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October 16, 2021

Sen. Erret Lobban "E.L." Cord, industrialist Born 1894 in Warrensburg, Missouri Cord, Dusenberg, Auburn, Stinson Aircraft, American Airlines

Senator Allen Bible, State Senator E. L. Cord from Warrensburg, and President John F. Kennedy

Errett Lobban Cord, Warrensburg, Missouri born 1894
Book Link
Errett Lobban Cord was born in Warrensburg in 1894 and lived here for 14 years. His parents, C.W. Cord and Ida Lobban Cord were in the grocery business and lived at 414 N. Washington Street. There is a building on North Holden Street that still bears today the Cord name. (317 N. Holden)
E. L. Cord went to work for the Auburn Automobile Company in 1924 and saved it from virtual collapse before he turned 30. After gaining control of the Auburn Company he acquired Duesenberg in 1926 and Lycoming in 1927. At the age of 35 E. L. Cord had exercised every car maker's ultimate prerogative: an automobile distinctive enough, by his own private standard, to bear his own name. At one point in 1929, the Cord Corp. was a holding company for more than 150 companies he controlled - most in the field of transportation - including his car holdings, Checker Cab, Stinson Aircraft, Vultee Aircraft, New York Shipbuilding and American Airways, which became American Airlines in 1931 he formed Century Air Line, which operated between Chicago and St. Louis, Chicago and Cleveland, and in the west as Century-Pacific. He later acquired controlling interest in American Airlines. In 1931 divisions of the Cord Corporation included: Auburn Automobile Co., Lycoming Manufacturing Co., Duesenberg, Inc., Stinson Aircraft Corp., Columbia Axle Co., Central Manufacturing Co., Limousine Body Co., Spencer Heater Co., L. G. S. Devices Corp., Century Air Lines, Inc. And Century Pacific Air Lines, Ltd. The Cord Automobile was manufactured from 1929 to 1937. By 1928 he controlled Auburn, which by 1931 was the 13th largest seller of autos in the United States. During 1934, he moved to England, reportedly because of kidnapping threats. He moved back to the United States in 1936, but then came under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for his dealings in Checker Cab stock. E. L. Cord sold all of his major holdings in 1936 and moved to Nevada in 1939 where he had a large cattle ranch and became a state senator.  In 1937 he sold the Cord Corporation to the Aviation Corporation and retired to Los Angeles to earn even more millions in real estate. Cord owned several of the first radio and television stations in California and later Nevada, where he moved in the 1940s. In the call letters of his Los Angeles radio station, KFAC, the A.C. stands for Auburn Cord. In Reno, Cord established KCRL-TV and radio in the 1950s and operated it for more than 25 years. The 'CRL' in the station's call letters stood for "Circle L"—a ranch Cord owned in the Nevada desert.
During the 1940s he filled in for a Nevada state legislator who died in the middle of his term and again rose to fame as a politician in his later life. In 1958 he was asked to run for governor of Nevada, but he refused and never explained why. Cord was on the cover to Time Magazine two times. He died in Reno, Nevada from cancer in 1974, aged 79.
A collection of his autos is in Auburn, Indiana (1600 S. Wayne St) at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.
Gram Parsons wrote a song about Cord called "The New Soft Shoe" that appeared on his first solo release, titled GP. Video LINK

Link Cord: A Different Roadability 
E. L. Cord was first and foremost a salesman, both of products and of himself. In 1924, after achieving great success as an automobile distributor, Cord became the man with enough talent and panache to lead the Auburn Automobile Company out of its slumber. By 1929, Auburn sales had increased 15-fold and Cord was the head of an empire. His Cord Corporation owned Lycoming Mfg. Co. (engines), Limousine Body Co. and Central Mfg. Co. (auto bodies), Century Airlines, and Duesenberg, among others. Cord's philosophy of automobile design (and salesmanship) might be summed up in two words: Novelty Sells. Though mechanically ordinary, his Auburn models, with outstanding styling and clever paint combinations, were hot sellers. Cord oversaw the introduction of the fabulous Model J Duesenberg, a car whose combination of size, cost, performance, and style was and is unmatched in American automotive history. His most novel car was the rakish Cord L-29, the first American production car to feature front-wheel drive. All this and more is told of America's true renaissance man, E.L. Cord, in the original and complete biography of the man behind the Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg lines. The luxurious presentation includes 280 over-sized pages containing more than 500 rare illustrations, photographs and documents.
Errett Lobban Cord, (born July 20, 1894, Warrensburg, Mo., U.S.—died Jan. 2, 1974, Reno, Nev.), U.S. automobile manufacturer, advocate of front-wheel-drive vehicles.

Previously a racing car mechanic and driver, he became president of the Auburn Automobile Company (founded 1900), Auburn, Ind., in 1924. Two years later he acquired the Duesenberg Motor Company (founded 1920), Indianapolis, Ind.; the brothers Fred and August Duesenberg designed the Model J (produced 1928–37) and other outstanding cars bearing the Duesenberg name for him. In 1929 the Auburn concern introduced the Cord L-29, the first widely sold front-wheel-drive car (produced through 1932).
Cord Building Warrensburg, Missouri
Cord Building in Warrensburg Story Link

Warrensburg, Missouri Cord Block Building on N. Holden, downtown Warrensburg diagonal from the courthouse square. C. W. Cord and brother ran a general store 1868-1901. C.W.'s son, Errett Lobban Cord (b.1894 in Warrensburg)
In his short stay, Cord changed Auburn forever
Errett Lobban Cord lived in Auburn five years. His official connection to the town lasted another six or seven. Yet, despite the short time frame, Cord impacted the community more than any single person. His sense of style and business acumen created the cars which inspired the club, which hosted the festival, which led to the auction, which attracted the on-line traders, which will lead to ...
That's the point. The full story of E.L. Cord's influence on Auburn, Ind., has yet to be written.
Errett Lobban Cord was born July 20, 1894, in Warrensburg, Mo. Following his father's store-management jobs, young Cord moved with his family to Joliet, Ill., and onto Los Angeles. Despite being a good student, E.L. (as he preferred to be called), left school at age 15 and took a job as a used car salesman. Automobiles were bursting onto the scene. Their impact could easily be compared to today's computer craze. Through new found freedom and speed, they promised to rewrite the future. Like many young men, E.L. caught the fever. He learned automobiles' intimate details. In a calm voice he convinced customers why they should choose one car over another. When a job that included car mechanical work opened in a Los Angeles filling station, E.L. jumped at it. Soon he tinkered with his own automobiles in the shop after hours. Taking ubiquitous Model T Fords, E.L. stripped off the mass-production bodies, added stylistic touches, and souped up the engines. He entered the resulting "T-Speedsters" in the dirt and wooden track racing circuits then popular. Throughout his life, E.L. chose the cutting edge and showed near disdain for sentiment. The attitude showed itself with T-Speedsters. As soon as he finished one, E.L. sold it and began another. During this phase, he discovered a simple truth: the speedsters that did well in races brought higher prices. He would use real or imagined performance concepts to sell cars throughout the rest of his career. Ever ambitious, E.L. left Los Angeles and bounced around the Southwest trying one entrepreneurial endeavor after another. He consistently failed. Another of his life-long traits emerged: after each setback, E.L. simply picked himself up and tried something else. By November of 1918, E.L. had used up his meager resources and luck. Barely pausing for reflection, he left his new wife and two young sons with his mother in Los Angeles and headed to Chicago. Why? An acquaintance had given him a letter of introduction to a successful Windy City auto dealer.
After a shaky interview in which he offended the owner by lighting a cigarette, E.L. caught a break with the dealership's sales manager. The young man made the most of the opportunity, becoming the company's top salesman. In a foray on his own to run a Milwaukee car distributor company, E.L. learned the intricacies of high finance and promotion. In 1924, E.L. sat on a huge bundle of cash. He began to look for a car manufacturing company to buy. Meanwhile, in northern Indiana, Auburn Automobile Co. struggled to survive. Like many independent automakers, it fell victim to a maturing market that favored ever bigger companies. Although it had enjoyed some success and nurtured a respected brand name in its own small region, AAC careened toward bankruptcy. Ironically, a Chicago group of venture capitalists hoping to cash in on the car craze owned the small-town car company (they bought out the local founding Eckhart family in 1919). The group heard of Cord, the 29-year-old super salesman making waves in their hometown, and invited him down for a look at the Auburn operation. After giving a tour of the plant in the summer of 1924, AAC offered E.L. a top management position. He brushed off the offer, then outlined what he wanted: complete control of the decision process, 20 percent of profits and a guaranteed option to buy the company once he had turned it around. Imagine the silence in that board room. Insulting as the upstart's demands were, the financiers had no more attractive options. After some huffing and puffing, they capitulated to Cord.
The rest is Auburn history.
E.L. blew into town in a whirlwind of activity. He sold dowdy old Auburn models at huge discount. In one particularly memorable promotion, he dressed some unsold stock in bright new paint jobs, parked them around Auburn's courthouse square, and invited dealers to take a look. According to legend, every car sold.
Then E.L. began manufacturing cars that fit his style and temperament. He didn't aim to please customers; he wanted to overwhelm and amaze them. The company vaulted back to life. In November of 1925, just over a year after he took control, E.L. had accumulated enough profits to exercise his option and buy out the company owners. The car world took notice as the success of the youthful, upstart company accelerated. Cord began to build a transportation empire. In Indiana, he bought a Connersville manufacturing complex and an Indianapolis automaker named Duesenberg. He veered into aviation, buying the Stinson Aircraft Co. of Michigan, and creating Chicago-based Century Airlines. Still later, he bought big city cab companies and a New York shipyard.
E.L. seemed to produce profits magically. He became deeply involved in the stock market and watched commodities with an eagle eye. Close associates would get mysterious phone calls and would recognize Cord when the caller asked, "Want to make some money?"
Despite Horatio Alger success stories, up until the Great Depression, American wealth largely remained in a few traditional hands. A sort of New World aristocracy controlled the nation's purse strings and didn't relish losing its favored grip.  The stock market provided a good illustration of their elite status. Members of old financial circles commonly manipulated stock and traded with insider information. Not only was the practice common, it was generally accepted as a type of birthright for the wealthy few. The U.S. government didn't like it, but until the practice played a hand in plunging the country into economic depression, no laws were passed to stop it. E.L., the young upstart, played the money game with the best of the old hands. They, in turn, deeply resented him. Their rage grew when they tried to trap him and he consistently slipped away. For example, the well-financed Aviation Corp. used size and power to buy E.L.'s Century Airlines in 1932. Before the year was up, however, E.L. quietly bought Aviation Corp. stock. At the board meeting that fall, directors were shocked to learn that E.L. had become the majority stockholder. Not only had he regained control of Century, but American Airways (the company that became American Airlines) as well! But, if E.L. rose fast, he crashed even quicker.
Through his quick expansion and numerous takeovers, E.L. bumped against unsavory elements ­­ businessmen who dealt in physical harm along with ledgers. Although he never explained why, in 1933 at the height of his power, E.L. secretly moved his second wife and still-growing family to Europe. Just as mysteriously, two years later, they quietly moved back.
Meanwhile, a member of the American aristocracy ­­ new President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ­­ went against his own and waged war against unscrupulous stock trading practices. If that move angered the Old Money set, the next move made them giggle with glee: the government bureau charged with cleaning up the market ­­ the Securities and Exchange Commission ­­ instituted one of its first legal proceedings against an aristocracy outsider: E.L. Cord.
The empire builder began to feel like a boxer with more than one opponent in the ring. Economic bad times, which had barely touched E.L., delivered some hard blows.
Cord had built his automobile success on perception. Duesenberg models were proclaimed the best car in the world; they had to be, for only real royalty and movie stars could afford them. Cord models appealed to adventurous and cutting-edge characters who also were able to spend a pretty penny.
But despite high-flying reputations, Duesenbergs and Cords didn't contribute profits to the company. Moderately priced Auburn models provided the company's economic engine.
Banking on association with their high-class cousins, Auburn autos were shown in front of country clubs and stylistic mansions. E.L. built a layered promotion which basically said, "You may not be a member of the aristocracy, but you can look like one."
The perception worked with members of the self-indulgent 1920s set. America loved Fitzgerald and flappers. The country craved frivolousness and leisurely riches.
As the Great Depression settled over the country, however, America turned its back on wealth. The rich became villains and silly buffoons in popular entertainment. Heroes such as Lil' Abner and the Marx Brothers poked holes in snobby facades.
The trend against ostentation can be tracked in AAC sales. In 1931, the company posted its all-time record profit. Then, as the company continued to churn out cars with airs of fine living, profits went into a free fall.
Another part of the problem could be traced to E.L.'s lack of attention. While he kept focused on the car business, his automobiles stayed ahead of trends rather than succumbing to them. But as Cord's empire and legal troubles grew, he tuned into other matters. A graph of E.L.'s automobile interest level would rise and fall almost in concert with AAC profits.
Embattled by the SEC investigation, financial struggles, the airline fight, and the slipping grasp of far-flung investments, E.L.'s health deteriorated.
An era came to an end in the late summer of 1937. In two Chicago courtrooms not far apart, E.L. succumbed to a hostile takeover of his empire by a young American aristocrat, and agreed to court-ordered limitations on his stock market dealings.  After it was over, E.L. threw a briefcase containing what was left of his personal fortune in the backseat of a Lincoln and headed to the West Coast.  Cord lived another 37 years. His star never shone again as brightly on the national scene, but he rose to new heights nonetheless. He made another fortune in real estate and mining. He dabbled in broadcasting, oil wells and livestock.
He backed into politics. When tapped to replace a Nevada state legislator who passed away, E.L. reinvented himself. He turned from an autocratic leader to a thoughtful, consensus-building lawmaker. He grew so popular that experts considered him a lock to win the Nevada gubernatorial race in 1958. Ever his own man, E.L. refused to run without ever explaining why. At 79 years old, he passed away from the effects of cancer on Jan. 2, 1974.
E.L. Cord's physical presence in Auburn and his success in the auto world didn't endure.
But remove Cord from Auburn history and you take from town the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum and NATMUS; you take away Kruse International and e-Bay; you take away the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival, the economic impact of thousands of visitors each year, and the sundry side businesses built on car nostalgia.
Cord may not have driven the city's streets for long, but his historical journey with Auburn continues.

E.L. Cord admires his new namesake on his Beverly Hills estate, CordhavenHarold Ames, who had flown out from Auburn, is at the wheel.
Erret Lobban Cord, born, Warrensburg, Missouri

Lot was Sold at a price of $352,000
190hp 269 cu. in. L-head V8 with Schwitzer-Cummins centrifugal supercharger, front-wheel drive, four-speed pre-selector transmission, front and rear semi-elliptic leaf springs and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 125". 

Errett Lobban Cord was only one of many earnest, skilled and dedicated entrepreneurs whose dream of establishing an automotive empire to rival Ford, GM and Chrysler was dashed. At one time E.L. Cord controlled the Checker and Yellow cab companies, Duesenberg, Lycoming, Stinson Aircraft and American Airways among a portfolio of 156 companies. A master salesman who worked his way up through the automobile business, the basis of Cord’s industrial empire was Auburn Manufacturing, which he acquired in 1924. He set to work to resuscitate Auburn and succeeded by creating a performance image that helped sell mundane, but profitable, sedans. 

In 1929, Cord took Auburn to the next step, introducing the front wheel drive Auburn-derived automobile Cord named after himself, the Cord Front Drive – now commonly known as the L29 – with distinctive, sporting appearance and great performance for its price. Shortly thereafter the stock market crashed and with it the market for another Cord project, the Baby Duesenberg. Its distinctive styling provided the basis for a new medium priced front-wheel drive car from Cord, the 810. 
The 810 was intended to restore Cord ’ s auto manufacturing operations to health, using the proven formula: styling, performance and reasonable price. In the process, Gordon Buehrig ’ s clean and unadorned coffin nosed, retractable headlight design would create a standard by which cars are still judged today. Powered by a Lycoming-built V8 engine, it created an instant sensation at its November 1935 introduction at the New York Auto Show, so much so that Cord could not meet demand. 
The 1937 Cords, designated 812, were little changed cosmetically from 1936 models except for the supercharged engine option. Cord ’ s experience with Duesenberg, another of the Cord companies, made it relatively simple for them to add a Schwitzer-Cummins centrifugal supercharger that provided a maximum of 6psi boost and increased the Lycoming V8 ’ s power to between 185 and 195 horsepower. In September of 1937, a Cord crew driven by Ab Jenkins set 35 American stock car speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats, certified by the AAA Contest Board, including 24 hours at an average speed (including stops) of 101.72 mile per hour. 
Approximately 195 of these very attractive Convertible Coupes were built during the two year life of the Cord 810/812. Only 64, according to factory records, were supercharged, creating a rare and attractive combination of landmark styling, exceptional performance and open air motoring. The Convertible Coupe has come to be known as the Sportsman, even though that designation was never used by Cord. Its aptness is apparent from the stylish and sporting look of the car, aided by its folding top that completely disappears under the rear deck panel.
The example offered here is well-known amongst Cord enthusiasts. According to noted Cord 810/812 historian Ron Irwin, he first saw the car almost 40 years ago, in October of 1970, when it belonged to Burton B. Rich of Plymouth, MI. Thirteen years later, in August of 1983, the car was purchased by Marvin Tamaroff from Mr. Rich. It was then – and remains today – equipped with its original supercharged engine, no. FC3144, confirming s/n 32405 as one of the 64 original supercharged convertible coupes built by Cord. 
The outstanding supercharged convertible coupe offered here underwent a complete and comprehensive nut and bolt restoration to the highest standards by Harry Sherry of Warsaw, ON. In a recent conversation, Sherry described the car as being in very good condition, with very little metalwork required. Nonetheless, Sherry ’ s high standards resulted in a 6,000 – 7,000 hour restoration, and a result that was, quite simply, stunning.
Perhaps the most memorable quality of the car is its brilliant color. Chosen by Marvin Tamaroff in the spirit of the classic era, when an owner could choose whatever color he wanted, it is intended as an improvement on the factory “ Cigarette Cream ” , a fairly bland cream color with a hint of yellow. Invariably one of the most popular cars every time shown, the striking color ensures this Cord stands out against a field of much more conservative blacks, blues, greens, and tans. 
Some have said there are more supercharged convertible coupes today than were ever built – making verification of provenance more important than ever. With a known history of nearly 40 years, the Tamaroff Cord is one of the few cars with a verifiable history dating so far back. 
Stored in the Tamaroff collection ’ s climate controlled facilities, the Cord has seen regular maintenance, occasional exercise, and meticulous detailing. It is, in essence, a brand new Cord, albeit finished to standards not even imagined by the Auburn Cord Duesenberg company. While there are other restored Cords, it is unlikely any approach the meticulous standards of s/n 32405. 

Cord: A Car Ahead of Its Time

Alex Korovkine sent me some pictures of another car on display at the 2011 Newport Concours D’Elegance - a Cord 810. The Cord cars were very advanced cars which had features in the 1930s that were not provided in other North American cars until the 1960s.

The Cord was named after the company owner, Erret Lobban Cord who had assumed the ownership position of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg combine. The car had a very modern design with flip-up headlamps and a grille unlike almost all other cars of the early 1930s.

Cord 810- Note the disappearing headlights  The Cord 810 had front-wheel drive.  The next North American car to have front wheel was the Oldsmobile Tornado in the mid-1960s.
From this angle, the Cord 810 looks like other cars from the 1930s The interior of the Cord has a nice collection of gages on an engine-turned metal dash.  Note that the gear selction lever can not be seen.
From what I’ve determined, the gear shift was terrible.  The transmission was located in front of the engine.  Due to the difficulty of getting a manual linkage system to that location, Cord used a vacuum shifting system.  The gear shift itself was a small lever on the steering column.  This activated an electrical switch which worked the vacuum system when took your foot off the gas and activated the clutch.  The effect was that drivers were able to pre-select the gears, as the shifting did not happen until you depressed the clutch.  Evidently this process worked rather slowly. 
Cord 812 at the Technik Museum Sinsheim
When I visited the Technik Museum Sinsheim I saw a Cord 812 on display.  The Cord 812 is very similar to the Cord 810 except that the Cord 812 had a supercharged version of the Lycoming V8 engine that produced about 190-195 horsepower.
It is relatively simple to distinguish the Cord 810 from the Cord 812, as the Cord 812 has the large chrome exhaust pipes coming out of the side of the hood.
In the mid-thirties buyers were put off by the high price of the Cord and its unique styling. The Cord cars cost more than $3,000, when you could buy a Buick for about $900. Production of the Cord 810 and 812 cars began in 1935 and ended in 1937 when the finances of the overall company were such that it folded.  A total of 2,320 Cord 810 and Cord 812 cars were produced.
Cord 812 Convertible 
Cord History

The Cord automobile, in its two forms, was one of the most innovative and wildly different motorcars of its time, a suitable namesake for equally innovative transportation industrialist E.L. Cord. It was Cord’s leadership that brought the Auburn Automobile Company to its most inventive peak.Cord came to Auburn, Indiana in 1924 at age 30 to rescue the floundering Auburn Automobile Company, then owned by a group of Chicago investors which included chewing gum mogul William K. Wrigley, Jr. Cord had captured their attention as a dynamic salesman for the Moon Motorcar Company in Chicago, where his sales had accounted for 60 percent of all Moons sold. Instead of a salary, Cord struck a deal with the investors that included 20 percent of the profits, options to buy all common stock, and total decision-making control. In the next five years, Cord would turn the Auburn Automobile Company around. As Auburn sales soared, Cord realized he could not compete with the giants of automaking: Ford; General Motors; and Chrysler; so he looked for the right niche for his company. He was quoted as saying, “If you can’t be the biggest, it pays to be different.” Such a philosophy helped to spawn two renowned classics, the Cord L-29 and the Cord 810/812.
Cord was profoundly influenced by the 1925 Indianapolis 500 race, where a front-wheel-drive car, produced by Harry Miller, came in second to a powerful Duesenberg. Thoughts of a revolutionary new passenger car, utilizing front-wheel drive, danced in Cord’s head. The advantages were obvious – a lower height in the absence of a drive shaft, less wind resistance in the frontal area, and better handling - especially on the corners, with a lower center of gravity. Besides the technological advantages, the car’s low-slung appearance was fabulous – spectacular styling could be achieved.
Auburn’s success made Cord look to expand the company’s product line and he was soon looking at Duesenberg Motors in Indianapolis. He obtained the financially struggling company by an exchange of stock and got the engineering genius of Fred Duesenberg in the bargain.
Cord bought the passenger car patent and manufacturing rights to the front-wheel-drive designs of Harry Miller in the fall of 1926. Auburn Automobile Company paid Miller $1,000 per month for five years, plus a royalty on every front-wheel-drive car sold. Miller was to build the prototype and provide consulting services.
Miller had the foresight to bring in Cornelius W. VanRanst on the project. VanRanst was a gifted engineer and former Indianapolis 500 driver, and he solved many of the problems associated with the new front-wheel-drive car. The prototype was finished in November 1927 in California, and Cord flew there to test-drive the car. The prototype, powered by a Lycoming straight-eight engine and styled with a modified Auburn sedan body, had several problems during the testing. Cord and VanRanst took the prototype to the Duesenberg building in Indianapolis where Duesenberg’s personnel, along with Auburn chief engineer Herb Snow, worked out the kinks.
Cord also knew that his namesake creation must have stunning good looks to match the mechanical innovations. He turned to Alan H. Leamy to create the body for the new car. Leamy, described as a brilliant artist by both his peers and automotive historians, wanted to create the car as a single unit with the exterior, interior and mechanics all working together as a harmonious entity. Leamy was given an environment conducive to fresh thinking and experimentation and the result was a masterpiece of automotive grace and proportion.
An advertising firm created the Cord family crest as a logo to crown the finished car, available as a sedan, cabriolet, phaeton and brougham. The line was introduced in June 1929, making the Cord L-29 the first American front-wheel-drive production car available to the public. The price ranged from $3,095 to $3,295, putting the L-29 in the same class as Cadillac, Packard and the Chrysler Imperial.  Sales were brisk as summer faded into fall.
Things would change practically overnight. The stock market crashed on Oct. 29, 1929, and overnight most of the potential buyers of the sensational Cord L-29 were financially obliterated. Anyone left with wealth was leery of buying an expensive car, let alone one that was unproven, unusual and sensational in appearance. Despite price cuts of as much as $700, sales never took off, and L-29 production in Auburn, Indiana, came to a halt in December 1931. A manufacturing span of 31 months produced a total run of barely more than 5,000 cars.
The year 1931 proved to be a pivotal year for the Auburn Automobile Company. After a banner sales year, the company lost almost $1 million in 1932. Company executives were desperate to stem the tide of red ink and considered the introduction of a “baby Duesenberg” to appeal to a wider audience. Body designer Gordon Buehrig, formerly of Duesenberg, was enticed from General Motors to work on a prototype.
The prototype was to be a conventional rear-wheel-drive car with a straight-eight engine, but in the work process, it evolved into a technically advanced car with a V-8 engine, front-wheel drive and independent front suspension. Buehrig created a unique and timeless body shape to envelope the avant-garde mechanics, and the Cord Model 810 was born. Customers could choose from three body styles: four-door sedan, phaeton or convertible coupe, each with a 125-inch wheelbase.
The Cord 810 might not have ever touched the road without a bit of luck. The nearly bankrupt Auburn Automobile Company hit financial paydirt when it landed a contract with Montgomery Ward to build kitchen cabinets in its Connersville, Indiana plant. Such luck provided the half-million dollars needed to develop the Cord 810.
The company was desperate to introduce the new car at the New York Auto Show in November 1935. Every employee in engineering and design worked long hours to meet the deadline, even as the Auburn car was facing extinction.
The breathtaking Cord 810 was a colossal hit at the New York show, with its unique styling and advanced technology. Crowds of people stood on the running boards of other show entries just to get a look at the Cord. Orders poured in, and the company promised delivery by Christmas 1935. The cars would be built at the Connersville, Indiana factory.
However, the car and its assembly had numerous problems, delaying production until the middle of February 1936. Many impatient customers withdrew their orders, and the ones who waited received a car with problems. In the rush to meet production schedules, Cord engineers didn’t have the time to correct the car’s flaws, such as engine overheating, noisy U-joints and a recalcitrant transmission shifting mechanism. The Cord 810 quickly achieved a reputation as a troublesome car.
Fewer than 1,600 Cord 810s were built in the 1936 model year, and only 1,100 of them sold. Leftover 810s would be rebadged as 812s and sold as 1937 models.
Customers were offered a supercharged engine and a long wheelbase Custom series in 1937. The Switzer-Cummins Company of Indianapolis provided the optional supercharger, which greatly enhanced the Cord’s Lycoming V-8 in acceleration and top speed capabilities. The supercharged Cords could be identified by the external exhaust pipes protruding from the sides of the hood and running through the fenders. The Custom series was an attempt to address customer demands for more head room and rear seat room in the sedan models, with the wheelbase lengthened to 132 inches.
However, the end was near for Cord Corporation. Sales plummeted despite new models, additional options and continued improvements. The last car manufactured by Cord Corporation rolled off the assembly line in August 1937. Production of the Cord 810/812 reached a total of about 3,000 cars.

Cord 810 History

To some classic car aficionados, little else matters about the Cord 810 than its exultant beauty. But the Cord symbolizes much more. Its introduction was an event, and its development an occasion for exploring untested principles of industrial ingenuity.
Marketed by the acclaimed Auburn Automobile Company during its two final, turbulent years of operation (1936 brought the model 810; 1937, the 812), the front-wheel-drive Cord was the manufacturer’s last brave burst of inspiration before falling victim to the effects of the Great Depression. The creation of the Cord did more than allow Auburn Automobile Company to expire with a Flourish of nobility. It gave birth to new attitudes about automobile design in this country. Since the Thirties, admiration for the Cord has been magnified beyond the collective imagination of its talented originators.
Credit for the accomplished Cord has been cast to many, but to none more deserving than Gordon Miller Buehrig, one of the master stylists of the classic era, who brought his gift to all three marques: Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg. By avoiding conventional design techniques, he brought a freshness to American auto styling. While operating within the company structure, Buehrig never compromised his professional integrity or misplaced his devotion to creativity in realizing the entirely new Cord. Along with the styling challenges, Buehrig also was confronted with the crumbling economics of the auto firm.
The Auburn Automobile Company had endured the sunlight and storm of 35 years in the youthful, protean transportation industry. But, by 1935 (and the incubation period of the Cord), the menacing Depression, having confounded the nation, was plaguing Auburn’s once-hailed vitality. That the Cord project was completed at all was the basic triumph of Buehrig’s vision and perseverance.
While still in his twenties, Buehrig’s contribution to the evolution of the motorcar was already substantial. Between 1929 and 1933, as chief designer at Duesenberg, he had brought about a whole canon of celebrated concepts for coach work, and later had begun to revitalize the entire Auburn line. In leveling his talents at the Cord, it was clear Buehrig had a secure command of design elements and the evidence could be found in every detail: beauty of shape; gracefulness of proportion; economy of line; all dressed up in a lightning appearance that invited unrestrained smugness from even the most reserved motorist.
Everything about the car was different. Off came the visible running boards, away went the door hinges, in and out went the headlamps, eliminated was the hood ornament, up went the hood (hinged at the back, it opened from front center, a long-awaited convenience. Gears were pre-selected, fenders were extended, and the radiator was disguised by seemingly unending lateral louvers, resembling nothing so much as Venetian blinds. The Cord was low-slung, high-powered and front-driven. It simply didn’t correspond to any previous creature of the highway.
Buehrig’s masterpiece contained two rare ingredients: a recklessly dramatic modernism and a fundamental, knowing sense of form. The appearance of the Cord in November 1935 shook the automotive world at its foundation. Largely through simplicity and refinement, Buehrig’s work evoked the very synthesis of art deco style, the dreamlike glorification of the Machine Age.
Legendary are the often recounted tales of the breathless dash to prepare enough cars to participate in the obligatory New York, Chicago and Los Angeles auto shows of late 1935. Frantic crowds are said to have stood disrespectfully upon the other cars present to get a privileged first glimpse of the all-new Cord. Surely the spellbound onlookers knew immediately that this automobile was something truly special. Was it a spaceship, an experiment in progress, a threatening reaction to sacred convention? It was all of these and more. The Cord was America’s first completely successful distillation and definition of art deco style applied to the standards of an automobile. Buehrig somehow had grasped magically a combination of ideas that had eluded his designing contemporaries. The Cord wasn’t magisterial like the Duesenberg or jaunty like the Auburn. It possessed a semblance all its own.
Everyone at the auto shows knew this was true; the new Cord would influence every motorcar thereafter. The Cord not only seduced the buyer’s ego, it actually made driving an involving experience. “A champion never pushes people around,” chanted the ad campaign, reassuring Cord owners against an inferiority complex.
Aware of it or not, Buehrig was exacting an ideal, under corporate conditions that provided for neither a sizable research and development budget nor a reasonable term in which to experiment with test cars. The exotic character of the Cord contributed to much mechanical unreliability, most of which has been resolved by today’s owners. The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club estimates that a startling two-thirds of all Cords manufactured still survive in varying states of condition.
Automotive concepts as formidable as the Cord 810/812 have vanished from America’s industrial landscape, but fascination with the car has never retreated. Respect has deepened with the years, among the enthusiasts who define the Cord as their dream car, at last materialized.
Such was the public’s affection for the Cord that the Museum of Modern Art in New York staged a famous exhibit in the autumn of 1951, devoted to the esthetics of motorcar design. Titled “Eight Automobiles,” with the 1937 Cord 812 among them, the exhibit catalog analyzed the car this way:
“…the Cord faces the road flanked by two voluminous fenders…with a vigorously box-like body. Each part is treated as an independent piece of sculpture, the whole collection being partially related by similar details for each unit. But at the rear of the car the passenger compartment, the tonneau, and the fenders merge in one broadly rounded form, summarized by a small window divided into two almost semi-circular parts.
“A depression between the front fenders and the hood allows the fenders to be tied to each other by a platform on which the hood appears to rest. This detail contributes most of all to the forward pull the fenders seem to exert on the passenger compartment. Stability is given by repetition of a horizontal element: the grille, extending along the sides as well as the front of the motor compartment, acts like a hinge connecting various parts of the car.
“One would expect vertical emphasis to match this insistent horizontality. It is found in the clearly articulated door post, isolated for maximum effectiveness by symmetrical windows on either side. Thus, the Cord consists of vertical and horizontal axes around which its parts are grouped. A suggestion of movement comes primarily from these shapes, but also from a slight distortion of the horizontal axis. The body is tilted upward toward the rear, while only the heavy louvers of the grille are on a true horizontal plane. [The axial distortion] is used to suggest power, as though all the weight of the body were pressing down on the front wheels while the grille and the fenders alone represent stability.”
“…many of the Cord’s lines are borrowed from aerodynamics. …the Cord suggests the driving power of a fast fighter plane. It is, in fact, a most solemn expression of streamlining.”
            That the Cord’s introduction was phenomenally influential is now beyond question. The car’s lasting appeal, as an object of praise, and as a source of inspiration, has been proven implicitly time and again for more than half a century.

September 1933Harold T. Ames, President of Duesenberg, Inc., asks Gordon Buehrig to design a “baby” version of the Duesenberg.
November 1933Gordon Buehrig presents designs for a car with exterior radiators.
February 1934The “baby” Duesenberg prototype is built.
May 1934Gordon Buehrig files patent designs on the “baby” Duesenberg.
July 1935The “baby” Duesenberg project is scrapped. A V-8 powered front-drive vehicle, using Buehrig’s body design, is ordered by Harold Ames, still director of the project, and now vice president at Auburn Automobile Company.
July-October 1935Various Cord 810 prototypes are completed, then modified. The Cord assembly line is ordered at the Connersville, Indiana, plant.
November-December 1935One hundred hand-built, non-operational Cords are taken to major auto shows. The response is tremendous and advance orders are taken. Customers receive small bronze models of the car while awaiting delivery. Automotive magazines run features about the new Cord.
February 1936 The first finished Cords are issued from the Connersville, Indiana, factory.
March 1936 Dealers receive initial deliveries of the Cord 810, at $1,995 for the Westchester Sedan, $2,095 for the Beverly Sedan, $2,145 for the Convertible Coupe, and $2,195 for the Convertible Sedan. Supercharged engines, while not available for 1936, were added to the model 812 line in 1937.
August 1937 E.L. Cord sells his transportation corporation, spelling the end of Auburn Automobile Company and the Cord automobile.

Young MISTER CORD ~ TITAN of Transportation
From a battered flivver E. L. Cord has built an empire of automobiles, airplanes, ships and railroads. Here is the story of the amazing career of this young mechanic who became a financial genius.
A youth of 20 proudly drove a battered flivver out of a dealer’s yard in Los Angeles. The engine wheezed and died.
The youth spun the crank futilely. Then he pushed the car to an incline, and it rolled downward just as he got a precarious footing on the running board. He tumbled into the seat and grabbed the wheel. The motor awoke and the car chugged on.
Three weeks later the youth appeared in the yard—behind the wheel of a glisteningly maroon “speedster.”
From Tyro to Titan.
“I fixed up that old car, Charley,” he said. “Made two trades and fixed them up. Finally I got this one.”
The youth was Errett L. Cord. He had left with a $75 dilapidated car and returned with a $750 automobile. He did not stop there. That battered flivver has continued to grow.
Today it has become a virtual empire of motors and wheels. Cord in 1933 is no longer merely an automobile mechanic, but a titan of transportation and a genius of finance. His realm extends over land, sea and air.
The youth who rebuilt that ramshackle automobile now can build battleships in his own shipyards! His factories turn out thousands of automobiles. His airplanes fly 37,000 miles every day. His amazing financial fingers have reached even to railroads.
He has fought and conquered Wall Street. But behind his great ability to marshal financial forces is an innate love for motors and wheels and things mechanical.
As president of the $120,000,000 Cord Corporation and chairman of the board of the Aviation Corporation, he continues to look into the future— and events of recent weeks show him steadily gaining not only- increased fortune and prestige—but more wheels and motors.
The success of the youthful Errett L. Cord in the field of transportation and finance is one of the most stirring narratives of American opportunity.
Before he was twenty-one, with his love for and knowledge of automobiles, he became an accomplished automobile salesman and made money speedily in Los Angeles agencies. He began to organize. He obtained backing for business—dealing with automobiles, of course—filling and greasing and washing stations.
While directing those he took a venture in transportation, operating a hauling service for mines in Arizona’s mountains. Cord found mountain hauling as slow in producing profits as it was in its motion on the steepest grades of his route. He concentrated on the washing and greasing stations—and expanded.
Takes Over Auburn Auto Plant
The step he took toward widening his trade quickly proved too fast a step. He soon found he did not own the business and his only assets left were his native shrewdness, his sales ability and his knowledge of motors and wheels. He turned to a larger field to apply them—Chicago.
He was twenty-five years old in 1919 when he arrived in Chicago looking for a job. He sold Moon cars so successfully that he became a partner in the principal agency in the city.
Cord Drives in 10,000 Mile Test
But he wanted to make automobiles. He saw an opportunity. He consulted with bankers interested in the weakening Auburn Automobile Company. He became manager in 1924, then vice-president, then president. Auburn took on new life.
Cord, the former race driver, steered his company into pioneer fields in engineering, in design, in production methods. He studied metallurgy and applied discoveries. Auburn prospered as Cord kept the wheel.
Cord looked forward. He designed the first front-wheel drive automobile, the Cord, and made it popular. He took over the Deusenberg— and a little more than ten years after he “fixed” his first flivver, he was making the world’s highest-priced automobile.
He made money, lots of it. His company’s shares skyrocketed in the stock market, soaring to $500 a share in 1929. The world of business suddenly awoke to the fact that 34-year-old Cord controlled automobile factories and was buying aviation stock, while his fortune and prestige were growing rapidly.
Typical of Cord, the young genius learned the flying business from the pilot’s cockpit. He received his flying license in 1929.
Soon after he formed the $125,000,000 Cord Corporation as a holding company for his interests. He had reached a giant’s stature in finance. He aided in formation of two air lines while planning further invasion of aviation. He gained control of the Stinson Aircraft Company and built his own airplanes. He ordered 100 Stinsons made in his factory for his Century Air Lines and flew one of them.
Cord Defies Wall Street
In April, 1932, he sold his Century Air Lines and Century-Pacific to the Aviation Corporation for 40,000 shares of Aviation Corporation stock. He bought Aviation Corporation shares and enlisted associates in the move until he had enough stock to fight one of the greatest battles in financial history. He wanted to control Aviation Corporation.
Solidly entrenched eastern capital ruled Aviation Corporation, but young Mr. Cord was born in Missouri and he had that “you’ve got to show me” attitude. He issued an ultimatum: directors must not proceed with a secret deal to trade 2,000,000 shares of the corporation’s stock for certain assets of the North American Aviation Corporation.
LaMotte F. Cohu, dominant in Aviation Corp., with the backing of the Lehman fortune in Wall Street, defied Cord. The young financial genius, however, went to court and got an order restraining the directors from making the deal. A fight to the finish became a certainty.
Cord said: “I personally will force Cohu out.”
Wins Control of Aviation Corp
The fight gained momentum through full page newspaper advertisements, asking 28,000 stockholders to offer proxies for each side in the battle for votes and control of Aviation Corp. Dramatically Cord flew from California to be present at the finish fight at the stockholder’s meeting in Wilmington, Delaware.
And when the smoke of the battle cleared, Cord was the victor.
With control of Aviation Corp., Cord ruled American Airways. There was something to tinker with! Cord gave full attention to that great air mail, express and passenger line. Today he can claim a major achievement in transportation, for his own planes cover 72 cities in the United States and Canada, flying 37,000 miles every 24 hours, from coast to coast and from the gulf to Canada.
Becomes Taxi King of America.
Cord, however, was not at the peak of his power. He became the taxi king of America. In 1933 he and his associates gained control of the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company and subsidiaries, including the Yellow Cab Co., Checker Taxi Company, Parmalee Transfer and Parmalee Transportation. Thus he owned the largest taxicab factory in the country, maker of 8,000 New York and 3,000 Chicago cabs.
The railroads came next. In August, 1933, Cord interests bought 100,000 shares of stock of the Kansas City Southern Railway, 20 per cent of the outstanding shares. Now Cord could run locomotives—could even take the throttle of one if he wanted to.
As yet the young conqueror of land and air transit had not reached out to the sea. Very recently he took a spectacular dive into ocean transportation. For $2,000,000 he obtained control of the New York Shipbuilding Company. It was one of the oldest builders of ocean liners in the country, having built 406 naval, passenger, and cargo vessels.
The day after Cord took over New York Shipbuilding the Navy Department in Washington gave Cord’s shipyard a $38,450,000 order for two 10,000-ton cruisers and four destroyers. Cord shrewdly had foreseen shipbuilding as part of President Roosevelt’s new deal. He got the biggest slice of the Navy’s contracts.
Cord had driven his California flivver to a a high peak in the world of transportation. Not only did he aid in moving Americans about by rail, by automobile, by airplane—but now he could make and tinker with battleships!
Vultee Aircrft
1932-1936 With America still in financial depression, the early 1930's was a difficult time to obtain backing for the production of a new kind of aircraft. Jerry Vultee found his support from Errett L. Cord, President of the Cord Corporation, which manufactured automobiles. Cord owned a number of aviation interests, including the Stinson Aircraft Corporation and Century Airlines, and Cord was convinced that Vultee and his partner Vance Breese, had airplane designs that would outmaneuver Cord's rivals. Construction began on a new aircraft, the Vultee V-1 prototype, which eventually became the Vultee V-1A. The V1-A was a big success with pilots and passengers. American Airlines received the first V1-A's. Cord relinquished his interest with Vultee in the Airplane Development Corporation, and the Vultee 
Aircraft Division was born.

The darkening year of 1939 saw the start of WWII and the birth of the BT-13, Vultee Valiant. The AAF had already selected the NA AT-6 as the Advanced Trainer and then approached the Vultee Aircraft Company to modify their entry in the Advanced Trainer competition, the V-54, to a fixed gear/450 hp Basic Trainer.  This resulted in an initial order of 300 aircraft and lead to a final production number near 12,000 by the end of the war.  The Valiant became the main stay of both the AAF and Naval pilot training programs and every cadet had to master it during Basic Flight Training.  The aircraft acquired the nickname of “vibrator” early in its career and it stuck.
Interestingly, the Valiant was designed and built so well that the Naval version, SNV-1, was just a stock AAF BT-13 with only the name changed.  Considering the different landing techniques required to land on a carrier this speaks very highly of the aircraft’s stoutness.
Vultee Valiant N79VV


Stinson U Tri-Motor   NC432M  
Stinson 108 Aircraft


Cordhaven was built in 1933 for Errett Lobban Cord (E. L. Cord). The colonial-style, red brick mansion on a ten-acre estate at North Hillcrest Road in Beverly Hills covered 32,000 square feet and contained 16 bedrooms and 22 bathrooms. Impressed by how quickly he received the plans for the “dream house” and the quality of the ideas, industrialist Cord awarded Paul R. Williams the contract over the proposals of many of the important white architects practicing in Los Angeles at the time. Involved in every aspect of planning, E.L. Cord has often been described as one of Williams' "most difficult but stimulating clients." (Errett Lobban Cord: His Empire, His Motorcars, 1984.)
In size the $2 million-dollar mansion was similar to many others built during the 1920s and 1930s in Beverly Hills. The basic contruction was of concrete, brick and wood, but the inclusion of the finest materials, including rosewood, satinwood and hand-painted murals, separated it from all other over-the-top Southern California homes of that era. The opulence of these finishes in addition to the three dining rooms, ballroom, solarium, shooting gallery, two hotel-sized kitchens, underground wine cellar with a bank vault door and guest pavillion were "surpassed by only a few show places across the country." (Los Angeles Times.