1931 Auburn 8-98A Deluxe Phaeton - SOLD
  • Overview & History
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Pedigrees matter in this business, and this handsome Auburn delivers in a big way.

There are a lot of names in automotive history that have disappeared from the market, but few command the respect of those made by the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg conglomerate. Headed by E.L. Cord, a brilliant marketing executive who worked to create some of the world’s most fabulous cars. He single-handedly rescued Auburn by transforming their image almost overnight, from staid, conservative family car to flashy, hip, and fun to drive automobiles for people who knew what quality meant. They were luxurious, yes, but they also catered to the early automotive enthusiast, a person who liked to drive as much as to be seen, and as a result, any ‘30s Auburn is a fantastic road car.

This particular 1931 Auburn 8-98 Deluxe Phaeton (a convertible sedan to most of us) has a fantastic pedigree, making it not only a great show and tour car, but a smart investment as well. Ordinarily we don’t talk about cars as investments around here, but I am of the opinion that these Auburns have been grossly under-valued for decades and now that the 12-cylinder models are routinely seeing quarter-million-dollar results, the 8-cylinder cars can’t be far behind. In its favor, this car hails from the noted Jim Miller collection in Ontario, Canada, which was one of the largest and most respected collections in North America. Most of the Miller collection was auctioned off by RM Auctions at the Hershey 2013 event, but this lovely Auburn traded hands to a sophisticated collector with a noteworthy collection himself. Under his care, this car was awarded its ACD Certification, a service much akin to Ferrari Classiche, which verifies that the engine, chassis, and body are not only correct, but are original to this car. It’s a tough standard to meet, but adds to this car’s already impressive pedigree. Its ownership history is known dating back to the early 1960s and it was featured in the Spring 1967 issue of “Automobile Quarterly.” Pedigrees matter in this business, and this handsome Auburn delivers in a big way.

The second part of this Auburn’s appeal is its condition. It has been restored as needed, but never completely disassembled. For many, there’s an intangible appeal to a car that is still pretty much as the factory built it. Yes, it has been painted, but they kept what appears to be the original color combination of cream fenders with lovely soft champagne bodywork, a very elegant and understated look. It was refinished perhaps 20-30 years ago, but thanks to expert maintenance, it remains in excellent condition with no needs. The doors open and close beautifully, the hood flexes without a fight, and it has an all-of-a-piece feeling that only good original cars can offer. The finish has exactly the right gloss, offering a softer shine that far more accurately reproduces the original lacquer and the detailing is simply exquisite. Note the contrasting insert on the doors, the single simple pinstripe surrounding the body, and the beautiful gas tank cover, which is so beautifully done that it seems a shame to hide it under a trunk. The chrome trim appears to be largely original, and with that in mind, you can clearly see just how well-preserved this car really is, with great detail on the “Auburn Man” hood ornament and “cat’s eye” headlight lenses. There’s also an accessory center-mounted Pilot Ray that swivels with the front wheels and dual taillights out back, which is a desirable safety upgrade.

The brown leather interior is brand new and accurately reproduces the original patterns and materials. Fresh hides are smooth and shiny, as leather would have been in 1931, not soft like today’s materials, and as a result, it gives this car an authentic look and feel. Correct short-weave carpets were installed front and rear and the door panels with simple stitching and map pockets in the back doors. Seat belts were added for touring safety and they match rather well, which is a nice touch. A big hard rubber steering wheel links you to remarkably light and responsive steering—this is one of very few pre-war cars that I’ve driven that can be maneuvered with one’s fingertips. The instrument panel is full of big, beautiful Stewart-Warner gauges, although as is typical, the capillary-style fuel and oil level gauges are not functioning (a repair kit for the gas gauge is included with the car). On the floor, you’ll also note controls for both Free-Wheeling (don’t use it, please) and the exhaust cut-out, which remains fully functional on the all-new stainless steel exhaust system. Overhead, there’s a brand new tan canvas convertible top that fits beautifully and new weather-stripping allows this convertible sedan—excuse me, phaeton—to seal up better than most of its peers. There’s also a nicely finished Potter trunk out back, which is especially useful for touring.

Eight-cylinder Auburns used a 269 cubic inch straight-8 built by Lycoming, which was part of the A-C-D conglomerate. As the model designation would indicate, it makes a fairly robust 98 horsepower (remember that a 1931 Ford made 40), and as a result, the long, low, sleek Auburn is pretty quick. The engine has been recently tuned and detailed, including new plugs, wires, points, distributor cap, and rotor, plus a valve adjustment, fuel pump rebuild, and a carburetor adjustment. It also offers a brand new wiring harness and a hidden electric fuel pump that helps with cold starts and hot days, but is unnecessary most of the time. The engine itself wears a correct shade of Auburn Green and the original serial number plate is still affixed to the block, never having been removed. It starts easily with a bit of choke and idles well, even when it’s cold. There’s a great eight-cylinder burble from the fresh stainless exhaust system, which rises to a genuinely racy rumble with the cut-out opened.

The transmission is a 3-speed manual with Synchromesh, which makes shifting effortless without the need for double-clutching, and thanks to a new 4.07 ring and pinion setup from the late great Phil Bray, it’s a great high-speed tour car. The undercarriage is in excellent order, thanks to a recent clean and paint in satin black, which is actually how these cars were delivered. It shows no structural or cosmetic rust issues and the frame is robust enough to serve as the platform for a boxcar. Handling is quite good, thanks to the aforementioned steering and E.L. Cord was an early adopter of hydraulic brakes, so this Auburn not only feels quite modern but offers surprising braking performance for the era. 17-inch wire wheels are smaller than most other cars in 1931, giving the Auburn a low profile and the appearance of a much larger car (which was surely intentional) and it rolls on four fresh 7.00-17 Firestone wide whitewall tires that look fantastic.

Documentation is excellent, including owner’s manuals, a sales brochure, service manuals, ACD Certification documents (Certification Number A-507, Serial Number 14319H, Engine Number GU57608, Unit 13319, Body L-28-3331), and the aforementioned copy of “Automobile Quarterly.” In the trunk you’ll also find a collection of spares, including touch-up paint, gas gauge repair kit, and other maintenance parts, as well as the original knock-off wheel wrench.

A beautiful, prestigious Full Classic that offers a wonderful driving experience for any event and ACD certification that ensures its value now and in the future. Auburns of this vintage have long been admired for their outstanding road manners, and the Deluxe Phaeton remains the most desirable of all. Beautifully outfitted, wonderfully preserved, and ready to enjoy, this beautiful car will deliver years of pleasure for its lucky new owner.

Vehicle: 1931 Auburn 8-98A Deluxe Phaeton
Price: SOLD
Stock Number: 113005
Mileage: 47,819
VIN: 898A14319H
Engine: 269 cubic inch straight-8
Transmission: 3-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 4.07
Wheelbase: 127 inches
Wheels: 17-inch wire wheels
Tires: 7.00-17 Firestone wide whitewall
Exterior Color: Tan and Cream
Interior Color: Brown leather
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