Wierd, freaky, wacky, and downright crazy cars of the past
American artistic tastes are somewhat different to those of us in Europe. Bearing this in mind it will perhaps be no surprise to learn that the Cord 810 was named the outstanding American contribution to automobile design by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The designer, Gordon Buerig, had had a great deal of experience designing car bodies for companies such as General Motors, Packard, Stutz and Duesenberg but it is the Cord 810 that he is most remembered for.
Apart from the fact that the front of the car so much resembled a coffin (its common nickname was the Coffin Nose) it's most noticeable design feature was the way in which the louvred grill continued to wrap all the way around the bonnet. This seems to have been done more for artistic design than for practical purposes.
The car sat very low to the ground; this meant that running boards were neither necessary nor possible. The headlamps which were hidden within the swooping bumpers could be made to shine up or down by twiddling chromed hand cranks within the interior; it had front wheel drive and independent front suspension.
Power came from a v8 4.8 litre engine manufactured by Lycoming, and the transmission (semi automatic, with three forward gears and overdrive, plus reverse) sat in front of the engine, so there was no necessity for a driveshaft, allowing the car to sit closer to the ground.
When the car was first launched at the 1935 New York Auto Show it attracted huge attention with crowds milling around it and many orders were taken but there were problems in getting the transmission to work properly and it was nearly 6 months before any deliveries could be made. Reliability problems then raised their heads.
Initially the appearance of the car, so different to all the others on the market, generated great enthusiasm but after a while this cooled and a belief that the car was just not as reliable as it should be caused sales to start to wither. Production ended in 1937 after about 3000 of them had been made. Several attempts were made to resurrect the design without any great successes.
Nevertheless in 1999 Buehrig made the last five in the vote for the Car Designer of the Century award, organised by an international foundation, for his work on the 810 and today even original diecast models of it can command a king's ransom.