1-of-1: Armored 1937 Cord 812

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As if the beautifully styled Cord 812 isn’t a rare enough beast at the best of times, this example has earned a true 1-of-1 status. The Cord has been painstakingly restored and is set to go to auction here at Barrett-Jackson on January 11th 2020. Surprisingly, especially given the potential value of the vehicle, it is being offered in a No Reserve auction.

So, what makes this Cord unique? The first is the body. It is the only 812 built with two spare tires mounted on the fenders. Add to this the distinct bustle-back trunk, the additional louver in the hood, and the fact that it rolls on a 132″ wheelbase (as opposed to the standard 128″ ), and you have something pretty special. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. This car is the only 812 built by Cord that rolled out of the factory armor-plated. This was a hidden secret, and the current owner only discovered this when he went to remove one of the doors to commence restoration. He noticed that the panel was incredibly heavy, and further investigation revealed that not only were there plates in all four doors, but there was also one behind the rear seat for good measure. The car was originally purchased by the State of Louisiana and was reputedly destined to be the transport for outspoken politician Huey Long, who seemed destined to find his way to the White House. Unfortunately, the Cord arrived too late for Long, who was gunned down by an assassin before the car could be delivered. The car then went through a number of hands before being parked and forgotten for decades. It was then purchased by its current owner in 1984. He commenced the restoration and having large parts of the work completed by specialists, the results are now there for all to see.

The Grey Metallic paint on the Cord looks absolutely superb, with no signs of any ripples, chips, or scratches. The exterior trim and chrome also look perfect. This is hardly surprising. The car was fairly solid and complete when purchased by the current owner, but he sank $51,000 into the restoration. The 812 carries two of my absolute favorite features. As well as suicide doors, the Cord also features hidden headlights. Those headlights are no ordinary lights but are modified Stinson aircraft landing lights.

The interior of the 812 is absolutely incredible, with the dash being dominated by the engine-turned gauge cluster. This features a speedometer, tachometer, a radio, gauges for oil pressure, water temperature, battery charge, and fuel level, along with a clock. The trim and upholstery look sumptuous, and there are art deco touches all over the cars. These can be seen in various switches and knobs throughout the interior.

The Cord features a 288ci V8 engine, that sends its power to the front wheels via a 4-speed semi-automatic transmission. The engine for the Cord was sourced from its own subsidiary, Lycoming. It produces 125hp in normally aspirated form, but could also be ordered in supercharged form, producing 170hp. The transmission was the source of some trouble for Cord, with early cars proving to be quite unreliable. By the time the company had sorted the problems, it was financially on the ropes, and the ongoing delays in sales delivery saw the company cease production in late 1937. The owner has had the entire drive-train restored, and the presentation of the engine bay is absolutely impeccable. Everything is original, and everything is spotless.

This Cord truly is a unique vehicle, and it has not only been meticulously restored, but it is quite simply a beautiful vehicle. It isn’t clear what it will finally sell for, but if the past 812 sales are any indication, then it will almost certainly be for a figure in excess of $150,000. In fact, the record price for an 812 was set back in 2018, and that car sold for an eye-watering $539,000. I’m not sure if this one will reach that mark, but if it did, I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Ramone

    Wow! Beautiful machine. Hardly a Barn Find, but nice to read about, and learn a bit about iconic cars like this.

    Like 21
  2. Classic Steel

    Wow even back then politicians and criminals ran a blurred str8 line.
    The armored plating a lil late for person ordering it but who knows it could serve for a current or future Illinois governor where a high percentage go to jail by end of terms 🤣

    Like 23
  3. Francisco

    Willie Stark’s car.

    Like 3
    • Robert White

      The ‘whole world could have been Willy Stark’, man.


      Like 0
      • Francisco

        “He Might Have Been A Pretty Good Guy … If Too Much Power … And Women … Hadn’t Gone To his Head.”

        Like 0
  4. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    God bless America

    Like 8
  5. Mark

    Doubt it was built for Huey. He got Swiss cheesed September 10, 1935.

    Like 3
  6. macvaugh

    I call BS on the Huey Long connection. Governor Long’s term ended in 1932 and he was elected Senator and was a serving US Senator when he was shot in 1935.

    Like 5
    • Christian

      According to Wikipedia (since I knew nothing of him before tonight), he was running for President at the time. He was also seen as a serious threat to the Roosevelt campaign, and had multiple groups willing to take him down, so this 812’s added armor adds up. Hand-building a car 80 years ago took time, and adding custom armor takes even more, so I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the story.

      Like 10
    • Wishful Thinking

      The Huey Long story is nonsense. Laughable. If this Cord were a 1935, and not a 1937, at least the timeline would be in the ballpark. But no one orders a 1937 car in 1935, nor would it have ever been built in 1936 or 1937 for someone who died in 1935. Amazing what people will post. Adding the 5 extra plates to this car would have taken Cord and extra few days at the most, not 2+ yrs.

      Like 8
  7. glen

    I could look at this all day, outstanding!

    Like 11
  8. Gunner

    Absolutely stunning. This example raises the bar for the Cord family. My money says it will go north of the 539K record. Infinite patience was needed in this restoration.

    Like 9
  9. UK Paul 🇬🇧

    In love.

    Like 4
  10. Kenbo52

    This would be fun . Love the a/c

    Like 2
  11. sw

    The story can’t be proved by me, and I’m not going to take the time to try. That aside this is an absolutely wonderful American automobile of the highest caliber. All Cords were beautiful beyond approach including the 810 and 812. Hupp and Graham used many of the Cords dies to save money and produced two more stunning automobiles.

    Like 1
  12. Del

    Wow. A Lycoming V8.

    This is certainly a Statement.

    Love to show up at local car show in it 😙

    Like 2
  13. craZee

    How could this car be restored (correctly) for $51,000?

    Like 2
    • Neil

      We don’t know how much had been completed on it prior to the last owner purchasing it.

      Like 3
  14. Bob McK

    This belongs in my garage! Love it.

    Like 4
  15. Mark

    These things always look very European to me this silver color it looks absolutely stunning

    Like 5
  16. Mark

    This looks very European almost like a delahaye or something especially in this stunning color

    Like 1
  17. Ken

    Sorry, the transmission is NOT a semi automatic. Its operation is manual but what confuses many is that the shift lever is an electric control for a pneumatic actuation of the transmission. This allows the driver to pre-select a gear as the system will not actuate the shift until the clutch pedal is fully depressed. Again, nothing happens until the DRIVER manipulates both the gear shift lever and the clutch pedal.

    Like 7
    • Lance

      Ken, you are correct. Hudson and Cord were the only two auto companies to offer this Bendix made system

      Like 2
  18. TimM

    The coffin cord in armor!!!

    Like 1
  19. Kenn Hildebrand

    Thanks for the transmission correction. I’ve used this years ago. Neat idea but never seemed to catch on. The shift levers were too small, IMO. Especially while wearing gloves in the winter.

    Like 2
  20. Little_Cars

    I’ve driven a pre-selector Riley owned by one of my British Car Club mates. Today’s generation of drivers would be lost trying to maneuver one of these through an empty parking lot! Built in the days when one’s appendages, senses and occasionally ones head or nose was required to drive a car.

    Like 3
  21. w9bag

    Here’s a Cord story. My friend’s Dad had an 812, with the supercharger. In the 60’s, he had his own auto repair business, and a guy dropped off his 812 for servicing. The work was performed, but the owner never picked up the car. A newspaper search was performed for 3 years, nation wide. No one ever answered the ad, so Indiana granted Mr. Kaufman a title. The car was absolutely beautiful; not perfect, but very nice. It was green, with gray mohair interior, and there was a sunshade that you pull down over the back window. I was offered to drive the Cord to my Senior prom in 1977. I was aghast ! What a wonderful gesture ! However, I just couldn’t accept the offer. I would have been very nervous, and would have made the whole prom experience muted. This a wonderful car. Cudo’s to the next owner. Enjoy !!

    Like 5
  22. ChasMember

    I have always loved the Cord Model 810 and 812 sedans, and as a 12 year old kid in 1968, I lusted after a neglected, derelict 810 bustle back sedan that was locked away in a garage in my hometown for years. I even broke into the garage to get a closer look at it. I tried and tried to find out who owned it in an effort to try to buy t, but at only 12 years old, I never had the resources to find the remote owner before it disappeared one day to my shock and horror.
    The transmission on these cars is not a semi-automatic. It is a conventional manual transmission with an electric pre-selector control mounted on the steering column which actuates a pneumatic shifter mechanism in the transmission. Brilliant design, but somewhat problematic in execuion.
    It is a shame that the shifter control is not shown in the photos, as it is beautiful with a tiny little shifter gate for the tiny little shifter lever. Also a shame not to show the individual cranks to raise and lower the headlights individually.
    Cord was also one of the first (if not the first) cars to eliminate the exterior running boards and to offer a covered flap or door over the concealed fuel filler cap. Really a remarkable and revolutionary design both in this configuration and in the earlier 1929 L29 iteration.
    The 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado was the next front wheel drive American car produced since the Cord, and Oldmosbile included some tribute design cues to acknowledge the Cord, including a grill that gave a nod to the coffin nose design of this one, similar wheel design with cooling holes, and especially the hidden headlights.

    Like 2
    • Mark

      There was a picture of the shifter.

      Like 1
    • Ed P

      The shifter is mounted on the dash.

      Like 0
      • Little_Cars

        Nope. On the stalk to the right of the steering column as has been stated. A “pre-selector” — cumbersome but ahead of it’s time engineering. In 2019 no millennial would want to fool with motivating a car such as this.

        Like 0

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