Sometimes, beauty is so stunning that you don’t have to be a fan of the person, place or thing to appreciate it because it is so overwhelmingly beautiful. Brian K Bell, from Norfolk, VA, must be familiar with this concept because when his elegant two-toned 1936 Auburn Boattail Speedster replicar rolls down the street, it’s not just the car enthusiasts who stop to stare.
When Auburn sold in the 30’s and manufacturing stopped it was not quite the end of an era for the iconic Auburns thanks to Glenn Pray, President of Auburn Cord Duesenberg Company in Broken Arrow, OK , who began producing high quality replicas of some of the luxurious vehicles. Bell was fortunate to get his hands on an 866 in 200. He said “I’ve always like the looks and this one is registered as a ’36 but was built in ’66 so it was built with an 8 cylinder.” The 866 is the modern day version of the 1936 Auburn 852 Speedster as it originally debuted. Some of the differences include in the 866 are the 460 Lincoln V8, independent suspension system and little comforts like power steering, power brakes and air conditioning.
The car looks a bit like Cruella’s iconic Panther De Ville from the 101 Dalmatians, strolling past with near unmatched panache. Bell bought the 2nd generation, Glenn Pray recreation and quickly realized it was in need of a lot of love and restoration. Fortunately, he’s a retired supervisor at a Ford plant and a lifelong wrench ready to take on the project with his wife, Nancy. Bell said Nancy is a great garage hand so the pair got to work and she helped with every part of restoration except paint and upholstery.
“It was a frame off job from the start” said Bell. They got it completely stripped down to the chassis and began to rebuild and clean up every spectacular inch of the classic American automobile. The wiring was a mess and completely restored with an aftermarket wiring kit. The brakes were plumbed in backwards so they were overhauled with a vacuum booster added. The engine and transmission were able to remain but had to be taken apart and thoroughly rebuilt.
An auxiliary fan and replacement radiator were put in along with cruise control and a Gear Vendor aftermarket overdrive Bell said “the overdrive add on improved the gas mileage remarkably, which is what we wanted so we could drive.” All of the body work was done by the Bells and a friend at Freedom Ford helped with the paint job and had all of the chrome redone by Tri City Chrome out of Elizabethtown, TN. They finished it up by redoing the interior, restoring the convertible top and switching the whitewalls for some radial tires and have hit the road.
So far, the Bells have put over 200,000 miles on it and he said they “love driving in the Auburn all over the country.” The Auburn 866 has been to the LA Roadster Show twice, has traveled Route 66, hooked up with Street Rodder magazine for a few years, attended the Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg Festival and is continuously found at fun events.
The Bells have travel the US in style as they drive the classic American beauty to events like the Daytona Turkey Run and the Charleston Rod Run & Doo Wop in addition to just cruising through the rolling hills. They always enjoy the ride as much as the destination and Bell said he looks forward to putting many ore miles on his elegant two-toned 1936 Auburn Boattail replicar.