Sensation! So great was the impact created by the Auburn Manufacturing Company’s Cord 810 at the 1936 New York Auto Show that eager visitors climbed on adjacent vehicles to try and see over the excited crowd around a stunning deco-style machine with a coffin nose and wrap-round louvers designed by the great Gordon M Buehrig.
Front-wheel drive had already been pioneered on the Cord L-29 and this was retained for the 810, which also saw the debut of features like headlights operated by dashboard hand cranks that vanished into the front wings.
Unfortunately for those placing orders, the sought-after 1936 models (Westchester and Beverly four-door sedans, phaeton and convertible coupe) were not delivered until early the following year – and then- handsome appearance was somewhat marred by mechanical unreliability. Problems included vapor locks in the fuel line and a tendency to slip out of gear. This was not untypical of ventures associated with the eponymous Erret L Cord – something of a snake-oil salesman who had a knack of producing truly stunning vehicles out of the hat, only for them to fail commercially. And that, indeed, was the ultimate fate of the 810 and its twin, the 812.
In fact, unsold 810s were rebranded as 812s and announced as the new 1937 model, which also saw an attempt to drum up sales by introducing a supercharged version with four dramatic chrome-plated exhaust pipes. With a total production run of around three thousand cars, the 810/812 didn’t do badly but manufacture ceased after it was decided that the revised 1938 prototype could not be produced. Even so, this gallant failure remains one of the most distinctive cars designed in the 20th century – a sleek, low-slung vehicle that owners love, making the lucky pilot feel like American royalty.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1936 (until 1937)
4.7 I (289 cid) V8
Top speed of 93 mph (150 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
A readers’ poll in a well-regarded American classic car magazine awarded the title of the ‘Single Most Beautiful American Car’ to the hugely impressive Cord 810 sedan.