Advanced Engineering: 1937 Cord 812 Westchester

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Built during the height of the Art Deco period, and featuring some futuristic and revolutionary engineering, the Cord 812 Westchester was capable of many things, but it was completely incapable of saving the manufacturer from collapse. Today, Cord is a manufacturer consigned to the pages of history, but thankfully, examples of their beautifully styled cars live on. This 1937 812 Westchester is in need of complete restoration, but the end results should be well worth the time and effort involved. It is located in Medford, New Jersey, and is listed for sale here on eBay. The owner has set the auction to open at $24,999, but there have been no bids to this point. However, there are 94 people watching the listing, which would suggest that this is a car that has sparked a certain amount of interest since it was listed for sale.

The wraps came off the Cord 810 (the predecessor to the 812) at the New York Auto Show in November of 1935, and the car was an immediate hit. Those attending the show were astounded not only by the beautiful styling of the vehicle but by some of the innovative engineering under the skin. The “coffin nose” hood and concealed headlights gave the car a swooping and aerodynamic look that set tongues wagging. In fact, while the 810 was classed as the predecessor to the 812, they were essentially identical cars, with the 810 being the 1936 model, and the 812 being the same car built one year later. Those glory days are a long way behind this Cord, but it is far from being a lost cause. That beautiful body is said to be free of rust issues, but the deterioration in the paint means that any serious restorer is going to be obliged to strip the entire body back to bare metal if a restoration is going to be completed properly. It appears that the majority of the external trim and chrome is present, although this will all require restoration. Thankfully, all of the Cord’s hubcaps come with the car, because I wouldn’t fancy trying to source replacements.

The Art Deco styling themes continue inside the Cord, with a highlight being the beautiful machine-turned dash and gauges. While the engine and transmission of the 812 was an engineering marvel, the interior didn’t escape the innovative features. There was a facility to allow the owner to check the engines oil level from inside the car, without the need to either exit the car or to open the hood. This was achieved by pressing a simple button on the fuel gauge. While the Cord was advertised as providing adequate room for 3-abreast seating, interior shoulder space can be tight, and an 812 really is a 4-seater. The interior of this 812 is complete, and I believe that the upholstery on the door trims might be original. I think that the seats have received new covers at some point. In spite of the exclusive nature of a car like the Cord, the fact that the interior is complete will theoretically make restoration no more expensive than for any other classic car.

Powering the Cord is a 288ci flathead V8 engine, producing 125hp. This power is then sent to the front wheels via a 4-speed semi-automatic transmission. It was here that we find both Cord’s greatest piece of engineering and the feature that was also the final nail in the coffin for this great manufacturer. In order to qualify for the November 1935 New York Auto Show, Cord was obliged to build 100 of its 810 model. They did this without the engineering for the transmission being complete. When the car appeared at the show in November of 1935, Cord took a huge number of orders, and having envisaging being able to produce 1,000 cars per month, promised delivery to their buyers by Christmas. Alas, it wasn’t to be. The new transmission was proving to be extremely troublesome, and the first cars were finally delivered in April of 1936, well behind schedule. Many potential buyers had canceled their orders, and Cord was in a precarious financial state. The 812 model update followed in 1937, but it was all too late. The engine in this 812 does run, and the transmission shifts cleanly. The brakes don’t work, so they will need some work, while the leaking water pump will also require a rebuild. Otherwise, it all looks positive for this car.

Before the ax finally fell on the Cord empire in 1937, the company had managed to produce 1,714 of the 812 model. This was a long way short of the 1,000-per-month build totals that they had originally envisaged. Some of their problems were due to the delays mentioned earlier, but many were due to the fact that Cord was attempting to sell an expensive product into a market that was hard-hit by the Great Depression. When it comes to values today, the “big ticket” cars are the 812 models with the supercharged engines. These can fetch prices of around $90,000. The normally-aspirated 812 is a slightly different creature. Prices of these seem to hover around the $60,000 mark, although they occasionally do sell for less. This one will need a lot of restoration work, but I would be willing to bet that if you took it on and completed it, you would almost certainly have the only one in your neighborhood.

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  1. Pookie Jamie

    Sounds like the story of Preston Tucker. I love the looks of this car.

    Like 12
    • Pat

      I thought so too. Even down to the transmission issues. Both were innovative cars.

      Like 9
      • Brian

        Fun Fact: On the 23 Tucker cars built, the transmission was a Bendix-Cord salvaged from junkyard Cords and used as a stopgap while the factory developed it’s own design. :)

        Like 0
  2. Fred W

    Need a part for a Cord? PRAY! No really, Doug Pray (in Oklahoma) owns virtually the entire inventory of leftover Auburn and Cord parts, and the rights to the names. The factory was bought out by an investor in the 30’s and later passed on to Doug’s dad Glenn – about 700,000 pounds of parts. So when you buy this particular “orphan”, you aren’t left out in the cold parts wise.

    Like 20
    • Ethan

      That factory later became a dishwasher plant where my grandpa worked

      Like 5
  3. Joe Machado

    An elderly friend who passed away about 15 years ago had the Cord to have. Mr Cords convert. We would cruise here in the desert in it. Memory says it was a 4 door. Do not know where it went. Interesting cars.

    Like 9
  4. canadainmarkseh

    If the top money for these is only $90k and the owner is asking $25k, I’d say you’d better want this for yourself because your not going to get it to #1 condition without spending a fortune on it. Is $65k enough to get it back to show room condition. And if your doing it for the money are you going to find a buyer that will give you enough for even a small profit. I think these cars look very sharp but they’re out of my league. It’s a shame that this car was left to the elements and not cared for. It’s no secret that these are valuable rare cars so what was the owner thinking when he let this car go to crap.

    Like 13
  5. BR

    If the new owner rat-rods this, someone should hunt him down and put the hurts on him.

    Like 20
  6. Joe Machado

    I just made two trips cross country and found tons of cars outside baking, soaking, weeds growing around, hiding them. Trees growing thru them. Saw many homes and stores boarded up. Things loose there value from new. Time and billions of reasons as to why they get abandoned.
    Some of you do not understand why. Death, divorce, lost interest, or other more important things in life come along.
    Hence, cars were $1. to a high of $200. in the 30’s thru the 70’s. Bartering to get a car was common.
    Its easy to reason why what you think is so valuable now, that it should have never been left out in the elements to rot. Its the cycle all things experience.
    I have two more cross country trips to make to Florida from Calif. That will be September.
    I found many abandoned cars on I-10, I-20 and I-40. Hwy US 287 has quite a few places with fields of cars.
    287 from Amarillo to Dallas is where I will stop and spend time searchin this next trip.
    I rotate routes to not get board. 40 is more towns and vehicles
    So far being empty on my return, I may have to find something. I hate an empty trailer

    Like 12
    • stillrunners

      Joe….you might know Trent in Sunset, Tx…..his place is a good one to stop at on 287.

      Like 0
  7. Bass Player Mike Mike WMember

    I got to go for a ride in a beautiful, restored one last year, what a car. Absolutely beautiful inside and out, and with the preselector gear shifter too… Suicide front doors on these beauties too…

    Like 6
  8. lbpa18

    To me this car has it all. Some of the finest most creative lines to come of that age. This seems so complete that it is hard for me to believe this would be that difficult of a restoration. I see so many here that are rust buckets and missing parts that they look insurmountable, yet many comments say “restore”. When this one is finished, it will be the Belle of the ball.

    Like 6
  9. JimmyinTEXAS

    Still no bidders, but up to 196 “watchers”.

    Like 3
  10. rod444

    One of the few cars that caught my eye as a teenager that STILL makes me go weak in the wallet,…er, knees 40 years later. That grille! The flowing roof line. The aerodynamic shape. Hideaway headlights! The suicide doors – the designer of this machine was a true artist.

    Like 9
  11. TimM

    Great piece of automotive history!!! The coffin cord is an iconic and luxurious car for its day!! Kind of odd to see one that hasn’t been butchered or scavenged for parts!!!

    Like 3
  12. Michael Ridley

    I think no matter how cheep you get this one you are upside down even doing all your own work. If decent ones with out the supercharger as this one is, sell for 60,000 or less, at 30 to start you will have 100k in a 60k car. no way no matter how nice they can be

    Like 2
  13. Stevieg

    Wow! This could be a beauty with relatively little work (compared to others seen here). It runs & shifts. No major rust issues. There goes half the battle.
    This was an antique before I was even born (1970), but I still see cars like this & I wonder about the history, who was the aristocrat who purchased it new? What news worthy events was it “present” for? I wish I could buy it & restore it. Even if I lost money on it, that wouldn’t be the point. The point to me would be double fold. One is to preserve history, the other would be just to own one. Lets face it…$60,000 or more is a lot of money to a working stiff like me. So is the $25,000 “beginning” bid. But $25,000 is obviously way less than $60,000. The $25k would obviously be easier to come up with, so then the working stiff has the car. It can be restored over time as money allows. It would be even easier for someone with the right skill set, although still not cheap. Right now, I know I can’t find the $25k to even bid. But between this & the 3 on the tree Skylark convertible, my “mental garage” is getting more crowded by the day.

    Like 2
  14. rod444

    I’m always intrigued by the comments on here about how much it costs to restore a car. “You’d have to spend 50k to get that back into good condition” is a common statement but where do you guys get those numbers from? Sure, if you’re hiring a SHOP to do the resto, then its easily going to exceed that number… but most of us are here because we are car lovers and I wouldn’t hire a shop to do anything unless I absolutely had to. I’ve restored at least 30 cars by now and rarely do I spend more than 8k and that’s including painting them myself. If youre a scrounger and you keep your eyes open you can find stuff cheap, but it just takes time, lots of time to find the right seller with the right part at the right price. SLOW and steady wins the race. I’ve made money on all but about 3 of my restorations.

    Like 7
    • canadainmarkseh

      There is truth in what your saying and that is the journey that I’m on with my dodge. The reason there is so much chatter about cost is most people can’t do it themselves. Restoring 30 cars is quite an accomplishment I’d say that’s reaching small business level. Maybe this should be your next car rod444.

      Like 3
      • rod444

        I’d LOVE this car… but there are already a few awaiting some love on the yard – and if the unfinished to finished ratio gets too high, sleeping on the couch becomes likely :)

        Like 2
  15. Rob Stevens

    Bidding was stopped today, Aug11, apparently by the Owner before a 1st bid was even given, tho many were watching.. to me that sounds like someone outside of eBay bought it for ??. I really do wish them luck on the restoration.

    Like 1
  16. Rodney - GSM

    This car strikes the right “Chord” in every way. Amazing design and engineering way ahead of its time.
    Well worth a restoration to bring it back to its former glory in American automobile history. Someone please save this before it deteriorated any further. Rare and beautiful, what else is there?

    Like 1
  17. Eigil

    $25,000 is bargin price for a car this caliber and condition.

    Like 0
  18. Ken

    Once again, somebody referes to the transmission as “semi-automatic”. Wrong! The pre-selector means of shifting gears is a very complex system of switches and pneumatic actuators that makes it possible for the driver to select the gears in a transmission far away from him/her. The clutch is fully manual as well so this is not in any way a semi-automatic. These really are a fun car to drive but the transmission is fragile, especially 1st gear with its very fine teeth and no synchromesh.

    Like 2
  19. leiniedude leiniedudeMember

    Ended: Aug 11, 2019 , 11:10AM
    Starting bid:US $24,999.00
    [ 0 bids ]

    Like 0
  20. Kenn

    Had a chance to buy one of these in 1965 – in much better condition – for $800! My now ex killed the idea. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have held on to it this long anyway. RE: The transmission. You pushed a button for the gear you wanted, let go, then when you pushed in the clutch the tranny would shift to that gear. Hence the “semi-automatic” rumor.

    Like 0
    • BR

      I’ll never know why it’s called semi-automatic. It’s not. Chrysler had the semi-automatic “Presto-matic” and “Tiptoe-matic”. This is a pre-select, much like a two-speed differential.

      Like 0

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