Amelia Island

9 March 2013

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Lot 153

1930 Cord L-29 Sport Cabriolet by Voll & Ruhrbeck

  • Chassis no. 2927898
  • Engine no. FD 3029
  • Body no. 1686

Sold for $990,000

125 bhp, 298 cu. in. side-valve inline eight-cylinder engine, front-wheel drive, three-speed transmission, quarter-elliptic front leaf springs at the front with rear semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 137.5 in.

  • Offered from the collection of Jim Fasnacht
  • The 1931 Berlin Motor Show car with one-off, custom, German coachwork
  • ACD Club certified and fully documented
  • Best of Show at the 2005 Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club National Reunion
  • Invited to the 2013 Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s

The story of this L-29 Cord, number 2927898, is an adventure. It begins, like a lot of adventures, innocently enough: a production line in a small Indiana farm town, ironically turning out one of the most advanced automobiles the world had yet known. It continues across the Atlantic, with craftsmen’s hammers busy at work in a shop deep within a darkening Berlin. It leads to dusty storage in Argentina, and then to rediscovery, repatriation, restoration, and, finally, to the happiest and most triumphant of all possible endings.

The introduction of the Cord Front Drive in 1929 had fascinated the motoring world, intriguing Europeans and Americans alike. To help spur the fascination onward, Auburn Automobile Company sent four new examples of the L-29 to Europe to tour the motor shows. This display captured the hearts of many; in particular, one who felt a high-caliber European custom body would best suit this advanced platform.

Enter Voll and Ruhrbeck, of Berlin, a world-class builder of fine custom coachwork. The firm’s work graced the finest of chassis, including Mercedes, Horch, Bugatti, Daimler, Maybach, and Rolls-Royce. It would be there that a unique custom body would be commissioned to be placed on a Cord chassis. Today, it is not entirely known how this came about, but it appeared that expense was no object. It is rumored that to expedite the process, the chassis was absconded from the original show car sedan, although this has never been completely verified.

Nonetheless, only 10 months after the chassis had departed Indiana, it appeared in its new formal dress, as it is seen today, at the February 1931 Berlin Motor Show. It was among a selection of the finest Auburn and Cord offerings presented by Fahrkraft G.m.b.H., the Auburn-Cord distributors in Berlin. It was something of a sensation, not only in Germany, but also back in the United States. The March issue of Auburn’s dealer newsletter, The Accelerator, flaunted the sport cabriolet, picturing it with a doubtlessly proud Mr. Schmidt, of Hamburg distributor Franck & Schmidt, and a very pleased Ruth Ingrid Richard, Miss Germany.

The body they created was a classic pre-war German convertible. Everything about it is large, with massive doors that yield to reveal a five-passenger interior swathed in thick leather and capped with great slabs of polished mahogany. Front bucket seats, virtually unknown in America in 1931, added a hint of sportiness to what was otherwise a “sport” cabriolet, or otherwise a very formal convertible. Once inside, passengers would heave the doors closed with a tug of assist handles crafted of woven leather.

Detail and craftsmanship was visible in even the tiniest details, such as the beltline molding that flows through the doors and then sinks under the edges of the convertible top and flows down around the rear fenders. Carrying a line of contrasting color through the doors, the beltline recalls that of the factory L-29 cabriolets. The low, raked windshield with a subtle glass visor gives it an elegant yet somewhat sinister appearance. The top bears landau irons that are unusually slender, even delicate, and wraps around an unusual spring-loading mechanism, which assists in raising and lowering the bows and fabric. In addition, the windows roll down through custom tracks, which then fold away to disappear when the windows and top are lowered. Unlike many open cars, this Cord has a complete interior headliner, giving it the feel of being an enclosed car. The leather-covered trunk at the rear of the car was finished, as well as any piece of bespoke luggage, and it was commodious enough to accommodate attire for a Grand Tour.

The car apparently remained in Germany until around 1940, when it departed the country for reasons as yet unknown. Its final destination was Argentina, which was fast becoming a favorite gathering place of European Classics in exile. In all likelihood, the car’s long-term vacation on the pampas was its saving grace, sparing it the fate of many great cars that became bomb fodder as war set over the European continent.

The story picks up in the early-1970s, when an unusual Cord was offered to well-known American Cord enthusiast Ken O’Connor, of California. Selling the automobile was Argentinean broker Hector Mendizabal, known for his skill in unearthing previously unknown treasures. O’Connor knew the custom-bodied Cords well, and his face lit up when Mendizabal described a German bodied Cord bearing the coach number 1686. O’Connor immediately arranged to purchase the car and retrieved it from Argentina, taking delivery on the pier in San Francisco.

While not pristine, on arrival the car was quite complete, and, importantly, it retained not only its original serial number plate, but also the irreplaceable body and sill plates from Voll & Ruhrbeck and all of the numerous custom trim pieces that they had fabricated for the car, stamped with their shop order number 1686. It was, at the time, the only known extant European-bodied L-29, and it was an ideal basis to begin a restoration.

O’Connor always planned to complete that restoration himself, but despite much work being done as years passed, the car was never completed. In 2002, he sold the project to Jim Fasnacht, and, as is typical of a Fasnacht car, the plan was immediately afoot to finally return the L-29 to exquisite condition, with rigorous attention to historical accuracy and authenticity.

The work would be handled by the specialists of LaVine Restorations in Nappanee, Indiana, a highly regarded shop with numerous show and class wins at all of the country’s major, judged concours to their credit. It would be a total, ground-up restoration, with no part left disassembled or untouched, and all of the components restored under O’Connor’s ownership were redone due to age or the necessity to upgrade them to modern show standards. Numerous L-29 experts were contacted and interviewed, gathering their knowledge of the car and its history. The goal was “cost-no-object” perfection in every nut and bolt.

Restoration began in Nappanee in March 2004, and it was completed just in time for display at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August 2005, marking the first time that the Voll & Ruhrbeck Sport Cabriolet had been displayed to the world since 1931. Amongst fierce competition, the car scored Second in Class, behind the Most Elegant Open Car winner, the 1931 DuPont Model H Sport Phaeton by Merrimac.

A month later, the car was returned to Auburn, Indiana, for the first time since its chassis departed for Europe seven decades prior, to be shown at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club’s National Reunion. Mr. Fasnacht delights in telling of the joy the L-29 enthusiasts present took in seeing the car not only at last restored, but to such a beautiful and authentic standard.

The judges appreciated the car as well, and at the end of the weekend, it was awarded not only the E.L. Cord Award, marking it as the Best L-29 of the show, but also the Harold Ames Trophy for Best of Show from over 300 judged ACD cars. The car that had once turned heads in Berlin “still had it,” as much a showstopper in the 21st century as it had been in the 20th. It remains so today, as fresh, sparkling, and perfectly maintained as it was in Auburn, and it comes complete with an invitation to its next show appearance at the 2013 Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s.

This Voll & Ruhrbeck Sport Cabriolet is more than just a custom-bodied Cord L-29. It is more than the only known surviving L-29 fitted with open European coachwork. It is more than an exquisite restoration that has been deeply bowed towards by the most knowledgeable enthusiasts and judges of the marque. It is, quite simply, all of the above and more. It stands ready for a new owner to take the wheel and write the next chapter in its grand adventure.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more