Established in 1900, the Auburn Automobile Company earned a solid reputation and a loyal customer base for its reliable, well-built motorcars. But as the automobile market expanded rapidly in the 1920s, Auburn sales began to lag as the dated, conservative styling and lackluster marketing failed to connect with buyers. Enter Mr. Errett Lobban Cord in 1925, a salesman and entrepreneur hired as a final “Hail Mary” by the board of directors to reverse Auburn's fortunes. In short order, Cord transformed Auburn from conservative underdog to a sophisticated style leader and eventual cornerstone of Cord's luxury automobile empire. Once Cord successfully cleared unsold inventory and put Auburn back on solid footing, he leveraged his success by taking full control of the company
The first order of business was to finally bring eight-cylinder power to Auburn via Lycoming's robust L-head unit. He then enlisted the talents of designers Alan Leamy and Gordon Buehrig to inject some much-needed emotion to Auburn's staid image, and before long, Hollywood stars and the social elite were cruising in sporty Auburn Speedsters and coupes. Despite the successes, Auburn faced a rapid decline in the ensuing years, and many marque enthusiasts believe the 1933 models represent the pinnacle of Cord-era Auburns. Lycoming's 100-horsepower inline-eight was the standard engine, with the advanced narrow-angle V12 available for the 2nd year running. The gorgeous styling carried over from 1932, but with some subtle yet effective updates. Big news for 1933 was the addition of the “Salon” model to the top of the 8-cylinder and V-12 lines. These high-spec models featured a folding windscreen on open models (or a fixed V-windscreen on closed cars), steel artillery wheels, and the dual-ratio rear axle as standard equipment. Unfortunately, the effects of the Great Depression on Auburn were considerable, and total sales for '33 peaked at just 4,815 cars. E.L. Cord grew increasingly apathetic, dedicating his time and resources to his more lucrative aviation interests. A disastrous 1934 restyle caused sales to plummet further, and the final nail in the coffin came in 1936 with Cord's involvement in a stock-fixing scheme that gutted the company's finances and ended production for good.
This 1933 Auburn 8-105 Salon is an outstanding example of this rare breed, featuring gorgeous open four-door Phaeton coachwork by Auburn's in-house coachbuilders, Limousine Body Company. This superb Auburn spent the better part of six decades in the private collection of the late Mr. Hilyard Barr, who purchased it in 1955 in an untouched, unrestored state. After owning it for years, Mr. Barr commissioned Murray Motor Car of Monroe, Washington to perform a body-off, nut-and-bolt restoration to show-quality standards. An extensive collection of photos shows the car was remarkably complete when it arrived in the hands of the Murray brothers, albeit quite tired and ready to return to its former glory. They meticulously restored the car to concours-standards, finishing it in a striking, period-style two-tone tan and brown livery. Bright red wheels and coach stripes complement the color choice beautifully, bringing out the red hue in the fenders and body lines, giving the car a bold yet cohesive appearance. Paint and bodywork quality are outstanding and worthy of a high-scoring concours car. The same can be said for the extensive chrome plating, which is bright, clean and beautifully maintained. As a high-line Salon model, the body features numerous accessories, including dual covered side-mount spares topped with Auburn mirrors, double chrome trumpet horns, a trunk with a canvas cover to match the top, folding windscreen, and chrome trim rings on the wheels. After Mr. Barr's passing in 2007, the Auburn remained in his family's care, who ensured it stayed in superb condition and only recently parted with it.
The five-passenger cabin features gorgeous, glove-soft leather in light brown with contrasting dark piping and accent panels. The upholstery on the seats and door cards is in superb condition, appearing impressively taut and fresh since the restoration, and showing virtually no signs of use. Wonderful art-deco detailing includes the polished, engine-turned instrument panel and fluted chrome moldings at the base of the folding windscreen. Rear passengers enjoy a spacious bench with built-in armrests and a chromed robe rail. While the term “phaeton” typically applies to a sporty open car with side curtains, Auburn's take is more of an all-weather variant, and the roll-up glass windows and weather-tight folding canvas top make it an outstanding choice for long-distance touring enthusiasts.
On the subject of touring, the proven Lycoming L-head inline-eight produces a healthy 100 horsepower in standard form. Photos from the restoration show the engine and 3-speed gearbox were torn-down and completely rebuilt, and recent servicing ensures it remains in excellent running order. The meticulous under-hood detailing reveals the level of attention given to every aspect of the overhaul. The engine features correct green paint on the block and head, black enamel intake manifold, along with period-correct hardware, wiring, and plumbing. The impressive attention to detail continues underneath the car, which is exceptionally clean and authentically finished from front to rear.
As one of only a handful of known survivors from a total output of fewer than 5,000 cars, this 8-105 Salon Phaeton would be a welcome sight in any number of shows and concours. It is recognized by the Classic Car Club of America as a Full Classic, and therefore eligible for their CARavan tours and related events, and would be a superb choice thanks to its powerful engine, overdrive rear axle, and gorgeous all-weather coachwork. A beautiful car with an outstanding restoration, this Auburn is ready to bring joy to its next long-term custodian.
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