A pair of the Lyon Collection’s remarkable Cords were recently captured together at the Lyon Estate. This couple of iconic Indiana classic cars represent an automotive chord that resonates with automotive enthusiasts across time and generations.
E. L. Cord, the president of the renowned Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg American automotive trinity, was an accomplished industrialist with a great sense of drama and flair. Accordingly, he engaged two of the greatest names in classic automotive design to create memorable cars bearing his name.
The L-29 Cord was created as an automotive offering by Cord between his Auburn and Duesenberg marques. Engineer Cornelius Van Ranst borrowed from Harry Miller’s FWD genius to create a dramatically low-slung luxury automobile. Famed Auburn designer, Al Leamy penned an expansive, long-hood body for the lengthy 137.5” wheelbase chassis-capped by the first-ever encapsulated radiator. The result was one of the most dramatic grand American classic cars ever offered.
Power for the L-29 came from an optimistically-advertised 125hp Auburn 298.6 CID straight-8 mounted backwards to accommodate the front wheel drive 3-speed sliding pinion transmission and differential in a transaxle arrangement with inboard mounted brakes (a la the 1927 Miller Indy car). The resulting improved ride and handling was aided by quarter-elliptical leaf springs in front and semi-ellipticals on the rear with Houdaille-Hershey shock absorbers on all corners. The initial (c.1930) dramatic mid-front engine layout proved to have traction deficiencies in gravel and icy surfaces–along with u-joints that were over-stressed—two problems that were resolved in subsequent years, and models.
The Lyon Collection’s Landaulet town-car L-29 seen here was crafted by Pasadena’s famed coachbuilder Walter Murphy and one of only four ever made. This quartet of cars were highly coveted by Tinseltown scions like Lionel Barrymore and Dolores Del Rio.
The proverbial ‘top note’ of Cord’s automotive dyad is the rakish and iconic 1937 Cord 812 “Sportsman” cabriolet (1 of only 205 shown here). The 810/812 Cord design is one of the most memorable of all automobiles—with its trademark “coffin-nose” hood, hidden headlights (an industry first) and running-board-less lean body design from the famed Gordon Buehrig (with Vince Gardner and Alex Tremulis). The body they designed belied a considerable improvement in performance—owning to a 289 CID Lycoming V8, a pre-selector/semi-automatic 4-speed transmission and independent front suspension. (A 170hp Schwitzer-Cummins supercharged Lycoming V8 was also offered as an option in the 812S.)
Most certainly, the Lyon Collection’s stately 1929 LWB, Murphy-bodied L29 Landaulette town car and the rakish 1937 812 Roadster create an automotive harmonic of grand American classic luxury and performance.
Industrialist E. L. Cord and the designers of his automobiles created a visual harmony that has resonated with automotive enthusiasts across time and generations.