Auburn Automobile manufactured cars from 1900-36 in Auburn, Ind. At its peak in 1931 it was the 13th largest automobile company in the United States.
Its 1935 Auburn 8 supercharged Cabriolet is one of the most desired cars of the classic era. It originally cost $1,675, which was expensive. Today, a fully restored original one can go for as much as $220,000.
And while the engineering and styling of the cars were second-to-none, their pricey cost during the Depression proved too much. Sales slipped steadily in the mid-1930s, falling to 6,316 vehicles in 1935 and only 1,263 in 1936, the final year of production.
Tom Metzler, whose hobby store was a fixture in Southport for more than 35 years, is a proud owner of a 1935 Auburn Series 851 Speedster Cabriolet. His is as immaculate today (perhaps more so) as when it rolled off the assembly line.
Tom bought his from a man in Hershey, Pa., about 15 years ago. That man had bought it in bad condition, and he spent a number of years having it restored by a body shop in Cincinnati. He eventually became overwhelmed and burned out on the car as it neared completion.
Tom finished the restoration with such things as a new convertible top, rear spare tire cover, upholstery and pinstriping. The car has been restored to its factory condition, with work going so far as the original wood frame.
The car has a rebuilt Lycoming L-head straight-eight engine, which displaces 298 cubic inches and produces 150 horsepower, six times the power of the Ford Model A of the day. The car has a manual transmission but – unlike most cars of the day – it had a Columbia dual-ratio rear axle.
When the clutch pedal was depressed and a button on the steering wheel engaged, the car went from a three-speed to a six-speed. While most cars could only achieve speeds of 30 to 40 mph, the Auburn 851 could easily reach 65 to 70 mph and sustain it over long distances.
While you might see Tom and his car at The Suds in Greenwood or at The Southsider Voice’s cruise-ins, he rarely displays it at classic car shows.
Tom said he prefers to drive his car as it was originally meant, so it’s probable that you’ll see him cruising down the road in it during the summer.