Auburn Special Racer At 2014 The Great Race

In the 2014 Great Race one of the more interesting cars that entered the Great Race was a 1932 Auburn race car.  A note by a team member said that the car had been built to compete in the Indianapolis 500, but it had crashed in practice for the race and never made the race.  A reader of my website, Dean Beckman, asked me for additional information about the car.  But it turns out that Dan has a close connection with this car.

GR30 Auburn Buick Special (5)

1932 Auburn Race Car

As the car is a 1932 Auburn, I did some research to find out more about its involvement with the 1932 Indianapolis 500.  I found the entry list published the Indianapolis Star in 1932.

1932 Indy 500 Entry List

1932 Indianapolis Entry List From The Indianapolis Star

I cannot find a car on the entry list that is identified as an Auburn; however there are a number of unidentified cars.  I also looked at a comprehensive record from the 1933 Indianapolis 500 and saw no reference to an Auburn car at all.  So if it competed or tried to qualify at Indianapolis it must have been in 1932.

Beginning in 1930 there were several new rules for the Indianapolis 500 that addressed new engine rules and specifications. The allotted engine displacement was increased from 91.5 cubic inches to 366 cubic inches. Superchargers were banned with the exception of two-cycle engines, and riding mechanics were made mandatory once again. In addition, the traditional mandate of a maximum 33-car field was lifted.

This rules package is sometimes referred to as the “Junk Formula”.  But Indianapolis Motor Speedway president, Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War I fighter ace and former race car driver, had decided to make these changes in order to lure back the passenger car manufacturers as race entrants and make the cars on the track more resemble those sold to the motoring public. Rickenbacker’s desire was to move away from the supercharged, specialized racing machines, such as the Miller cars, that had taken over the Speedway through the 1920s.  The Indianapolis 500 race cars of this so-called “Junk Formula” era are excellent cars for the Great Race as they are old cars which gives them a scoring advantage, they were two-seaters therefore providing room for both the driver and navigator, and have good performance on the road.  This Auburn Special is a good example a “Junk Formula” era race car used for the Great Race.

GR30 Auburn Buick Special (2)

A Two-Seat Race Car Is Very Useful For A Car Rally

As noted this car was custom-built to race in the Indianapolis 500, but apparently it crashed in practice and never made the race. A man from Skaneateles in upstate New York state found it on a junk pile, repaired it, put a Buick engine in it, and raced it on small-town fairground dirt tracks in the 1950s and ’60s.  Later the car was found in a barn near Watkins Glen, New York by the aforementioned Dean Beckman who then sold it to the current owner.

GR30 Auburn Buick Special (6)

The Car Was Fitted Straight-8 Buick Engine

The Buick Straight-8 engine (Fireball 8) was produced from 1931 to 1953 and sold in Buick automobiles. Buick had been using a valve-in-head/overhead valve design or I-head since their early days and continued this practice in 1931 with their inline-8 designs. Over the years the straight-8 engine was sold in different displacements depending on the model of car and the model year.

I did not have the opportunity to talk to the owner so I am not sure what Buick Straight-8 engine is in this car, but as the car was rebuilt to race in the 1950s, I suspect that it is one of the last versions of the Buick Straight-8 engine available in the early 1950s.  The following is a list of the three Buick Straight-8 that were available in 1952.

1952 Buick Straight 8 Production Engines and Ratings

Engine Displacement Bore x Stroke Power
263 260.3 cu in 316” X 4 18 120 hp @3600 rpm
263 260.3 cu in 316” X 4 18 124 hp @3600 rpm
320 320.2 cu in 716“X 4 516 168 hp @3800 rpm

The Buick Straight-8 engine in this race car is far from standard, so I have no idea how much horsepower it currently has.  In an era where most engines where still using a flathead design the Buick Straight-8 had the valves in the head.


A Buick Straight-8 Engine

The car attracted a lot of interest at the 2014 Great Race start in Maine and the service crew looked very professional.

GR30 Auburn Buick Special (12)

The Crew Accompanied The Car Up To The Starting Line

GR30 Auburn Buick Special (8)

WTF, Wandering Troubadours Of Finland

If anyone who reads this post can provide more information about this car, then I would appreciate hearing about it.

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7 Responses to Auburn Special Racer At 2014 The Great Race

  1. In looking at my post it became apparent to me that I should have included some information about the likely characteristics of the original engine in this Auburn Special. In 1932 Auburn had two engines – a 391 cubic inch 160 horsepower V-12 engine and a 267 cubic inch 100 horsepower flathead straight-8 engine. As the engine displacement limit for the Indianapolis 500 was 366 cubic inches, then there is a high probability that the original base engine was Auburn’s 267 cubic inch straight-8 engine. As noted in the post, this was eventually replaced by a Buick straight-8 engine.
    Steve McKelvie

  2. Hi, Steve. Great post!! I’m the owner of the 32 Auburn. My name is Jerome Reinan. The Auburn was just dropped off at the Forney Museum in Denver, where it will be on display for the next three months. The motor in the car is a very hopped up version of a late 40’s Buick 8. It’s from a Roadmaster, so it is 320 CI. It has 4 – 2 bbl Rochester carbs, and has been bored and decked to the point that it pre-ignites like crazy if you don’t use premium fuel and have the timing set right. My builder thinks it puts out just over 300HP. It gets about 8 MPG. It is run through a late 30s GMC 3 speed truck transmission (with synchro) and has the original 2 speed Columbia rear end. It has the original Auburn cable brakes and Auburn chassis. the rear has been fitted with quarter elliptical springs. It’s a fast, loud, stinky and wild ride. If you’re in Denver, go see it at the Forney!

    • Hi Jerome,
      I was very impressed by that car (and your whole team) when I saw it Maine. I have no problem imagining that it is indeed a fast, loud, stinky and wild ride, but what a ride that would be!
      Steve McKelvie

  3. Robert Deull says:

    I owned this car from 1989 to 2007. Raced it at Watkins Glen, Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix and Lime Rock. Car was built prior to WWII near Rochester NY out of a wrecked Auburn Boattail. By serial number it was one of 61 built that year with 8 cyl engine. That engine came with the car but was not in ti. It had a ’41 Buick special (low end of the line). I raced it that way for 3 years and in ’91 blew a head gasket. Over that winter the block cracked. After several years I located 2 full race Buick Road;master engines that a friend of mine ran in a ’40 Studebaker coupe for drag racing. I had that motor put in and it would turn 7250 RPM. Had a ’37 Chev 3 speed which was geard wrong for road racing with that engine. In 2007 I ran at the Glen GP, geared down for a corner and got wheel hop on to the grass slid about 30 feet and crashed into metal armour and ran about another 30′. Bent the frame front axle. when I got back from the hospital next AM there was a note on the car about buying it. I called the number ans said it wasn’t for sale. after getting it home got another cal from CA about buying it, Ifinally decided to sell it. 3 years later I was racing another car at Lime Rock and I see the Auburn in the pits. I met the owner and told him about the car, he was from NYC and had bought it from the guy in CA that I sold it to. He lat me drive it around the paddock. It was restored better that when I had it. Still had the 3 peed, I told him it wasn’t geared right for road racing. He took 2 laps and put it in the trailer. I got the car from a guy in Penn Yan NY. It was never raced at Indy or built for that. Was built at a hot rod shop B&M motors in a small town near Rochester NY.

  4. Robert Deull says:

    I’m glad to see the car in great shape and running events.

  5. Robert Deull says:

    Forgot to mention the grille is from an L29 Cord.

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