Cord: A Car Ahead of Its Time

Alex Korovkine sent me some pictures of another car on display at the 2011 Newport Concours D’Elegance – a Cord 810.  The Cord cars were very advanced cars which had features in the 1930s that were not provided in other North American cars until the 1960s.

The Cord was named after the company owner, Erret Lobban Cord who had assumed the ownership position of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg combine.  The car had a very modern design with flip-up headlamps and a grille unlike almost all other cars of the early 1930s.

Cord 810- Note the disappearing headlights

The Cord 810 had front-wheel drive.  The next North American car to have front wheel was the Oldsmobile Tornado in the mid-1960s.

From this angle, the Cord 810 looks like other cars from the 1930s

The interior of the Cord has a nice collection of gages on an engine-turned metal dash.  Note that the gear selction lever can not be seen.

From what I’ve determined, the gear shift was terrible.  The transmission was located in front of the engine.  Due to the difficulty of getting a manual linkage system to that location, Cord used a vacuum shifting system.  The gear shift itself was a small lever on the steering column.  This activated an electrical switch which worked the vacuum system when took your foot off the gas and activated the clutch.  The effect was that drivers were able to pre-select the gears, as the shifting did not happen until you depressed the clutch.  Evidently this process worked rather slowly. 

Cord 812 at the Technik Museum Sinsheim

When I visited the Technik Museum Sinsheim I saw a Cord 812 on display.  The Cord 812 is very similar to the Cord 810 except that the Cord 812 had a supercharged version of the Lycoming V8 engine that produced about 190-195 horsepower.

It is relatively simple to distinguish the Cord 810 from the Cord 812, as the Cord 812 has the large chrome exhaust pipes coming out of the side of the hood.

In the mid-thirties buyers were put off by the high price of the Cord and its unique styling. The Cord cars cost more than $3,000, when you could buy a Buick for about $900. Production of the Cord 810 and 812 cars began in 1935 and ended in 1937 when the finances of the overall company were such that it folded.  A total of 2,320 Cord 810 and Cord 812 cars were produced.

Cord 812 Convertible

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3 Responses to Cord: A Car Ahead of Its Time

  1. madeline says:

    probably the most beautiful American car ever built. Many years ahead of its time.

  2. Paula Pierce says:

    My father had a Cord . There is a photo of my mother holding my baby brother with the back of the car behind them. Very impressive automobile!

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