Innovative Beauty: 1937 Cord 812 Westchester Sedan

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Cord is a terribly underrated company. Their L-29 is achingly gorgeous, and in this writer’s humble opinion, is one of the most beautiful cars to come out of the United States. Cords, as their signature, were front-wheel drive, which allowed the body to be low and sleek. They were the first car to feature hidden headlights, a standard radio, and variable speed windshield wipers. In good condition, a Cord looks like an evil airplane coming down the road…but in a good way. You can find this 1937 812 Sedan here on eBay.

The seller states it’s in need of restoration, and they’re right. A cursory glance over the pictures included shows awful paint and misaligned body panels. Crucially, the car looks mostly complete and it runs and moves under its own power. The V-8 engine drives the front wheels through a semi-automatic four-speed manual transmission. Supercharging was offered as an option, but this one looks to be naturally aspirated. Cords weren’t known for having the most reliable transmissions in the car industry, though, so you’re probably going to want to get that at least looked at, if not rebuilt.

Inside, the upholstery has some rips and stains, but everything looks to be present. All the glass is there, and the engine-turned dashboard frames full instrumentation and makes you feel like a super cool pilot, ready to take off from the tarmac in your coffin-nosed jet. The headlights raise and lower by means of a couple of hand cranks on the dashboard. No word on if they’re functional, but since they’re hand-driven, there’s no motor that can go out on you.

Cords were factory hot rods, offering owners space-age technology, speed, and engineering in a gorgeously designed body, during a time when your typical car on American roads was a slow, steel-on-wood box with an upright, chrome grille and big round headlights. Still today they turn heads, and like the seller says, you will likely be the only one at any given car show. I’m lucky enough to live near Minnesota’s Back to the Fifties car show, and every year there are literally hundreds of the Tri-Fives, but only one or two Cords, if any at all. In a national show that routinely brings over twelve thousand cars, you are guaranteed to stand out and make an impression if you’re the only one.

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  1. HoA Howard AMember

    Kind of strange a car like this shows up today. Why, just last night, I was watching Mecum auction in Monterey, and 2, ’37 Cord 812’s came through. One a convertible, one like this. Naturally, in immaculate condition, they struggled to get $50g’s. I guess it didn’t help the previous car was some vintage blue Ferrari that garnered $3.1 MIL,,okay, a Ferrari will always bring those prices, but I was shocked, a car of this magnitude, which was the ULTIMATE classic in my day, and an amazing car for the 30’s, doesn’t even come close, and this was California. So that makes this lofty price for a car needing a complete restoration,( and 0 bids) seems kind of silly. This car doesn’t have the “Electro/Vacuum” shifter, I thought all Cords had that. I read somewhere, they were troublesome, and maybe this car was converted to a regular shift. Cool find, but again, with 0 bids, I feel the mighty Cords days are over.

    Like 6
    • Dave Peterson

      Somewhere in the detritus of my Father’s collection, is an Electric Hand from a ’30’s Hudson. I remember him finding it in the attic of the Blue Star warehouse in Chicago circa ’63? It was unchanged for use in these Cords, right Howard?

      Like 2
      • Dave Peterson

        PS – engine by Lycoming?

        Like 4
      • On and On On and OnMember

        Blue Star warehouse.OMG ………I used to go there with my dad looking for Durant parts about that same time if I’m not mistaken…………..

        Like 1
    • Mark

      I agree! My 35 year old son says those antique cars are not for him. That generation is dying off. Muscle stuff is still hot but cooling off. Went to a car show in south Jacksonville, 250 cars, 90+% were rice burners, Ferraris, Porches, and low rider crap. There was even a 3+ million dollar European car that the owner drove there.

      Like 3
  2. wuzjeepnowsaab

    Wow. Strange that this is on eBay instead of BaT

    Like 2
    • Kim

      BaT was once a place to catch and but affordable basket cases, now it should be renamed bring a loan officer.

      Like 7
  3. JohnfromSC

    The supercharged versions are still desireable, hold value and show up at prestigious concours shows. Regretably, the regular versions do not have great value, and cost virtually the same to restore as the supercharged version. That’s the unfortunate reality.

    Like 11
  4. RIck

    A trip to the media blaster will reveal any problems and take off that flaking paint. Overall, it looks in decent shape, though I’d want to see the frame. For this one, I’ll be the first to say it: LS4 from a Monte Carlo SS along with the transmission, and drive it almost as-is..

    Like 2
    • Joe Padavano

      Ah, of course, the “hit it with an LS stick” response….

      Aside from the obvious lemming quality, the transverse FWD LS4 won’t fit in place of the longitudinal stock V8, and the stock engine is behind the transaxle, not on top of it. Might want to take another look at the photos…

      Like 13
    • John Klintz

      HORRIBLE idea! Though this car may be overpriced it deserves to be restored to it’s ground-breaking, futuristic (for the ’30s) glory.

      Like 9
    • Johnny C.

      Ugh… what a bad idea! I’m not against upgrading an old Chevy, etc. with an LS… but not this one! Not a Cord. These unique “ahead of their time” beauties need to be preserved. By the way, many folks don’t know that the trans-axle (and gear-shift selector) used in these cars were also used in the Tucker 48.

      Like 4
      • John Klintz

        Absolutely right, Johnny C. If memory serves me Tucker actually had people searching wrecking yards for Cord 812s so that he could salvage the pre-selector gearboxes. Definitely NO LS, Hemi, or any other engine swap for this beauty. It deserves to be done right.

        Like 6
      • PeterfromOz

        Jonny & John. If you want an interesting read look for the prototype that Tucker really wanted the 48 to be. He wanted the car to have no gearbox. The engine was to be placed transverse or east-west. On each end of the crankshaft was a torque converter then through driveshafts to the wheels. The converters provided the ‘gearing’ from start and neutral position at standstill. Having the two converters also provided the differential action. For the reverse gear he developed a hydraulic engine valve system so the engine could operate in reverse rotation. To overcome the complexity of the hydraulic valve system Tucker was also looking at torque converters where the vanes could be reversed to give reverse gear. Tucker was a brilliant person. The Smithsonian Museum has a Tucker engine on display where you can see the hyraulic valve system (although they have it incorrectly labelled as fuel injection). There is also a privately owned Tucker museum somewhere in the US where you can see the double torque converter set up. Google to find it.

        Like 4
  5. Ken Carney

    Or how ’bout a GM 3800 V-6 from a
    wrecked Buick LeSabre along with the
    4-speed automatic transmission. Add a
    turbo from a 2000s Regal, and you’d
    certainly have a winner. The 6 is lighter
    up front and a turbocharged 3800 is
    capable of making at least 300+ HP
    when properly tuned. Restore the rest,
    and drive it like ya’ stole it!

    Like 0
  6. Speedo

    It looks like an older paint job with poor preparation. I have seen original paint Cords and none flaked like this, checked yes.

    Like 4
  7. Tim961

    At the mecum auction they said the main reason for the lower value of the one like the above model was it was a 4 door. The coupes are the most sought after

    Like 2
    • Ed Klapstein

      They didn’t make coupes, only coupe convertible, and yes those are big bucks.

      Like 0
  8. Motorcityman

    Buy it and flip it to Jay Leno…..he Loves em!!

    Like 1
  9. john pizza

    this car has been on many sites 1st in fla.then in n.j. could never get reply to see car .one in this shape would sell in a heart beat

    Like 0
  10. Gary Rhodes

    Looking at the profile I wonder what it would look like as a high class sedan delivery? Black with oxblood leather interior, polished aluminum artillery wheels, wide whitewalls, small cowl lamps behind the doors. And I would put a Hellcat drive line out of a Challenger/Charger in it along with a arm front suspension.

    Like 0
    • Jimmy Novak

      Oh, please … !

      Like 1
  11. Motorcityman

    Good! Glad the muscle car market is cooling off or dieing, it’ll help bring down the outrageous price on a lot of them!

    Like 0
    • canadainmarkseh

      You have to really cut this thing up to get a hellcat in there. If memory serves me correct the engine is in backwards like in the Renault la car . Look how forward the front wheels are on the body. Even an Olds tornado drive line won’t fit. So good luck with that.

      Like 0
      • PeterfromOz

        Yes, I think you are correct, the engine is backwards like the Renault. Search for the earlier model Cords with straight-8 engine and front wheel drive. They have an extra long bonnet which adds to their beauty and you can sometimes see the domed cover over the differential at the front to compliment the radiator grill. I have read that with such long wheel bases and the straight-8 they can have traction issues in some situations.

        Like 0
  12. Ashman812Member

    As an owner of a Cord 812 Westchester non SC and part way through restoration, I can attest to the high costs for parts and resto work, but they are fantastic cars, even the non SC. A recent non SC 812 sold on BaT for $115k fully restored with a previous high profile owner & was all original. So provenance is key. Our car was owned by E L Cord’s sister and has many factory extras. It will always be a member of the family even for my children who love it, ferrari’s and EV classic conversions. These cars will hold their values aside silly times. This one does not have the pre-selector transmission and will need a heap of time and work – you would need a very close inspection – the paint, front guards and louvres etc will be expensive, because these cars are not really for the DIY person – you need good expertise & time

    Like 2
  13. Cord Lover

    I love this car. It seems to be all there and has great potential. Current bid is $23,999. It’s a little to much for my meager savings.

    Like 0
  14. Kenn

    I had a chance to buy one like this for $800 in 1963. Ah, the cars I’ve missed over the years…!

    Like 3
  15. PeterfromOz

    The engine is interesting in itself. I think it is a 120 degree V8. I presume Cord wanted to lower the bonnet height as well. Try to find a cutaway drawing of one. Lots of strange rods or long valves even though the engine is a side-valve.
    The supercharger was a flat fan type that sits on top of the engine below the downdraft carburettor. They are not the Rootes gear lobe type. I gather the boost is more like a turbo that is, more revs more boost as the fan speeds up. The Cord supercharger was driven by a vertical shaft, I guess off the camshaft like a distributor drive.
    I know someone will correct me but I thought the non-supercharged car was the 810 and the supercharged car was the 812.
    There are a few Cords here in Australia. Can’t remember if they are RHD.

    Like 1
  16. Richard Martin

    This same car has been featured before:
    I have no idea if it’s the same seller.

    Like 1
  17. John Klintz

    Great info PeterfromOz! Yes I actually saw a video a couple years ago regarding that private Tucker museum; can’t remember the source. They talked to the people and mentioned the trick engine and torque converter system. VERY cool, and yes, Tucker was a genius but like so many was not as good a business man. If he had succeeded we would have had better cars sooner.

    Like 1
    • PeterfromOz

      Thank you John. It’s a while since I researched Tucker & Cord but as I remember that Tucker prototype engine with twin torque converters was a lazy 584 cubic inch flat six. That’s what was needed to give the torque and power the car from standstill to top speed with direct drive. I read that one reason it wasn’t used was that the output was only 125bhp most likely caused by limitations of the hydraulic valve system to provide higher engine revs.

      Like 2
      • John E. Klintz

        Thank you PeterfromOz. The engine he put in the production cars was a helicopter flat six converted to liquid cooling. He essentially built a four-door Porsche 911 15 years before Dr. Porsche did!

        Like 0
  18. Kelly Combes

    I had a chance to restore a SC convertible back in the early 90s. The owner bought it to flip and had our shop refurbish it. My job was to get all the mechanicals working. I ended up rebuilding the entire transmission vacuum shift mechanicals and electric system. Quite a bit of engineering.
    I even managed to get the radio to work. The thing was a screamer once we finished the project. Unfortunately for the owner, the early 90’s economy tanked and I don’t think he broke even on the deal. I know we had about $12K in the resto.

    Like 0
  19. bog

    Well, it sold for $ 26,600. I still think these are wonderfully designed. In my childhood there was a surgeon in my town that had the top-end supercharged convertible. Red with white top and interior. On Summer weekends he’d have it out in the early morning, hand-wash it himself, and then drive around town. Sound was distinct and lovely. And no, I never got a ride. Surprised by the comments about how they’ve fallen in price.

    Like 1
  20. Chris

    I know of one sitting in Ohio in a garage .

    Like 0
  21. Paolo

    On the topic of engine swaps, many Cords had the original drivelines swapped over the years with a variety of engines. Every so often one surfaces for sale. There are some articles floating around online describing the installation of Ford flatheads and first generation Olds and Cadillac OHVs. I think there were people who specialized doing this and it almost always meant conversion to RWD. A major project for sure but by the late 1940s these were 10 year old used cars. A non-runner would be a perfect candidate for hot rodding and if you had the stomach to modify one you probably weren’t going to be shy about cutting the floor for the driveline tunnel in order to had a differential out back.

    Like 1
  22. t-bone BOB

    Ended: Aug 22, 2021 , 3:58PM
    Winning bid:US $26,600.00
    [ 7 bids ]

    Located in:Mount Laurel, New Jersey

    Like 0

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