Project or Parts? 1937 Cord 812 Westchester

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We don’t often see examples of the 1937 Cord 812 cross our desks here at Barn Finds, but to have two appear in quick succession is a rare treat. I recently had the privilege of covering another 1937 Cord in this article. Our feature car is from the final year of production and is the Westchester derivative. The owner indicates that it is far from perfect and floats the idea that the vehicle could serve as a restoration project or a parts source for another restoration. Its condition and completeness suggest that it has plenty to offer in either role. This Cord is located in Mertztown, Pennsylvania, and is listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $4,550 off the back of some reasonably solid action. However, this figure remains short of the reserve.

The 1937 Cord 812 was an evolution of the previous year’s 810 model. When you look at its overall styling compared to its contemporaries, it’s easy to see why it created such a sensation when the company unveiled it at the New York Auto Show in November of 1935. Thanks to its radical drivetrain combination, the Cord sat lower than any other model available on the market at the time and allowed the company to dispense with such features as running boards. Our feature car is essentially complete, although it is missing some trim and its bumpers. Reproduction items are available, but the buyer may have to search long and hard if they seek genuine articles. The panels look relatively straight, although the owner admits that there is rust in the vehicle. He indicates that the front floors have been replaced at some point and that some of the timber is also past its “use-by” date. The glass looks to be in good order, and even if this vehicle is considered purely as a donor car, it has plenty to offer its next owner.

Cord marched to the beat of a different drummer when they developed the drivetrain for the 810 and 812. Its engine bay is occupied by a 289ci Lycoming flathead V8 that produced 125hp in its prime. So far, there appears nothing radical that may cause a ripple within the automotive community. It’s what the Cord did with that power that made it stand out from the crowd. It found its way to the road via the front wheels and a four-speed pre-selector transmission. This was not the company’s first dalliance in front-wheel-drive technology, with its earlier L-29 model also featuring FWD. It was the 812’s greatest strength but also its most significant weakness. Early examples of the pre-selector transmission were beset with significant reliability problems. These damaged the car’s reputation, and when combined with slow delivery, sealed the company’s fate. Our feature Cord does not run, although the owner says the engine turns freely. He has not attempted to coax it back to life, but he maintains that the drivetrain is complete. These flathead V8s are relatively tough, so reviving this one may not be a significant undertaking. However, it is worth noting that the transmission might require a rebuild, which could be an expensive process. Reproduction parts for the pre-selector system are available and may allow this car to return to its former mechanical glory.

This classic’s interior continues the theme of being essentially complete but needing some TLC. The most obvious flaw is that the radio is missing from that beautiful machine-turned gauge cluster. The owner admits that while the car features a heater, it is not original. The remaining hardware is present, and while the upholstery looks tattered, it would serve adequately as a template for a restoration. The dash looks like a restorable proposition, as is the wheel. If the car is considered purely as a source of parts, this interior has plenty to offer prospective buyers.

The Cord 810 and 812 promised so much, but the combination of slow delivery and significant reliability issues meant that by the time the final 812 rolled off the production line in August of 1937, the company was bankrupt. They produced a mere 1,149 examples in that last year, but a surprising number survive today. This 812 Westchester could serve as either a project or a parts car and could fulfill either role well. If you were to buy it, which path would you follow?

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  1. Steve Clinton

    Parting this out would be a sacrilege!

    Like 52
  2. Richard Kirschenbaum

    Any Cord short of auto/train collision victims should be restored. This is no parts car, are you kidding? Greatest production car to ever roll off an American assembly line. First runner up: the 66 Toronado.

    Like 43
  3. Raymond

    No one is gonna part it, its far too complete…

    Like 28
  4. CordManDownUnderMember

    Hey Adam – I reckon there maybe more to this car than meets the eye. As a Cord 812 owner & in restoration, the original fenders are not fibreglass – they are rock hard steel! It would be handy to see the actual ID plate – I will check the Registry re that car ID and revert. The parts for repair are not that easily sourced and are generally expensive, hence as the Seller states maybe a good parts car. That said, the lines and history of these cars are simply magnificent & timeless – one of the reasons they are always on the list of top 100 pieces of industrial art in the last century – Ours a keeper for generations! Even the Minister of finance & war is now an absolute devotee…what more could a mad car man down under ask…

    Like 5
  5. CordManDownUnderMember

    The Car ID according to ‘Cord Complete’ for 812 31730S shows as engine no FC 2296 / Body No. C 96 154 / Style Beverley / type bustleback & folding armrests. l am not sure we are looking at the same car! Add in the fibreglass fenders. Perhaps the Vendor can clarify.

    Like 0
  6. CordManDownUnderMember

    The Car ID according to ‘Cord Complete’ for 812 31730S shows as engine no FC 2296 / Body No. C 96 154 / Style Beverley / type bustleback & folding armrests. l am not sure we are looking at the same car! Add in the fibreglass fenders. Perhaps the Vendor can clarify.

    Like 0
  7. Car Nut Tacoma

    Assuming all the parts are there, I think this could be both restoration project and a parts car.

    Like 3
  8. Duaney

    The author, Adam Clarke, must not know anything about any collector cars, the car hobby, antiques, or any collectibles, to make a ridiculous statement of the possibility of parting out a Cord in this condition. Why is he even a columnist on this venue?

    Like 14
    • Jim ZMember

      Ouch, Duaney…
      We’re all learning on this venue…even the hosts!!

      Like 10
    • chuck

      It appears the seller suggested it could be a parts car.

      Like 11
    • robert semrad

      Duaney, stop being an ass……who do you think you are?
      Do you not see that you look stupid saying things like that….sheeesh….

      Like 6
  9. Claudio

    I think a hot rodder with a few cases of beer could work his magic in this !
    LS engine and corvette underpinnings and sell all the left over cord stuff for someone who needs parts to restore one to stock conditions …
    Either way , Cords were quite the machines for their time and paid quite a price for their mistakes !

    Like 4
  10. John Payzant

    That’s a find

    Like 6
  11. Steve Clinton

    “LS engine and corvette underpinnings”
    Oh please, here we go again!

    Like 14
  12. Dave Peterson

    The device shown for the preselector was called “electric hand” on Hudson’s of the day. We had three of them NOS found in the attic of a Watertown, South Dakota Nash dealer in the ’60’s. My father reacted as if he had found a fifty carat diamond. That was a deviation from our regular routine of buying damaged in transit, making them drivable, and heading home. This time we bought two pickups and started at the Star Auto (Warshosky(?) neighbor) and went west stopping at every car dealership in every little town. We would seem to be doing them a favor by hauling off these old worthless car parts. My Father really was on to something. He never worked for anyone but himself. I, of course, thought he was crazy. I’d give my left #*% to spend one more day talking with him.

    Like 11
  13. AllenMember

    HOT RODDING IT!!!!!!!!???????? That’s as bad as parting it out. It’s like remodelling the Taj Mahal into a fast food franchise. Unlike 98% of the cars called “classics” this car actually is one. I am galled by the ubiquitous use of the term “classic” refering to any car over 25 years old – bandied about like raisons in a fruit-cake recipe. The Cord is actually on the list of approved cars posted by the Classic Car Club of America. If a car is not on that list, it ain’t a classic. Period.

    What’s the point of my “classic” rant? It’s that NO car actually meeting the criteria of the CCCA ought to be hot-rodded or parted out. These cars, properly restored, are valued in six digits. Cars like Cords, Auburns, or Duesenbergs are worthy of the highest quality professional restorations – regardless of condition.

    And where am I coming from? True classics are totally beyond the furthest horizons of my pay grade. I do find lots of collector cars to love and admire that are not classics and I am totally happy with whatever I find at the bottom of the collector-car food chain. This is fine – but can we quit calling these cars “classics” while recognizing and respecting those that really are classics? And realize that the value of a true classic automobile far exceeds automotive criteria. A Classic is also an ojbet d’art, and a cultural icon of interest to historians and cultural anthropologists for centuries to come. The responsibility for this car should not be entrusted to us average car guys.

    As a matter of civic responsiblility, if I were selling this Cord, I would interview prospective buyers to be sure that the car will be properly restored.

    Jay Leno, where are you?

    Like 19
  14. Richard MartinMember

    The Tucker also had that Pre-Selector transmission.

    Like 1
    • Lou Rugani

      Yes; they were salvaged from retired Cords.

      Like 1
  15. Claudio

    , I would interview prospective buyers

    Man , that’s a good one
    I was having soup when i read this and my nose still hurts cause i burst out laughing and nearly choked !
    You buy it , you choose what you do with it !

    Like 6
    • Jimmy Novak

      I believe that he’s a man who respects a survivor and is suggesting the common practise amongst those of his ilk (I’m of that ilk) of assuring it won’t be going to someone of the Philistinic ilk.

      Like 5
      • chuck

        I’m sure Claire agrees.

        Like 1
  16. Howie Mueler

    $7,300 now but reserve not met, ends early Tuesday.

    Like 4
  17. Foster BusbyMember

    Completely restore body and interior, but swap an Olds Toronado running gear, could have A/C, ps, pb, but still have the classic vibe of the awesome Cord!!

    Like 3
  18. Till J.

    Should somebody hotrod a Cord 810 or a Cord 812?
    This cars, doesn`t matter 810 or 812, are one of the most important US-cars for me. My first seeing was 30 years ago in a small german car museum.
    If somebody finds a completly rusty body, he can build a Hotrod. If somebody want hotrod a replika, he should do it. If somebody makes a fiberglasbody with this style, no problem, of course not. If there is a chooped Cord 812 what was build 50 years ago, please restore it exakt in this old style.
    There are good Hotrods. Yes, this statement includes that definetly not all of them are good made.
    But if somebody want to build a Hotrod on base of a classic car, he sould choose a wreck or a often survived classic car and not a restorable, historical interesting rarity. For example, if you want to top chop a 1965 VW Beetle in simitar condition to this Cord, just do it. If you do the same with a completly rusty 1947 VW Beetle , you are quite stupid.
    Well, this is my point of view…
    Best regards,
    Till J.

    Like 4
  19. VTDan

    Sometimes I just don’t get it, guys! People waxing on on resurrecting a clapped out Dodge Omni or Fiero that I would see better use making it into a 2x2ft cube and then we have a diamond in the rough like this Cord and you think this is for parts?? This is a milestone in US car history, more important than any Corvette or Mustang. This is the US equivalent of the Citroen DS and you would brake it up for what? The substance here is very good. It would be a crying shame to break up such an incredible car.

    Like 5
    • Claudio

      Easy , its numbers !
      The young people that drooled for these are now in their 80’s or 90’s or most probably DEAD
      They are not willing/able to tackle this
      I am late fifties ( real late ) and have ZERO interest in this thing !
      It would be no pleasure to drive so not good for me
      You think that the younger crowd should rebuild this to do what with it ?
      I am not even talking $$$
      If you follow this site and have been for a while
      You can see trends
      80’s cars are up
      90’s cars are up
      And that is because of the demand
      The buyers have reached the age where they have loose change and they are not buying CORDS
      I for one dont see the interest in a 4 banger wrong wheel drive shelby but i also dont have interest for the cord

      If you all love it so much , buy it and share it or otherwise let the market take care of it

      Like 3
      • Jimmy Novak

        I think it’s so important that we hear from those who insist on explaining their lack of interest in these BarnFind cars, with great detail as to why, including the use of capital letters to emphasize their complete non-concern.

        Like 6
  20. Claudio

    As i appreciate reading comments from guys that look down from their throne …

    Like 1
  21. John King

    Restore it. Period!

    Like 3
  22. AllenMember

    Hi Claudio,

    “You buy it , you choose what you do with it !” That is precisely why a responsible seller should interview prospective Cord buyers! I cannot buy this car if the seller chooses not to sell it to me. Yes, once I buy it, I choose what to do with it. By then, it’s too late to protect the car from whatever I might do to it.

    I agree completely with Till J. There are thousands of ho-hum cars built in the last half-century – or more – that desperately need a hot-rodder’s or street-rodder’s creative genius. A few hours ago, I spotted a stunning ’47 Kaiser pick-up on one of these pages. No matter what you do with a ’47 Kaiser, ar far as I’m concerned you cannot spoil it! This one eneded up drop-dead gorgeous! I’m in awe.

    Outside of that, I hope you enjoyed your soup!

    Like 2
  23. Claudio

    We all have different opinions on this one , in my case i dont care where or how it goes but would be awesome as a hot rod

    I wont dare say too much as the old crowd feels that this is their sand box …

    Like 2
  24. AllenMember

    Hi again Claudio,

    You’re right – I’m a card-carrying member of the “Old Crowd”. ‘ Sorry about that – I can’t help it. I’ve simply accumulated too many birthdays and I haven’t firgured out a way to stop that. Count ‘em: 82. Disgusting, but I’m still blessed with my health and I still work on my cars like a 60 year-old kid.

    You are also right in that any Cord, particularly an 810 or 812, Beverly or Westchester would make a cool hot-rod. Very cool! But I went to Hagertys’ website and found a #1 condition appraises at $205,000. Even just a “fair” condition one appraises at $67,000. So what might this example be worth? Somewhere between $25,000 and $40,000?

    Let us suppose you are a high-end hot-rod builder. Let your imagination run wild and create a no-expense-spared, ultra-creative, fast (FAST), hot-rod. If you really do it right, it’s going to cost six digits to build. And what kind of price can you get for it? A high-end hot-rod will cost as much or more to build as a high-end restoration. On the restoration, you have some guidelines suggesting what it might be worth. Hot-rodding is more of a crap shoot, right?

    You wanna build a Cord Hot-rod? Do yourself a favor and start with a Cord replica! You won’t have old guys like me yelling at you, and you stand to get your money back out of it. Do it right and I’ll be the first guy to love it!

    Like 0
  25. Claudio

    Congratulations on your card carrying status

    You have every reason to be proud especially if you are healthy

    I was simply stating that it will possibly be hot rodded

    I have no intention of doing this
    I have no patience left to deal with the lazy, lying labor involved in any kind of overpriced work nowadays
    Wether its skilled labor or non
    The runaround and delays are over the top

    The demographics being what they are
    The chances are high that it will be rodded

    I have no say in this
    And the old crowd either
    Unless they want to dish out the money and do it
    We are on the way out

    If not for the plandemic , i would be exploring the world
    We sadly have to stay put for the time being as our crime minister keeps lying

    Wishing all the readers of this site a very merry Christmas and a healthy new year

    Like 1
  26. Winesmith

    Allen, I would hope that you will expound more upon the real meaning of “Classic”, the criteria and some examples? Real car guys will appreciate it.
    “Classic” has become the Levis/Coke generic term for any rolling stock that’s old. This wonderful chat forum is particularly guilty of such lazy misnomers. The ’55 Tbird is a full classic while the more popular ’57 is not. The ’37 flat windshield Packard 110s and 120s are not “Classics” but the ’47 Super Clipper senior car is. There are no classic Chevrolets. Select cars like select music are classic(al) or they are not. Period.

    Like 0
    • Popawfox

      Chevy’s Caprice Classic.

      Like 0
  27. AllenMember


    This is fun for me – I’m learning how people with opposing views think, and it isn’t hurting me a bit! Thanks for that, seriously. Alas, the car is sold, and by my research, the buyer got a stunning bargain at $12993. The whole deal is so far above my pay grade, I wouldn’t/couldn’t give it a thought. I’m best off staying in my own backyard, working on my own cars because: 1. It’s fun and rewarding; and 2. I couldn’t afford to do otherwise.

    Whatever your car interests, have an outrageously Merry Christmas yourself and the happiest of New Years. I hope your automotive hobby brings you many pleasures and satisfactions – and if you build a hot-rod. from that Cord 812, please let me be the first to see it. I will not judge – on any criterion except how much fun you had doing it.

    These cars exist to serve our pleasures, after all. ‘ Think I learned that from you.

    Like 1
  28. AllenMember

    Hi Winesmith,

    I’m flattered by your request. Back about 68 years ago, I bought a drugstore book called “Classic Cars and Antiques”. What little I know about classic cars could be found in that 1954 book, and it is available to anyone going to the website of the Classic Car Club of America at On the “About” menu, select “Our Club”, and from there, select “Defining a Classic”. Depending on your interest, it is fairly easy for you to learn more than I know simply from this one website.

    Now you might legitimately counter that the criteria for the “classic” designation are simply those of a club. They cannot and do not speak for all of us. To that I can only answer that these folks have put forth a definition as objective as any I’ve seen, and it’s far better than the indescriminate folks among us who simply apply the “classic” monicker to any car having reached the age of 25 years.

    From Merriam Webster, definitions of the word “Classic”.
    Definition of classic (Entry 1 of 2)
    1a : serving as a standard of excellence : of recognized value
    classic literary works
    a classic case study on hysteria
    classic designs
    c : characterized by simple tailored lines in fashion year after year
    a classic suit
    2 : of or relating to the ancient Greeks and Romans or their culture : CLASSICAL
    3a : historically memorable
    a classic battle
    b : noted because of special literary or historical associations
    Paris is the classic refuge of expatriates
    a classic study of eyewitness accounts
    b : TYPICAL
    a classic example of chicanery
    a classic error
    5 capitalized : of or relating to the period of highest development of Mesoamerican and especially Mayan culture about a.d. 300–900
    classic noun
    Definition of classic (Entry 2 of 2)
    1 : a literary work of ancient Greece or Rome
    studied the classics in college
    2a : a work of enduring excellence
    His manual of biology has become a classic among scientists.
    also : its author
    He had already become a classic many years before his death.
    b : an authoritative source
    3 : a typical or perfect example
    His march through the wilderness of Maine has been regarded as a classic of perseverance.
    4 : a traditional event
    a football classic

    Now, looking through these definitions, it seems that just one of them might apply to automobiles:

    “1a : serving as a standard of excellence : of recognized value
    classic literary works
    a classic case study on hysteria

    Now if we go by the guys on the street: a 1995 Chevy Impala, a Ford Crown Vic, a Toyota Corolla, a Buick LeSabre, a Chrysler LeBaron – these are all classics. By Merriam Webster’s definition? Are any of them a “standard of excellence”? “Of enduring value”?

    I own four MGs. None of them meet the CCCA criteria. I know what they are and approximately what they’re worth. Does it make any difference?

    There is a club for classic cars. Mine are not among them, but I respect their criteria. Somebody just sold not just a classic car, but one of the most coveted, for a non-classic price. That lowers the values of all our collector cars.

    You mentioned “Classical Music”? I’m far more qualified in that area. The problems of definition carry on there too. Most of the general public realize two kinds of music: “classical” and “popular”. Musicians understand the two kinds of music: “music that pays” and “music that costs”. Classical is generally “music that costs”. But there’s far more to it than that, as the term “classical” has another, completely different, meaning in music, as well as other arts. Let me know if your want to delve further into this.

    Like 0
  29. Claudio

    Well, i dont have any immediate car projects

    I am remodeling a small rv

    Gutting and rebuilding an appartement

    And i pulled the low miles engine out of my convertible corvette because it was leaking from too many places and i like them clean

    Repainted the bumpers on my little bmw z3 the previous year and repaired an airbag issue on it that no one bothered with

    My young nephew wants a hot stick shift station wagon and i would want to give him my time and knowledge but i think i would end up doing it alone and i would hate that …

    Like 0
    • robert semrad

      Claudio…..and the purpose of your saying nothing post is?

      Like 0
  30. geometro

    Why hasn’t anyone come up with the concept, or the, idea of putting their money together to buy classics like this Cord, restoring the vehicles, and then selling them for a profit? Once the vehicle is sold, everyone could then have a choice to either cash in on their profits, or leave their money inn for the next project. it would be like a coop in which the majority of the share holders will decide on the next project.

    Like 0
  31. AllenMember


    Read the dialog Claudio and I have been carrying on. In that context, his last post makes total sense. It is a response to my previous note.

    Like 0
  32. Claudio

    Thank you Allen

    We are certainly world’s apart
    I live in the montreal, canada suburds
    I would like to have an old guy show me a few tricks so i could do the same
    (My friends deceased father once showed me how to lead in a quarter panel)
    I am more electrically oriented

    Having a passion in life is a way of creating balance
    As long as a passion is not an obsession

    If , the plandemic ever ends , our rv is waiting for our cross usa trip of 6 months maybe we can drop by

    Again , guys
    It’s Christmas
    Go and enjoy it
    Enjoy it even more because you deserve to live it fully …

    Like 0
  33. AllenMember

    There, gang, you just witnessed it: adversaries becoming friends. Thanks to YOU, Claudio. We can all do this, and I know I need to get better at it.

    My wife is a dual citizen, so when we retired from our jobs down in Virginia, we moved to Port Huron Michigan to be as close as possible to her aging father in St Thomas Ontario. We have many friends and family in Ontario, and of course we are frustrated as we haven’t been able to see them in over two years. Her grandparents and their 12 children, were constantly fleeing the bill collectors in Quebec – taking them as far west as Timmins Ontario. Her dad was the first in the family to pick himself up by his bootstraps, and with just a 4th-grade education, apprenticed as an electrician and worked his way up the ladder, serving for 30 years as Chief Electrician for Cabot Carbon in Sarnia. Great guy too. I learned a lot from him. After 100 years, he left us in 2019.

    Yeah, if the accursed pandemic ever ends, and you get in that RV looking for a place to go, look us up.

    Holiday cheers everybody!

    Like 0
    • Claudio

      I cannot take all the credit for this
      We made it happen
      The Christmas spirit made it happen
      I tend to think that it’s the Christmas spirit , call me crazy but a lot of issues have been settled on or close to Christmas
      As we rack up the years , we have more time and should use it to better ourselves!
      I think we have both succeeded and maybe have inspired others to do the same
      I have always loved cars but not all cars, i have a friend that loves the big 4 doors , i call them taxis
      But we always get along even if he doesn’t go for my convertible 2 seaters
      He says i dont drive but i race and i say he drives like an old man
      But we get along
      Let’s say that we agree that we disagree
      But we are passionate about cars
      Love your car(s) but dont forget to make some time for others
      And please volunteer a few minutes here and there
      Our free time is priceless to others
      Merry Christmas to you and your loved one

      Like 0
  34. Winesmith

    Allen, thanks for your thoughtful response in the enduring definition of “Classic”. I have owned two full Classics, a 1947 Packatd Super Clipper and a 1956 Continental MKII. Two perfect cars which made it all the more frustrating because one does not dare make any changes, for the better or worse.
    I find more satisfaction in wrenching on my old school hot rod ’46 Ford short door business coupe where creative period proper alterations are an acceptable norm. I really appreciate your and Cludio’s, civilized yet divergent conversation,

    Like 0
  35. Chris Woodside

    I have a set of ’36 or ’37 Cord 810 Wheel Covers that are like new in condition. They have no discernable damage. Excellent brilliance/chrome. Carefully packaged for sale (4000+shipping).

    Like 0

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