Cord was the brand name of a United States automobile, manufactured by the Auburn Automobile Company from 1929 through 1932 and again in 1936 and 1937.
The Cord Corporation was founded and run by E. L. Cord as a holding company for his many transportation interests, including Auburn. Cord was noted for its innovative technology and streamlined designs. Cord had a philosophy to build truly different, innovative cars, believing they would also sell well and turn a profit. This did not always work well in practice.
Cord innovations include front-wheel drive on the L-29 and hidden headlamps on the 810 and 812.
Front-wheel drive became common in the United States only in the 1980s, though Citroën introduced the Traction Avant in 1934, Ford offered it in certain models of its German-built Taunus, and General Motors sold the front wheel drive Oldsmobile Toronado in 1966 and Cadillac Eldorado in 1967. As personal luxury cars, these two GM models, especially the Toronado, were undoubtedly influenced by Cord.
Hidden headlamps did not become common as a standard feature until the 1960s (though DeSoto used them in 1942). The early Oldsmobile Toronados, whose GM stylists later stated they were trying to capture the "feel" of the Cord's design, also featured hidden headlamps.
Demise of the Cord
Early reliability problems, including slipping out of gear and vapor lock, cooled initial enthusiasm. Although most new owners loved their sleek fast cars, the dealer base shrank rapidly. Unsold left-over and in-process 1936 810 models were re-numbered and sold as 1937 812 models. In 1937, after producing about 3000 of these cars, Auburn ceased production of the Cord. A single 1938 Cord prototype with some changes to the grille and transmission cover was built, and it still exists to this day (2009). The Cord empire was sold to the Aviation Corporation, and E.L. Cord moved to Nevada where he earned millions in real estate and other enterprises.
The design of the Cord 810/812 remains one of the most distinctive of the 20th century. In 1996, American Heritage magazine proclaimed the Cord 810 sedan ‘The Single Most Beautiful American Car’. The ‘Classic Cord’ Hot Wheels toy car of the 1960s, a convertible coupé, is one of the most valuable, and commands up to US$800 (2006) if still in an unopened package.
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