It’s tough looking for your place in the world; that was the case of Errett Lobban Cord, the owner of Auburn. For years, he’d been trying to find the automotive sweet spot, as far as sales went, without much success. When it finally came, it was in the form of the 1935 Auburn Speedster 851, a remarkable and unique automobile in its own right, although it was clearly based on previous Auburn cars. It featured a modern raked front grille, shaped headlights, and a most spectacular boat-tail rear end. The Speedster was introduced at a great price, too: it was a loss-leader, designed to entice buyers in the showroom with the idea of getting them to buy (perhaps) another model. It worked very well, too: only a few hundred Speedster 851 were ever built, although Auburn was selling cars by the thousands.
Besides its excellent good looks, the Auburn Speedster 851 was built on … you guessed it, speed! It was fitted with a 4.6-liter straight eight engine, and boasted a top speed of 103 miles per hour, with a then-spectacular 0-60 acceleration time of 15 seconds. To prop up its speed credentials, a much-publicized 10-hour test was performed, in which the Speedster maintained an average speed over 100 miles per hour.
Like they say in Star Trek, however, all good things must come to an end. 1937 saw the collapse of sales, and the Speedster was cancelled and the company closed. It had had a good run, however, and has given us one of the more spectacular pre-War American sports cars.