Gordon Beuhrig’s Cord 812 is one of the most recognizable and iconic American automobiles of the classic era. The 810 and 812 were devised by E.L. Cord as a replacement for the revolutionary, front-wheel drive L29 which ended production in 1932. The four-year gap between the L29 and 810 allowed Cord to take a radical approach with his new car. For the styling, Cord employed Gordon Buehrig, the man responsible for designing such cars as the Auburn 851 Boat-Tail speedster and the Duesenberg Model J. Buehrig later went on to work for Ford Motor Company where he was responsible for such greats as the 1951 Victoria Coupe and 1956 Continental MkII. While the Cord L-29 was a beautiful car in its own right, the new 812 was on an entirely different level. Buehrig was essentially given free-reign to design the car and he made radical decisions such as the elimination of the traditional grille and running boards, and of course those signature hide-away headlights fitted in the voluptuous sculpted front fenders. The Art-Deco styled body featured sweeping curves and was notably clean and free of excessive chrome trim. Front wheel drive combined with independent front suspension (a first for any American car) allowed for a low body height thereby allowing Buehrig eliminate running boards. Power was courtesy of the proven Lycoming V8 mated to a pre-selector transmission. The car caused such a sensation when it debuted at the New York Auto Show in 1935 that orders came pouring in, however delays in production tempered excitement and sales struggled once the car hit the market in 1936. For 1937, the 810 was updated to the 812. Some 812s gained a supercharger while some were renumbered and updated 1936 810’s. The Cord 810/812 was perhaps too far ahead of its time, and early reliability issues certainly held it back from greater success, but there is no denying the fact that it is one of the most individual, revolutionary and iconic American designs of all time.
With imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, many have tried and failed to capture the magic of the brilliant original. However, this fantastic Cord tribute built in 1994 is a highly accurate and authentic re-creation of the iconic 812 Sportsman. It is very attractive, finished in lovely medium gray over dark blue leather and riding on authentic wheels and wide-whitewall tires. It shows a mere 6,860 miles and presents in excellent condition, with very high quality fit, finish and detailing. Shutlines are precise and consistent and it is detailed with accurately designed chrome bumpers and trim. Even the signature pop-up headlights are operated via a crank, just like the original.
Inside the cabin, more excellent detailing can be found. The large seats are trimmed in high quality blue leather, which is repeated on the door panels. The dash is dominated by the large engine-turned alloy instrument panel which houses an array of lovely Stewart Warner gauges. Switches for lights and wipers mimic those of the original cars and a late model steering column is fitted, though painted body color to blend it in and maintain the spirit of the original. A high quality Stayfast canvas convertible top fits well when in place, and stows behind the seats beneath a hard tonneau when folded – as per the original Sportsman design.
Power comes from a GM V8 engine that sends drives the rear wheels. The engine bay is very clean and well detailed, evidence that the ultra-low miles are genuine. Modern conveniences include power steering, automatic transmission, power brakes and air conditioning, to keep the driving experience pleasant and easy.
This example’s excellent quality and accuracy make it a fine choice for a Cord enthusiast who would like to enjoy all the style and panache of the Gordon Buehrig original but in a package that is usable, easily serviced and comfortable to drive. It also costs a fraction of a genuine sportsman, making it an attractive alternative for Cord fans who would like to drive a classic 812 but without the worry. Over the years, many have built tributes to the original Cord 812, most of which were woefully styled and constructed. This example on the other hand, is a near exact copy of the original body, faithfully reproduced to a high standard, finely built and beautifully finished.
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