Auburn 1936 852 sc boattail speedster.jpg

Auburn speedster

Sports-luxury like no other 

Back in the day there were two kinds of expensive high status car: low, open topped sports cars that looked like they were doing 100mph even when standing still; and large, imposing luxury cars with lounge-like accommodation, and lustrous details. 

Then in the 1930s these two design types collided, and they did so most emphatically in the 1936 Auburn 852 boat-tail speedster . Sports and luxury together offered a new level of status perfectly aligned with the young rich elite of western society, epitomised by the also new concept of the Hollywood film star (many of whom were soon seen in these Auburns). 

Designed by Gordon Buehrig, albeit based much on a preceding design by Alan Leamy, the 852 had volumes that tapered from its raked front as if the force of acceleration was leaving the car behind, or as if high speed airflow was sweeping its form backwards — yet it also had the imposing scale and decadence of the finest luxury cars of the time. 

Other comparable car designs are either sports-cars made luxurious, or luxury cars made sporting: the Auburn Speedster’s balanced blend of sports car visual dynamics and luxury car grandeur was like no other car design before, and perhaps no other since. With this marriage of sports and luxury, the 852 is the defining automotive expression of decadence.

[With much thanks for the photograph, courtesy of Mark Hyman of Hyman Ltd]