Tag Archives: Gordon M. Buehrig

The Cord debuts Streamline Style

The Cord debuts Streamline Style in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit is the 1930 L-29 Cord. Visit the Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit today.

1932 L-29 Cord
1930 L-29 Cord

Renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright once described the first Cord model as “the best design from my ‘streamline’ standpoint ever put on the market”. Made in Connersville, the Cord L-29, with its long, sweeping fenders, did indeed set a new course in automotive design.

The Cord L-29 was introduced in August 1929 as a 1930 model. It was the first production automobile with front-wheel drive and was made to fill the gap between the low-priced Auburn and the top-of-the-mark Duesenberg in the Cord Corporation line of cars. The Cord sedan and brougham were priced at $3,095 each, and the cabriolet and phaeton were $3,295.

Project engineer Cornelius W. Van Ranst designed the new front-wheel drive system around the units in the successful Indianapolis 500 racecars. Harry Miller and Indianapolis driver Leon Duray served as consultants on the project. Alan H. Leamy was the chief stylist.

Cord claimed advantages in safety, easy handling, comfort, and durability. Plus, front-wheel drive provided a lower body silhouette, allowing a distinctive and pleasing front end appearance that appealed to coachbuilders.

The L-29 was available in four models: a convertible Cabriolet with rumble seat, four-door convertible Phaeton Sedan, five-passenger Sedan, and the five-passenger Brougham. All four models sported a stylish cadet-type visor. The Cabriolet and the Phaeton Sedan stood only 58 inches high, some 12 inches lower than their competitors. They are known for their long, low, racy lines. Their narrow corner posts provided a clear field of vision. The V-shaped radiator grille would inspire a throng of imitators, most notably the 1931 Chrysler Imperial.

The L-29 regularly won prizes in the European Concours d’Elegance, which was quite an accomplishment for an American manufacturer. A Cord L-29 Cabriolet was also the pace car for the 1930 Indianapolis 500-mile race.

Unfortunately, the Cord L-29, which was the first automobile to bear Errett Lobban Cord’s name, was introduced only two months before the stock market crash in October 1929. Although praised for its quality, sales didn’t reflect its popularity. The L-29 was built from 1929-1931 with only 5,010 units produced. The last cars were 1932 models.

After a lapse of four years, the Cord name was revived for 1936. Gordon M. Buehrig’s original work on the Cord Model 810 began as a “baby Duesenberg” in 1933. By December 1934, the design of the new front-wheel-drive model was essentially complete and then shelved. When the project was revived in July 1935, there was less than four months in which to build and test a prototype, tool up, and get the cars into production for the New York Auto Show on November 2, 1935. The company made the deadline, but without the transmissions in place. Plus, the phaetons were without any tops. The missing parts didn’t matter. The Cord 810 stopped the show. People had to stand on surrounding cars just to get a glimpse of Cord’s exciting new design. Cord received over 7,600 requests for more information on the 810. Unfortunately, due to unanticipated production start-up problems, almost six months would pass before any deliveries were made.

The new catalog boasted, “The New Cord demonstrates that it is possible to build a radically different kind of motor car which is, nevertheless, completely in accord with the very highest standards of beauty and good taste. ”We predict that the New Cord will exert a pronounced influence upon the future offerings of the entire automotive industry.” The company extolled further, “You will be constantly amazed that a car so low in design should be so spacious and provide so much head and leg room.”

The first Cord 810 rolled off the assembly line in Connersville on February 15, 1936. Innovations on the Cord 810 included disappearing headlights, concealed door hinges, rheostat-controlled instrument lights, variable speed windshield wipers, Bendix Electric Hand (steering column mounted-electric gear pre-selection unit), and factory installed radio. The model was the first automobile in the United States to adopt unit body construction in its full sense.

In November 1936, the company introduced the Cord 812 for the 1937 model year. An example of the model’s claim-to-fame was its use as the official chief observer’s car for the 1937 Indianapolis 500 mile race.

When production of the Cord automobile was terminated in October 1937, fewer than 3,000 Model 810/812 units had been produced. The automotive operations of Cord Corporation died when E.L. Cord shifted his focus to other interests.

In their day, these Cords stirred the imagination of the motoring public. Their clean simplicity of line, exciting innovations, and luxurious appointments won much admiration and many awards. The Cord Model 810/812 is revered by many as one of the most popular classic cars of all time.

For more information on Indiana-built automobiles, follow this link.

The innovator of rolling sculpture

With all of the excitement that surrounds the annual Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival, my thoughts immediately go to the designs of Gordon M. Buehrig, called the innovator of rolling sculpture. His automotive designs spanned many decades and are still recognized by auto aficionados.

Gordon M. Buehrig
Gordon M. Buehrig
Copyright © Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum

Buehrig’s interest with automobiles started like many of the rest of us. He doodled. In fact, an instructor expelled him from class on one occasion because the student’s notebook was full of automobile drawings. This early interest in auto design shaped the rest of his life.

Many regard Buehrig as one of the most important automotive designers. His career spanned nearly four decades while working at Dietrich Inc., Packard, General Motors, Stutz, Duesenberg, Auburn Automobile Company, the Budd Company, Raymond Loewy’s Studebaker studio, and Ford Motor Company. His famous designs include the 1932 Duesenberg Model J Beverly, the 1934 Auburn 851 Boattail Speedster, and the 1936 Cord Model 810.

E. L. Cords 1937 Cord Beverley Sedan
E. L. Cords 1937 Cord Beverley Sedan

The Cord Model 810 is probably one of his best known designs. In late 1933, during his second stint with General Motors Art and Color Section, Buehrig designed an aerodynamic car with air intakes on each side of a wrap-around hood. Back in E.L. Cord’s employment, this design study became the genesis for a “baby Duesenberg” in 1933. By December 1934, the design of the new front-wheel-drive Cord Model 810 model was essentially complete and then shelved.

When the project was revived in July 1935, there was less than four months in which to build and test a prototype, tool up, and get the cars into production for the New York Auto Show on November 2, 1935. The company made the deadline, but without the transmissions in place. Plus, the phaetons were without any tops. The missing parts didn’t matter. The Cord 810 stopped the show. People had to stand on surrounding cars just to get a glimpse of Cord’s exciting new design. Cord received over 7,600 requests for more information on the 810. Unfortunately, due to unanticipated production start-up problems, almost six months would pass before any deliveries were made.

The Cord Model 810 was available in four models: the five-passenger Westchester Sedan, four-passenger Beverly Sedan, five-passenger Convertible Phaeton Sedan, and the Convertible Coupe with rumble seat. In 1951, the New York Museum of Modern Art special exhibit titled “Hollow Rolling Sculpture,” recognized the Cord 810 as “the outstanding American contribution to automobile design.”

While you are walking among the gems at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival, think back to Gordon M. Buehrig, the innovator of rolling sculpture.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Cord Model 810 celebrates 80th anniversary

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Cord Model 810, which is probably the most well-known product of the Cord Corporation.

Gordon M. Buehrig’s original work on the Cord Model 810 began as a “baby Duesenberg” in 1933. By December 1934, the design of the new front-wheel-drive model was essentially complete and then shelved. When the project was revived in July 1935, there was less than four months in which to build and test a prototype, tool up, and get the cars into production for the New York Auto Show on November 2, 1935. The company made the deadline, but without some items in place. The missing parts didn’t matter.

The Cord 810 stopped the show. People had to stand on surrounding cars just to get a glimpse of Cord’s exciting new design. Cord received over 7,600 requests for more information on the 810. Unfortunately, due to unanticipated production start-up problems, almost six months would pass before any deliveries were made.

E.L. Cord's 1937 Cord Beverly
E.L. Cord’s personal 1937 Cord 812 Beverly
Copyright © 2008 Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum

The Cord Model 810 was available in four models: the five-passenger Westchester Sedan, four-passenger Beverly Sedan, five-passenger Convertible Phaeton Sedan, and the Convertible Coupe with rumble seat.

The first Cord 810 rolled off the assembly line in Connersville on February 15, 1936. Innovations on the Cord 810 included disappearing headlights, concealed door hinges, rheostat-controlled instrument lights, variable speed windshield wipers, Bendix Electric Hand (steering column mounted-electric gear pre-selection unit), and factory installed radio. The model was the first automobile in the United States to adopt unit body construction in its full sense. (Chrysler Airflow and Lincoln Zepher used modified forms.)

In November 1936, the company introduced the Cord 812 for the 1937 model year. The 1937 Cord Model 812 had a 190 h.p. supercharged engine and boasted chrome-plated external exhaust pipes. An example of the model’s claim-to-fame was its use as the official chief observer’s car for the 1937 Indianapolis 500 mile race.

The year, however, witnessed a soft auto market, and Cord production fell to around 1,100 units. In 1937, only the wealthy few could afford the $2,500 to $3,500 needed to buy this exceptional automobile. Some of the internationally known celebrities purchasing Cord automobiles were the movie stars Sonja Heine and Tom Mix. In fact, actress Jean Harlow ordered a Cord with paint and upholstery to match her platinum blonde hair.

When production of the Cord automobile was terminated in October 1937, fewer than 3,000 Model 810/812 units had been produced. The automotive operations of Cord Corporation died when E.L. Cord shifted his focus to other interests.

In their day, these Cords stirred the imagination of the motoring public. Their clean simplicity of line, exciting innovations, and luxurious appointments won much admiration and many awards. At the 1951 Museum of Modern Art exhibit titled Eight Automobiles, MOMA curator Arthur Drexler declared: “We regard the Cord as the outstanding American contribution to automobile design.” This popularity still rings true some 80 years later.