History on the 1937 Cord Sportsman
- One of 195 examples were manufactured of the supremely elegant two-seat convertible coupe later called the Sportsman.
- Factory exhaust damper
- Factory working Am radio
- Factory heater
- Original fuel pump.
- 812 supercharged configurations.
One of the few automobiles deemed worthy of inclusion in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and arguably the most easily recognized American car of all time, the Cord 810 debuted in November 1935, where it received a rapturous reception at US automobile shows. Originally conceived as a baby Duesenberg, this amazing design was the work of a team headed by Gordon Buehrig, who had previously designed the famous Duesenberg Beverly style and the stupendous Duesenberg "Twenty Grand" for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.
The 810-body style with its louvered "coffin" nose, streamlined wings, concealed gas filler under a modern flap, headlamps that opened by means of hand-cranks on either side of the airplane-style engine-turned aluminum dash and the absence of running boards would prove immensely influential. The following model year, cars all over the world suddenly had horizontal chrome strips along the hood, squared-off grilles and more shapely side treatments. None however, could aspire to the clean, simple and timeless beauty of the original.
The 810's arrival marked the end of a hiatus in Cord production, as the L-29 model had disappeared in 1931. Errett Lobban Cord had introduced the L-29 in 1929 as a gap-filling model priced between the Auburn and Duesenberg lines of the Cord Corporation. Powered by a Lycoming straight-eight, the Cord L-29 featured front wheel drive, a chassis layout then in vogue at Indianapolis. Its front-wheel-drive layout made for a low-slung frame, and the freedom this gave coachbuilders meant that the Cord was soon attracting the attention of master craftsmen on both sides of the Atlantic.
A front-wheel-drive car like the L-29, the 810 differed from its predecessor by virtue of its more compact Lycoming V-8 engine and 4-speed, pre-selector electric gearbox, modelled on the French Cotal. Set further back in the chassis, the new powertrain gave the 810-improved balance and came with 125 bhp in standard trim or 170 bhp when supercharged.
The Cord was re-designated 812 for 1937 when custom sedans on a longer wheelbase joined the range, although it is doubtful whether any independent offering ever matched Buehrig's original Beverly fastback sedan for sheer style. Supercharging was made available on the 1937 812 models, and these can be distinguished from the normally aspirated 812s by the chrome-plated external exhaust pipes mounted on each side of the hood and grille. Priced competitively in the USD 2,000 - 3,000 range, the 810/812 should have been a huge success, but this was not to be. The Cord Corporation was in deep financial trouble, and when Mr. Cord sold up in August 1937, it spelled the end not just for Cord, but for Auburn and Duesenberg as well. At the close, a little fewer than 3,000 810/812s had been made.
By far most were closed cars, called the Westchester when built as a fastback, and the Beverly when fitted with a bustleback trunk. Of the open models, the most common was the four-passenger Phaeton. Only 195 examples were manufactured of the supremely elegant two-seat convertible coupe later called the Sportsman, and according to the factory records, a mere 64 of these were supercharged.
According to previous owner and famous Hispano-Suiza expert Jules Heumann, 31631F is a three decadelong effort by one of the most respected Cord enthusiasts, Henry Portz of Arroyo Grande, California. This car never left the factory officially with this motor, chassis, body and stub frame, but was restored over a thirty year period using all original components. The car is all Sportsman except the rear beyond the doors which had to be reformed using new metal due to the donor parts being unusable according to Portz in a 2015 recording where he was interviewed about the car. The car was restored to such a high standard, all faults of the original design, such as slipping out of gear and vapor lock were corrected in the restoration. The quality of the car is fully authentic for a supercharged model and it is probably the finest supercharged ‘Sportsman’ extant even though it did not leave the factory as a supercharged Sportsman. The rich Clay Brown color is an original Cord color as well.
The car carries impossible-to-find and fully functional accessories including a factory AM radio, factory heater and an original fuel pump.
Although the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg club were unable recognize the car as being originally delivered by the factory as a supercharged Sportsman, it attended one of its national meets and was featured on the cover of the 5th edition of the 2011 ACD newsletter. Today, it has the reputation of being one of the finest Cord 812 supercharged convertible coupes known. Jules Heumann acquired 31631F from Henry Portz in late 2011, as he had never previously owned an American classic. He kept the car for a little over a year, but sold the car to Henrik Frederiksen in late 2012.
When this car was shipped, it had a standard coolant, but not long after reaching Denmark low temperatures were encountered and the engine was damaged by freezing. Amazingly, Henrik Frederiksen was able to acquire a rebuilt supercharged Cord 812 engine from Mark Tomei in January 2013, which was then fitted to the car and re-stamped to match the data plate. Chassis 31631F is reported to drive and shift well and remains in outstanding fully restored condition showing in nearly flawless condition.
This example represents the second-generation front wheel drive Cord in its ultimate 812 supercharged configuration. In addition, this car has the rarest open body type, which is very sought after due to its clean and exquisite style with fully disappearing top, unencumbered by the frivolous ornamentation plastered on so much of its competition at the time.
With over 25 years in business, Black Horse Garage’s experienced and knowledgeable staff can help you find the best cars; whatever your budget. We always have a diverse and high quality inventory of vehicles available and if we don’t have just what you want – we’ll help you find it through our vast network of dealers and collectors.
Call John Buonanno at 203-330-9604 or email us at John@blackhorsegarage.com. We look forward to finding you the car of your dreams!