Chrysler Powered Coffin: 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton

If you’re looking for that one of a kind hot rod, look no further! Don’t worry, I’m not saying you should chop up this rare 1936/7 Cord 812 Phaeton, that’s already been done for you. All you have to do is drive it, after a bit of work, of course. The seller of this car, found here on craigslist in Auburn, Massachusetts, states that this is a real 1936 or 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton body that was placed on a late 1930s Chrysler chassis, though the body retains its original ID tag and VIN. It is claimed that the Cord was mounted to the Chrysler frame in the 1950s and includes a Chrysler flat six that spins free. Finding an unrestored Cord is rare, finding a period custom Cord is unheard of. This thing is cool.

The seller seems unsure of the year, but assuming the side mounted exhaust pipes are original, it is a 1937. The side pipes distinguished the supercharged models from the non, a feature first available in 1937. The Cords were originally powered by a 289 cubic inch Lycoming straight 8 that produced 125 horsepower. With the addition of a supercharger, horsepower was boosted to 170. It’s too bad this car doesn’t have its original running gear, as the Chrysler six likely won’t provide the same performance as the supercharged eight cylinder. When the similarly-designed Cord 810 debuted at the New York Auto Show in 1935 the crowd was left aghast. A number of orders were placed for the cars, and Cord promised delivery by Christmas. However, when the holiday rolled around not a single car had been built, as engineers were having trouble perfecting the new semi-automatic transmission. Cord had hoped to build 1,000 cars per month, but by the end of the 1936 model year only 1,174  were sold due to the mechanical issues. In 1937 just 1,146 812s were built, and a fraction of those were one of these Phaetons.

This coffin nose convertible has definitely been sitting for quite some time and has undergone some serious customization, including having its hood lengthened by two and half feet. Thankfully it appears to have new wheels and tires, which is great, as the seller states it rolls and steers. It also looks as if one of the hidden headlights is stuck halfway out. A dash mounted hand crank allowed the driver to tuck the re-purposed airplane landing lights into the fender when not in use. Unfortunately there are no pictures, but the seller says the original dash is in place, which should be engine-turned metal with full instrumentation that includes a tach and a radio.

These Cords were the first mass produced front wheel cars with independent front suspension in the United States. Cord originally introduced front wheel drive in 1929, but those cars, the L-29, didn’t get traction in the marketplace thanks to the Great Depression. The lack of a driveline allowed the body to sit below the frame rails and negated the need for running boards, a revolutionary look at the time.

Cord 810s and 812s featured numerous innovations in mechanics and styling and it is unfortunate that the quirks weren’t worked out. Their popularity has risen in recent years, so, despite it not having its original engine and supercharger, to find one in this type of condition is quite exhilarating, especially when fully restored examples are listed at nearly $200,000. In all likelihood this car won’t be returned to its original state, but I bet it is going to have an interesting story to tell over the next few years. What would your end result look like?

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Comments

  1. Calvin T.

    Anyone who would do this to a rare and very fine outo is BUTT WIPE.

    • KEN TILLY

      Hi Calvin T. Back in the 50’s when this chop job was done, it wasn’t a rare car, it was just an old car. I agree with your Butt Wipe comment should anybody want to do the same conversion today.

    • Dan h

      Agreed..haha..best comment ever!

    • Jerry Brentnell

      hey back then they were old cars my father took a 32 caddy touring car and gutted the rear interior and installed a weaver wrecker in it to make a tow truck! he got the car for next to nothing fixing another car for the owner ! another rare bird! a willys knight! dad said this guy also had a stearns knight that he wouldn’t sell

      • Alexander

        There is a 30’s Cadillac wrecker at the Tow & Recovery Museum in Chattanooga. I’ve also seen panel bodies grafted onto “luxury” Cadillacs from the 1930’s used for beverage delivery.

  2. lawrence

    Cal vin….take a break….it’s been over discussed….a car of any vintage – after a few years – say 10 – it was just an OLD car….some like this – there wasn’t much of a replacement parts source.

  3. ccrvtt

    Somehow this car is very appealing in its rough state. You have to admire whoever managed to stretch the hood that much and retain a smooth taper. It’s now long enough to house a straight 12, as in 3 Neon engines stacked back-to-back-to-back.

    Don’t laugh. It could happen…

    • Dairyman

      Packard did some trial & error in the early 30’s with a straight 12.

      1
      • Thayer

        Let’s keep the replacement engines in the family, Fred and Augie built some inline 12’s in their day. Just need a bit more stretching of that hood…

      • Ross W. Lovell

        Jaguar did the same thing, end to end DOHC sixes in an E-Type, looked ridiculous, but at least they were thinking out of the box.

        Would love to know or see what Fred and Angie was going to do to make that crank.

    • AMCFAN

      ccrvtt I agree. This car appeals to me as it is. What a remarkable find. It is easy to sit on your a_s and make dumb comments but not know or have a clue to what you are talking about.

      Many great marks from the 1930 were turned into trucks and everything in between if the poor thing made it past the WWII scrap drives. They were an old car nothing more. Amazing this beautiful Cord still survives at all

      • Alexander

        Marque.[märk]
        NOUN

        marques (plural noun)

        a make of car, as distinct from a specific model.

  4. Van

    Considering the length of the hood maybe a Lincoln V12 would be a good fit. Returning this car to original would only be possible by someone that already has the correct Cord parts. I’d say restore the car as is with a modern trans and an engine appropriate. I know some companies had straight 8s with decent power. This would be a fun cruiser with a sparkling finish and a zuit suit.

    1
    • Tom Cotrel

      Buick? Pontiac? Packard?

      • olddavid

        Originally it had a 125″ wheelbase. Much longer than I would have guessed. A mid 60’s Cadillac running gear would work, maybe even an Eldorado donor.

    • scottymac

      I’d want something more modern, with parts easily available, so once it was done you could drive and enjoy it. Aston Martin used two Ford Mondeo/Contour/Taurus 3.0 liter V-6s to make a 6.0 liter V-12. I’d restore the body as it is, and drop in the Aston V-12.

  5. MrBlueOval57

    Yeah at this point I would install a late model crate engine/auto tranny and give it a slick pearl blue paintjob.add some chromed out period correct wire spoke wheels with those superwide whitewall tires and it would be good 2 go with the reliable mechanics of a 21st century. Hot rod but with looks and style of the early 20th century.

    • al8apex

      umm, they never had wire wheels when they were new …

      • Ross W. Lovell

        Many had artillery wheels.

  6. MikeG

    So sad when you actually look at an image of a totally restored Cord of this vintage. Just beautiful cars!!

  7. 68custom

    A flat head Chrysler 6 you say! I say blasphemy! How could you do such a thing to a real classic?

    • Mark S

      68custom the change was made 60+ years ago I say restore body as it was customed in the 50’s pearl white paint, red leather interior and red top. Cumins turbo diesel 6.7 with quite mufflers, overdrive auto transmission, 4 wheel disc brakes, and chrome wires with black wall tires. I’d also redo all the chrome and run red pinstripe the length of the body. This combination on the drive Line is not for everybody but it would have the power and torgue to take this beast up any hill without breaking a sweat, and the 6.7 runs much quiter than the 5.9 with its mechanical injection. This drive line would definitely be more unique then the usual sbc that is stuffed into everything theses days.JMHO.

      • John S

        I think that something like what is on ebay at the moment – 1954 Packard 327 thunderbolt with ultamatic trans ($975 all in, not including the rebuild which may or may not be necessary)- would be more in keeping with the 50’s vibe.
        For me personally, the original cord rim design was gorgeous and would be perfect no matter the end design, but try finding a set of those today. :-(
        Wide whites all the way.

      • olddavid

        It does seem that the small block for everything is overdone, but when a garage rodder can buy a truck 5.3 that with minimal modifications will put out an honest 400 horsepower and be on the short side of $5000 all in, you just cannot argue. Myself, I would go the Intech 4.6 with C heads and Cobra intake, but that would stretch my wallet.

    • Bill Hummel

      I understand where you are coming from. But remember, when this car was modified, it was not a Classic. It was just an old car that someone wanted to save.

    • Jerry Brentnell

      real easy you have this car and need a running gear and you have a frame and running gear and little money ! remember men were working for a dollar a day back then, so you did what you had to do! my father owned a garage back then and did lots of crazy conversions on cars! how about yanking the motor and trans out of a model A an putting shafts on the front bumper so you could hook up a horse to pull it! why ? during world war 2 gas was rationed and for the most part #1 you couldn’t get any#2 you didn’t have the money to buy it if you could!

  8. jeff6599

    Corey was seriously mistaken and misled some of you when he said the original engine was a Lycoming straight 8. It was a V8 which is 4 cylinders long and therefore needed some extra space for that 6 Chrysler. The real reason, however, for the hood lengthening was the size of the Chrysler chassis. For two additional cylinders of length, most likely an 8″ addition would have done it. These days a simple reduction of the Chrysler chassis wheelbase would do it. Back when this was built, frame cutting and the like were pretty much taboo due to the unknowns of cutting and welding as well as a general lack of availability of good welding equipment as we have today. Thus, the most obvious decision to simply use the Chrysler as is.

    • whippeteer

      In the 50s they were “Z”ing frames as an extreme, and doing other frams modifications as well. I don’t think they were afraid to do it. Whether the person making the modifications wanted to, or had the ability is a different question. It was probably more work to lengthen the nose than shortening a frame.

    • Hank

      Jeff6599 is correct, they had V8 engines. I knew a man who had two and got to look at both. Only one had the cool centrifugal supercharger.

  9. Dan

    I want this so much. Better than a restored Cord in my opinion. Think how much fun you could have with this. Supercharged six for the win!

  10. Craig U

    An example of 20-20 hind sight! What a waste of a classic!

  11. Bob Hess

    About the ‘just an old car’… In the late ’70s we bought a ”57 Porsche Speedster chassis in poor condition for $100, cut a couple needed panels out of it and sold it for $200. How times have changed!

    • Mountainwoodie

      …and boy are you sorry! LOL…..Just like the Cord…everything is an old car at one time…………few decades down the road and you have an unobtanium classic. Unless its been chopped…………

  12. A.J.

    I have inspected this car and know little bit about Cords. From the firewall back the Cord 810/812 is a unibody. This car’s original fram is still intact from the torque boxes back but the Cord sub frame in front was replaced. In the CCCA magazine in the 1960s someone wrote in that they had spotted this (with a picture) and it basically looked the same as it does now. I’m not sure the math works on returning it to its original configuration but this is a unique car in that it had original side pipes but was not supercharged.

  13. Rube Goldberg

    Awesome. It’s a real life Peter Griffin car.
    http://pics.imcdb.org/0is167/snapshot20080116022022nf7.3923.jpg

    • carsofchaos

      “ouch, my pride!”

  14. Alexander

    The trunklid appears to be from another model Cord (Beverly sedan, Sportsman?) or maybe Graham or maybe fabricated from scratch. Not aware of any 812 Phaetons that came with a spare mounted out back.

    • A.J.

      The trunk is original. The spare is just bolted on. There is only 1 graham phaeton so it didn’t come from that. The Cabriolet, Beverly and Westchester have a different trunk.

  15. Peter S.R. Member

    OK guys, it’s (was) a classic. Get past that. It is a period hot rod.
    Now, run-what-ya-brung.
    Stop thinking about how it started and start thinking how it finishes.
    Forget about a SBC (maybe a big block GM like an Allison would fit) but consider a Chrysler straight eight. Should work out with the chassis. Start looking for some vintage speed parts. Failing that, fabricate a 4-two barrel intake and add exhaust exiting the hood side panel as Buehrig intended.
    If this were a ‘32 high-boy, built in the 50-60’s, you’d all be using words like legacy…

    • Peter S.R. Member

      BTW: this car has been languishing on Craigslist for a year or more…

      • whippeteer

        Yes, I remember seeing it in the past.

  16. Alexander

    Yeah, what Peter says! x2. Although, sourcing correct speed parts may be as elusive as original A-C-D parts. Call Jay Leno!

    I would be curious if this car, when first conceived by the “hot rodder,” ever made it onto the road semi-finished and if so maybe was written about in some magazines of the day (???)

    • Peteylocks

      I saw an episode of American Pickers a while back and Mike found an old Cord in a barn somewhere, he had it restored at the actual ACD factory which, it turned out, was bought by a gentleman lock, stock and barrel parts, cars and all. Many of the parts that they used to restore Mike’s Cord were actual NOS parts produced back in the day. Ok, so to FULLY restore something like this??? but who knows what kind of great stuff are hidden in the stores of that place? Maybe even a set of those wheels mentioned earlier.

      • A.J.

        Every car guy should be familiar with Glenn Pray and the pickle factory in Broken Arrow OK. Having been there in the last 5 years I can tell you they are still going strong, but most of the original parts from the 1930s are long gone.

  17. whippeteer

    Listed at $29K last year.

  18. Andre

    I’d love to hear the original story on this thing.

    I have a deep appreciation for period customs. There was a lot of hard work — both mentally and physically — that went this era of customs.

    Deserves to live as it’s creator envisioned if there’s enough left to pull it off, IMO. There’s enough restored Cords (relative) around that their history is preserved.

  19. frank

    “In 1935 the crowd was left aghast”…..meaning Horror and Shock? seriously, Horror and Shock? I’m not sure that’s the right word for the story….amazed, enthralled, excited, blow away…..but “Aghast”? But i did like the “didn’t get traction…” comment about a front drive car…har har…lol that made me laugh a bit…..

    • Brian Corey Burnt Toast Member

      But the car was shocking. It was unlike anything else on the road. Don’t you think coffins are horrifying ;)

  20. jeff6599

    Sorry again gents. When the CCCA was established in 1952, this car was on the list of full classics.

    • Peter S.R. Member

      That’s a fact.
      Now… use some speedy-dry on that spilt milk.

      • jackthemailman

        I usually ask, “Want a bowl of milk with that?”

  21. charlie

    There are stories about the L-29 (the 1929 front wheel drive Cord) that it could not go up steep rained on hills because of the lack of traction – the engine in the 1920’s designs was well back of the front axel. Fast forward to my 1984 Dodge Caravan, front wheel drive, engine above the axel, probably better tires, never a problem on wet hills, but backed up a few snow covered steep driveways and hills for the same reason.

  22. Arthur Brown

    the body was probably all that survived

  23. TouringFordor

    How about a Toronado drive train?!

    • Norm Wrensch

      Toronado would probably be too wide, seeing that the transmission is next to the engine not behind or in front as the Cord was.

  24. Cris Carver

    On some perspective, I recall seeing a cover story in maybe an early 60’s Popular Science on folks swapping out there Cord motors for Corvairs motors. Like someone said in an earlier post, in the 50’s & the early 60’s it was just an old car.

    • Alexander

      Cris, the “swapping out Cord motors for Corvair motors” occurred when the Pray Cords were introduced as their stock power plant. It may have started out as a couple of DIY gearheads doing it at home and shown in Popular Mechanics. But it was, and is, a great story if you are not familiar with it.

      • A.J.

        I have never seen a corvair powered 810/812 Cord. You are correct, most likely we are talking about the Corvair powered 8/10 Cord from Glenn Pray which is a completely different animal.

  25. Michael

    Lots of Cord Hot Rod images on line.
    $20K for all the parts to make it a $200K classic again makes sense. $20K for at best a parts car, or a potential hot rod, is too much.
    Jus Sayin

  26. Sam

    The Craigslist ad is down. Did anyone get the phone number of the seller or the price? I wouldn’t cut this car up in the first place, but it’s incredible with the long hood

  27. Alexander

    The price was listed on the CL ad…it is in the $20k range. I didn’t hit the reply button to see if the seller listed his name and number or email only.

  28. Alexander

    Point of clarification…the “Corvair into Cords” comment was specific to the fiberglass replicas of the early to mid 60’s, not the original cars. Doubt even a 180hp turbo ‘Vair motor would propel the original metal baby Duesy very well. Car & Driver did a cover story and drive report on the Pray Cord and I have that magazine somewhere.

  29. charlie

    And I seem to remember that the Cord/Corvair was 80% to scale or something like that. And as for just being an old car, in the early 1950’s there was a yellow coffin nose Cord sitting off Route 1 in or near Madison CT, which sat there for years, in the same spot, gathering falling leaves, dust, and rust. I did not know what it was, being 8 or 10, but knew it was extraordinary, and wanted my father to buy it so we could “fix it up”. He knew what it was and told me, that most important, he did not have the time, and second that they were trouble prone, and third that the company had long ago gone out of business and there were no parts. (I also had, at age 6, a toy ’46 – ’48 Continental, I had never seen one, had no idea if there was a real car like it, but knew it was, in 1947, an extraordinary car. When at 12 or so, I finally saw a real one, I was amazed at how big it was, and, how cool the V12 exhaust sounded.) And, they seem to be dropping in price, as we who lusted after them drop off the fact of the earth, and maybe I could afford one now.

    • Alexander

      I believe all the replica Cords over the years have been scaled down. Of course there are full scale Auburn Speedster replicas in fiberglass.

      As for the Lincoln you mention, I remember at the same age as you walking into the Lazy Susan Dinner Theater in Woodbridge, Virginia with my dad and being knocked out by the car museum they had there. A 46-48 Continental sat forlornly in the corner (this must have been around 1970-71) that the owner wanted to sell. I got to sit in it and marvel at the size of the tires and the sound of the engine. The selling price was, by modern standards, incredibly low like sub-$5000.

  30. Peter

    Lincoln also intro a V12 in the 1930s.. onew of those big five decisions.

    I would like to see some shots of the chassis rails and the engine.
    Is it a long wheel base chrysler chassis with no mods?

    Some good feedback here on this item.

  31. Peter

    This car would suit VANILLA ICE:

    Now that the party is jumping
    With the bass kicked in, and the Vegas are pumpin’
    Quick to the point, to the point, no faking
    Cooking MCs like a pound of bacon
    Burning them they ain’t quick and nimble
    I go crazy when I hear a cymbal
    And a hi hat with a souped up tempo
    I’m on a roll and it’s time to go solo
    Rollin’ in my 5.0
    With my ragtop down so my hair can blow
    The girlies on standby, waving just to say, “Hi!”
    Did you stop? No, I just drove by
    Kept on pursuing to the next stop
    I busted a left and I’m heading to the next block
    That block was dead Yo
    So I continued to A1A Beachfront Ave.

  32. jeff6599

    Well, the ’37 812 Phaeton had a 132 in. wheelbase and the sheetmetal was lengthened 30 inches. That makes the new wheelbase about 162 inches. The longest wheelbase of the post war Chrysler Corp. cars was 145.5 inches. So now to figure what the extra 16.5 inches of hood/body length is for.

    • A.J.

      Since I have looked under the hood I can tell you that there is a lot of empty space under there.

  33. Peter

    Jeff is /wasthat your car above?

  34. Gary Chittenden

    A Hemi would go nicely in there.

  35. Todd A

    What happened to the car? Does anyone have the contact info for it?

    I have a sedan and could swap the correct stuff between the two. A restored convertible is worth a whole lot more then a 1937 Westchester sedan….

    The factory hood is kind of short , housing a V8, and something would have to be extended to accommodate a longer frame, modifying the body meant making a new top assembly… Back in the 50s it was just an old car you could not find parts for……

  36. Peter

    ‘Tony’ I think the seller was but I did not get the number down before he deleted the original advt. Perhaps he sold it? It was the second time in a few years it has been advertised for sale. I believe it was extended in front of the firewall and the hood also. Someone here on BF had been to see it.

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