Auburn Speedster 851 – 1935

Several thousand Auburn 851s in various body styles were sold by entrepreneur Errett Lobban Cord at the height of The Great Depression – no mean feat.

The star was the Speedster 851 – developed from earlier Speedsters that had been produced since 1929 with enough fresh features to justify a new-model tag in fixed-head and convertible coupe form. Improvements designed by ex- Duesenberg maestro Gordon Buehrig included a raked radiator, sinuous front bumpers, teardrop headlamps and flowing lines ending in a characteristic boat tail.

After decades of unremarkable life in the automobile business, making an assortment of worthy cars without really capturing the public’s imagination, Auburn finally earned a place in the motoring hall of fame with one of the few sports cars produced in America before World War 11 – a powerful, stylish machine that helped to establish the American trend towards size coupled with tremendous straight-line performance, with the added bonus of a reasonable price tag. This was because the Speedster 851 was offered as a loss-leader in the hope that admirers lured into the showroom by its delicious looks would actually buy a cheaper but more profitable model – a ploy that worked so well that only a few hundred Speedsters were manufactured.

Following a New Year’s Day launch in 1935, the Speedster 851 was duly promoted on the grounds of… speed. A top-of-the-range supercharged SC model with its four external exhaust pipes and no additional modifications did an amazing 12-hour endurance run during which it averaged over 100 mph (160 km/h) in the hands of land- speed record holder Ab Jenkins, who went on to set many other records. Although there was little or no change, 1936 cars were given an 852 designation. When sales collapsed, production ended and the Auburn company folded in 1937.




1936 (until 1940)


3,571 cc OHV Straight Six


Top speed of around 90 mph (145 km/h)


The end of the line for the Speed 25 came in late 1940, production ceasing abruptly when the Luftwaffe bombed the Alvis factory in Coventry – and when the company resumed car manufacture in 1946 it was with the solid but much-less-glamorous TA-14.


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