By on November 26, 2016

C1937 Cord 812 (Jane Nealing/Flickr)

Amelia Earhart owned one, and likely would have seen more sunsets had she chosen it as her ride of choice, instead of a Lockheed Electra.

It was one of the great American automobiles of the interwar era, and a favorite of matinee stars — a nameplate steeped in style, class and technological innovation. But, ultimately, short-lived.

Or was it? If one Texan has his way, we could soon see a small-scale revival of the Cord brand.

According to Hemmings, Craig Corbell, a Houston oil industry consultant and Cord aficionado, hopes to start production of new Cords. Building modern copies of a vehicle that vanished after 1937 is a tall order, but the law’s on Corbell’s side. Thank the Low Volume Motor Vehicles Manufacturers Act.

That law, passed late last year, allows low-volume replica automakers to bypass certain regulations, as long as the companies sell no more than 325 vehicles per year. Having an EPA or CARB-certified current model year engine under the hood is part of the deal.

So, the law that resurrected the DeLorean DMC-12 from its kitschy grave could soon do the same for Cord. As the first American car with front-wheel drive, the upscale Cord brand (a subsidiary of Auburn) bowed in 1929 with the L-29 model. That vehicle met a Great Depression-related death in 1932. However, it is the iconic 810 model of 1936 that most enthusiasts associate with the brand. Featuring a low-slung, running board-free body, “coffin nose” prow and flip-up headlamps, the 810 (and 812 of 1937) remains a standout in the world of automobile styling.

One a couple of thousand 810 and 812 models left the factory before the Cord brand went light-out.

In the hopes of one day realizing his dream, Corbell bought the Cord trademark in 2014 and closely followed the passage of the low-volume vehicle law. Claiming to be in talks with automakers, Corbell wants to have a display vehicle ready for the fall of 2017.

“Until now it was cost prohibitive to manufacture these cars profitably,” he said in a recent media release. “But now that expensive high speed crash testing, for example, is no longer required to manufacture low runs of replicas, this makes tremendous sense.”

[Image: Jane Nearing/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)]

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33 Comments on “With the Law Onside, a Cord Resurrection Is in the Works...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    Hopefully he’ll make this happen .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Why is the one in the photo RHD? And is that a prototype replica or an original?

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      I’m assuming this description from a 2008 auction is this car (though the color seems to have more yellow than the auction photos show).
      see finecars.cc/en/detail/car/18990/index.html

      As supported by Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club certification, this particular Cord 812 SC was originally outfitted as a right-hand drive model with a body by Central Manufacturing Co., one of E.L. Cord ’ s in-house coachbuilders, carrying body number C92-304. As the last known original body number is C92-306, this example is one of the last Cords ever built. Finished in Cigarette Cream with a burgundy interior, it was shipped to South Africa, where it presumably remained for quite some time.

      • 0 avatar
        SP

        That doesn’t look like the same car, as one is a closed coupe and one is a convertible. Also, as you already observed, the color shown on the TTAC picture is definitely yellow, not any kind of cream.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      See, now *this* is TTAC. Ask and ye shall receive.
      Thanks!

  • avatar
    Joss

    Reads like that oz dude who wanted to rebuild Titanic.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Only to find that riveted hull ships are no longer made (welded hulls are safer and cheaper), and the opulence of the grand rooms wasn’t matched in the staterooms, which resembled hotel rooms of the 1890s.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    Looks like a 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado!

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Skimmel

      Actually, the Toronado wheels copied the Cord wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      That should be reproduced too!

      • 0 avatar
        Pete Skimmel

        My dad was a minor executive with Olds Division in Portland when the ’66 Toronado was introduced to dealers in Cottage Grove, just south of Eugene Oregon. It’s a bit more than 100 miles south of Portland. I recall him telling this drooling 15 year old that the guy driving the Toro back to Portland reportedly made the drive in an hour flat.

        That same week dad drove the Toro home for the weekend. It was a metallic blue spaceship with wheels. I loved that car. Then the ’67 Toro topped it with a cleaner headlight cover and nicer, I think, grill treatment. After that, it was down hill, stylistically speaking, but a great car in its day. Sure, by today’s standards it was a bloated inefficient land yacht, but man what a daring beautiful thing it was in 1966.

  • avatar
    Fred

    With Delorean, Cord and Hennessey based in the Houston area, could this become the mecca for small car production in America?

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      With a maximum run of 375, the prices would have to be well into six figures, bumping up against supercars and prestige makes like Rolls Royce and Bentley. I’m sure the rich who buy those cars have enough left over for a Cord, but the market is very small.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    I hope he is successful and others follow with iconic rides of times gone by. Anyone with money can walk into a Mercedes dealer and buy an S-Class, but if you pull up in a Cord or something along these lines, it will be a tremendous stand out, and a great conversation piece. A lot more than: “…and it recognized my cell phone when I got in!” Yes, Harry, so does a Ford Focus.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      I always said that were I ever to be at one thing like the Oscars and I had to make an entrance I’d show up in a Duesenberg.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        So you’re saying this guy is resurrecting the wrong car? You might be right. The Duesenbergs with Lycoming aircraft engines were much faster than the V8 cords, and more Hollywood stars owned Duesenbergs than Cords.

        Besides, the Duesenberg led people to say, “It’s a Duesie”, later spelled “doozie”. Did people ever say, “It’s a Cordie”?

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      My greatest memory of my early years in the antique car hobby was going to my first serious car show, an Auburn-Cord-Dusenberg meet in Harrisburg, PA at a motel and antique car museum just off the PA Turnpike. My dad’s carburetor specialist took me with him and was showing his 810 roadster (actually cabriolet, one set of seats but roll up windows).

      While at the show, a friend of his offers to take us a few exits down the turnpike in his Model J phaeton. We head down the road about ten miles, get off at an exit and prepare to get back on for the return trip. Said friend turns to me and asks, “Would you like to drive it?” At this point, I’m 18, had just taken ownership of my 1937 Buick Special a couple of months before, so at least I have some experience driving a manual. I kinda stammer, “yes”, switch positions with the guy, and move out on to the highway.

      Nervously I get it up to 55 or so, when the owner looks at me and says, “It’ll do better than that. A lot better.” OK, take a deep breath and put the pedal down. The ten or so miles back were spent passing pretty much everything on the road. I seem to remember holding a steady 80, occasionally pushing it a slight bit faster, but too scared to do anything more. I mean, this car was worth $10,000 or so! By comparison, my Buick had cost my dad $400.

      We got back safely, and I had a memory that I’ll never forget. As to what it was like to drive? Big, monstrous, fast, get-the-f**c-out-of-my-way-or-I’ll run-you-over, and there was absolutely nothing subtle about it.

      Periodically, when watching various car shows on Velocity, I think back to that day. Think about it. You own a Duesenberg and actually drive it. And let it get rained on. And allow a total stranger of a kid (having been vetted by one of his old buddies in the ACD Club) to get behind the wheel and go into traffic.

      I’m willing to be whoever owns that car today only drives it on and off the trailer into the garage or show spot.

      And there’s no way in hell you could recreate a Duesenberg today. For starters, you’d have to come up with a car that would make a Model S Mercedes look like a Ford Focus in comparison.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Great story and you hedge things by not giving a date, however that car would now have a value with at least another 2 zeroes added to it and a different first number.

        • 0 avatar
          Syke

          Sorry. While I can’t remember the exact date it was during the summer of 1969. I’d gotten the Buick as a belated high school graduation gift in late 68, drove it a few times when I was home for the holidays (college in Erie, PA), and that summer was my first serious round with the AACA shows. Anything more detailed than that has faded.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        A genuine 1932 Duesenberg SJ DOES make an S-class look like a Focus. If you can make a replica Cord, you can make a replica Duesenberg. You can even use a current Lycoming 8 cylinder engine – they still exist and make piston aircraft engines. Unfortunately, it won’t be a straight-8. Lycoming makes horizontally opposed 8-cylinder aircraft engines (400 HP) to fit in the wings, you’ll have to visit an airport for the required high octane fuel, and it might take some doing to get them certified for road use.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Ever heard the expression: “It’s a duesey!” That’s what they’d say. This would give a nice home to that resurrected in-line engine that is the subject of a prior article. A 6.7 liter Cummins turbodiesel would fit just fine! Of course, it weighs — literally — about a ton all by itself.

  • avatar
    pragmatic

    As a styling exercise a great car. But front drive with shift and clutch controls going around the engine to reach the front mounted transmission with a differential out front must have made them very nose heavy. I’ve only seen one. Was admiring it at a car show when the owner showed up, started it up and drove off to the expressway heading to Brooklyn (show was a couple of miles from the VN bridge). I was impressed that someone owning one would still drive in NYC traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      The Cord had a preselector gearbox. In 1937, all cars were still three speeds on the floor (the three-on-the-tree came out in the 1939 model year). The Cord had a four speed with the gear selector being a stubby little toggle switch on a plate (think classic Ferrari plate at the shift lever), mounted on an arm that at first glance looked like a three-on-the-tree. You’d move the toggle to whatever gear you wanted, but it didn’t shift until you hit the clutch pedal.

      Hudson had the same thing (called the Bendix Electric Hand) in a three speed a year or two earlier. The Cord style gearbox became quite popular in Europe as the Cotal electric gearbox just before and immediately after WWII.

      Having driven that buddy’s 810 on a couple of occasions, it worked well, although it’s a transmission that you shifted deliberately. The design was impossible to slam shift, because there was no direct linkage, just wiring controlling a vacuum setup to change gears.

      Prior to that, the Cord L29 had a completely mechanical, rod operated shifter that came out of the center of the dash, not down in the floor.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Remake the body and install a flipped around an Audi A6 fwd drivetrain and you are all set.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    I’d care a lot more about a replica of any D-3 full-sizer circa ’60-’64.

  • avatar
    its me Dave

    This is relevant to my interests.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Skimmel

      You must be familiar with the Corvair powered somewhat downsized versions of some years back? I believe they qualify as authentic Cords as their builder owned the name and manufacturing rights at the time.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Back in 1966, called the Cord 8/10 because it was 4/5ths the size of the original car. They made a couple hundred of them, and the effort can actually be called a success unlike most “two guys in a shed” automotive producers. After they got out of the business (I believe the canceling of the Corvair had a lot to do with it), the dies were bought by somebody who attempted to bring out a rear drive version with a Ford 289 in it. It flopped rather quickly.

        Edit: And I seem to remember they guy’s name was Glenn Pray. (Prey? Can’t remember the correct spelling.)

        • 0 avatar
          Johnster

          There was also at least one other company that made replicas of the 1936 and 37 Cords in the late 1960s or early 1970s, only they were built on rear-wheel drive chassis and used Ford engines. As I recall, they featured exposed headlamps. (They probably used Ford chassis, too.)

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    Why lose all your money in those run-of-the-mill supercar company scams when you can lose it in a more well-meaning debacle?

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