The unlucky genius

The model was very successful at its presentation and received a large number of orders, but reliability problems soon arose, leading quickly to the collapse of sales.

The story of Cord began in 1929 in Connersville, Indiana, thanks to the entrepreneurial flair of Errett Lobban Cord, at the time the owner of Auburn, Duesenberg and Lycoming Engines.

The first Cord was the revolutionary L-29, produced from 1929 to 1932, the first series-produced American car to have front-wheel drive; but the entrepreneur’s genius managed to go even further. Cord’s true masterpiece arrived in 1936, the 810 designed by Gordon M. Buehrig’s team with bodywork almost completely devoid of chrome and with a centre of gravity so low that it did not need steps to access the passenger cabin, commonly necessary at the time. The reason for the low centre of gravity was that the transmission shaft running from the engine to the wheels was placed forward of the engine, a solution also adopted by Citroën for their revolutionary Traction Avant.

The design of the bodywork was, as already mentioned, modern and harmonious with wings (fenders) wrapping around the wheels in the Ponton style, a term identifying cars with wings partially or fully integrated into the bodywork. The retractable headlights were also housed within the wings, operated manually by an interior control and were a real novelty for the time, a solution which only became popular in the 1960s with the only other car from the earlier era being fitted with them being the 1942 DeSoto.

Mechanically the cars always had front-wheel drive and were powered by a 4730 cc V8 Lycoming engine producing 170 bhp, propelling the 810 to over 160 km/h, whilst the gearbox had four gears.

The model was very successful at its presentation and received a large number of orders, but reliability problems soon arose, leading quickly to the collapse of sales. Cord attempted to revive the future of the model by relaunching the 810 as the 812 with some details revised and including a Convertible version, which had already been available in the outgoing model, but unfortunately the move was in vain and the Cord marque disappeared in 1937.

Although the Connersville company had disappeared the history of the 810/812 did not end in 1937; the car’s design was purchased by Hupmobile, which itself was in deep crisis. They found an ally in Graham-Paige, to produce a common car using the futuristic Cord as the basis and, from this joint venture signed in 1939, the Hupmobile Skylark and Graham-Paige Hollywood both appeared in 1940.

Unfortunately this revival attempt failed as both those cars turned out to be failures, mainly due to production delays. They both disappeared from the lists in 1941, when Hupmobile vanished completely as a marque.

Text by Tommaso Lai

Translation by Norman Hawkes

Copyright © Cars Forgotten Stories. All rights reserved.


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