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)