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Lot 559: Auburn 851 SC Phaeton

RM Auctions Vintage Motor Cars of Hershey, RM Auctions (7 October 2010)

150 bhp, 280 cu. in. L-head inline eight-cylinder engine with Schwitzer-Cummins supercharger, three-speed manual transmission, Columbia two-speed rear end, solid front axle and live rear axle, front and rear semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 127"

- High point restoration - Former AACA Junior and Senior Award winner - Powerful supercharged eight; Columbia rear axle - Ex-Robert Pass Collection

E.L. Cord knew humdrum cars would not cut it; to sell a car, it needed sizzle. When he stepped in to save the Auburn in 1924, the company teetered on the verge of bankruptcy. Cord took a number of unsold Auburns being stored at the manufacturing facility, gave them stylish paint schemes and extra nickel plating, and watched sales recover.

On later-model Auburns, horsepower was boosted, creating excitement among the dealers. Soon, Auburn took on long-established marques like Packard, Peerless and Stutz. Unfortunately, the depression hit Auburn where it hurt most  in the balance sheet.

It is ironic that the company produced what many consider its signature car in 1935, as the end was drawing near  the 851 SC. Auburn had invested heavily in the largely new Al Leamy-designed 1934 models. Although they sold better than the 1933s had, they were not the salvation the company needed. Worse still, Harold Ames, E.L. Cord's right-hand man, hated their styling. As a result, Ames was sent to Auburn and placed in charge of the company.

A new look was desperately needed. With little money available, a completely new car was out of the question. Once again, Ames called upon Gordon Buehrig to pull the figurative rabbit out of the hat. Once again, Buehrig delivered, with a revised front end including a new grille and hood line.

Although the new 851 (and the next year's 852) models were certainly flashy, the existing chassis was mostly carried over, but with some updates. The car was fitted with a Lycoming straight-eight engine equipped with a new supercharger designed by Kurt Beier from Schwitzer-Cummins, which was adapted to the engine by Augie Duesenberg and Pearl Watson. In addition, the trusted and durable Columbia two-speed rear axle was fitted, allowing lower gearing for quicker acceleration, combined with a higher final drive ratio for improved top speed.

Elegantly finished in deep green with a matching top and interior, the 1935 851 SC Phaeton offered here provides a desirable blend of a closed car, with its snug-fitting top and rollup windows, combined with top-down capabilities and a fold-down windshield. Formerly part of the noted Robert Pass Collection, it is offered from museum ownership and has received a correct, high-point restoration in 2003. It remains extremely presentable, with AACA Junior and Senior First Place awards to its credit. A practical yet sporty and powerful CCCA Full Classic capable of enjoyable touring with its desirable supercharged engine and Columbia two-speed rear axle, this 851 SC is a very fine example of Auburn's trademark innovation.

Lot Details
Auction RM Auctions Vintage Motor Cars of Hershey
RM Auctions, Hershey Lodge Hershey, Pennsylvania
TypeCar
Lot Number559
Estimate$150000-$180000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)$154000
Year1935
Condition rating0
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis number31899H
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors