This Auburn 6-85 Phaeton Sedan Was Acquired For A Pot Of Sweetmeat
Images: Makarand Baokar
This Auburn—owned by Kolkata-based car collector Deborshi Sadan Bose’s family, better known as Billy Bose to most—is a five-passenger, all-weather tourer from 1930. It has been restored and painted in a typical Auburn orange-and-black two-tone.
The six-cylinder water-cooled engine is rated at a fiscal horsepower of 19.8, though the maximum power of the car is 70bhp from the 3.0-litre engine, good enough to propel the 1.5-tonne car to a top speed of almost 120 km/h, which was fairly impressive for the period.
One of the more prestigious American marques ever, the Auburn Automobile Company had rather modest beginnings, building their first production cars—a single-cylindered-engine runabout with tiller steering—in 1903. A two-cylindered-engine model was added in 1905, and by 1910 Auburn was producing a four-cylindered car. A six-cylindered-engine car was debuted in 1912.
Although well made and reliable, early Auburns were rather ordinary looking cars that offered nothing more than most of its competition, and by 1924 the company was floundering. With deepening financial woes, Auburn hired a rising star in the car industry, 30-year-old Errett Lobban Cord, to help revive the company.
The young car salesman brought in J M Crawford who redesigned the 1925-year models, turning them into handsome and well-built cars that soon saw their popularity rising.
In the same year, in 1925, Auburn also launched the 8-88, a reasonably priced eight-cylinder model with hood and body moulding and multi-coloured paint schemes, setting Auburn apart from contemporaries. The in-line eight was sourced from Lycoming, and with the 4.0-litre engine developing 88bhp, the car performed well for the period.
In 1926, when the average increase in sales for American carmakers was just one per cent, Auburn’s sales were up 52 per cent!
But Auburn’s mainstay remained the Six Supreme engine, sourced from Continental initially, which powered a family of six-cylindered-engine car models that represented the automaker’s backbone through the 1990s.
Launched as the Beauty Six in 1919, the models were described as the Auburn 6-39 at the beginning, with 6 indicating the number of cylinders and the 39, the developed horsepower. The 6-39 was launched with five variants on offer: a Touring Car, a Tourster, a Roadster, a five-passenger sedan and a Coupé.
Over the years, the model evolved to the Auburn 6-43, then to the 6-63 by 1923. By 1926, the model had become the 6-66, whereby the 66bhp in-line six went into a range of cars also redesigned by J M Crawford.
By then the range of models available had increased to eight variants, including five-passenger touring car and touring sedan, an up-market Brougham version and a five-passenger sedan with two extra seats. As power went up over the years the model naming system changed too.
Bose’s Auburn is one of a handful of Auburns in India and is decidedly rarer than the other crown jewel in the family’s collection, a Rolls-Royce 20/25HP from 1931. How Billy’s father, Partha Sadan Bose (who built up the collection over several decades) acquired the Auburn is a story by itself. Since new, the Auburn had been one of the many cars of the Shobhabazar Rajbari family, the Debs, in North Calcutta, and Bose had hankered after it for many years.
The family though was not selling, as it was deemed to be beneath their dignity to do so, even if the jalopy was falling apart. Finally, when they did agree to give away the car (or what was left of it), they wanted to do just that—give away the car to Bose.
As Partha Sadan Bose did not want to get the car for ‘free’, the agreed upon deal was to send across to the Rajbari a huge pot of a traditional Bengali milk-based sweetmeat called rabri! A rare Auburn for some sweetmeat must remain one of the best deals of the century.
Sign in or become a deRivaz & Ives member to join the conversation.
Just enter your email below to get a log in link.