1933 Auburn 12 / Specs and Model History

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.

auburn 12 specifications

1933 Auburn 12

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.

1933 auburn car

Great styling

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.

auburn 12 photos and specs

Grille and headlamps. Headlamps were made to turn 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...

1929 Cord L-29

1929 Auburn Boattail Speedster

1933 Duesenberg Model J

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

auburn motor company

Auburn 12 dash

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)


See the 1936 Auburn 852 Speedster / Specs and Photos

Some of the most dazzling classic car designs happened to come out during the Great Depression of the 1930's. The famous Auburn automobiles were noted for such designs like the automobile featured in this article, the 1936 Auburn 852 Speedster.

auburn 852 speedster

1936 Auburn 852 Speedster

The Auburn Automobile Company

Auburn Automobiles had it's roots like several others in the carriage building industry of the 1800's. The original Auburn Automobile Company was established by the Eckhart brothers who had worked for and then inherited, from their father, the Eckhart Carriage Company. This transitioning from horse drawn carriage manufacturing to automobile manufacturing is similar to the Studebaker story.

The Auburn Automobile Company was founded in 1900 with the offering of a one cylinder automobile. By 1919 the company was having hard times and was purchased by a group of Chicago investors. Not ling afterwards, the investors hired a man named E. L. Cord to turn the business around. The recession of 1921-22 had an adverse effect on the company. Cord would later partner with Duesenberg and build the Cord automobile.

The Auburn Automobile Company aside from turning out some terrific looking vehicles during the 30's also went through quite a management shake up. This included the fact 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. The overriding problem for Auburn during the mid to latter thirties was simply that their cars were too expensive for that decade. The 1936 Auburn 852 Phaeton shown in this article had a new car price of about $1,725.

1936 auburn 852The Auburn 852 Speedster

The Auburn 852's were designed by Gordon Buehrig, a noted automobile designer hired during the 1920's by E. L. Cord. The Auburn 852 might be one of the most beautifully styled automobiles of the 1930's. It's interesting to note that, due to the problems at Auburn, the 852 would be the last Auburn designed by Buehrig and the 1936 model year was the last for Auburn itself.

The 1936 Auburn 852 Speedster was built with a Lycoming 280 cubic inch in-line eight cylinder engine. The engine was rated at 150 HP with it's supercharger. The top speed was claimed to be 100 MPH.

Transmission for the 36 model was a three speed dual ratio manual. Brakes were four wheel hydraulic.

Car dimensions included an overall length of 194.4 inches, a width of 71.5 inches and a wheelbase of 127.0 inches. The car's weight was 3,752 lbs.

There was an estimated 500 of the Auburn 852's produced over the 1935 and 1936 model years.

See these additional Auto Museum Online articles on the links below...

The 1936 Cord 810 Cabriolet

The 1929 Auburn Boattail Speedster

Antique and Classic Car Serial Numbers / What They Tell Us


A Great Place to See Auburn Automobiles

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.

auburn speedster dashboard

Interior and dashboard on the 36 Auburn 852 Speedster

This building first opened in 1930 and the museum itself opened in 1974. The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum features Auburn car exhibits as well as 25,000 artifacts of photos, blueprints, books and advertising material. See the collection of Auburn produced vehicles from 1900 through 1936. Auburns, Cords and Duesenbergs were known for their quality engineering, great styling and outstanding performance.

The museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums.This unique museum is located at 1600 South Wayne Street, Auburn Indiana.

Other events relating to Auburn automobiles are the Auburn Spring and Auburn Fall   classic car and collector swap meets, auctions and auto corrals. These events are held annually in May and September at the Auburn Auction Park in Auburn, Indiana.

auburn speedsterOriginal Auburn Collector Automobiles

Original and restored Auburns have garnered high auction prices. These automobiles have a lot going for them when you consider their limited production runs, such as with the 852 model. The Auburns were also known for their great styling and performance. On top of that are the stories about the company itself and the successes and failures of E.L. Cord.

These beautiful automobiles may not be for every collector. Auction results for the 852 Phaetons, as of this writing, have been generally in the low to mid $100,000 area. The Speedster models have seen auction prices in the $400,000 to $800,000 range.

(Article and photos copyright 2015 Auto Museum Online)

1931 Auburn Model 8-98A Phaeton Convertible

The 1931 Auburn 8-98A Phaeton Convertible is one of the finest looking vintage automobiles you'll come across. The Auburn Automobile Company, produced in Auburn, Indiana, has a storied history in several ways. Auburn cars were produced from 1900 ( a one cylinder car) to 1936. It's head man during the mid 1920's through 1935, Errett Lobban Cord, once admitted to having made and lost $50,000 three times in the course of his business dealings, and all before reaching the age of 21. That was a tidy sum in that era.

1931 auburn

1931Auburn 8-98A

E. L. Cord

Cord actually breathed life into the Auburn Automobile Company when he joined the the automaker as general manager in 1924. A that time the company was building more cars than it could sell and was becoming a candidate for bankruptcy. E.L.Cord had been an excellent salesman, not an engineer, but knew enough to make a few timely changes that essentially turned the company around.

He would replace all six cylinder engines with Lycoming straight eight engines and launch a restyling program that would have Auburns painted in two-tone color schemes. Cord added some pizzazz to what had become a staid laid back auto company albeit with an excellent reputation for performance cars. E. L. Cord would go on to take over the Auburn Automobile Company with investor capital and partner with Duesenburg. Cord would ultimately come out with a front wheel drive car with his name, the Cord L-29.

1931 auburn phaeton convertible

The sleek new 1931 Auburn

It should be noted that at one time E.L. Cord was one of the world's wealthiest men, operating much more than his automobile companies. Cord controlled an airline, a shipbuilder, a communications company, an engine company and an aircraft manufacturer. After his downfall from the automotive world in 1936 for alleged illegal stock dealings, Cord later moved to California and made millions more in radio and TV and real estate.

The 1931 Auburn 8-98A Phaeton Convertible

The year 1931 ushered in what many say were the glamor years for Auburn. Visionary automobile designer Al Leamy introduced new styling features for 1931. These included an elegantly swept fender line along with a long hood. With a new body style came the underlying chassis and frame which featured a rigid X form cross member. This enabled the car to have a three inch lower body height off the ground which in turn made the Auburns of that year much more sportier and swanky looking.

The Convertible Phaeton Sedan was a very popular Auburn body style. The Auburn Phaeton models offered some innovative options such as roll-up windows and removable center pillars for a flush "all-weather" fit along the convertible top. With the center pillars removed and the windows and top down gave passengers a terrific view with nothing to obscure the passing landscape. This of course was one of Auburn's firsts.

1931 Auburn 8-98A Phaeton Convertible Specifications

The 1931 Auburn Model *-98A as built with a 268 Cubic Inch Lycoming Straight Eight engine. The engine delivered 98 horsepower (thus the 8-98 model) with a claimed top speed of

Brakes were four wheel internal expanding and the car's transmission was a three speed Synchro-mesh manual.

Suspension was comprised of semi-elliptic leaf springs both front and back.

The 1931 Auburn 8-98A had a wheelbase of 127.0 inches.

The new car price for the 1931 Auburn Eights averaged over $1,000. This was a very pricey automobile in 1931 and during the first part of the Great Depression. To give you an example of prices for more mainstream models during this period, a 1932 Ford V-8 could be bought for between $400 and $500. A 1932 Chevrolet Convertible cost new about $500.

The prices Auburn was charging for their sharp looking and well manufactured cars hurt sales significantly. As an example, per the publication Complete Book of Collectible Cars, 1931 Auburn Eight production totaled 36,148 vehicles. In 1932 that figure fell to 6,000 and for 1933 the figure was 4,000. The depths of the Depression hurt automakers like Auburn to a very big degree and contributed to it's demise in 1936.

auburn 8-98

Front end view of the 31 Auburn 8-98A

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum

If you're an Auburn automobile enthusiast and you're anywhere near Auburn Indiana you'll want to stop at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. The museum building itself is located in what used to be the International Headquarters of the Auburn Automobile Company from 1930 to 1936. The museum's automobile and artifact collection is spread throughout the building mingled with restored work areas and offices. Among the automobile collection are Auburns, Cords, and Duesenbergs plus other classics and other automobiles manufactured in Indiana. The museum address is 1600 Wayne St, Auburn, Indiana.

1931 auburn dashboard

The dashboard on the 1931 Auburn 8-98A

The 1931 Auburn Collector Cars

All Auburn automobiles are very collectible. In regards to the 1931 models, the highest valuation collectibles are the open models.

The 1931 Auburn 8-98A Phaeton Convertible in museum like condition and original will likely sell at auction in the high five figure range. Models like this have sold for $75,000. The 1931 Auburn Boattail Speedster has sold at auction for $176,000. Phaeton Sedans have sold in the $40,000 plus range.

You may also enjoy the AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below...

1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster

The Cord L-29

The Rare 1936 Ford Woody Wagon

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)