1931 Cord L-29 Cabriolet

Shortly after Errett Lobban Cord was brought on to rescue the ailing Auburn Automobile Company from the brink of collapse, he leveraged his success by wresting control of the firm from the board. A driven and ambitious entrepreneur, Cord envisioned an American luxury car empire, and Auburn provided the ideal foundation. E.L. Cord wasted little time transforming Auburn's staid and forgettable lineup into a style and value leader in the mid-priced luxury car market. With Auburn stabilized and successful, Cord set his sights on creating a new automobile to take on the likes of Packard and Cadillac. Around the same time, E.L. added Duesenberg to his portfolio, leaving room for a new luxury marque slot below it and above the value-driven Auburn. Never one for modesty, Cord gave the new marque his surname and challenged his engineers to create a car that was as innovative as it was beautiful. The sleek and rakish Cord L-29 debuted in 1929, featuring America's first front-wheel-drive system with a De Dion front axle, designed by the same engineers responsible for the revolutionary Miller front-drive Indy Car.

The front-drive layout allowed the body to sit over the chassis rather than on top, which in turn gave the L-29 its sexy, low-slung profile. Cord's chief designer Alan Leamy created the spectacular styling, distinguished by its gracefully flowing front fenders, arcing split bumpers, and a narrow, body-color radiator shell. It was a stunning design admired by many, including Walter P. Chrysler, who used the L-29 as a benchmark for his flagship Imperial line. The L-29 shared the 298.6 cubic-inch Lycoming straight-eight with top-line Auburns, turned 180 degrees for the front-drive layout. That paired with a modified de Dion front axle that contributed to the Cord's excellent handling ability. The factory offered the L-29 in four styles: Convertible Sedan, 5-Passenger Brougham, Sedan, and 2/4-Passenger Cabriolet. In addition, a handful of outside coachbuilders took full advantage of the low profile to create some of the most breathtaking designs of the classic era. Only 5,014 L-29s were built between 1929 and 1932, as the Great Depression took hold and effectively killed the replacement L-30 before it even left the drawing board. A follow up would not appear for several more years, and despite its brief existence, the Cord L-29 legacy endures as one of the most beautiful and desirable production cars of the classic era.

This 1931 L-29 Cabriolet is yet another exceptional offering from the Alvin Frankel collection. The "F.D." serial number prefix designates this as a genuine, factory-built cabriolet, the sportiest and arguably most desirable of the L-29 series. Purchased by Frankel in 1953, he and his wife enjoyed the Cord for years, using it in local club events in and around the L.A. area throughout the 1950s and 60s. It remained a proud part of the fleet from the '50s to today, and many period photographs document their participation in local shows with the car. More recently, the Frankels treated the L-29 to a ground-up restoration by the respected specialist Jim Livings. It saw limited use since and remains in excellent condition to this day.

Finished in a breathtaking livery of red with black fenders and trim, this gorgeous Cabriolet displays a charming character that invites regular driving. Fabulous details like the contrasting red fender trim and black-painted wire wheels with fresh whitewall Firestone tires give this example a particularly striking look. The paint and brightwork are in remarkably good order, with a glossy finish and quality detailing and just a few minor imperfections from use and time.

Light dove grey upholstery is a lovely counterpoint to the bold exterior color scheme. The leather on the front seat and rumble seat is in excellent condition, and the gray carpets are tidy and properly fit. A signature of the L-29 is the textured, painted steel dash with unique instruments that mimic the shape of the Cord crest. Everything is as it should be, with correct gauges, and restored switches and controls. The shift lever sprouts from the fascia, operated with a distinct push-pull action necessitated by the long pushrod connecting the front-mounted gearbox. The black canvas top is excellent, finished with a matching boot cover for top-down days.

The Lycoming straight-eight is very well detailed with a proper green painted cylinder block and porcelain black manifolds and accessories. The car has seen limited use since being sorted by Mosier Restorations in 2011, although recent fuel system and mechanical servicing reveals it to be an excellent running and driving example. The L-29 is, of course, a CCCA Full Classic, and would be an enjoyable entrant into their CARavan touring events or any number of ACD Club gatherings. This sale presents a rare opportunity to acquire a highly desirable L-29 Cabriolet, offered to the public for the first time in nearly seventy years. It has enjoyed a lifetime of care at the hands of a passionate enthusiast and is now ready for its next custodian to carry on Mr. Frankel's legacy.

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