cord drophead

The End of The Cord


IF Donald Trump is going to make America great again, he could do worse than to help Craig Corbell get the famous Cord back in production…

The Cords of the 1920s and ‘30s were well ahead of their time, the low-slung, high performance 810 and 812 models of 1937 featuring front wheel drive, hidden headlights and fuel cap, rev counter and radio and a distinctive louvered ‘coffin nose’ bonnet.

Many people regarded the Cord and its related Auburn and Duesenberg brands as the greatest cars ever produced in the US.

“It’s one of the most revolutionary and certainly one of the most beautiful cars of all time,” says Jay Leno.

Car and Driver magazine called it “the coolest car you never knew existed.”

But the Great Depression of 1933 hit the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg (ACD) firm hard and it closed its doors in 1937.

Errett Lobban Cord was a brilliant businessman who took control of the failing Auburn company in 1929 and his Cord Corporation included Lycoming engines, Stinson aircraft, Checker taxicabs, and the magnificent Duesenberg luxury and racing cars.

A year later, Cord’s company and its parts inventory was acquired by Detroit entrepreneur Dallas Winslow and it operated successfully, supplying parts to owners of the brands and restoration work by former ACD employees at the original factory in Indiana.

Then in 1960, Glenn Pray, an Oklahoma industrial arts teacher and Cord restorer, bought ACD and moved it to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

He continued to offer parts and restoration work, but pretty soon had plans to put the 1937 Cord back into production – and a modern Cord, called the 8/10,  was available from the ACD in 1964, thanks in part to Gordon Buehrig, the car’s original designer, worked with Pray on the lines of the new 8/10.

Pray next focused on creating a modernised version of the  851 and 852 Auburn Speedsters of 1935/6.

Engineering started in 1966 and by 1968 the snazzy convertible, known as

the 866 Speedster, was available at US$8450.



They had big block 428 Ford engines and a choice of automatic or four speed manual transmission.

Pray built 138 cars in his factory and sold about 90 Speedsters that were in various stages of completion.

A decade later the Speedsters were selling for US18,000 and in their final years of production, they were priced in the low US$30,000s.

Pray died in 2011, but his success attracted Texas enthusiast and business developer Craig A Corbell II.

He now owns the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Company and wants to take advantage of the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015.  This legislation frees boutique manufacturers from restrictive car manufacturing requirements.

“The appeal of these cars is extremely high across a small segment of the population,” he said.

“Until now it was cost-prohibitive to build these cars profitably.

“But now that expensive high speed crash testing, for example, is no longer required for low runs of replicas, this makes sense both in terms of reviving a source of extreme passion for enthusiasts, and financially as a business investment.

“This is an amazing opportunity, and it’s important for us to look past the pure financial aspect. We want to get this right to uphold the honour that people like E L Cord and Gordon Buehrig brought to this brand.”

Here’s your chance, Mr Trump.

Forget about the Mexican wall, get Cord up and running and you’ll be on your way to making America great again.

Bill Buys fell in love with cars at age 8, when he saw one of his relatives racing in a Bugatti in South Africa. He has driven, raced and/or rallied just about every vehicle from Autobianchi to Zundapp since he was first published in the UK’s Motor Sport magazine, in 1956. He is now probably Australia’s oldest (or, if you prefer, most experienced) motoring writer.