About CordCord automobiles were built for only six years, but the innovative cars with striking designs are now popular classics--and style icons of the 1930s. The famous Cord 810 is now considered one of the great American classic cars.
Cord started in 1929 as a brand under the Auburn Automobile Company, which was based in Auburn, IN and also made Duesenbergs and Auburns. E.L. Cord, who was head of the Auburn Automobile Company, oversaw the production of the L-29, which was the first American front-wheel-drive car offered to the public.
The L-29 was underpowered and steering the car could be quite a bit of work. It was initially popular, but... View more the Great Depression all but killed the market for the car, and it was discontinued in 1932.
When most people think of Cord, they picture the sleek, low-slung Cord 810, which drew admiring crowds--and plenty of orders--at the 1935 New York Auto Show. The 810 was the first American front-wheel-drive car with independent front suspension, and it had no running boards. Gordon Buehrig originally designed the car as a Duesenberg, but it became a Cord.
The 810 also had hidden headlights, which disappeared when the driver or passengers turned dashboard-mounted hand cranks. The car had a 289-ci V8 engine and a semi-automatic 4-speed transmission.
The 810 also featured the now-famous louvered grille, which wrapped around the nose of the car. These are sometimes referred to as coffin-nose Cords.
Despite an avalanche of orders, Cord couldn't manage to crank up production--mostly because of problems with the semi-automatic transmission--and the first cars off the assembly line didn't arrive in New York City until April 1936--five months after the first orders were taken. All told, only 1,174 Cord 810s were delivered during the 1936 model year.
In 1937, the 810 was renamed the 812, and buyers could order a supercharged version of the car. Supercharged 812s were delivered with chrome exhaust pipes sprouting from the each side of the hood. These cars were also famous for windshield wipers and hidden door hinges.
Cord cars had quite a few quality control problems, and they had a tendency to slip out of gear and overheat. About 3,000 Cord 812s were built. Cord cars remained popular, but the company couldn't stay afloat and shut down in 1937.
In 1940, Hupmobile and Graham-Paige attempted to resurrect the Cord 812 design. The resulting cars, called the Hupp Skylark and the Graham Hollywood, had conventional rear-wheel drive and standard headlights. About 1,900 of these cars were built before production shut down for good in the fall of 1940.
Cord had a short life, but the cars have enjoyed decades of fame. In 1996, American Heritage magazine named the 810 as the Single Most Beautiful American Car. View less