My Cords

Josh Malks'

Cord History, Chapter 2

Cord History

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3

July 1935

Roy Faulkner goes before the Board of Directors of the Cord Corporation to get approval to put the new front-drive car into production. All Faulkner shows the Board are a few
2 1/4 X 2/1/4 snapshots of the quarter-scale clay model, taken by Gordon Buehrig and Dale Cosper the day before.
(It's clearly a done deal --- Errett Cord had put out the word in advance.) So, t he Board approves.
Three weeks later, the first prototype --- e-306 #2, races to Los Angeles and back on a shakedown cruise.  Cord drives the car in LA, offers his suggestions. 100 miles from home, on the way back, the new car's transmission seizes.

August - October

To exhibit at the all-important November auto shows, the sponsoring Automobile Manufacturer's Association requires that 100 cars be in existence. In a frenzy of effort, Auburn throws everything it has --- men, machinery, money --- into the creation of 100 Cords. Most parts are made from tooling ordered earlier; some, especially body panels, are created by hand. Enough cars are made to exhibit at the shows, but nowhere near 100. (Best guess: about 29.) The AMA never notices.
The engineers try desperately to figure out why the new front-drive transmissions overheat and seize. Remedy: less lubricant, and a pressure pump. Too late though  --- the showcars will have no 'guts' in their transmissions!
(NOTE: It has been widely written (including by me) that the showcars had no transmissions. Since the transmission housing on a Cord holds up the front end of the engine, and since Auburn had the housing castings in stock, it is much more likely that the showcars appeared to actually have transmissions --- there just were no gears inside!)
Orders will be taken at the shows for Christmas delivery. Ames knows full well that this will never happen. He orders 100 bronze models that will later be sent to the first customers, as consolation.

November 1935

The Cord is the hit of the New York, Chicago and Los Angeles auto shows. The press adores it. Faulkner says that 7,639 requests are received for more information.
Tooling manufacturers are pressed for delivery so production can start.
Workers continue to assemble the 100 cars that never made it to the shows. (It took them until January. Most were later sold to employees.)
Only 499 Auburn dealers remain. Can enough Cords be built to keep them in business?

December 1935 -
January 1936

Tooling is installed, and component manufacturers begin to deliver parts. Engine-drive unit packages arrive from Lycoming in Pennsylvania. The assembly line in Connersville starts to roll. (1936 Auburns, unchanged from the '35 models, come down the line in the same building.)

January - March,

The first Cord 810s are assembled and delivered to dealers in February. Most new owners love their gorgeous, speedy, exotic machine. More practical ones wonder why they vapor lock, leak, and slip out of gear.
Engineers keep adding bracing to the convertible prototypes, to try to stop them from shaking and vibrating. (Over 900 Cords, 30% of total production, are built during this period --- all are sedans.)

April 1936

A surprisingly large number of Cords are shipped to Auburn dealers in England, Europe, South America and South Africa.
The first convertible coupes and phaetons, still shaking some, are delivered to dealers. (Auburn continued to add bracing throughout production.)

May - August

The initial glow of the new car has worn off, and practical buyers are looking elsewhere. Sales are very slow, and the dealer base continues to dwindle
For reasons of economy, administrative operations are consolidated at the Connersville complex. The Auburn buildings are virtually abandoned.
Auburn's engineering talent, including Herb Snow, leaves for greener pastures
Buehrig realizes that this enterprise doesn't have a future. He leaves, with no job yet in hand. Alex Tremulis takes over as lone stylist.

It seems clear that only six months after the first Cords were delivered, everyone concerned knew that this was a dying enterprise. The Auburn Automobile Company staggered on, even introducing novelties like superchargers and long-wheelbase models, but it was esentially running on inertia.