My Cords

Josh Malks'

Cord History, Chapter 1

Cord History

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3

spring 1933

Former Auburn Automobile Company president Errett Lobban Cord is now Chairman of the Board of the Cord Corporation, a holding company. Cord has by now sold nearly all of his Auburn stock.
In Detroit, General Motors Art and Color Division, headed by Harley Earl, runs a contest among its stylists. One of the four competing teams is headed by young Gordon Miller Buehrig , formerly chief stylist for Duesenberg, Inc. His entry places last.

September 1933

The last factory-fresh Cord Front Drive , of the 1929-32 series today called the L-29, is finally sold by its Auburn makers. (Production had ended in December 1931.)
Harold T. Ames
, president of Duesenberg, Inc., a division of the Cord Corporation, offers Gordon Buehrig a job.

October 1933 -
April 1934

Buehrig returns to Duesenberg, charged with developing a 'tricky body' for a new  'baby' Duesenberg. He bases the style on the rejected GM contest entry. Ames orders a prototype V-8 engine from Lycoming Motors, another Cord Corporation division. A prototype body is delivered by coachbuilder A .H. Walker.
Ames becomes Executive VP of the Auburn Automobile Company, yet another Cord Corporation holding. Divisive rivalry surfaces between Ames and Auburn President Roy Faulkner.
Ames brings Buehrig over from Duesenberg to redesign the Auburn line for 1935

July 1934

Since the demise of the L-29, Auburn's engineers have continued to develop a state-of-the-art front wheel drive chassis. Ames decides that Auburn, the corporation's bread-and-butter, needs a boost even more than Duesenberg does. He sees the potential of Buehrig's body on Auburn's new FWD chassis, powered by Lycoming's new V-8.


Most of Auburn's resources, human and financial, are applied to the development of the new front drive car. Buehrig and his styling team create a quarter-scale clay model of a striking four-door sedan. Chief engineer Herb Snow and his engineers refine their chassis designs. Lycoming modifies its new V-8 for front drive use. Tooling work begins, at Auburn and subsidiaries.

January 1935

Cash-poor Auburn presents the new-from-the-ground-up front drive project to the Board of Directors of the parent Cord Corporation, along with a request for $2 million for startup costs.The Board is reluctant --- Auburn had lost nearly $4 million in 1934, and the Board doesn't want to throw good money after bad. It finally agrees to a bond issue to try to raise the cash. Auburn is urged to keep costs down.


Snow proposes a hybrid design to minimize tooling costs, using Buehrig's front end sheet metal, an Auburn body, and the front drive chassis . Buehrig resists, but Snow builds and tests a prototype, labelled E294. Different sizes of V-8s and several transmission designs are tried too. Nobody likes the hybrid body.

March 1935

To increase employment, President Franklin Roosevelt asks the Automobile Manufacturers Association to advance the date of the annual auto shows (at which new models are introduced) from January to November. AMA agrees.
Auburn negotiates with Montgomery Ward for a major sale of kitchen cabinets.
The revised AMA show dates cut Auburn's development time by two full months. Roy Faulkner calls corporation Board chairman E.L. Cord in California, asks him to back the immediate construction of prototypes of the all-new front drive car with Buehrig's body design. Some cash will be available from the Ward contract and Faulkner hopes the rest will come from the pending bond issue. The new front drive car will carry Cord's name again, and he agrees.

April 1935

Auburn's bond issue appears. Takers are few.


Auburn throws itself into the creation of five prototype Cord 810s, still known by the engineering designation E306. In engineering, styling, experimental garage, and wood and metal shops, everyone goes on overtime. Temporary help is even hired, this in the depths of The Great Depression! Vendors are selected for tooling. By the end of June, five sedan prototypes stand completed on the lower level of Auburn's administration building.

Will the prototypes ever come out of their basement garage? Will E.L. Cord ever see his new namesakes? Who will tell the Board of Directors about them? And the 1936 auto shows are only 125 days away!