1936 810 Cord Westchester

Owner: Ray Exton

The Cord is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cars ever built, and the 810 Cord has been honored by the Museum of Modern Art as one of the 8 best designs of the 20th century.
The Cord 810 created a major sensation at the New York Auto Show in 1935 when it was first shown to the public by the Auburn Automobile Company. Car enthusiasts were ‘wowed’ by Gordon Buehrig’s amazing design which was futuristic compared to cars of the era.

The Cord was built with technical innovations unavailable on any other car of its time, some of which remain on cars today. These included:
·       Center-hinged doors with concealed hinges
·       A sharply-angled split-pane windshield
·       An elegant, sloped rear end and a roomy interior
·       Flush-mounted tail lamps and fuel filler cap
·       An illuminated number plate carrier on the trunk lid
·       Unibody construction with sub-frame
·       Front-wheel drive
·       Independent front Suspension which used a transverse leaf spring attached to longitudinal arms
·       A front-opening coffin-nosed hood with integrated wrap-around grille assembly of horizontal louvers
·       Huge flared front fenders which incorporated the automotive industry’s first mechanically operated disappearing headlights
·       A Bendix electrically operated “Finger-Tip Gear Control” unit which was used to shift gears, using a small selector mounted on the steering column

The Cord was also nearly a foot lower (300mm) than the average 1936 Sedan and had no running boards. Chrome was limited to the bumpers, windshield frames, hubcaps, handles, and grille trim. Instruments were round “air plane-style” gauges, and the switches were styled like airplane throttles.

Unfortunately the Cord suffered a few teething problems. These problems combined with it being very expensive, being launched during the Great Depression, and Auburn’s limited finances, resulted in production lasting only two years.

In 1937 the 812 model was introduced and even though additional features like a Supercharger and extended trunk were added as an option for some models, the Auburn Automobile Company stopped producing cars when almost 3,000 cars had been manufactured. 1174 of these were Cord 810’s and the remainder 812 models. However the Cord legacy lives on, with the Cord still remaining one of the most desirable cars ever made.

Approximately 300 Right-hand-drive Cords were manufactured for export from the USA. Seventeen Cords reached the shores of South Africa but only a handful of these have survived.

I have been fascinated by Cords since I saw a picture of one in the 1950’s and dreamed of owning one someday.

Having owned a few classics over the years, including a 1934 Chev, 1956 Chev, 1976 Corvette Stingray, 1948 Chev Pick-up Street Rod and a 1950 Hudson Pacemaker Coupe, I continued to dream of owning that Cord.  I was fortunate to meet Mike Otto who is the owner of a beautiful 1937 Cord Beverly.  A friendship developed and Mike was able to persuade Ced Pearce, the owner of a 1937 Cord Custom Berline and a 1936 Cord Convertible, to part with a 810 Westchester body that had been in his barn for over twenty years. Mike and Ced have owned and built quite a few Cords in South Africa.

Having acquired the Cord body and some of the parts, I sold my Corvette Stingray to finance the project and spent at least a year sourcing extremely scarce parts from America. The amazing restoration was undertaken by master craftsman Vic Hattingh. We decided to use a Jaguar XJ6 with a Chev V8 as a “donor” car. Vic had to hand-fabricate and repair some body panels and convert the car to rear-wheel drive.

We decided to go the “Resto Rod” route and try and preserve as much of the original parts and features of the car. This included:
·       Using the original Cord wheel pattern welded onto the Jaguar rims (the original rims were beyond repair)
·       Repairing and using the original gauges
·       Getting the manual crank headlight covers to operate
·       Fabricating new woodwork in the interior
·       Re-building the original steering wheel
·       Fabricating a replica gear stalk (thanks Mike)
·       Making a new ring-polished stainless steel dashboard using the original one as a template

BMW Mini Pepper White was chosen as the exterior colour and the interior was finished off with beige leather, sewn to the original spec. The restoration was completed in 2006
The Cord drives like a modern car. The 350 Chev V8 and 350 Auto Transmission with Jag suspension front and back, provides a smooth and comfortable ride.  The Cord still fascinates people at car shows; maybe because so few exist in South Africa and its their chance to view this unique car.