Caretaker Needed: 1937 Cord 812

During the chilly month of November in 1935, the country was still in the grips of the Depression.  However, the love affair Americans enjoyed with automobiles had not cooled.  Inside the New York Auto Show, record crowds struggled to see a car that looked like no other on the road.  This incredible car boasted front wheel drive, hidden headlights, and a four speed pre-selector transmission.  It had a horizontal grill, a hood that (unlike other cars of the era) opened in the rear, hidden hinges, doors that fit flush with the body, and very little chrome.  This mechanical marvel sat so low that it didn’t need running boards.  Over 80 years later, the Cord 810-812 series are still on the short list of many of the world’s most prominent automobile collectors due to their revolutionary design.  In what can only be called a Christmas in July miracle, this 1937 Cord 812 sedan has emerged from hiding, and is available now here on eBay for an amazingly low BIN of $27,995.  Found in Pleasanton, California, this is the first 810-812 Cord I have seen in such good condition for such a low price.

Before we get started, a prospective buyer of one of these fine cars has to understand a few things peculiar to this car.  First off, these were mainly hand built cars and they require a patient restorer that can deal with their quirks.  For example, the transmissions worked on a pre-selector system, where the driver would shift a small handle to the gear that he wanted, then he pushed the clutch in.  The shifting was sort of an electrical remote control, and it caused a lot of headaches when they were new.  Next, the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Company went out of business years ago, so finding parts might not be easy. The good news is that owners can get help from the Auburn-Cord -Duesenberg Club, which for years has been one of the most active and supportive automobile clubs in America.  Finally, prospective owners must be aware that, if you decide to hot rod this car, the road to your house will look like one of those early monster movies where the villagers head en masse to your door with pitchforks and torches.  I’ll be the guy in the lead.

This particular Cord seems to have been under restoration when something happened to stop the owner from completing it.  The Lycoming V-8, which is unfortunately not supercharged in this example, appears to have at least been cosmetically restored at some point.  It is interesting to note that the cowl has been painted black, leading me to believe that the car would have been painted black if the restoration had continued.  When you see these cars in restored condition, black seems to be the color that best compliments their futuristic styling.

Inside, we see that the engine tuned dash and the steering wheel are also in great shape.  If you look closely, you can see the transmission pre-selector at the 3:00 o’clock position, partially hidden by the steering wheel.  In the lower right corner of the dash is the crank to open the right headlight, as these were not powered.  An identical crank sits at the bottom left corner of the dash for, you guessed it, the left headlight.  All Cords came with a tachometer, which was unusual for the time, and the radio was standard equipment when most cars made them an option.

Sadly, the interior looks to be original, and it looks like its best days are behind it.  While it will likely be pricey to replace all that upholstery, at least you will have a good pattern for the upholsterer to use.  I am guessing here, but I believe the chrome window surrounds were partially removed to replace the weather stripping.  Hopefully the replacements come with the car, or at least the originals are still around to use as a pattern.  The other thing glaring at us is the green color of the car.  This color may be the original color, although I have never seen a green Cord.  It isn’t on my bucket list to see one either.

Underneath, everything appears to be intact.  Greasy, but intact.  You would probably have to pull it apart and re-gasket everything to slow down the leaks.  The brake drums show the tell tale signs of leaky wheel cylinders, which is not uncommon for a car that has sat for a number of years.  The owner says that it was a garaged California car, and that the engine runs well.  By the looks of the brake drums, I’d guess they didn’t try the stopping part!

I really can’t help but like this car.  Condition wise, everything is there, and I cannot find any evidence of rust or accident damage in the pictures.  The styling is phenomenal, they are good road cars (when properly sorted out), and its not often that you can find a car for this price that could make the show field at Amelia Island if properly restored.  It could be restored to a pretty high standard by an amateur restorer if, once again, they had the patience and cash.  If I had the patience, space, and money, I would make an offer.  Not everyone can say that they owned a Cord, and this one is a solid example needing a caretaker to ensure that future generations can see just how amazing American cars can really be.

Fast Finds


  1. Rabbit

    One of the most beautiful cars ever built. Many years ago, while on a parts delivery (a bunch of 1-lb sticks of body lead), one of my customers had one beside his shop. Odd enough, but this one was a roadster, it’s mid-section covered by a tarp, and sticking out the rear, was the back of what looked like an Auburn Boat-tail. I know the 30’s were the era of custom coachwork, but can anyone else back me up on this?

  2. Sam

    Ditto…great convergance of form, function and features. I would put this in a category with the Chrysler Airflow, Studebaker-Loewy Starliner and Mercedes gullwing.

  3. RoselandPete

    I sure could use a winning lottery ticket right about now.

  4. BronzeGiant

    “although I have never seen a green Cord.”

    You don’t get out much, doya? :-)

    • Al

      I like the green, but British racing green has more appeal.

    • Puhnto

      That’s the color green I’ve seen before on Cords, too. I love it. I thinks it’s more stunning that BRG would be.

    • Sam

      ACD festival has great parade. They even drive functional chassis that are awaiting completion of coach work restoration.

      Fantastic museum as well as NATMUS behind the ACD plant.

  5. Al

    The ex- knew I loved Cords, so she bought me a Honda Accord.
    That’s the closest to a Cord, that she could afford. Had to sell it as I was too tall to get in it, whereas I could drive a Cord. dang…………!

    • Pat A

      …and the disciples were all in one Accord…

  6. Ed Williams

    I had a newspaper route in West L.A. when I was 13 years old. On my route a man had a Cord always parked in front of his house and that’s about as far as I could get. I couldn’t take my eyes off of that car. It was for me positively mesmerizing! I was always late completing the rest of my route and getting home on my bicycle.
    To top it off this guy also had a large scale live steam locomotive on a stand in his garage the door of which was always open. What was I to do!?

  7. Dennis Dusenberg

    Get your Cord parts right here! This guy’s dad bought the company and all the NOS parts and has them in Broken Arrow Oklahoma!

    Like 1
  8. Neil

    In my youth, my Dad belonged to The Classic Car Club of America. His first car was a ’37 Packard Limo, which had been owned by the North Western Bell phone company. It had the ” parade seats ” that they would use at horse racing events and parades and such. I believe it was an 85 point car. It was meticulous. His second car was a ’35 Caddy that was commissioned by the McColuch chain saw family. It was a custom build for them in ’34. My Dad was the second owner, outside of the family, to title that car. It got a perfect 100 points, and my Dad never showed it again. At the time, there were many Cords in the club. They were considered a cheap entry point car, but never demanded high points. This was like in the early ’70’s. At every show, or car-a-van we went on, I was ALWAYS drawn to the Cords. I thought they were so futuristic, and ahead of their time, I was in awe. The flip out headlights and super charger pipes? Holy Crap !!!!

    Like 1
  9. ccrvtt

    Kudos to Jeff for such an articulate presentation. Great car, great find.

    Like 1
  10. Mountainwoodie

    I like the green. Wish we had more of the backstory on the car……….

  11. Chris A.

    The roadsters are just a perfect design. The early sedans look much better than than the late version with the bustle rear end just to give more trunk space. Ruins the flow of the design.

  12. Big Mike

    Beautiful cars, I have been lucky enough to ride in one some years ago, it was a ride like no other.
    A couple of years ago in the TV Show American Pickers, they came across a place in Kansas, where they had parts for everything. If I remember right they owners Father bought an entire warehouse of parts back when they were going out of business, and they had everything you would need to restore one, and I believe they were also In the process of manufacturing new parts.

  13. Carroll overton

    Beautiful example of a lost style

  14. Old fart

    These things were the Jaguar XKE of their day. Totally different than anything else on the market. Smooooooth styling. Drop dead gorgeous in person.

    Unfortunately, the were also about as reliable. The FWD system on the Cords was problematic and a horror to sort out.

    The current ACD parts company is in Broken Arrow OK. They built a number of 5/6 scale Cords with Corvair (I think– it’s bend awhile) engines mounted in the front. They were also responsible for replicas of the boat-tailed Auburn Speedsters on modern chassis/drive train.

    When Cord went belly up in the mid 30’s, Hupmobile bought the body dies for the Cords and used them. Graham also used the dies for their Hollywood model.

    Gordon Buehrig was the original designer. He also designed/patented the original design for T-tops.

    Fascinating time in American automotive history.

    The factory and showroom in Auburn, IN have been restored as a museum. Showroom was restored in the early 70’s and is a model of Art Deco design. Well with making the time to visit if you’Re ever in the area.

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