An Addendum to the Kirk F. White / Auburn Speedster Post

This is an addendum to my own post re: Kirk F. White, which referenced the 12-cylinder Auburn Speedster he sold at auction in 1971 for $20,000. At that time, twenty grand was about five times the going price of a new Volvo sedan.

Part of my frustration in putting that blog post together was the lack of any hard information about Auburn Speedster values, either based on recent sales or on numbers published in price guides. So I was pleasantly surprised when I leafed through my copy of the 2020 edition of Keith Martin’s Sports Car Market Pocket Price Guide, and found figures for Auburn Speedsters!

First, there was an 8-cylinder Speedster made from ’31-’34, which I had neglected to mention. The SCM median price for that model is $245,000. The V12 Speedster from the same vintage is shown with a value of $410,000. The 1935-1936 Speedster (they are all boattails) with the supercharged straight 8 sits at the top of the heap: SCM claims a median price of $756,000.

These numbers baffled me, because I expected the V12 to be more highly valued than the 8, even if the 8 was supercharged. Googling some further images solved that puzzle. The ’31-’34 Speedsters, while attractive cars, carried over a linearity from the 1920’s in their styling. A vertical grille, standalone headlamps, dual sidemounts, and bulky running boards stood in stark contrast to its reclining windshield and new-fangled boat tail.

When I compared this model with the updated ’35-’36, I understood why market values are higher for the newer car. All its features are swept back, making it look like it’s going 90 standing still. The fenders have started to become integrated with the body. The entire exterior appears to be more of a single piece of sculpture. While each car would draw a crowd today (and certainly did in the 1930s), there’s no mistaking the supercharged model as the prettier ride.

By the way, supercharging, like turbocharging, provides a lot more grunt with fewer cubes. The Lycoming V12, with 392 cubic inches, produced 160 horsepower. The I-8 with 280  c.i. pushed out 150 boosted ponies, impressive for 1935.

I also found auction sale examples which fall close in line with the above numbers. Both sales are reported by RM Sotheby’s on their website: In January 2012, they sold a 1932 Auburn V-12 Speedster for $429,000. In January 2018, they sold a 1935 Supercharged Speedster for $769,500. The accompanying photos tell the rest of the story.

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