Auburn Boattail Speedster

Story and photographs by Tom Strongman

Virgil Sciolaro has been crazy about his Auburn Boattail Speedster since he bought it at age 18. He was so impressed with his older brother’s Speedster that he asked his brother to find one for him. “He could smell them out,” Virgil said.

 Virgil bought his 1935 Speedster on time payments in October of 1945. Today, at age 79, Virgil, the same car still sits in his garage.   

 The Sciolaro brothers probably had the only two Speedsters in the Kansas City area in the late 1940s, and it’s easy to imagine what dashing figures they cut behind the wheel.

 The Auburn Speedster was sleek and fast. The low, reclining windshield looked like a speedboat, and the long pointed tail looked as if it was shaped by the wind. The long, arching fenders bulged like biceps.

 The supercharged straight-eight engine made 150 horsepower. Virgil said he once fitted his car with a second carburetor and drove it to 130 miles per hour.

 Virgil courted Dolores Sayers in the Speedster, and photos from their scrapbook show a young, vibrant couple.

 Dolores said that although the Auburn’s two-seat cockpit seems unbelievably small today, they occasionally double-dated with another couple, and she laughed in disbelief as she tried to describe how they crammed four people inside.

 During the Sciolaros’ wedding, the Auburn was hidden so pranksters wouldn’t decorate it. On their honeymoon they drove their car to the Hotel Bothwell in Sedalia, where they spent the night for $7.50. The next day they continued on to Osage Beach, Mo.

 For years, the Speedster was the Sciolaros’ only car. Every day Virgil would drop Dolores at Montgomery Ward where she worked as a bookkeeper, and then he would park the car at General Motors’ Leeds Plant, where he worked for 30 years. The couple took the Speedster on numerous driving vacations and once got stuck in axle-deep mud exiting a tiny ferry deep in the Ozarks.

 About 1952, when new daughter Diana arrived, the couple stopped driving the Speedster regularly. 

 Today, the Speedster looks as good as it did when Virgil bought it in 1945. It resides in a climate-controlled garage museum like a thoroughbred put out to pasture.

 Virgil undergoes kidney dialysis three times a week, and that consumes a lot of his time and energy. He doesn’t have as much time to putter in the garage as he would like. Dolores is his gentle caretaker and she’s always there for him.

 “I think that car means almost as much to him as I do,” Dolores said. As she said that, Virgil’s eyes gazed at her with a fondness that revealed the depth of his affection for her. In that look, I could tell that Virgil and Dolores share a deep bond that goes way beyond their car. It is a bond that comes from a life lived in harmony.

 The Speedster may be the chorus, but the melody is love.