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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 over 150 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 resuscitating 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 a distinctive and 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, penned by the legendary Gordon Buehrig, provided the basis for a new medium-priced front-wheel drive car from Cord, the 810.
The 810/812 was intended to restore Cord's auto manufacturing operations to prosperous health, using the proven formula: styling, performance and a reasonable price. The result: Gordon Buehrig's clean and unadorned coffin-nosed, retractable headlight design would create a sensation and set a standard of automotive beauty by which cars are still judged today.
The 1937 Cords, designated 812, were little changed 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. The chromed outside exhaust pipes gave the car unmistakable external identification.
One of the most attractive and desirable variants of the 810/812 was the phaeton, a unique four passenger convertible. Until Cord's phaeton, two door four-passenger convertibles were called convertible Victorias. Their blind quarter convertible tops were elegant, but made for poor visibility for rear seat passengers. Cord's innovative phaeton provided a stylish quarter window, making the car much more pleasant for those seated in the rear.
Approximately 600 of the very attractive Convertible Phaeton Sedans were built during the two-year life of the Cord Front Drive, and only 196, according to factory records, were supercharged; a rare and attractive combination of landmark styling, exceptional performance and open air motoring.