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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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 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)