In 1929 Errett Lobban Cord, expanding his automotive empire, introduced a front-wheel drive automobile that he named after himself. The Cord L29 offered a distinctive, sporting appearance and great performance for its price. Unfortunately, when the stock market crashed shortly after the car’s introduction, so did the market for the L29. The Cord’s distinctive styling did, however, provide the basis for a new medium-priced front-wheel drive car, the 810.
The 810 was intended to restore Cord’s auto manufacturing operations to health, using the proven formula: styling, performance and a reasonable price. (In the process, Gordon Buehrig’s clean and unadorned, coffin-nosed, retractable-headlight design created a standard by which cars are still judged today.) Powered by a Lycoming-built V8 engine, it created an instant sensation at its November 1935 introduction at the New York Auto Show— so much so that Cord could not meet the initial demand.
The 1937 Cord, designated the 812, was little changed from the 1936 models except for the optional supercharged engine. Cord’s experience with Duesenberg provided the expertise for them to add a Schwitzer-Cummins centrifugal supercharger that provided a 6-psi boost and increased the rating of the Lycoming V8 to between 185 and 195 horsepower. The chromed outside exhaust pipes, which were also a trademark of the supercharged Auburns and Duesenbergs, identified the increased capabilities of the supercharged 812.
Cord built six different models in 1936 and ’37 during the life of the 810/812: the Convertible Coupe, the phaeton, the Westchester Sedan, the Beverly Sedan, the Custom Beverly and the Custom Berline. Approximately 195 of the very attractive Convertible Coupe model were built and, according to company records, only 64 were supercharged. The Convertible Coupe has become the most sought-after Cord model and is commonly referred to as the “Sportsman” even though that designation was never used by Cord.
The example pictured here features the characteristic engine-turned instrument panel with ivory trim and dual spotlights. The subject of a high-quality older restoration, it is clean and well presented throughout. With striking all-black livery, Gordon Buehrig’s classic design stops traffic as readily today as it did 64 years ago.