Photos courtesy Doug Pray.
Not long after Glenn Pray started building his fiberglass-bodied Auburn 866 boattail speedsters, dozens of companies around the country copied the design with their own fiberglass replicas. However, Pray’s son, Doug, maintains his father’s cars had a special provenance because they had the stamp of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg company on them, the same provenance he intends his steel-bodied third-generation speedsters to benefit from.
“This will be an Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg factory upgrade of original cars,” Doug Pray said, referencing the company he inherited from his father, who in turn resurrected it from the ashes of E.L. Cord’s original Auburn, Indiana-based company when he bought its inventory in 1960 and moved it all to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. “You could say it’s a factory re-body, but it’s way more than that.”
Pray’s plans, suggested by former Broken Arrow Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg factory worker Dale Adams, start with original 1935 Auburn frames, around which he will build and trim new speedster bodies according to the original Gordon Buehrig design using some of the 30,000 pounds of NOS parts still in Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg’s inventory. “What we don’t have, we’ll make new,” he said.
The drivetrains, however, will start with original Lycoming 279.9-cu.in. straight-eight blocks and Schwitzer-Cummins centrifugal superchargers but go on to incorporate a host of changes, including newly cast heads redesigned to increase the compression ratio from its stock 6.2:1, new aluminum pistons and connecting rods, a redesigned camshaft, and a redesigned impeller for the supercharger intended to increase boost from 3.5 pounds to 13.5 pounds. With all of those changes, Pray anticipates an output bump from the original 150 horsepower to about 250 horsepower.
While the 150hp supercharged eight-cylinders were good for 100 MPH in the original speedsters, Pray said he intends the new 250hp versions not only to be good for 100 MPH but also to “feel like a modern car in traffic.”
He said he and Adams, who is engineering the changes for Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg, have yet to agree on a transmission to back the upgraded engines, but either way it will have a modern overdrive package. As for the remainder of the chassis, it will largely retain the 1935 specifications. “The original drivetrain will hold up, it was built heavy duty,” Pray said. “It would be good to upgrade to discs, but we can’t hide those, so we will upgrade the drum brakes.”
Ultimately, Pray said, he intends the finished cars to be concours-worthy, with all of its upgrades hidden.
To avoid any confusion with the 115 Auburn-built speedsters, Pray said he will append a G3 – for third-generation – to the cars’ original frame and serial numbers.
“We’re not going to be claiming they’re original, which I think is the big complaint a lot of people have about rebodied Full Classics,” he said. “So far I haven’t heard of any pushback to our plans.”
The G3 designation also pays homage to his father’s Auburn 866 boattail speedster. As Josh Malks wrote in “Glenn Pray: The Man Who Brought Legends to Life,” the Auburn project grew out of Glenn Pray’s disappointment over his split from the company he created to build the Cord 8/10. After taking molds from an original 1935 Auburn 851 speedster, Glenn Pray built 138 fiberglass speedsters atop modified Ford Galaxie chassis from 1966 to 1981.
A Glenn Pray auburn 866 (maroon) in an Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg photograph comparing it to an original 1935 Auburn 851.
“Although no one recognized it then, Glenn Pray had kicked off the replica car industry,” Malks wrote. “Over the coming decades, creating new cars that looked like old ones would become a huge business and a popular hobby.”
However, Pray preferred the term “second generation” rather than replica car, as does his son.
“When I took the company over after dad died, I went from revitalizing the parts business to rebuilding engines and restoration, and now with production, I’m going full circle, I’m doing everything my dad did,” Doug Pray said.
As for the Auburn trademarks, which the elder Pray sold off in 2005 for $500,000, Doug Pray said the buyer licensed the name back to Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg, but even without such a licensing agreement, he sees no problem to simply selling an Auburn boattail speedster based on an original Auburn frame with an original Auburn serial number.
“It was an Auburn when it was born, and it’s still an Auburn,” he said.
Pray said he anticipates selling a half-dozen of the cars for $750,000 each, a relative bargain given some recent seven-figure selling prices for original 851 speedsters. While he has floated the possibility of having the first finished car at this year’s Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival over Labor Day weekend, he said he has a few other cars to finish before then as well.
For more information about the G3 Auburn boattail speedsters, visit ACDfactory.com.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Daniel Strohl.