On my recent trip to Meadville, PA, about two hours north of Pittsburgh, for one of my nephew’s college graduations, I stopped off along the way to pay a visit to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana, just north of Ft. Wayne. One of the cars that I found on display there totally knocked me out. For one thing, its a totally outrageous design, and secondly, it was never a production model, only one ever having been built. And it was destroyed.
The car is formally known as an Auburn Cabin Speedster, and was built in 1928 for display at new car shows. It featured a 115 hp Lycoming straight eight and an Auburn 8-90 chassis. The body, possibly styled by factory Auburn designer Alan H. Leamy, was built by Griswold of Detroit. It was aluminum over ash framing. The descriptive placards state that this was typical practice for the day. That is, unless you built Dodges or Citroens (or others) with bodies by Budd, which were all steel. But tooling up a one-off body from pressed steel elements would have been prohibitively expensive. By the end of the 1930s, wood was long gone from production car construction. OK, except for the loonies at Morgan and Marcos in the UK and station wagons in the US.
The car was exhibited at the New York Auto Show in late 1928, and then at the Los Angeles Auto Show in early 1929, where it, and many other display cars were destroyed in a fire.
The car on display at the ACD Museum is a replica produced in 1984 for Dr. Peter C. Kesling of Laporte, Indiana. In fact, Dr. Kesling had two replicas built, the one at the ACD Museum and one that I can’t account for.
But aha! The Cabin Speedster actually did enter production. It was produced by the Barclay Manufacturing Company in Hoboken, New Jersey in the 1930s for sale through five and dimes such as Woolworth.
A slush cast toy car of this size probably would have sold for five cents, but the two-tone paint job may have bumped it up to ten.
I feel fortunate to own two examples. The greenie exhibits very little “play wear”, but the silver over red Speedster exhibits a considerable amount of, shall we say, patina?
The ACD Museum is about 30 miles south of I-80. Not only is the museum historically important, but Auburn old town, which is most of the town, consists of well maintained/restored commercial buildings and private residences. Well worth the effort to visit, as are many Indiana towns such as Columbus, home of Cummins Diesel. And South Bend with the Studebaker museum and a small school called Notre Dame. Nice tee shirts.