1931 Auburn 8-98 Boattail Speedster
Engine no. GU35732
* 268.6-cid Lycoming straight eight-cylinder
* 3-speed manual transmission
* 127" wheelbase
* Sporting and desirable styling
* Handsomely restored
One cannot mention Auburn without conjuring up images of their Boattail Speedster. So intermeshed is the Auburn make and their famous Boattail Speedster body style that one often forgets that they had a whole line of quite sensible cars offered alongside the racy roadsters.
The Auburn Automobile Company grew out of the Eckhart Carriage Company in Auburn, Indiana. Founded in 1874 by Charles Eckhart, a flourishing carriage business was forged by the time he handed reins over to his sons Frank and Morris. Seeing the writing on the wall for the horse and buggy, the brothers Eckhart went into the car business in 1900.
Developing a number of sensible, reliable tourers, the company was sold in 1918 to a Chicago-based consortium with the focus of the brand placed on their six-cylinder line. The timing proved poor as the post-WWI depression hit the company hard. By 1924, Auburn was facing insolvency. It was at this point the great E.L. Cord entered the picture.
Initially hired as general manager, he also purchased a controlling interest in the company. Finding himself with a lot of 700 unsold Auburns, he quickly went to sprucing the cars up with extra nickel plating and lower, sportier tops, eventually selling the whole lot for a $500,000 profit. He worked his magic to begin building up a dealer network as well as spurring the development of an eight cylinder motor to fit in the old six-piston chassis.
The Lycoming developed eight cylinder would become the basis for the 1925 Model 8-88. The 276-cid 60hp straight eight became the basis for what would form the architecture of every Auburn that followed. With the new, powerful 8-88, Auburn went racing with Stutz the primary target of its efforts. While often coming in second to the Car that Made Good in a Day, the Auburn still very much came in first when it came to value, as the list price of an Auburn was less than half of that of a Stutz.
In 1928, Auburn replaced the 8-88 with the 8-115. Under the hood was a 299-cid straight eight that made 115hp, two more than Stutz's eight cylinder. Just as significant as the muscle under the hood was the new exterior looks. The Speedster, making its debut on the 8-115, was like nothing else at the time. A sharply raked V-type windshield sat atop a long hood and high beltline, ending in a tapered tail. Sitting still, it looked fast. And that was the factory body, not a special one-off from a coachbuilder! Hydraulic brakes made their debut as well, bring the whole affair to a swift stop. All of this, and for only $2,195in contrast to nearly $5,000 needed to put a Stutz Black Hawk in your garage. One of the original owners of the 8-115 was Malcolm Campbell, who was certainly one for swift machinery!
Sales boomed and in 1929 Auburn sold 22,000 cars, a 1000% leap from before Cord was brought on. The start of the Great Depression caused a dip in the sales totals in 1930, but 1931 proved to be a record year with 28,103 cars sold. Primary to that success was the 8-98.
The 8-98 featured a more economical 268.6-cid version of the venerable Lycoming straight eight producing 98hp. On top, even more raking and sporting bodywork was fitted. Underneath the skin, the first use of X-bracing on a rear-wheel drive car was featured, along with Bijur lubrications, Lovejoy hydraulic shocks, semi-elliptical suspension all-around, and an optional L.G.S. Freewheeling unit. Priced from $945-1395, it is little wonder that Fortune magazine went on to call it "the biggest package in the world for the price."
The Boattail Speedster offered sits on the shorter, 127" wheelbase onto which all Speedsters were fitted. Painted two-tone red, the body colored radiator surround and grill helped give the sporting Auburns an even more athletic look. Inside, deep red leather abounds while the comprehensive cluster of gauges sits neatly in the center of the dash. Chromed wire wheels, dual sidemounts with mirrors mounted atop them, and twin Trippe Safety Lights round out the car's fantastic looks. Restored about five years ago, the Speedster has been sparingly driven by the current owner.
Today, the car shows well and is reported to run well and presents stunningly inside and out. A rakish mount in which to tour or show, then as now there are few more stylish and sporting machines one can get for the money!
- Please note, the Auburn presented here features a glass fiber rear end and as such, is a replica of Auburn's iconic Speedster design.
Please note that the title for this vehicle is in transit.