Gordon Buehrig originally conceived the brilliant Cord 810/812 as a “baby Duesenberg” that would support E.L. Cord’s respected flagship brand into the late 1930s and beyond. But as the faltering economy led to Duesenberg’s demise, E.L. Cord regrouped and recycled the concept as a revival of his eponymous car company. The technically sophisticated Cord 810 and 812 featured semi-monocoque construction, front-wheel drive, an electro-magnetic pre-select gearbox, and an optional supercharged engine. Yet, with all of that technical wizardry, it was the styling that set it apart. The fascinating, unconventional shape eschewed contemporary norms such as running boards and upright chrome radiator shells. Buehrig’s creation featured curvaceous, aerodynamic fenders with hideaway headlights, slab-sided bodywork with hidden running boards, and a distinct coffin-shaped hood with wraparound air intake slats. It is widely recognized as one of the most significant works in industrial design history, treasured by car collectors and design aficionados the world over.
This 1937 Cord 812 is a desirable factory supercharged four-seat Convertible Phaeton. In the care of one owner for the past 22 years, it is a lovely example with a pleasingly mellowed older restoration, presented in cream over a beautiful red interior. This 812 is certified as a Category 1 Original car by the ACD Club, and it features its original matching-numbers engine, per the production records compiled by author Josh Malks. The cream paintwork is quite attractive, with just a few minor imperfections found on close inspection. Red painted steel wheels feature the correct chrome wheel covers, and fittings include factory fog lights, dual integrated taillights, and the iconic exposed exhaust flex-pipes.
Red leather upholstery offers a striking contrast against the paintwork. The seats and door panels are restored with the correct patterns and details, and they are in excellent condition, with just a slight bit of creasing from age and use. The matching red carpeting is similarly good, though a few minor blemishes are noted on inspection. The black canvas top shows a bit of fading, but is otherwise in good order, stowing neatly beneath a body-color panel behind the seats. A highlight of any Cord 812 is the elaborate dash. The fascia is correctly painted to match the upholstery, with an engine-turned instrument panel and an array of aircraft-inspired dials. This car features an original 150 mph speedometer – which is admittedly optimistic for 1937 but reflects the 812’s intended purpose as a high-performance grand tourer.
Power comes from the original L-head Lycoming V8, topped with a Schwitzer-Cummins supercharger as it left the factory. For reasons unknown, very few 812s retain their original engines, making this one of the rare exceptions. Lifting the coffin-shaped hood reveals an honest patina on the engine, with some cooking-off of the porcelain exhaust manifolds and some other superficial imperfections. However, it runs well, showing good oil pressure on the gauge.
Gordon Buehrig’s Cord 812 is a particularly intriguing and impressively advanced pre-war American car. This attractive example is an excellent choice to enjoy in driving events with the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club or Classic Car Club of America, and it is sure to be a welcome addition to any collection of iconic automobiles.
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