The iconic Cord 810/812 started life as a “baby Duesenberg” envisioned by designer Gordon Buehrig to support E.L. Cord’s flagship brand into the late 1930s. But as the faltering economy led to Duesenberg’s untimely demise, E.L. Cord recycled the concept to revive his eponymous car company, which had not produced a car since the L-29 of 1932. The Cord 810 and 812 pushed the boundaries of automotive design, employing semi-monocoque construction, front-wheel drive, an electro-magnetic pre-select gearbox, and later, an optional supercharged engine. Yet, with all of that technical wizardry, the styling made the most significant impact. The unconventional yet striking shape eschewed contemporary norms such as running boards and flashy upright chrome radiator shells. Buehrig’s advanced streamline form featured curvaceous aerodynamic fenders with hideaway headlights, slab-sided bodywork, full-length doors that concealed the running boards, and a distinct coffin-shaped hood with wraparound air intake slats in place of the traditional radiator grille. It is widely recognized as one of the most significant works in industrial design history, a piece of automotive art treasured by car collectors and design aficionados worldwide.
Cord offered several body styles to suit the individual buyer’s wishes. Four-door models consisted of the Beverly and Westchester sedans, and long-wheelbase options followed later in 1937. Two open two-door models were also offered – the four-seat Convertible Phaeton Sedan and the two-seat Cabriolet, both featuring sophisticated disappearing top designs. The Convertible Phaeton Sedan is one of the most popular models with collectors, as it blends the sporty open-cockpit design with the four-passenger practicality and comfort.
This 812 Convertible Phaeton Sedan is a handsome example presented in an attractive livery of maroon over tan leather upholstery, featuring a well-maintained older restoration that has mellowed nicely over the years. It is one of the rare 812s that retains its original, numbers-matching Lycoming V8 engine, which has been updated with external exhaust pipes to mirror the sporty look of the S/C models. This car benefits from years of knowledgeable ownership, with past long-term owners in the Saint Louis, Missouri area and on the East Coast. Since 2013 the Cord Phaeton has been maintained as part of a significant private collection of important classic-era automobiles.
The attractive maroon paintwork is correct for the period and presents in good overall condition, with a few minor imperfections found on close inspection, consistent with the restoration’s age. The body is otherwise in excellent order, with good fit of the doors and panels. Accessories include a driver’s side searchlight and the optional winged Cord crest on the hood while rolling stock consists of body-color steel wheels wearing correct chrome wheel covers and wide whitewall tires. Exterior brightwork all presents very well, with even, consistent plating all around.
Inside, tan leather upholstery covers the seats and door panels, accented by attractive deep maroon carpets. The cabin is accurately restored with patterns and materials that are true to original specs. Occupants are kept dry by a tan canvas convertible top, which disappears beneath body-color panels when stowed. Like all 812s, a particular highlight is the aircraft-inspired dash panel, with its full array of instruments set into an engine-turned alloy panel. Controls and switches continue the aviation-like theme, with major controls falling quickly to the driver’s hand, including the delightfully tactile transmission gear selector.
According to published production records, this Cord 812 retains its original, numbers-matching Lycoming V8 engine. The engine compartment is well detailed with authentic fittings and fixtures and was updated in previous ownership with SC-style outside exhaust flex pipes. The 812 runs and performs well, and since coming into the most recent owner’s care in 2013, it has enjoyed regular maintenance by a noted classic era specialist.
Cord’s 810/812 is a legendary, groundbreaking automobile and one of the defining landmarks of the Classic Era. This fine example lives up to the legend, with exquisite styling and advanced underpinnings working in harmony to create a wholly unique motoring experience, best enjoyed on CCCA CARavans or similar touring events.
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