E. L. Cord’s 1929 Auburn Boattail Speedster

The Auburn Boattail Speedster was a car designed for the roaring twenties. The automobile featured in this article, the 1929 Auburn Boattail Speedster, was the dream of a man by the name of E.L. Cord. While the Boattail Speedster was the new automobile model Cord felt Auburn needed, the design is credited to Alan H. Leamy who worked for Duesenberg and Cord.

1929 auburn boattail speedster

1929 Auburn Boattail Speedster

E. L. Cord became president of the struggling Auburn Automobile Company in 1924 in an effort to revive a company trying to sell it's cars and having a difficult time doing so. The company was sitting on several hundred unsold cars piling up at the factory.

A Chicago area investor group which included William Wrigley recruited Cord to try to turn it around. The Chicago investor's took over the company in 1919 from the Eckhart brothers who started it in 1900 in Auburn Indiana.  As with so many of the very early automakers, the Eckhart brother's family had been in the horseless carriage business.

Cord's background was in automobile sales and marketing. Cord was a very successful automobile salesman. He restructured the company's sales and distribution channels and met with good initial success.

auburn boattail speedster

Auburn Boattail Speedster

An Attempt to Revive an Automaker

Auburn produced the Boattail Speedster from 1928 through 1936. The car had a bold and revolutionary appearance, much like a race car. Everything about the car's design pointed to speed. Auburn's Speedster was meant to bring new life to the company.

One attribute of the Boattail Speedster was that it offered eight cylinder power and performance at a price that many buyers were paying for six cylinder cars with nothing near the performance. The Boattail Speedster sold for about $1,400 to $1,800.  Interestingly enough, the Boattail Speedster was built on the exact same chassis as the rest of the Auburn line. It's name was derived from the boat-tail like rear end of the vehicle. The boat-tail and the car's pontoon style fenders gave it a very distinctive look.

Because of the company’s lackluster sales performance at the time, the Speedster was intended to spark excitement among the performance car buying public and bring in much needed cash. The Auburn Automobile Company was trying to remake itself with the flashy Speedster models.

1929 auburn boattail

1929 Auburn Boattail

The 1929 Auburn Boattail Speedster was part of the best sales year in the history of the Auburn Automobile Company. During that model year Auburn sold a total of 32,301 vehicles. That figure was enough to beat Hudson, Packard and DeSoto.

After the 1929 stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression Auburn began to suffer. While the Boattail Speedster was a great buy for the money the company's sales, mostly due to the economy, went downhill quickly and by the end of 1937 automobile production ceased. An interesting historical note is that the company offered the lowest priced Auburn V-12 of any automaker in 1932, around $1,000, which was obviously a result of the Depression but certainly didn't help the bottom line.

As far as E. L. Cord's status was concerned, during the 1930's the former car salesman turned auto company president and owner was under fire for alleged mismanagement as well as questionable stock dealings and the company found itself with an acting president in 1935 by the name of Harold T. Ames. Ames oversaw some good enhancements to the Auburn Speedster and the car did quite well in racing competition but sales never met expectations. As mentioned above, the company stopped producing cars in 1937.

auburn speedster dash

Auburn Speedster dashboard

For those car owners left with their Duesenbergs, Auburns and Cords, a Detroiter by the name of Dallas Winslow purchased the assets of the bankrupt company and operated the business as a parts supplier and a service provider.

1929 Auburn Boattail Speedster Specifications

The 1929 Auburn Boattail Speedster featured here has a 268 cubic inch Lycoming Straight Eight engine. This engine delivers 96 horsepower.

In 1929 Auburn offered two Speedster models, an 8-90 and an 8-120. The horsepower was rated at 96 and 125 respectively.

Transmission was a three speed manual and brakes were four wheel drum.

Wheelbase was 130.0 inches. Length was 194 1/4 inches and width 71.0 inches.

See the additional AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below...

1929 Stutz Model M Phaeton

1933 Duesenberg Model J

1936 Cord 810 Cabriolet Convertible

Two books offered on the subject of E. L. Cord and the Auburn automobiles include Errett Loban Cord : His Empire, His Motor Cars by Griffith Borgeson and Auburn Automobiles: 1900-1936 Photo Archive by Jon M. Bill.

auburn speedster

Auburn Speedster

Auburn Boattail Speedster Collector Car Values

Today, depending on condition and degree of restoration, the 1929 Auburn Boattail Speedster has a value of about $55,000 to $150,000. Concours quality Speedsters can have price tags of over $500,000. We have also seen replica models with asking prices north of $60,000. Some of the Auburn Speedster replica or reproduction companies include California Custom Coach, The Classic Factory, Elegant Motors and Speedster Motorcars.

The two most popular models for car collectors appear to be the 1935 and 1936 Auburn Speedsters. The 35/36 Speedsters had 280 cubic inch straight eight Lycoming engines delivering 150 horsepower with a wheelbase of 127.0 inches. Their top speed was claimed to be over 100 MPH.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)

1929 Buick Seven Passenger Four Door Sedan

Here is a 1929 Buick Series 129 Sedan that really gives you good glimpse of a luxury car prior to the 1930's. The year 1929 was special for Buick as it was the marquees Silver Anniversary. Not only was the first Buick for sale manufactured in 1904 but the marquee is considered the oldest American car brand still in production today. After all the car brands discontinued over the decades, this is significant.

1929 buick

1929 Buick 129 Series

The Buick 129 Series

In 1929 there were three series of cars offered by Buick. These were the 116, 121 and 129 Series. Each one of these series reflected the wheelbase length. The 129 Series, which includes the featured automobile in this article, came in a variety of models. These included the Sedan, Convertible Coupe, Standard Coupe, Phaeton, Limousine, both five and seven passenger Sedans and Touring models.

1929 Buick Styling

Buick was positioned by General Motors to be a luxury car ranked under the Cadillac and above the Pontiac. Chevrolet the the lowest and least costly brand.

The style of the 1929 Buick is a story in itself and takes us back to the early days of Harley Earl, one of the most well known of the twentieth century auto designers. Essentially, it was a difference of opinion between Earl and the Fisher Body people. Harley Earl designed a Buick which in 1929 meant mostly a lot of straight lines.

1929 buick dash

1929 Buick dash

When Fisher Body got a hold of the design they made a few alterations that resulted in a slight bulge just below the middle. The car was thus referred to as the "pregnant Buick" although noticing this difference from Earl's design was not easily seen by the average observer.

The end result of this dust up was that Harley Earl obtained the support of Alfred Sloan, GM President, and in the future Earl's design team would be consulted of any design changes prior to them being implemented. This was a big victory for Earl and helped his career quite a bit.

Many collectors know that Harley Earl has been called the father of the Chevrolet Corvette. From the 1920's Buick to the introduction of the Corvette and beyond gives you a good idea of Earl's career.

1929 buick silver anniversary

1929 Buick Silver Anniversary

1929 Buick Series 129 Sedan Specifications

The 129 Series Buick, the long model, was available with a choice of two engines. These were either a 239 or 308 cubic inch inline six cylinder engine. The 239 delivered 74 horsepower and the 308 delivered 91. Both engines employed a single downdraft carburetor.

As a comparison of engines in 1929, Henry Ford's Tudor Model A had a four cylinder 200 cubic inch engine, the Chevrolet Sedan had a 171 cubic inch inline six and the 1929 Plymouth Sedan had a four cylinder 175 cubic inch power plant. The two six cylinder 1929 Buick engines packed good power for the era.

Transmissions for all three 1929 Buick models was a three speed manual.

All 1929 Buick models featured four wheel mechanical brakes.

buick 129 series

Buick 129 Series front end

The 1929 Series 129 had a 129 inch wheelbase as mentioned above. vehicle weight averaged about 3,800 lbs.

Front suspension were semi-elliptic leaf springs with the rear having cantilever springs.

The original base price of the 1929 Buick Series 129 Sedan was about $1,900.

1929 Buick 129 Series production totals were 26,390. The highest selling model was the smallest 116 Series with 84,119 produced. This was not surprising. Phaetons and Limousines were built  but a relatively few were built. Phaetons totaled about 1,400 and Limousines just under 1,000.

If you're inspecting an original 1929 Buick and searching for the engine number it will be stamped on the engine block. This is the number generally used for registration in many states. The 1929 Buick Serial Number should be either a six or seven digit serial number depending on the model. Since many of these cars had engines switched over the years identifying the serial number and indexing it with the manufacturer's records is important.

Links below are to additional AutoMuseumOnline articles featuring cars from the late 1920's...

The 1927 Nash Sedan

The 1929 Nash Advanced Six Rumble Seat Coupe

The 1927 Studebaker

A Restored 1937 Ford Club Coupe

1929 buick engine

1929 Buick Sedan modified Chevy engine

1929 Buick Collector Cars

Any vintage automobiles from this era are collectible. The 1929 Buick was a milestone car commemorating Buick's Silver Anniversary which is a plus. There are also several Buick clubs which work to preserve these vintage vehicles. They include the Buick Club of America with several chapters, the 1929 Silver Anniversary Buick Club, the Buick Car Club of Australia, the Buick Club of Norway and the Buick Club of Germany.

If you are planning on restoring a 1929 Buick I would check out the Buick Club of America forums where you can get a lot of questions answered by vintage Buick owners and possibly find sources for old parts. Bill McLaughlin's Newsletter from the 1929 Silver Anniversary Buick Club is also an excellent source of information.

1929 buick sedan

1929 Buick Sedan two tone fenders

As of this writing, 1929 Buick auction prices for fully restored models range in the mid to high $20,000 range. These would be for 129 Series four door sedans however don't be surprised to see some come on the market below $20,000. We've also seen a Buick 121 Series coupe with an asking price in the high twenties. Also a 1929 Buick Business Coupe with the smaller engine with a $15,000 price tag.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)

1927 American LaFrance Fire Truck

One of the oldest fire equipment maker in the U.S. was the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company founded in 1903 in Elmira New York. Interestingly enough, this company also built roadster automobiles starting in 1907 until 1914. The story here is that American LaFrance built only twenty-two automobiles. The company's very first motorized fire truck was manufactured in 1907.

1927 American laFrance Fire Truck at San Antonio Fire Museum

1927 American laFrance Fire Truck at San Antonio Fire Museum

The 1927 American LaFrance Fire Engine Pumper truck shown in this article is just one of the decades of fire trucks they manufactured. There are a large number of old fire trucks from American LaFrance on display throughout the country.

Two interesting side notes are that American LaFrance built some steam powered fire engines during the first decade of the 1900's and unveiled their first six cylinder internal combustion engine in 1911.

The 1927 American LaFrance Fire Pumper Truck

The 1927 American LaFrance pumper featured here is among the most popular series that the company produced. The truck came with a six cylinder engine delivering 130 horsepower. The truck was also equipped with a 750 gallons per minute pump. The truck also had dual chain drives and weighed in the neighborhood of 12,000 lbs.

This 1927 American LaFrance Type 75 Fire Truck would have sold new in that year for about $6,000.

1927 American laFrance

1927 American laFrance

American La France Grows With Acquisitions

The very beginnings of American LaFrance go all the way back to 1832 when hand operated and horse drawn fire fighting equipment was manufactured. This type of fire equipment building in the early 1800's typically was performed at blacksmith shops. Prior to Truckson LaFrance and partners forming their company, LaFrance Manufacturing Company in 1873, there were several earlier companies that would go on to eventually form the American LaFrance that we know as the twentieth century fire truck builder. This was the company that would go on to build a variety of fire truck equipment such as ladder trucks, airport crash truck equipment, chemical engines and snorkel trucks. By the mid 1920's American LaFrance had produced over 4,000 fire trucks.

American LaFrance chain drive

American LaFrance chain drive

In 1927 American LaFrance purchased the well known fire equipment manufacturer, the Foamite-Childs Co. With this acquisition, the company got a new corporate name called American LaFrance and Foamite Co.

While the American automakers were required to halt civilian car production during World War Two and begin building military vehicles, American LaFrance continued building their fire trucks for towns and cities across the nation and shipped many overseas per government contracts.

Over these many years American LaFrance built a solid reputation as being America's number one builder of emergency equipment.

1927 American LaFrance six cylinder engine

1927 American LaFrance six cylinder engine

The company Freightliner acquired American LaFrance in 1995 and then ten years later the company was transferred to a New York investment company. Three years later American LaFrance filed for bankruptcy and then several months after that they emerged from bankruptcy. Today the company builds a large variety of heavy truck equipment. Fire truck cabs, refuse trucks and general rescue and utility trucks are manufactured from their Summerville, SC factory.

See our AutoMuseumOnline article on the 1951 Mack LS 85 Fire Pumper Truck.

Also, see our article on a Restored 1914 Ford Model T Depot Hack

If you happen to be in Michigan or plan traveling there, the Great Lakes International Antique Fire Apparatus Association's Annual Antique Fire Engine Muster in Frankenmuth Michigan is a fun event to attend. Here you will find just about everything and everything pertaining to vintage fire engines and fire equipment. The event usually is planned for July. Frankenmuth Michigan is a tourist destination and is known world wide for their shops and chicken dinners. The town claims to have the world's largest Christmas shop as well.  It's estimated that three million visitors a year travel there. Frankenmuth is located about 75 miles north of Detroit and about 14 miles southeast of Saginaw Michigan.

For mote information about this organization and planned events in the future see website www.gliafaa.org

1927 American LaFrance Fire Truck on display at the San Antonio Texas Fire Museum

1927 American LaFrance Fire Truck on display at the San Antonio Texas Fire Museum

There are a few very good books available on the American LaFrance Fire Trucks. These include American LaFrance 500/600 Series by author Walter M P McCall, 100 Years of American LaFrance also by Walter McCall and American LaFrance 700 Series 1945-1952: Photo Archive, Vol. 2 by Lawrence Phillips.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)