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1937 Cord 812 Phaeton

The revolutionary Cord 810/812 came to life amid the dire economic times of the mid-1930s. As many prestige automakers experienced plummeting sales, some turned to mid-priced companion lines in hopes of bolstering lagging sales of their extravagant, high-end offerings. Cadillac enjoyed particular success with the low-cost LaSalle, and even Packard experimented with entry-level models at various times through the 1930s. As the Great Depression wore on, the few remaining buyers with the means were reluctant to flaunt their wealth on cars like the flamboyant and fabulously expensive Duesenberg. Eager to attract new clients and cash in on the prestige of the name, company boss E.L. Cord suggested a “baby Duesenberg” to compete in the increasingly competitive mid-priced luxury car market. With design and development underway, the board balked and abandoned the project out of fear that a lower-cost car could cheapen the illustrious Duesenberg name.

Going against the wishes of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg board, E.L. Cord and Gordon Buehrig carried on with preliminary development. If he couldn’t call it a Duesenberg, he figured it would be the perfect basis for a dramatic resurgence of Cord Automobiles. Since the demise of the L-29, Cord longed for another car worthy of his name, and the Baby Dusenberg presented the ideal opportunity. Engineers and designers drew inspiration from multiple sources, including Citroen’s revolutionary front-drive Traction Avant. The new Cord featured a semi-monocoque chassis, front-wheel drive, a pre-selector gearbox, and independent front suspension. Buehrig replaced the traditional upright radiator shell with a series of wrap-around louvers flanked by rounded fenders and flush retractable headlamps – the first automobile so equipped. The squared-off hood resembled a coffin, earning the car its nickname coffin-nose Cord. Experience with the front-drive Cord L-29 allowed engineers to set the body much lower than traditional front-engine/rear-drive vehicles, allowing a rakish, sleek appearance. The low body also allowed Buehrig to eliminate external running boards, bringing the door lines fully down the body. Combined with the grill-less front end, the sleek styling was breathtakingly futuristic and considered a masterpiece of automobile styling. Eight decades later, the Cord 810 and 812 stands among the most celebrated designs in the American industry, and a coffin-nose Cord is a necessity for any serious collection of Classic Era motorcars.

Offered here is an attractive 1937 Cord 812 equipped with the desirable and handsome open coachwork, officially known as the five-passenger Convertible Phaeton Sedan. These are among the most versatile of all Cord designs, featuring a disappearing convertible roof, roll-up glass side windows, and room for five passengers to travel in comfort. Presented in an eye-catching livery of cigarette cream with red wheels and interior, this Cord offers a well-finished older restoration, and is wonderfully suited for enjoyment on tours, rallies, and driving events while remaining attractive enough to make its next caretaker proud. Checking the numbers against Josh B. Malks’s essential reference, The Cord Complete, we learn this car is a genuine Phaeton that retains its original, numbers-matching, Lycoming V8 engine – something rarely seen on these cars. Details include the red-painted wheels with proper chrome wheel covers and ribbed whitewall tires, chrome windscreen frame, and polished stone guards on the rear fenders. The bold and attractive livery suits the car quite well, and while the restoration is older, the finish quality is excellent, noting only a few minor touchups and imperfections acquired through on-road enjoyment.

Contrasting the cream paintwork is beautiful dark red leather with a subtly mottled finish. The leather covers the seats and interior panels, complemented with red carpets and a red-painted metal dash. There is some modest creasing in the upholstery from age and use, primarily on the driver’s seat, and the overall appearance is tidy and inviting. A gorgeous engine-turned alloy instrument panel houses the original instruments and controls, all of which present in fine cosmetic condition. Extending from the steering column is the H-pattern gear selector for the original preselect manual gearbox. Other interior fittings like door handles and window cranks are in fine order, indicative of a quality restoration.

The engine bay is suitably tidy and well detailed, displaying a light patina that’s appropriate for a tour-quality car. Fittings include period-authentic wiring, hose clamps, and accessories, and the undercarriage is orderly. It is in good running and driving condition, benefitting from recent service to ensure an enjoyable experience on the road.

The Gordon Buehrig-designed Cord 812 is one of the most iconic and technically advanced American cars of the classic era. This attractive example is an excellent choice for participation in driving events with the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club or Classic Car Club of America and is sure to be a welcome addition to any collection of driver-focused classic era automobiles.

 

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