Rides from the Readers: 1931 Auburn 898 Phaeton

1931 Auburn 898 Phaeton - Thomas Craig
Thomas Craig and his 1931 Auburn 8 Phaeton in September 2020, shortly after he bought the car. Courtesy Thomas Craig

Hagerty readers and Hagerty Drivers Club members share their cherished collector and enthusiast vehicles with us via our contact email, tips@hagerty.com. We’re showcasing some of our favorite stories among these submissions. To have your car featured, send complete photography and your story of ownership to the above email address.

Thomas Craig has his father to thank for his love of Auburns, an emotion so strong that Thomas finally bought one of his own last year, a 1931 Auburn 898 Phaeton.

“I think you could say Auburn automobiles are in my blood,” Thomas writes. “Throughout my childhood in the 1960s and ’70s, parts of three Auburns sat rusting in our back yard: a 1933 V-12 sedan, a ’33 V-12 phaeton, and a ’33 8 speedster body. My father loved telling stories of owning these cars in the late ’40s and talked about what fine automobiles they were. He told of driving 100 mph in the ‘Old Ghost’ with my mother when they were dating—and she married him anyway.”

In the early 1950s, Thomas’ dad converted the V-12 sedan into an insulated truck and used it to deliver gladiolas up and down Highway 101. His father’s 50-year career as an independent trucker began with that converted Auburn.

1931 Auburn 898 Phaeton - Thomas Craig 5 - Father with Auburn 12 - 1950
Thomas Craig’s father with his Auburn 12 sedan in1950. Courtesy Thomas Craig
1931 Auburn 898 Phaeton - Thomas Craig 6 - Father - Auburn 12 truck - 1950
Thomas Craig’s father transformed his Auburn 12 sedan into a truck in 1950. Courtesy Thomas Craig

For years, Thomas’ dad had hoped to restore what remained of the trio, and Thomas remembers that he and his friends often played in the carcasses. Eventually, however, Mr. Craig realized that he would never get around to working on the Auburns, so he sold them all with the help of a young Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg enthusiast named Randy Ema, who today is renowned for his ACD expertise. Thomas has vivid memories of visiting Ema with his dad in 1974, and Ema gave them a ride in his 1932 8-100 speedster.

1931 Auburn 898 Phaeton - Thomas Craig 4 - Father in Erma speedster 1974
Thomas Craig’s father and Randy Ema in Ema’s Auburn 8-100 Speedster in 1974. Courtesy Thomas Craig

The Craig family’s Auburns may have moved on, but Thomas never did. For 40 years he noted every Auburn he saw, marveling at their beauty. “How majestic they were in their restored state, compared to what was in my back yard!” Thomas writes. “My father’s stories remained fresh in my mind, especially when I was able to visit the ACD Museum in Auburn, Indiana.”

In 2019, Thomas made the three-hour drive to Monterey Car Week and attended the Mecum auction. He watched as a couple of classic cars sold for far less than he expected and suddenly, he had a revelation: “At 60 years old, I could now afford a classic car. Naturally, I gravitated toward an early-’30s Auburn.”

1931 Auburn 898 Phaeton - Thomas Craig 3 - Arrival
Thomas Craig’s 1931 Auburn 898 Phaeton arrives in Clovis, California, September 2020. Courtesy Thomas Craig

A year later, his childhood dreams came true, and he purchased a restored 1931 Auburn 898 Phaeton in Seattle. “The previous owner spent 15 years working on it. A cabinet maker spent five years on the woodwork alone. When it rolled out of the trailer upon delivery, it was immediately clear that this was one of the most significant purchases I’d ever made.”

1931 Auburn 898 Phaeton - Thomas Craig 2
Thomas Craig’s 1931 Auburn 898 Phaeton today, now with a Pilot Ray. Courtesy Thomas Craig

In Thomas’ excitement, he reached out to Randy Ema through the ACD Club. Ema not only remembers Thomas’ father, he still owns the Auburn that he gave the Craigs a ride in back in 1974. The circle is now complete.

“Every time I look at my Auburn I smile,” Thomas writes. “I think of my father’s stories and share his admiration for the marque. When friends come to visit and I show them the car, or when it’s on display at an event, I beam at how impressed people are, and I’m happy I get to share this bit of my past with them.”

Thanks, Dad.

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