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1935 AUBURN MODEL 851 CUSTOM PHAETON Chassis no. 2505H Engine no. GG3602

Sold for US$192,500 inc. premium
Lot 178

Chassis no. 2505H
Engine no. GG3602

280ci Inline 8-Cylinder Engine
Single Carburetor
150bhp at 4,200rpm
3-Speed Manual Transmission (with Dual-Ratio Differential)
Front and Rear Leaf Spring Suspension
4-Wheel Drum Brakes

*High quality older restoration
*Versatile touring body style
*A CCCA Full Classic™
*Offered from long term private ownership
*Featuring Dual-Ratio Differential


From the moment E. L. Cord arrived at Auburn, the company's fortunes improved markedly. In 1925 Cord arranged for Lycoming straight-eight engines to be installed in the existing six-cylinder chassis and instigated a re-styling program that saw the new-for-'25 Auburns featuring two-tone color schemes and a novel belt-line that swept up over the bonnet. Sales doubled for three consecutive years and in 1926 Cord became president of the Auburn Automobile Company.

The eight-cylinder Auburn line reached its zenith in 1935 with the introduction of the 851. One of the truly great American automobiles of the 1930s, the 851 owed its sensational appearance to designer Gordon Buehrig, who – though he was only 30 – had already worked for Dietrich, Packard and General Motors in Detroit, and Stutz and Duesenberg in Indianapolis before joining Auburn in 1934. Buehrig transformed the appearance of the range (always a style setter since the Cord takeover) adopting a new radiator grille that gave the car real presence and visual strength. Performance from the straight-eight 279.9 cubic inch Lycoming engine ranged from 115bhp in standard form to 150bhp with supercharger, and acceleration was aided by its dual ratio rear axle. The Phaeton was one of five body styles offered on the 851 Standard chassis in 1935. Selling for $1,368, it offered the styling hallmarks of the flamboyant Speedster version in a good-looking body capable of carrying five or six adults in comfort.


The car that we are proud to offer here has been extensively restored over the course of nearly fifty years in its current ownership. The Auburn had been found in the mid 1960s and was acquired by him from its finder Roaring Twenties Autos, who they recall being in New Jersey. At that point the car was in somewhat derelict but substantially complete order and represented a perfect project for its perfectionist owner to supervise being brought back to life.

The first restoration began in 1968 and was carried out by Vintage Auto Restorations of Ridgefield Connecticut. This involved complete disassembly, bare metal repaint, chassis rebuild and engine redone twice, no less, on its quest to a perfect specimen. From this point the restoration was 'dialed in' with very close attention to its details and finishes. w carried out through the 1970s included several repaints by Edward T. Billing of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts and refurbishment of its interior. Further work was carried out by William H. Oexle also of Ridgefield, Connecticut. This concluded its original restoration.

A second full rebuild was carried out nearly 20 years later in the mid 1990s, this time much of the work was entrusted to John Ehresman in Southwick, Massachusetts. Since that time its use has been extremely limited. Tastefully finished in a lustrous burgundy hue, this is contrasted beautifully with a fawn fabric top and wheels. Its interior is extremely well finished in a deeper tan interior coloring and replete with accessories including a period style radio and heater.

Offered from the Estate of a Private Collector who clearly cherished the car, it appears to have covered less than 100 miles since its restoration. At the time of cataloguing and photography a brief test drive was conducted by a member of the Bonhams team and the car was shown to be a great driving car, particularly notable was the fact that its Startex system functions properly as do its gauges and instrumentation.

One of the most practical, elegant and sociable Full Classics it should show as well as it tours.

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