Erret Leban Cord began building his empire in the mid 1920s when he became president and primary stockholder of Auburn. In 1929 Cord introduced a car bearing his name, the front-wheel-drive Cord L-29. There were unfortunately many technological problems with the L-29 that kept it from becoming the great car for which people had hoped. However, the L-29’s purpose was well served, as it laid the groundwork for the famed Cord 810 and 812 models.
Like the L-29, the 810 and 812 models had front-wheel-drive and a 125-inch wheelbase. In order to solve the weight distribution problem, a Lycoming V-8 engine was used, rather than the straight eight of the L-29. The Lycoming V-8 produced 125 horsepower and had a top speed of 90 mph.
Models 810 and 812 were most famous, however, for their incredible design. The brainchild of Gordon Buehrig, the new Cords were a complete departure from anything that came before it. In fact the 810 and 812 Cords have one of the most recognized and highly regarded designs of all time. The Cord was a futuristic car with elegant pontoon fenders and a distinct “coffin nose” with wrap-around radiator louvres. It introduced the first use of retractable headlights, far ahead of its time.
Cord offered six different body styles for 1937, including the two-seat Cabriolet like the car presented here. The Cabriolet was referred to in the sale catalogue as “a sportsman-like automobile” describing its purposeful, sporty design. Since then it has been dubbed the Sportsman.
The Sportsman shown here is recorded by the Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg Club to have been registered to a Mr. D. Marx of Switzerland in 1966. Shortly thereafter, the car was transported to the United States, where it is said to have been purchased by a gentleman from Washington state who retained ownership of the car until the late 1980s. It was at this time that the car was purchased by its current owner and vendor with the intent of restoring the 812 to its original magnificent appearance and condition.
The frame-off restoration, begun in the early 1990s, was carried out by Steve’s Auto Restorations of Portland, Oregon.
Of the 688 original supercharged Cord 812s, a total of only 64 convertible coupes were ever produced. The Schwitzer-Cummins pull-through supercharger, mounted on the engine’s intake manifold, helped push the price of the 812 to almost $3,000, unheard of amongst a recovering, post-depression America.