Depression Era Sleeper: 1931 Auburn 8-98a Cabriolet – SOLD!
September 1st Update – While updating our Topless Thursday database, we confirmed the original Craigslist ad for this rare Auburn expired. With no other listing found, we’re calling this example “Sold!”
I hate to admit it, but up until the summer of 2017 I never gave much of a second glance to Auburns motor cars, even the stylish Speedster. All that changed when we visited the wonderful Art Deco-themed Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum located in Auburn, Indiana. Every automobile enthusiast needs to add this museum to their bucket list as not only do you get a sense of how magnificent these cars are in person (particularly the Duesenbergs), the original engineering offices remain in tact and there is a great display of all the innovations this company developed during their relatively short lifespan.
That newly found appreciation quickly honed in on this 1931 Auburn 8-98a Cabriolet listed recently on Craigslist in Essex, Vermont with a documented engine rebuild, fresh leather interior, and an asking price of $75,000. A review of the NADA Guides Classic Car Online Valuation Tool confirms this private seller has his 8-98a priced well within the “Low”, “Average”, and “High” retail value range of $44,100, $97,300, and $140,100, respectively.
In the roaring 1920s, the young automobile industry provided the ability for many talented entrepreneurial engineers to design their own cars. One such character was Errett Lobban Cord, who once admitted to having made and lost $50,000 three times before turning the age of 21! Cord joined Auburn as General Manager in 1924. Tasked with turning around the close-to-bankrupt company, Auburn immediately implemented a number of changes for the ’25 model year. Most importantly, Cord arranged for Lycoming straight-eight engines to be installed in the existing six-cylinder chassis as part of a new-for-’25 complete restyling of Auburns featuring two-tone color schemes and a distinctive beltline that swept up over the hood. Sales doubled and by the end of 1926 Cord became president of the Auburn Automobile Company.
I didn’t take long before eight-cylinder Lycoming-powered Auburns were soon challenging Stutz for the accolade of “America’s fastest car.” The most notable example of the day was Al Leamy who drove an 8-115 Speedster at 108.46mph over the measured mile at Daytona in 1928 and then went to claim the 24-hour record at Atlantic City Speedway. Not only were they outstanding performers, the eight-cylinder Auburns also represented exceptional value for money: at $1,395 the top-of-the-range ’31 Speedster was less than half the price of the equivalent Stutz. “More car for the money than the public has ever seen,” reckoned Business Week magazine at the time. In more modern times the Classic Car Club of America includes these cars on their very selective list of CCCA Full Classic® automobiles.
The 1931 models were the first of the sweeping fender, long hood Auburns, a design which used through to 1933. The double-drop X braced frame allowed the overall height to be three inches lower than previous models, making open cars look more rakish, particularly since the model shared the chassis, hood, and front fenders with the speedster. For those buyers who wanted the power of the stylish Speedster but not the flash, there was the rumble seat equipped 8-98a Cabriolet such as the example featured here.
Other than the stunning pictures provided, the private seller does not provide much of a description of the history of his Auburn, so you’ll need to interview him over the phone to learn all of the details. If you’re considering adding a “Sleeper” Auburn to add to your collection, this 8-98a is worth a detailed look and the seller indicates he is open to serious offers. Good luck with the purchase!
Here’s the seller’s description:
“For sale: Absolutely gorgeous and extremely and stunning rare 1931 Auburn 8-98a Cabriolet with rumble seat, made in Auburn, Indiana. The 8-98 was like a Corvette of its time with the powerful straight 8 Lycoming engine. This car is in amazing condition with a recent (documented) engine rebuild and newly installed leather interior. I have enjoyed this car a great deal over the past several years, and now it’s time to try something different. This car is a CCCA Full Classic ready to enjoy. Serious offers considered.“
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