammann.
Auburn 12 Collector Car Values
As we have mentioned, the Auburn 12's are rare automobiles. Some of the rarest out there.
Auburn automobiles in general are high priced collector cars and values easily get into six figures. We have seen 1932 and 1933 Auburn 12's selling at auction in the neighborhood of $200,000.
(Article and photos copyright Auto Museum Online)