Cord automobiles were built by the the Auburn Automobile Company between the years 1929 to 1932 and from 1936 through 1937. The Cord brand namesake was E.L.Cord who for years was at the helm of the Auburn Automobile Company. Among other things, E.L. Cord was known for building unique cars.
The Cord L-29 was one of the most distinctive cars ever produced. The 1929 Cord L-29 Sedan shown in this article represents the first front wheel drive vehicle sold tio the public in the United States. The car was created to fill the gap between the Auburn eight cylinder cars and the exotic Duesenbergs. The L-29 was offered from 1929 to 1932 at which time it fell victim to the financial effects of the Great Depression. When the car went out of production, some 4,400 had been sold.
The Uniqueness of the Cord L-29
The Cord L-29 was engineered by Harry Miller and Cornelius Van Ranst. Front wheel drive was not something American motorists were familiar with and the new technology did lead to problems.
The front wheel drive chassis meant that the L29 could be made lower than other cars. The chassis was manufactured by the Hayes Body Corporation from Grand Rapids, Michigan. It took the designer several months just working on the body work of the concept car.
The Cord L-29 also was the first among American passenger cars with the "X" braced frame, designed by Herbert C. Snow.
The idea of offering a front wheel drive car appealed to E.L. Cord who's background before joining Auburn was as a car salesman in Chicago. The more unique the better. The Cord L-29 pushed the boundaries of automobile technology.
E.L. Cord with his sales background touted the new front wheel driving in the company's advertising campaign. Cord wrote in part, "Auburn's policy for five years has been to strenuously seek new ways to improve, develop and originate better automobiles. In the course of this earnest search it was inevitable that we should investigate the possibilities of the established principle of front wheel drive."
Another advertising piece for the Cord L-29 stated..."The success of the Cord front drive is the most significant thing in the automobile world today."
The Cord L-29 and the Great Depression
Most observers cite a combination of problems that caused the L-29 to go out of production. The car was expensive. The Cord L-29 cost more than several of it's rivals. In addition, the car came out at about the same time as the stock market crash.
Even a price reduction by Cord failed to jump start sales. Add to that the unfamiliarity of front wheel drive with the car buying public and you have a lot of negative circumstances. In addition to the above, the car's massive 4,700 pound weight powered by a 115 HP engine made for weak overall performance.
Both engineers, Miller and van Ranst, had an Indy Racing background and the drive train design came from that.
Three additional links to photo articles we have on AutoMuseumOnline you'll find interesting are...the 1931 Ford Model A Roadsters...the 1935 Auburn BoatTail Speedster and the Rolls Royce Convertible Phantom.
The Cord L-29 Specs
The engine on this 1929 Cord L-29 is a Lycoming 298 cid straight eight producing 115 horsepower. The transmission is a Sliding-Pinion Model 3 speed. The L-29 wheelbase is 137.5 inches.
The car can go from zero to 60 MPH in twenty-five seconds. The car's weight came in at 4,700 pounds making it a heavy vehicle. The price tag of the car when new was $3,095 for the Sedan and about $3,295 for the Cabriolet and Phaeton.
The Cord L-29 Collector Activity
Although the Great Depression had a lot to do with the short production era of the Cord L-29, the car was a big hit winning the 1930 Paris, Monte Carlo and Beaulieu Concours d’Elegance. The new Cord L-29 was offered in a wide variety of factory bodies. A 2012 auction for a 1929 Cord L-29 Special Hayes Coupe reportedly sold for $2.4 million. This particular car returned to the U.S. and used off and on by a Hayes official. The next owner was a Hayes director who eventually put it into storage in the early 1940's.
(Photos from author's collection)