The 1928 Auburn Speedster was Errett Lobban Cord's attempt to combine performance and style to boost sales. For an automobile company executive, Cord was a pretty good showman. One of his most spectacular productions, the Speedster was a racy image-builder car that proved to be a genuine bargain, to boot.
Panache: That was the word for the Auburn automobile, at least from the time Errett Lobban Cord entered the picture during the closing months of 1924. Barely 30 years old at the time, he found himself appointed general manager of a moribund firm whose principle assets consisted of some 700 unsold (and seemingly unsaleable) black cars cluttering up the company's storage lots. Output had fallen to something like six cars a week, and there was little prospect of finding buyers for even those few.
Cord, who always had an eye for something flashy, ordered the cars repainted in bright, eye-catching hues. The tops were chopped a little to lower the overall height, and a dash of nickel plate was added here and there. Thus revised and updated, and with prices lowered somewhat, the cars sold quickly, providing the company with some desperately needed working capital.
Looking ahead, Cord could see that radical changes would be required if the company was to be saved from an early death. Two areas, he concluded, held the keys to Auburn's future: performance and stying. Turning to performance first, he augmented his company's six-cylinder lines with a Lycoming-powered Auburn straight-eight, the 8-88. By mid-1927, an 8-88 placed second in a 75-mile stock-car race held at the Atlantic City Speedway. Piloted by veteran race driver Wade Morton, who was to become Auburn's chief test driver, the car crossed the finish line less than a second behind the winning Stutz, a car that sold for nearly double the Auburn's reasonable price of $1,695. On the Fourth of July, Morton rolled home the victor in a 100-miler at Salem, New Hampshire. The marque's performance image was taking shape.
At the same time. Auburn had become one of the industry's fashion leaders as well, with a design that featured two-tone paint and a beltline that swept up over the top of the hood, terminating at a point just behind the radiator cap. And in an era when most of the competition outfitted their cars with 20- or 21-inch wheels. Auburn used 18-inch hoops, contributing substantially to the car's low profile.
But something more was needed: an image-builder, a car that would draw the public to Auburn showrooms, one that would catch the eye and capture the imagination of motorists of all ages. A speedster!
In the end, over a period of nearly nine years -- with a couple of interruptions -- Auburn built three increasingly stunning generations of Speedsters. All of them rank among the most memorable automobiles ever produced.
On the next page, learn about the first generation of these flashy cars, the 1928-1930 Auburn Speedsters.
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