Jay Leno gives an unrestored Auburn its time in the sun
It takes a bonafide enthusiast to still appreciate older cars with looks that master a perfection of imperfection, while also regularly headlining many of the finest multimillion-dollar restorations in the world. Leno, however, demonstrates exactly that during the latest episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, when owner Rex Johnson stops by in an all-original and unrestored 1931 Auburn 8-98 A.
Of course, the 8-98 A won’t be a prewar ride that blows the hair back of the dollar-eyed crowd like a head-turning Talbot-Lago might, but these are intriguing value classics and worth double-taking for entirely different reasons. It’s not every day that an Auburn 8-98 A turns up, and so solidly aged after sitting for 90+ years in the rustbelt. But that’s exactly how Rex came across it.
Found locally in St. Paul, Minnesota, it seems a late hot-rodder and his pals shared a garage, and behind it, in a steel shed, this Auburn sat on jack stands. Luckily for the car, other projects took precedent and its limbs remained intact for all these years until Rex was able to purchase it from the deceased man’s brother and give it a new life.
After painstakingly rebuilding its original carburetor, the inline-8 is making 98 horses again and scooting around Burbank with ease. The most remarkable facet of Rex’s new ride is that it wears its story on its sleeve, unabashed. There’s certainly something to be said for the well-sorted vehicles out there that are still wearing a roadmap of their history—as opposed to becoming just another new paint job with modern upgrades.
Rex is adamant he will never give it a makeover. Wiping away what makes his 8-98 A so curious and compelling to the masses is the last thing he’ll ever do.