Ground-Breaking Classic: 1936 Cord 810 Westchester

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Emerging from this shed is a ground-breaking car whose styling is not only extraordinarily elegant but caused a media frenzy when it was unveiled at the 1935 New York Auto Show. The car in question is the Cord 810 Westchester, and even though more than 80-years has passed since the model was unveiled, nice examples will still grab plenty of attention. The other thing that nice examples are capable of achieving is extraordinary pricing. That is one of the characteristics that make the right project car a tempting proposition. It is possible that this could be just such a car, so take a look and see if this is a project that you would be willing to tackle. Located in Castle Rock, Colorado, you will find the Cord listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $3,483, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

It would seem that the owner of the Westchester is a true enthusiast because he includes a picture of his own beautifully restored example in the listing. The 810 grabbed so much attention when it was unveiled due to the fact that its styling was like nothing that the motoring world has seen before. The coffin hood, pontoon front fenders, lack of running boards, and concealed Stinson headlights gave the Cord a distinctive, Art Deco appearance. Looking the car over, there doesn’t appear to be any significant evidence of rust problems. However, with an 810, the rust that is visible is not as much of a concern as the rust that you can’t see. Being of unitized construction, any rust in the floors can potentially compromise the vehicle’s structural integrity. The owner makes no mention of issues in this area, so it is hoped that all is well “below decks.” As you can see, the front fenders are missing, but the bottom photo in this article shows a parts car that will be included in the sale and the fenders on that look like they would restore quite nicely. Being an enthusiast, it would seem that the owner has also accumulated a reasonable collection of parts, so he could potentially be a ready source of parts during the restoration process.

It was under the hood that the Cord 810 broke new ground. The engine is a 288ci Lycoming flathead V8, producing 125hp. This power finds its way to the front wheels via a 4-speed semi-automatic transmission. While the 810 wasn’t the first American car to feature front-wheel-drive, it was the first to be outfitted with that combination coupled with independent front suspension. All of this ground-breaking technology came at a cost, because not only was the Westchester an expensive car when new, but its early reputation for mechanical unreliability exacted a high toll on the company, having a significant negative impact on both public perception, and sales. By the time these problems had been addressed, the damage was not only done, but the wounds to the car’s reputation would prove to be fatal to the brand itself. While early examples could be prone to vapor-locks in the engine, it was the semi-automatic transmission that caused the most damage. This was rushed into production, and early examples were extremely prone to slipping out of gear. By the time Cord had engineered a solution, it really was a case of “too little, too late” for the company. Unsold examples of the 1936 810 were assigned a new model designation and sold as the 1937-model 812, but by the end of that year, Cord as a vehicle manufacturer was no more. This vehicle does appear to be largely complete, and while components such as the radiator, water pump, and the fan aren’t visible, they are included in the sale. It isn’t clear what sort of condition the engine and transmission are in, but the engine itself is of a pretty simple design, so even if it requires a rebuild, this could potentially be an inexpensive exercise. The transmission may present a different story, but there are a few specialist services that should be able to provide assistance on this front if required.

The interior styling of the Cord 810 is dominated by two things. The first of these is the Art Deco design of the controls and knobs throughout the vehicle. However, it is the dash and the gauge cluster that really steals the show. This machine-turned feature is a thing of beauty, and it houses a vast array of gauges and features to keep the driver well informed of the vehicle’s health. As well as the gauges, the cluster also houses an engine oil level indicator, along with a standard radio, a feature that was a real rarity in 1936. This interior is going to require a full restoration, but at least it does appear to be essentially complete. The seats, door trims, and headliner shouldn’t prove to be any more expensive to restore than any other luxury vehicle from this era, so I guess that this is some pretty reasonable news. The gauge cluster and the gauges themselves will require a full restoration. This shouldn’t present a huge problem, because there are a number of specialist services that can not only restore the gauges but calibrate them as well. However, this work can usually cost around $2,000, or possibly even slightly more. That isn’t cheap, but it is well worth having the work performed properly in a car of this type.

Restoring this 1936 Cord 810 Westchester is almost certainly going to be an expensive and time-consuming process, but ultimately, it could be well worth the effort. If the floors are solid, then returning the body and paint to their former glory won’t be any more complicated than with any other vehicle of unibody construction. If the restoration is completed to a high standard, then a value of around $80,000 could be the expected starting point for the vehicle, but is the restoration is performed to an exacting level, then $130,000 certainly wouldn’t be out of the question. The record price for a 1936 810 Westchester was set in 2008, and this was an eye-watering $269,500. That’s a lot of money, but then again, these are a pretty special car. Whether we will ever see an 810 achieve those sorts of prices again is a great unknown, but there is no doubt that a six-figure valuation is a real possibility. It certainly makes this a project that is well worth considering.

Auctions Ending Soon



    Worth restoring just for the cool steampunk dashboard.
    Go restomod and make it AWD with a LS2.
    Or better yet…put a two motor electric set up in that puppy .
    More room…more KW / HP… a fitting modern re-interpretation . Panoramic sunroof.
    LED highlighting of the chrome strakes on the streamline moderne nose of this beauty.

    Like 5
    • husky

      Good Golly make a 318 Poly

      Swap :-)

      Like 0
  2. Matt Watson
    • Steve RM

      Amazing car Matt. Thanks for the link.

      Like 2
    • Steve1957

      Wow, thanks for that link indeed! I see the “life” in “dead” houses and cars, and this builder’s vision is extraordinary. That windshield split like the Bugatti Atlantic is a perfect touch.

      Like 1

    UH just no, this car deserves to be restored back to its original state. These are rare and historical cars that need to be preserved, not restomoded into oblivion.

    Like 27
  4. Jimmy Novak

    “Restomod” is a copout word to describe an impossibility. Something is either restored or it’s modified.

    Like 8
  5. Bob McK

    I wonder what its future will be.

    Like 0
  6. IkeyHeyman

    The number of people with the resources and desire to restore this could probably all fit into an elevator, as nice as it would be to see it restored. Some good parts here, though.

    Like 3
    • Steve1957

      I think you’re exactly right. This car, and the beautiful custom one in the link above, got to the derelict condition they did because NO ONE wanted to restore them. But the primary styling factor, that beak, was preserved in the restomod linked above, and to me anyway, that’s the important thing.

      Like 0
  7. Bellingham Fred

    I find it….I’m looking for the right word, interesting, perhaps that the Coffin nose was described as “ground breaking”.

    Like 3
    • Steve1957

      Remarkable that such a design was even “undertaken”.

      Like 1
  8. JohnfromSC

    I believe the values quoted are for factory supercharged versions, which this does not appear to be. Non supercharged models go for much less. For example, one like this but restored sold at RM Sotheby’s auction last year for $42 K.

    Like 3

    Restoring and sorting out the 4-speed semi-automatic transmission can be a nightmare.

    Like 1
  10. PeterfromOZ

    Note the engine is not a 90 degree V8 but a 135 degree or more to lower the bonnet height. One of the V16 Cadillac engines used this odd angle also.

    Like 1
  11. Richard Davis

    These were amazingly beautiful cars! I would love the opportunity to bring this one back! Oh that’s right, I’m just down the road in Colorado Springs! Road trip!!!

    Like 2

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