“Cord was the brand name of an American automobile company from Connersville, Ind., manufactured by the Auburn Automobile Co. from 1929 to 1932 and again in 1936 and 1937,” according to Wikipedia. “The Cord Corp. was founded and run by E. L. Cord as a holding company for his many transportation interests, including Auburn.
"Cord was noted for its innovative technology and streamlined designs. Cord had a philosophy to build truly different, innovative cars, believing they would also sell well and turn a profit. This did not always work well in practice.”
The Cord 810 that I photographed features one of Cord’s innovations: hidden headlamps.
“Hidden headlamps did not become common as a standard feature until the 1960s (though DeSoto used them in 1942). The early Oldsmobile Toronados, whose GM stylists later stated they were trying to capture the ‘feel’ of the Cord's design, also featured hidden headlamps.”
Cord also introduced front-wheel drive on the L-29, 810 and 812.
“Front-wheel drive is a form of engine and transmission layout used in motor vehicles, where the engine drives the front wheels only,” according to Wikipedia. “Most modern front-wheel-drive vehicles feature a transverse engine, rather than the conventional longitudinal engine arrangement generally found in rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel drive vehicles.”
Cord also conceived and built Servo shifting.
“Servo shifting was accomplished through a Bendix electro-vacuum pre-selector mechanism (a type of electronic shifting),” according to Wikipedia.
“This was the first American front-wheel drive car to be offered to the public, beating the Ruxton automobile by several months, in 1929. The brainchild of former Miller engineer Carl Van Ranst, its drive system borrowed from the Indianapolis 500-dominating racers, using the same de Dion layout and inboard brakes. This allowed it to be much lower than competing cars.”
The Cord chassis was popular among early racers.
“Both stock cars and special bodies built on the Cord chassis by American and European coachbuilders won prizes in contests worldwide,” according to Wikipedia. “The L-29 came with full instrumentation, including a temperature gauge, oil pressure gauge, and speedometer on the left with a gas gauge, oil level gauge, and Ammeter on the right of the steering wheel.
“Cord models 810/812 are probably the best-known of the company's products. Styled by Gordon M. Buehrig, they featured front-wheel drive and independent front suspension.”
One of the most distinctive features of the Cord 810 model was how the front-wheel drive allowed the 810 to be very low, as I photographed. Because of this, the Cord 810 did not have running boards, which were common among cars of this era.
The 810 is a powerhouse with a 289-cubic-inch Lycoming V-8 engine that could generate 125 hp. The 810 also featured a 4-speed “electrically selected semi-automatic transmission, among other innovative features,” according to Wikipedia.
Cords cars were crowd-pleasers from the start. They remain popular at concourses and car shows.
“The Cord 810 caused a sensation at the New York Auto Show in November 1935,” according to Wikipedia. “Orders were taken at the show with Cord promising Christmas delivery, expecting production of 1,000 per month.”
As any business person will admit: when you promise something, you need to deliver it. On time. Cord’s initial production problems dampened the car’s popularity.
“Production delays pushed the expected delivery date to February 1936,” according to Wikipedia. “The first production vehicles were not delivered until April. In all, Cord managed to sell only 1,174 of the new 810 in its first model year. The car is well-known for the flat front nose with a louvered grille design.”
The Cord’s size, in comparison to many contemporary vehicles, is immense. It is rolling art. I marveled at this beautiful 810. Despite its beauty that makes it one of the most-popular car of any era, Cord never really caught on.
“Early reliability problems, including slipping out of gear and vapor lock, cooled initial enthusiasm, and the dealer base shrank rapidly,” according to Wikipedia. “Unsold left-over and in-process 1936 810s were re-numbered and sold as 1937 812s.”
So, when you see an 812, it’s basically an 810.
“In 1937, Auburn ceased production of the Cord,” according to Wikipedia. “A single 1938 Cord prototype with some changes to the grille and transmission cover was built, and it still exists. The Cord empire, amid allegations of financial fraud, was sold to the Aviation Corp., and E.L. Cord moved to Nevada where he earned millions in real estate and other enterprises.”
Keywords:1937 Cord, Auburn Automobile Co., Cord 810, Cord Automobiles, E. L. Cord, Glenn Franco Simmons, Palo Alto Concours
© Glenn Thomas Franco Simmons' Photography