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)

1935 Auburn BoatTail Speedster

The Auburn Automobile Company of Auburn Indiana manufactured some great looking cars and one of them is the 1935 Auburn BoatTail Speedster featured in this article. The car shown here is one of the best Auburn restoration cars you'll ever come across. The Auburn Speedster with it's classic low profile was designed to be a fast car and it was a fast car.

1935 Auburn Bobtail Speedster

1935 Auburn Bobtail Speedster

The Auburn Automobile Company was affected quite deeply by the Great Depression of the 1930's. In addition to that, E.L Cord, the former Chicago car salesman turned automaker president, 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 was determined to turn things around for the company and to this effect charged designer Gordon Buehrig and engineer August Duesenberg with the task of redesigning the Auburn line. The budget allocated for redesign was meager and many existing parts from the current 1935 Speedsters had to be used. What was turned out by Auburn as a result was a newly designed 1935 eight cylinder turbo-charged Auburn Speedster. Buehrig is credited with creating some of the most beautiful Auburn cars ever built.

1935 Auburn Speedster interior and dash

1935 Auburn Speedster interior and dash

With new engines becoming available every few years, there were three different generations of the Auburn Speedster built from 1928 to 1937. All Auburns, prior to 1935, were built with twelve cylinder engines.

Auburn could make these cars relatively affordable but the twelve cylinders were being phased out. Left with a straight six engine, the engineers at Auburn decided to add two cylinders making it a straight eight.

The cars fared very well in racing events. Each had a remarkable design with the 1935 BoatTail model arguably being the most impressive.

The Auburn BoatTail Speedsters offered both eye catching design as well as performance.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 remaking itself with the flashy Speedster models. You can easily see in the photo above how stylish the dashboard is on this Auburn Speedster.

Auburn Speedster classic rear design

Auburn Speedster classic rear design

The new 1935 Auburn BoatTail Speedster was guaranteed by the company to have a speed of 100 MPH. Five hundred of these new cars were manufactured and the story is that Auburn ended up losing money on every one. As it turned out for the company, the Auburn Automotive Company ceased operations in 1937.


Also see our photo articles on the Convertible Rolls-Royce Phantom the 2007 Morgan Aero Eight and the 1955 AC Ace Sports Car.

1935 Auburn BoatTail Speedster Specs

The automobile shown has a Lycoming Straight Eight Engine with 280 cubic inch displacement and 115 horsepower.

Front end of the 1935 Auburn Speedster

Front end of the 1935 Auburn Speedster

The body and chassis consisted of a steel box section X-braced chassis with steel Speedster body along with two doors and two seats. Brakes were hydraulically operated with Lockheed drums. Suspension used semi-elliptic leaf springs and hydraulic dampers on the front and live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs and hydraulic dampers on the rear. Transmission was a three speed manual with synchromesh on second and third and the gear box a unit with the engine.

Vehicle length was 194 3/32 inches, width was 71 inches and weight was about 3,747 pounds.

Auburn Car Collectors

All Auburn automobiles are popular with car collectors. Auburn Spring and Auburn Fall  are classic car and collector swap meets, auctions and car corrals. These events are held annually in May and September at the Auburn Auction Park in Auburn, Indiana.

See the Historic Auburn Cars

If you have the opportunity, visit 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 building was first opened in 1930 and the museum opened in 1974. The museum features Auburn car exhibits as well as 25,000 artifacts of photos, blueprints, books and advertising material.

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums.The museum is located at 1600 South Wayne Street, Auburn Indiana.

(Photos and article copyright AutoMuseumOnline)

Auburn Cars / Auburn Car Museum

Auburn cars, well recognized excellently engineered automobiles, falls into that category of American automakers who didn't make it through the Great Depression of the 1930's. As we've mentioned in several other articles, the Great Depression presented an entirely new marketing reality and several of the independents had a big challenge and that included the people who built Auburn cars. The larger automakers were able to take advantage of scale and more easily absorb losses. The smaller independents while putting out a quality product had more financial difficulties.

1904 auburn automobile

1904 Auburn

Buggy Makers Become Automakers

The Auburn car was founded back in 1900 by brothers Frank and Morris Eckhart in Auburn Indiana. The first vehicle was more experimental than anything else. Like some of their peers, the brothers had been carriage and buggy builders and had worked for Studebaker. At the turn of the century it wasn't a great leap to go from carriages to cars. In fact, their first vehicle, built in prior to 1903 was so simple it was a chain drive vehicle with a one cylinder engine costing about $800. There are no solid records available as to how many, if any, of these one cylinder cars sold. Possibly none. When 1903 came around, the Eckhart brothers decided to get more focused on car building. This was the point that they would actually turn it into a business.

The 1904 Auburn was a fancy looking automobile. In fact, during 1904 there were a host of good looking autos such as the Winton, the Knox Touring car and the Buick Touring model. There were several others.  There were a slew of eastern automakers producing cars. At this point the cost of getting into the business wasn't too prohibitive. That of course would change. The 1904 Auburn still had that chain drive and one cylinder engine but this time the car had pneumatic tires. A two cylinder engine was introduced in 1905 and eventually a four cylinder engine was employed in 1909. By 1909 the brothers had also taken over a few other local auto builders. Things were looking up.

1932 Auburn Speedster

1932 Auburn Speedster

Another Pre World War One Auburn of note was the 1916 Model 6-38 Touring Car. This particular car was a four door, seven passenger model with a six cylinder Continental L-Head engine. Auburn engines came a long way since 1904. Like many cars today, the 1916 model came with a 20 gallon fuel tank. The car sold for about $1,375.

The Chicago Investors

The chewing gum king, William Wrigley, and a group of investors including Ralph Bard of Chicago, took over the Auburn nameplate in 1919. The Eckhart brothers were having severe financial problems and decided to sell out. World War One had a negative impact on several automakers. For one thing, materials were in short supply. Wrigley and the Chicago group was in a position to infuse a lot of needed cash into the company. The biggest problem however was that a severe recession hit after World War I, not long after the Chicago investors took over, and the car company was again struggling.

Auburn's Final Years

When Auburn began struggling in the mid 1920's, the company took onboard a new leader from a strictly sales background. Automobile salesman Errett Lobban Cord was hired to run the company but actually took it over from the Chicago investors via a leveraged buyout. Cord completed the buyout in 1925. Although Cord knew how to market the Auburn nameplate and partnered with the Dusenberg brand, the Great Depression that began about five years after Cord's buyout simply made his automobiles too expensive for many. In addition to the Depression, Cord also found himself in trouble with the SEC regarding alleged stock manipulations. As a result of all these troubles production of the Auburn automobile came to a halt in 1937. It never returned.

Two additional photo articles you'll be interested in are the 1931 Ford Model A Roadster and the 1929 Oakland Motors Sedan.

cord 810

The Cord 810

The second Auburn automobile shown in this article is the 1932 8-100 Speedster Coupe Convertible. The car has the sleek look that Errett Cord was noted for. The engines for these models were eight cylinder with about 100 HP and a top speed of about 100 MPH. There's no question that the Auburn Speedster was a great looking car with excellent engineering and a lot of power. The Auburn Eights were known for luxury, size and performance. The price of the 1932 models were around $1,000 or a bit higher. This was actually a very low price for the engineering and power that came with it. The price obviously reflected the very tough economic times of the Depression and didn't really help the financial position of Auburn. Auburn needed to sell cars for more than the price they could get. The Depression ended up taking out both Auburn and Dusenberg. Cord's SEC troubles likely added to the company's difficulties.

According to old factory records, it appears that about 6,000 Auburn Eights were produced in 1932.

There's a great museum located in Auburn Indiana you don't want to miss. The Auburn Cord Dusenberg Automobile Museum showcases the three old brands and has terrific exhibits. The museum is in the company's massive old administrative and showroom facility. The address is 1600 South Wayne Street in Auburn.

(Photos from the public domain)