He died much too young, which may explain why Alan Leamy is not well known despite the fact that he styled some of the most magnificent cars ever made. Gordon Buehrig is deservedly famous for his Cord 810/812 but when Buehrig joined Cord, he was following in the footsteps of Leamy. Leamy is credited with the styling of the Auburn Speedster and Cord L-29, and had a major role in the how the Duesenberg Model J’s front end looked.
Leamy started out at Marmon but felt the company was too staid. Hearing the E.L. Cord was working on a new front wheel drive car so in the spring of 1928 he wrote the Auburn Automobile Company inquiring about a job. Cornelius van Ranst, who designed Cord’s front wheel drive system, interviewed Leamy and was impressed enough with his portfolio that upon his recommendation Errett Cord named him Auburn’s chief stylist, where he was in charge of Auburn and Duesenberg styling.
Taking advantage of the L-29’s FWD chassis’ setback radiator and lack of a drive shaft, Leamy crafted a sleek, low slung that still looks sporty today, though it’s obviously of its own era. Conversely Leamy used the height of the Auburn’s higher frame and length of its hood to turn the Auburn Speedster into one of the most impressive pieces of rolling sculpture ever seen. Replicas of the boattail Speedster continue to be made to this day and the L-29 was such a design success that Frank Lloyd Wright had owned one, painted in his favorite red.
Unfortunately for Leamy, his great designs hit the market just as the Great Depression started and deepened. Auburn losses mounted and when the Leamy styled ’34 cars did poorly, Cord brought in Buehrig to restyle the Auburn line. Though Buehrig had respect and admiration for Leamy’s work, it was a difficult situation and in the summer of 1934, Leamy moved to Detroit, first working for Fisher Body and then to GM where Harley Earl hired him for the legendary Art & Colour Section. Tragically, complications from a routine diphtheria injection led to a systemic infection and he did in mid 1935 at the age of 32.