Cord 812 SC Sportsman Convertible Coupe

E.L. 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 by the Great Depression. At one time, 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 to resuscitate Auburn and succeeded brilliantly by providing a winning combination of performance, style and remarkably good value.

In 1929, Cord took Auburn to the next level, introducing the 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. Soon after, the stock market crashed and with it the market for another Cord project, the “Baby Duesenberg.” Nonetheless, 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 his well-proven formula: styling, performance and reasonable price. In the process, Gordon Buehrig’s clean and unadorned coffin nosed, retractable-headlight design would create a design standard by which cars are still judged today. Powered by a Lycoming-built V-8 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, now designated 812, were little changed cosmetically from the 1936 models, and a supercharged engine option was now made available. 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 six-psi boost, increasing the Lycoming V-8’s power output to between 185 and 195 horsepower. The factory, however, conservatively rated the supercharged engine somewhat lower at 170 horsepower. Whatever the rating, the cars were very strong performers, as confirmed in September 1937, when a Cord 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 mph.

Approximately 195 of these very attractive Convertible Coupes were built during the brief two-year lifespan of the Cord 810/812. Only 64, according to ACD Museum records, were supercharged. The Convertible Coupe has come to be known by marque enthusiasts and collectors as the “Sportsman,” even though that designation was never officially used by Cord. Its aptness is clear from the stylish and sporting lines of the car, aided by a folding top that completely disappears under the rear-deck panel.

Designated as Full Classics by the CCCA, the 810/812 Cords are remarkably advanced and capable cars to drive, even by today’s standards, in addition to their striking design cues and sophisticated engineering. With its high-quality restoration and careful maintenance, this highly rare factory-supercharged 812 SC is simply exemplary.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in January of 2010 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona and in January of 2012 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona.

170 bhp (factory rating), 4.7L in. L-head supercharged V-8 engine with four-speed pre-selector transmission, front suspension via trailing arms and transverse leaf spring, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 125"

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Hugh Hamilton and 

Cord 812 SC Sportsman Convertible Coupe