Auburn Automobile Company was the manufacturer of Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg automobiles. In July 1924, E.L. Cord became Vice President and General Manager of Auburn Automobile Company, and in 1929 became its new President. Production ceased on August 7, 1937.
The design for the 1938 Cord prototype was done by Alex Tremulis, Auburn's Chief Designer. The car was an evolution of the landmark 1936-1937 Cord 810/812, famously designed by Gordon Buehrig. Total 810/812 production was 2,972 cars, including 205 convertible cabriolets, plus this one-off prototype 1938 Custom Cabriolet.
This Cord prototype had been in storage since 1958. The current owner found it in 1989 and embarked on a 15-year restoration. During the restoration process, the discovery of original factory photos helped as the prototype was returned to its original 1938 specifications and appearance.
In the early 1920s, E.L. Cord used his business and sales talents to gain control of the Auburn and Duesenberg automobile companies. In 1929, he created his namesake, the Cord, as the middle-class volume sales part of his ACD conglomerate.
Cord had designer Gordon Buehrig design this car to be a 1935 Duesenberg. The concept of front wheel drive was incorporated and, at the last minute, it was renamed Cord. The design featured twin flush mounted tail lights, no running boards, step down interior, disappearing top, concealed door hinges, fold-away headlights, built-in radio, and full ventilated wheel disc.
The Cord 810 was introduced at the 1936 New York Auto Show. Show rules required that 100 cars had to be produced in order to be displayed. Auburn built the 100 cars in 116 days. The car was the hit of the show with people standing on tops and running boards of other show cars to get a glimpse of it. For 1937, the model was designated as 812 and a supercharger was offered increasing horsepower to 170. These models were distinguished by the chrome-plated external exhaust pipes mounted on each side of the hood and grille.
When the current owner started restoring this car, he found many aspects of the car that 'didn't add up.' Research determined that it was a custom prototype for 1938 featuring planned changes such as a sloping grille, raised body and a smoother transmission cover, but the company went out of business before 1938 production could begin.
The Cord was owned by Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg. Thus their similarities in vehicle design. These three firms also owned the Lycoming engine manufacturing company. This company supplied the 289 cubic-inch V8 engine that gave this vehicle life. The engine was rated at 125 horsepower, with the supercharger the horsepower increased to 170 bhp. The 125hp engine was capable of 90 miles-per-hour with a zero-to-sixty rating of about 20 seconds. A four-speed pre-selector was used, and the wheels were fitted with drum brakes. The Gordon Beuhrig design is very classic, clean and inspired by aviation. The hood was called the 'Coffin Nose' look for obvious reasons. The hood, when opened, would open upwards. The windshield was split in the middle and was small in comparison to other vehicles. This was due to the room needed by the massive V8. The front had a chrome bumper and a wrap-around grill. Two lights were attached to the bumper and two retractable lights were hidden in the front wheel covers.
Production began for the Cords in 1936 and sales were steady. However, the company itself was not doing as well. The industry was very tough during that era due to many obstacles such as competition.
In 1937 the car was renamed to the 812 and included a few modifications. The 812S were supercharged and had chromed exhaust pipes attached to the side. It was too little, too late. Production ceased later that year due to company financial problems.
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