Coffin Nose Custom: 1937 Cord 812 Project

Disclosure: This site may receive compensation from some link clicks and purchases.

Choosing an appropriate candidate for a project build can be challenging, especially for enthusiasts who march to the beat of a different drummer. A custom or hot rod often provides the best solution, but there is still a danger that the finished product will strongly resemble a pre-existing vehicle. That’s where this 1937 Cord 812 rides to the rescue. It is a stalled project build where most of the vital engineering and fabrication is complete. The new owner can slot a V8 under the hood, apply the paint shade of their choice, and complete the personalization with distinctive interior trim. The seller has listed the Cord here on Facebook Marketplace in Hanover, Pennsylvania. The price of admission is $21,500, and I must say a big thank you to Barn Finder Chuck F for spotting what could be a unique project.

Gordon Buehrig, working alongside a young Alex Tremulis, penned the design of the Cord 810/812 twins. The second name may be familiar to some people, as he served time with Ford and General Motors and was the man responsible for the Tucker 48. The Cord’s styling was considered revolutionary, and even today, it is far more elegant and refined than most other cars from the era. Its distinctive features included the hood that earned it the nickname “the coffin hood,” pontoon fenders, hidden headlights, and no running boards in an era when these were almost obligatory. All the pieces were there to create a sales success, with initial orders seeming to confirm that. Unfortunately, the reality proved far different, and Cord would be a memory by the end of 1937. This 812 project is unfinished, with most of the sheetmetal preparation complete. There is more for the new owner to tackle in pursuit of perfection, but rust is one hurdle they won’t face. The photos show no evidence of problems, and the seller doesn’t mention any prior issues. The hidden headlights and mechanisms are present, but a big question hangs over most of the glass and exterior trim. The window trims and fender skirts are shown in the supplied photos, but there is no evidence of windows, bumpers, or other items. The buyer may face a long search to locate appropriate pieces, but that is often the nature of custom creations.

The MIA list for this Cord includes the seats and most interior trim components. However, the beautiful machine-turned gauge fascia is intact and should respond well to careful polishing to recapture its former glory. The gauges are complete, but how many will be compatible with a custom drivetrain is unclear. The buyer may need to source retro-style modern gauges as a compromise, but several companies manufacture these. The radio is missing, and finding one could be challenging due to low production numbers. The interior is where the buyer can make their mark because the world will be their oyster when the subject turns to trim material. Leather would seem the obvious choice for a luxury vehicle like this, although mohair could be another option. Budget constraints may drive the decision because this is unlikely to be a cheap process.

The Cord’s radical drivetrain configuration was a triumph of lateral thinking but was also the car’s undoing. Hiding under the hood would have been a 289ci Lycoming V8 producing 125hp. The drive typically fed to the rear wheels in cars from this era, but Cord utilized a preselector four-speed transmission that sent the ponies to the front wheels. This approach eliminated the transmission tunnel, increasing interior space. The layout was similar to the Citroën Traction Avant setup, and with the demise of Cord, the 812 would be the last American front-wheel drive production car until Oldsmobile released its Toronado in 1966. The failure of the 810/812 twins stemmed from rushed engineering, with early cars suffering transmission and fuel vapor lock problems. By the time the issues were eliminated, Cord teetered on the edge of collapse. This gem is a roller, and the new owner could source an original drivetrain as part of a faithful restoration. However, the seller engineered the car with a Mopar front and rear end, with the engine bay setup to accept a Chevrolet small-block V8. That path would make sourcing ongoing maintenance parts easy, and the right approach could result in a luxurious hot rod that captures the aura and exclusivity this car enjoyed in 1937.

Some project builds require deeper commitment than others, and this 1937 Cord 812 probably sits at the top end from that perspective. The seller’s price isn’t pocket change, and locating missing trim items and other hardware will be challenging. However, transforming it into a runner shouldn’t be difficult, and the finished product could be stunning and genuinely unique. It will be fascinating to see if we have readers willing to accept the challenge or if this classic will wind up in the too-hard basket.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Nelson C

    Great basis for a project that few others will get to enjoy. IIRC the drivetrain is actually installed backwards with the transaxle in front of the engine. Maybe a V6 auto from a Chrysler LH car could be adapted. A 3.5 making 240 HP would be double the original Lycoming.

    Visiting the ACD museum a couple years ago affirmed my love of these beautiful cars.

    Like 12
  2. Wayne

    Love the body, the history and the thought processes on this car. I would love to complete this car. But the cost is too prohibitive.

    Like 3
  3. Ward William

    What an awesome sleeper this would make. Keep the exterior and interior stock and then blow everybody off at the lights with some seriously tuned V8 drivetrain madness,but with a very quiet exhaust just to really mess with people’s heads. I’ve loved the coffin nose since I was a kid in the late 60s.

    Like 5
  4. Driveinstile DriveinstileMember

    Im thinking, a Cadillac 472 or 500 and a FWD setup from an older Eldorado would be awsome if you cant get an original drivetrain. I sure hope someone saves it. I like the original color, and hope that the dash can be cleaned up, those were a work of art too.

    Like 8
    • Mick M

      The Oldsmobile / Cadillac setup will not work as the engine sits to far forward
      in relation to the tires

      Like 0
  5. 427Turbojet 427TurbojetMember

    When I first looked at this car, I was a little troubled by it’s proportions. I dug out my Auburn Cord Duesenberg book by Don Butler (an encyclopedia on A C D vehicles) thinking I didn’t remember any Cord 2 door sedans. I’m not 100% sure but I don’t think Cord ever produced any. The rear body work from the rear window back looks more Mopar (DeSoto or Chrysler) to me.
    If someone restyled the back third of this car they did a pretty decent job but couldn’t match the Gordon Buehrig /Alex Tremulis design. The rear 3/4 view of the Beverly and Westchester sedans has always been my favorite, even better than the cabriolet or phaeton body styles.

    Like 4
    • Aussie Graham

      I’m with 427….I am not anything remotely resembling a Cord expert, but when I saw the profile shot of the car I thought “something’s not right here?!” There is no boot (trunk) opening and the shape of the rear side windows and the rear body shape/contours just don’t match anything I can find from Cord pictures? I’m curious about it.

      Like 4
      • car fan

        I’m no expert either, however having looked at Hennings sight, the only two door models seemed to be convertibles, all other examples had four doors, it would appear that someone decided to delete the rear doors.

        Like 2
  6. dogwater

    I’m not a fan of old old cars but this one might be a great Mod project but you are going to have to have 50 to 60k if you do it yourself

    Like 0
    • Mark in TN

      30 years ago, friends and I were allowed to look at the Yenko Man’s cars. In his showroom he had a Cord. I don’t know what model it was but it was front wheel drive with hide-away headlights. Very nice car, needed nothing but I was more interested in the other cars he had on display.

      Like 1
      • John E. Klintz

        If it was in the Yenko showroom it’s somewhat likely that it could have been a mid-1960’s Cord 810 that was produced with a Corvair engine in the front and front-wheel-drive. The car was made out of some type of special plastic. The company made, if memory serves, a couple hundred of them.

        Like 0
      • Mark in TN

        John, I’m not sure but he can afford the real thing.

        Like 1
  7. Matthew Dyer

    Thanks for the article, Adam.
    If you have time when you are in NE Indiana, stop in Auburn on I-69.
    The ACD museum is full of amazing cars and stories.

    Like 3
  8. Wayne

    I originally thought the Toro/Eldo drive train. But the Mopar frame will not allow the width. (remember that the 425 Hyromatic is offset to the left) I was thinking that the “easiest” would be an Audi turbo 5 cylinder in backwards. (I believe that you can flip the ring gear in that tran-saxle) It would also be lightweight.(relatively) OR any engine/transimission combo with a transfer case to send power to a front diff. (who says you have to install a rear driveshaft?) Again, I really love the lines of this car and would like to have it. Regardless if it is or not an original 2 door coupe!

    Like 1
  9. Christopher

    If I couldn’t find an original drivetrain, I’d seek out an interesting newer FWD setup to honor it’s history of innovation.
    A V6/5-speed Accord drivetrain would be plenty peppy and also an excellent pun.
    Accord=A Cord

    Like 4
  10. nlpnt

    I can’t get over the awkwardness of the 2-door conversion. Rounding off the tops of the upper door frames would help a bit but the rear quarter window shape just looks like it should be more rounded to fit the lines of the car. I’d spitball reworking it to fit a shortedned VW Beetle pane but at that level of work you’d probably be better off just reversing the conversion.

    Like 0
  11. Steven Prange

    What a waste….who wants a rear wheel drive Cord….if you want that, get a Hupp Skylark or a Graham Hollywood.

    Like 0

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.

Barn Finds