Car guys get asked this question all the time; “What is your favorite car?” Well, for me, picking my favorite car would be like asking a parent which one of their children are their favorite? It’s a question that is impossible to answer. To pick one of their offspring over the others, how could they do it? They are all wonderful for their own reasons…there are no favorites.
For me, it is the same with cars. There are so many wonderful ones out there that it would be impossible to pick. Besides, they all have their own unique charms so liking a big 4X4 diesel-powered pickup doesn’t mean I can’t like a tiny Sunbeam Stiletto too. I just like them for what they are and what they are good at. With that in mind, and thanks to the fact that I have liked one particular classic car since I first laid eyes on one, I can tell you what my favorite one of those is.
The term “Classic” is an official term bestowed upon certain vintage cars that meet the criteria of the Classic Car Club of America. Their definition is as follows; “fine or unusual motor cars which were built between and including the years 1925 to 1948.” My favorite car that fits those criteria would be the 1936-1937 Cord 810/812. These cars are, in my opinion, a technical tour-de-force wrapped in the most breathtaking production car bodies ever created. Inititially intended to be a smaller, less expensive Duesenberg, Cord held nothing back with these cars and with a Cadillac-esque $3,000 price tag in 1936, buyers wouldn’t expect there to be.
For two model years, these astonishing cars, available in four body styles, rolled from the factory in Connersville, Indiana that was also owned by the same man who owned Auburn Automobile Company and Duesenberg Automobile Company, pretty impressive stablemates in anybody’s book. Errett Lobban Cord also owned the Lycoming Engine Company among his many transportation-related holdings. Even though these three car companies were minuscule compared to Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, they made some of the most memorable and amazing cars ever produced. To learn more about this amazing man and his amazing cars I advise you visit the Auburn Cord Duesenberg museum in Auburn, Indiana or the Auburn Cord Duesenberg club website.
As for my favorite classic, the ’36-’37 Cords were huge leaps forward from their contemporaries. They started off with front-wheel drive, only the second front-drive production car in America after…the first Cords, the model L-29 of 1929-32. Behind the front-mounted Bendix pre-selector four-speed transmission was a Lycoming-built V8 engine of 289-cubic inch displacement that produced 125 horsepower. In 1937, a Schwitzer-Cummins centrifugal supercharger was mounted on the engine to push output to 170 horsepower.
Due to the front-drive arrangement, the Cord afforded its passengers a completely flat floor. The dashboard was both a sight to behold and fully stocked with gauges for monitoring all functions.
While a lot more could be said about the mechanicals, it is the amazing bodywork that completes the story. There was nothing else like it on the road at the time. Nothing. Hidden headlights, smooth, clean lines, low and lean, the styling was otherworldly. The styling of other cars was made hopelessly out of date when the Cord 810 rolled out into the light of day. So much so, that after Cord production stopped, all the body tooling was sold to the Graham-Paige and Huppmobile car companies so they could use them to build their own cars with through the 1940 model year.
I was a youngster when I saw my first one in a book about old cars, but even then I knew this was something special. I saw my next one on television when Roddy McDowall drove one in the TV movie Topper Returns. I was smitten. A few years later I saw a few more of them at the Harrah Automobile museum in Reno, Nevada. Even the four-door sedan model was a visual treat.
Less than 3,000 of these amazing cars were built with something like 700 of them carrying the supercharged engine. Their scarceness has pushed their price on the collector car market well past $100,000.
So there, I said it out loud, my favorite classic car is the Cord 810/812. Although, those V16 Cadillacs and 12-cylinder Packards are really something too.