Cord hubcap emblem. (source: Apijunior)
The Cord Corporation was founded and run by Errett Lobban Cord as a holding company for his many transportation interests, including the Auburn Automobile Company. Cord was the brand name of automobile, manufactured by the Auburn Automobile Company from 1929 through 1932 and again in 1936 and 1937.
Cord was noted for its innovative technology and streamlined designs. It is said that Mr. Cord had a philosophy to build truly different, innovative cars, believing they would also sell well and turn a profit. This did not always work well in practice.
Cord innovations include front wheel drive on the L-29 and retractable headlights on the 810.
Front wheel drive became common only in the 1980s, though Ford Motor Company introduced front wheel drive in certain models of its German-built Taunus M-series (from 1962 to 1970, the smaller models 12M (P4) and 12M/15M (P6) had front wheel drive), and General Motors introduced front wheel drive in the Oldsmobile Toronado in 1966 and Cadillac Eldorado in 1967. (Buick Riviera remained rear-wheel-drive until 1979). As personal luxury cars, these three GM models, especially the Toronado, were undoubtedly influenced by Cord.
Retractable headlamps did not become common as a standard feature until the 1960s (though DeSoto used them in 1942). The early Oldsmobile Toronados, whose GM stylists later stated they were trying to capture the "feel" of the Cord's design, also featured retractable headlights.
Demise of the Cord.
Early reliability problems, including slipping out of gear and vapor lock, cooled initial enthusiasm. Although most new owners loved their sleek fast cars, the dealer base shrank rapidly. In 1937, after producing about 3000 of these cars, Auburn ceased production of the Cord. The Cord empire was sold to the Aviation Corporation, and E.L. Cord moved to Nevada where he earned millions in real estate and other enterprises.
The design of the Cord 810/812 remains the most distinctive of the entire 20th century. In 1996, American Heritage magazine proclaimed the Cord 810 sedan, "The Single Most Beautiful American Car." The "Classic Cord" Hot Wheels toy car of the 1960s, a convertible coupe, is one of the most valuable, and commands up to $800 (2006) if still in an unopened package.
The sensational Cord 812 design was re-marketed almost immediately in 1940, but as a weakly-funded effort by ailing automakers Hupmobile and Graham-Paige. Their 4-door sedans, the Hupp Skylark and the Graham Hollywood, were unremarkable beneath the body dies. Retractable headlights gave way to plain headlight pods, and power came from a standard front-engine/rear-wheel drive design.
Only about 1900 were built before production ceased in the fall of 1940. From 1964 to 1970, two attempts were made to replicate the original Buehrig design for limited production. Both Oklahoma-based companies soon halted production amid financial difficulties. The replica Cord 8/10 was powered by a Corvair drivetrain.
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