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Auburn boattail speedster takes first best-of-the-best AACA Zenith Award

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Photos courtesy AACA.

It typically takes a dedicated restoration shop and plenty of blank checks to turn out national award-winning restorations, but Richard Harding managed to take this past weekend’s inaugural AACA Zenith Award with just the six years he spent restoring his 1928 Auburn 8-88 Speedster himself.

And it wasn’t even the car he initially set out to restore. According to a 2015 interview with the Dayton Daily News, Harding had wanted to restore his father’s 8-88 Speedster, but ended up taking another one off the hands of a fellow Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club member who got in over his head with its restoration. Despite a plan to restore both at the same time, “somehow this one got going and was finished first,” he said.

For his six-year effort, which wrapped up in 2014, Harding has since collected an impressive amount of hardware. The Auburn took Best in Class at the 2015 Cincinnati Concours d’Elegance and the 2015 Keeneland Concours d’Elegance, Best in Show at the 2015 Dayton Concours d’Elegance, an Amelia Award at the 2015 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, and a full 100 points in Classic Car Club of America judging last year.

The Zenith Award that Harding and his wife, Helen, collected at the AACA’s annual Grand National Meet in Independence, Missouri, is designed to highlight the best of the best restorations presented at the various AACA meets throughout the previous year. Two vehicles from each of the 10 2016 AACA meets were chosen as finalists to compete for the award, described in a press release as “one more step in the club’s goal to honor the authentic restoration of vehicles and the preservation of automobile history.”

The list of finalists for the award included a Rollston-bodied 1934 Duesenberg SJ, a 1940 Graham Deluxe from the Nicola Bulgari collection, a Holman and Moody-built 1964 Ford Galaxie, the 1963 Pontiac X-400 show car, and a Bohman and Schwartz-bodied 1938 Packard Super Eight from the Ralph Marano collection. Second place went to a 1942 Cadillac Series 62 club coupe owned by Steve Cooley of Homosassa, Florida.

“All of the cars… truly were the creme de la creme of cars and the winner just simply spoke to you as a world-class restoration,” judge Paul Sable said in an AACA press release.

Next year’s Zenith Award will be handed out at the Grand National Meet in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. For more information, visit