Thursday, August 18, 2016

Auburn's 1935 Facelift

In the 1930s, Auburn was part of E.L. Cord's business empire that included Lycoming motors, an airline, Stinson airplanes and the Duesenberg and Cord automobile brands.  But the 1930s Great Depression took its toll, all of his automobile production ending by 1937.  A short Auburn Wikipedia entry is here, and a bit more information on 1930s Auburns is here.

The Auburn brand's last model year was 1936, Cord and Duesenberg carrying on for one more year.  Auburns were upper-middle range cars, some of which had V-12 motors, a prestige item then and now.  Sporty Auburn Speedsters for 1928-36 had boat-tail bodies and some other Auburn models featured sporty looks.  However, this post deals with the brand's sedans, the models required to sustain viability.

Auburn sedans were redesigned for 1934.  Unfortunately, that was the model year LaSalle, a competing General Motors brand was also redesigned in a more modern manner featuring an all-steel roof, among other features.  So Auburn faced an uphill battle.  The company's reaction was a 1935 facelift of the entire front end that, coupled with the old-fashioned appearance of the rest of the car, was not good enough to remain competitive.  Auburns for 1936 were essentially unchanged, corporate development money going to the re-launched Cord brand.


This is a 1933 Auburn sedan, the last before the redesigned 1934s.  Note the color-separation / character line that starts at the front of the hood, then widens as a curve to sweep around to the car's sides at the cowling.  This had been an Auburn visual identifier since 1926.

Those character lines were continued for the 1934 redesign, and their spirit was enhanced in the form of those curved side vent decorations on the engine compartment.  This photo taken at the factory shows a sedan that seems to have returned following a test drive (note the dirt on the tire).  The car features "suicide" front doors.

This view reveals that all the sedan's doors were of the suicide (hinged at the rear) variety.  The grille slopes back, as does the windshield.  The front fenders have valances.  These features were fashionable at the time American designs began to move (slightly) in the direction of aerodynamic efficiency.

From the rear, we see that the Auburn's Standard Sedan body features a good deal of rounding compared to 1933.  The sculpting on the valances and over the rear fenders is interesting and unusual.  The car shown here has no trunk.  And it seems lower than many other '34 sedans, an aspect of Auburn's sporty image.

This is perhaps Auburn's most serious competition, a 1934 LaSalle being displayed on the roof of the Argonaut Building in Detroit where GM's Art & Colour group was located in those days.

Now for the facelift.  Here is a 1935 Auburn 854 Brougham.  As can be seen, everything forward of the cowling has been redone.  Abandoned is the character line motif, the hood becoming plain as well as stronger looking (and longer than hoods of Standard sedans in the pervious photos).  The grille has a tucked-in look caused by the radiused sheet metal serving as a frame instead of the usual sort of brightwork framing.  Engine compartment vents are larger and decorated by horizontal strips that help provide the ensemble a more firm appearance.

And here is an 851 four-door sedan.  The sculpting over the rear fender was retained for 1935.  This car and the one shown above have trunks, so spare tires are mounted on the front fenders.

A 1936 Auburn 654 sedan.  This is a short-hood model.  As best I can tell, there are no significant differences from 1935 Auburns.  The styling is now out of date compared to that for competing brands featuring more rounded bodies and fenders as well as the fad of "fencer's mask" convex grilles.

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