Auburn was a brand name of American automobiles produced from 1900 through 1937.
The Auburn Automobile Company grew out of the Eckhart Carriage Company, founded in Auburn, Indiana, in 1874 by Charles Eckhart (1841–1915).
Eckhart’s sons, Frank and Morris, experimented making automobiles before entering the business in earnest, absorbing two other local carmakers and moving into a larger plant in 1909. The enterprise was modestly successful until materials shortages during World War I forced the plant to close.
1936 Auburn 654 Cabriolet.
In 1919, the Eckhart brothers sold the company to a group of Chicago investors headed by Ralph Austin Bard, who later served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and as Undersecretary of the Navy for President Roosevelt and President Harry S. Truman.
The new owners revived the business but failed to realize their anticipated profits and in 1924, approached Errett Lobban Cord (1894–1974), a highly successful automobile salesman, with an offer to run the company.
Cord countered with an offer to take over completely in what amounted to a leveraged buyout and the Chicago group accepted. Cord aggressively marketed the company’s unsold inventory and completed his buyout before the end of 1925.
auburn hood ornament
But styling and engineering failed to overcome the fact that Cord’s vehicles were too expensive for the Depression-era market and Cord’s stock manipulations would force him to give up control of his car companies.
Under injunction from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to refrain from further violations, Cord sold his shares in his automobile holding company.
In 1937, production of Auburns, along with that of Cords and Duesenbergs, ended.
1935 Auburn 851 Speedster
The 1904 Auburn was a touring car model. Equipped with a tonneau, it could seat two or four passengers and sold for US$1000. The flat-mounted single-cylinder engine, situated at the center of the car, produced 10 hp (7.5 kW). A two-speed planetary transmission was fitted. The angle-steel-framed car weighed 1,500 lb (680 kg) and used half-elliptic springs.
In 1926, Cord, now the owner of Auburn, partnered with Duesenberg Corporation, famous for its racing cars, and used it as the launching platform for a line of high-priced luxury vehicles, the Duesenberg Model J. He also put his own name on one of the first front-wheel-drive cars, Cord, known as the Cord L-29″.
Employing imaginative designers such as Alan Leamy — chief designer of the 1933 Auburn Speedster—and Gordon Buehrig. designer of the 810/812 Cords. Buehrig joined the company in Indianapolis in 1926 with Duesenberg Motors, and is credited with styling roughly half of the Model Js produced. Duesenberg built the chassis while the bodies were built either to Duesenberg’s own specifications, or to the special order of the buyer, by selected independent body companies.
In 1934 Buehrig was transferred to Auburn Auto where he designed the 8511935 Auburn Speedster that was styled or modified to use leftover speedster bodies. Buehrig and a design team were then assigned to EL Cord’s so-called “Baby Duisenberg to build a smaller, more affordable car. Designed by Buehrig in 1933, it became the acclaimed 1936/37 Cord 810/ 812 Cords, a hit at the November 1935 annual New York Automobile Show—acclaimed for advanced engineering as well as revolutionary styling.
His design work completed, he left the company in 1937. [source, daughter Barbara Buehrig Orlando plus the ACDA Museum] and modified the four-door, Cord built cars such as the Duesenberg Model J (1928–37), the Auburn Speedster (1935–37), and the Cord 810/812 (1936–37) that became famous for their advanced engineering as well as their striking appearance. The Auburn Boattail Speedster was powered by a 4.6L straight eight that, with the popular supercharger option (150 hp), could top 100 mph (160 km/h) making it a popular model in the Hollywood market.
1935 Auburn Speedster ad
The Depression, coupled with Cord’s stock manipulations, spelled the end of the company and production ceased in 1937. The company’s art deco headquarters in Auburn now houses the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum and became a National Historic Landmark in 2005. The Auburn Automobile Company also had a manufacturing plant in Connersville, Indiana, formerly owned by the Lexington Motor Company.
Auburn production specifications
Auburn 8-Eighty-Eight Sedan