The Cord 810/812 is one of the most beautiful production automobiles ever made in America. Designed by Gordon Buehrig, the Cord was technically advanced for its time. It featured front-wheel-drive, hidden pop-up headlights, a 4-speed semi-automatic transmission, and a V-8 built to order by an aircraft engine manufacturer. The Cord’s most distinctive styling feature was the so-called “coffin nose” hood, with its seven chromed ribs running from the door on one side, around the radiator opening, and along the other side to the opposite door.
The leading edge of the Cord’s front wheels actually preceded the hood because of the transmission placement ahead of the engine. This made the car appear as though it was leaping forward, even when standing still. Adding to the racy looks was a pair of chromed exhaust pipes (on supercharged models) extending out and down from the engine compartment.
Two body styles were produced, each with two variations: a two-seater cabriolet and four-seat convertible Phaeton, and an absolutely exquisite 4-door sedan available with or without an external trunk. The interiors were equally stunning, dominated by an “engine-turned finish” instrument panel. At both ends of the dashboard sat a small handle that the driver would use to raise or lower the hidden headlights; no power assist was available in those years.
The Cord, Short-Lived but Much-Admired
Eventually the kinks were worked out. Famous film stars became owners. Racer Ab Jenkins drove a Cord at the Bonneville salt flats, breaking a number of national and international speed records. Sales, however, did not live up to expectations and with the corporation in financial difficulty, E.L. Cord sold his shares to a banking group which had no interest in manufacturing cars. E.L.’s company included other units that were much more profitable, making everything from kitchen cabinets to air conditioners.
The last Cord left the line on August 7th, 1937. Its production span was relatively brief but the memory of this sensational beauty never went away, for the Cord is still revered. A remarkable number have survived, to be cared for by wealthy collectors and museums.
1936 Cord 810/812: The Beautiful Baby Duesenberg That Never Caught On
Marking its 75th anniversary this year, the classic Cord 810/812 flopped in the 1930s because of an early reputation for unreliability. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most beautiful sedans in Jay Leno’s garage.