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Custom Cords: Enjoy these rare one-offs

A bevy of one-off Cords were displayed at the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. Johns in Plymouth, Mich. Any Cord automobile remains a rare sight, but these represent the rarest of the rare.
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A bevy of one-off Cords were displayed at the 2013 Concours d’Elegance of America at St. Johns in Plymouth, Mich., on July 31. Any Cord automobile remains a rare sight, but these L-29 and 810 and 812 models at St. John’s Inn represent the rarest of the rare. Here is a selection of those unique Cords shown this July.


Famed industrial designer Brooks Stevens received this 1931 L-29 Cord when he was a student in 1933 and had it restyled by the Cord Corp.’s Limousine Body Co. He then proceeded to drive it more than 140,000 miles and owned it until his death in January 1995. Ed Schoenthaler purchased it from the family, who hoped the car would be kept as it was built and showed at concours events, which is exactly what Schoenthaler does with it.


Old Cars Weekly subscriber Alvin Sikora brought his 1938 Cord Custom Cabriolet, which was featured in the publication shortly after the restoration was completed. The second-generation Cord was built in 1936 as an 810 and in 1937 as the 812, and Sikora’s Cabriolet defies a model number since it is the prototype for the 1938 Cord that never was. The updates on Sikora’s ’38 Cord from the 1936-’37 model are most visible at the front, where the car features a slightly sloped nose in the hood and grille and a smoother transmission cover. The body has also been slightly raised on the chassis.


Another previous Old Cars Weekly feature car, this L-29 Cord speedster was built by a subscriber after the original, which was last spotted before World War II. Using photographs of the original Phil Wright-designed and Union City Body Co.-built car, this faithful recreation was built on an original Cord L-29 chassis.


Then and now, who wouldn’t want a Cord as a wedding gift? The fortunate daughter of Campbell’s Soup founder Dr. John Dorrance was the lucky recipient of this 1936 Cord 810 Phaeton that, at first glance, looks straight off the production line of Central Body Mfg. As if receiving a Cord weren’t enough of a gift, coachbuilder Derham modified it with a flat windshield and fully disappearing, three-position convertible top.


Few Front-Drive Cords received custom coach work, perhaps because many found it hard to improve on the cutting-edge styling of the low-slung beauties. Since Cord didn’t catalog a town car in its standard offerings, fans of the marque wanting another body style were forced to go to coachbuilders for body styles not produced by the automaker. When Henry McVickar, a friend and business acquaintance of E.L. Cord, wanted a town car, he had coachbuilder Brunn transfer the D’Ieteren Freres body from his two-year-old 1927 Minerva to this new 1929 Cord chassis. At that time, the car was converted from right-hand drive to left-hand drive. This early L-29 features smaller spoke wheels, unvented front brake covers and a four-blade fan.


Coupes were not on the standard roster of Cord production bodies, and for 1936 and ’37, factory Cord body styles were limited to closed sedans and open convertible coupes. However, the Cord Cabriolet made a wonderful coupe with the relatively simple installation of a fixed roof, and three Cords are known to have been custom-built by the Cord Corp. with this addition. This supercharged 1937 Cord 812 is further unique for its exposed Auburn headlamps that, along with the fixed coupe roof, were dictated by the original owner, the president of the Champion Spark Plug Co.

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