Jay Leno has a large collection of Duesenbergs, but on this episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage,” he checked out a 1931 Auburn 8-98 A from the defunct automaker’s sibling brand, and got the full story on this unrestored car from owner Rex Johnson.
Named after its Auburn, Indiana, hometown, Auburn had its heyday under the aegis of E.L. Cord, who also controlled Duesenberg. Cord positioned Auburn below Duesenberg and, along with his namesake Cord brand, attempted to create a General Motors-style hierarchy.
This isn’t a pristine, concours-ready car, but it is in remarkably good shape for its age. Johnson, who lives near Minneapolis, said that’s partly because the Auburn was well preserved by its previous owner, a local hot rodder. The car was stored in a steel shed and kept on jack stands with all fluids except fuel drained.
Under the long hood is a 98-horsepower straight-8 engine (hence the 8-98 name) supplied by Lycoming, which required a 17-man-hour carburetor rebuild to get running again, Johnson said.
Auburn is probably best known for its stylish Boattail Speedsters, but this car is a more conservatively styled sedan. It’s also fairly basic by Auburn standards, Johnson said. But that might make it rarer today, as fewer people thought to save these more-average cars, Leno noted.
Johnson has no plans to restore the car, saying it already gets more attention than restored versions at car shows thanks to its originality. He says the car is mechanically sound, anyway. The obvious signs of wear, such as the chipping paint, are largely cosmetic.