Oasis of the Seas' Mystery Car Sparks Controversy

November 4, 2009
Oasis of the Seas Car in the Promenade (4:56 p.m.) -- While posting our exclusive three-part series of photos of Oasis of the Seas last week -- on the day Royal Caribbean celebrated the ship's release from STX Europe's shipyard in Turku, Finland -- we stumbled across an intriguing photo (the fifth slide in our Oasis of the Seas Photos, Part 2: Scenes from a Party slideshow). In what seemed like a fun idea at the time, we decided to quiz you on your car knowledge, asking for answers to this question: What is the make and model of the antique-looking car on the Royal Promenade?

Indeed, Cruise Critic readers really are car buffs if the response to the impromptu quiz -- 300 entries and climbing -- is an indication. We loved the answers: some vague and glamorous, others right on point (and equally glamorous). Many responses were cars most of us have heard of, such as Rolls-Royce's Silver Cloud and Phaeton, Buggatti, Duesenberg, Morgan Roadster, Packard Roadster and more -- all terrific suggestions.

However, the most authoritative of the bunch came from fans of the obscure (to me) Auburn Automobile Company (which, I learned, also owned and made Duesenberg vehicles). Take this note, from Cruise Critic reader Aron Goldman: "The car is a beautiful Auburn Boattail Speedster Circa 1935. This is one of the prettiest cars of all time." Bob Gatreau was even more convincing: "My guess is an Auburn Boattail Speedster. Either a 1935 (model 851) or 1936 (model 852)."

Just to be sure, however, we decided to put the question to the test at Royal Caribbean. "I can confirm that it is a 1930 Auburn Speedster," said a cruise line spokeswoman.

Not so fast -- the mystery continues. After receiving a tip from a reader and doing some more digging, we found out Auburn didn't even make a 1930 Speedster. In fact, the Oasis car is not even an antique. It's actually a replica of a 1936 Auburn Boattail Speedster that was built this year by Largo, Florida-based Speedster Motorcars.

Jeff Akins, a company vice president, told Cruise Critic today that "the purpose of companies like ours that build replicas is to provide the customer with a vehicle that looks like an original old car -- but is built to be driven daily, on the street, with all the modern conveniences you'd expect from a modern vehicle." Cost is a cool $120,000, give or take, and the company builds an average of 20 per year.

In Oasis of the Seas' case, however, Royal Caribbean gave Speedster Motors craftsmen a special mandate: More art, less car. Says Akins, "The basic car that's on the ship is representative of what we build and it has a modern suspension system underneath, with a replica body. That's a body that's made of fiberglass instead of steel so it's a lot lighter. Royal Caribbean just needed it to look the part, so there's no motor, no transmission, nothing that will make it go.

"When you turn on the ignition key nothing will happen," he reinforces. "But you can sit in it."

Back to our quiz: Now that the make and model has been confirmed by Speedster Motors, we feel confident in awarding our prize. Or, shall I say prizes. Chuck Grigg was not only the first to answer correctly, but he also was one of the few to distinguish between a real car -- and Auburn-as-art. Kudos! A Cruise Critic fanny pack is winging its way to you.

He got his answer in just minutes ahead of Antti Metsola, who told us, too, that "the car is an Auburn Boattail Speedster. To be accurate, it's actually a replica car made brand-new by Speedster Motorcars in Florida, USA." Antti signed his email with this tag: "from Finland, where the ship was just made."

We're giving Antti a prize, too.

And thanks to all of those who sent in answers, right, wrong or otherwise. It's been an education.

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief

--Photo is courtesy of Teijo Niemela