St. John's

27 July 2013

Previous Next

Lot 133

1931 Cord L-29 Cabriolet

  • Chassis no. 2929040
  • Engine no. FD3696A
  • Body no. F-117

Sold for $231,000

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.

  • America’s first major front-wheel drive production car
  • Offered from a prominent private collection
  • ACD Club Certified Category One

When the Cord Front-Drive made its appearance in 1929, it did what few cars before or since have succeeded in doing: it was new and different, in a new and different way. At its debut, the first major American production car with front-wheel drive was easily the most innovative automobile offered to the public in a decade. Yet, it refused to be flashy, with its fascinating engineering concealed under beautiful, simple lines penned by Alan Leamy. In the words of its builder and namesake, E.L. Cord, “We submit it as a simple statement of fact that this car requires no selling to those who can afford it.”

The Cord’s front-wheel drive system, inspired by Harry Miller’s Indy Cars and developed by Cornelius van Ranst, employed a Lycoming straight-eight that was reversed in the chassis so that the transmission was at the extreme front. For simplicity, the drum brakes were mounted to the inboard ends of the drive axles and a long shifter rod traveled up and over the engine, passing through the firewall and into the dashboard. Moving the transmission to the front of the car offered numerous advantages, most notably improving handling and tractability. The lack of a driveshaft tunnel allowed for bodies to be mounted low on the frame, with the result being that the Cord was no taller than a person of average height. Interiors boasted flat floors, allowing for comfortable, spacious seating, even in the two-passenger cabriolet, which, driven by Wade Morton, served as the pace car for the 1930 Indianapolis 500.

The Front-Drive, like so many of the great automobiles of its time, had the bad luck to have been born at the worst possible moment. It was offered to market as the Great Depression’s crushing weight came down on the automobile industry, and production faded away in late 1931. It would be five years before another Cord arrived, and some three decades more before other manufacturers began to realize front-wheel drive’s advantages. The L-29, as enthusiasts have come to know it, has gone down in history as a noble pioneer that offered buyers the future three decades before anyone could afford it.

The Cabriolet offered here was built in July 1930, and it was a late 1930 model that remained unsold as the industry entered 1931; accordingly, the chassis was renumbered by the factory from 2928480 to the present 2929040, explaining the presence of both numbers on the chassis. The car’s history since includes long-term ownership by Louisiana enthusiasts Tom Landers and Bobbie Crump, prior to joining the present owner’s collection, which includes some of the finest Auburn Automobile Company products in existence. The Cord was restored in the late 1990s, and it was issued Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club certification number CL-077, certifying it as a Category One car—an important blessing of originality and authenticity of all major components, as bestowed by those who know these cars best. Showing well in its red and black, with a black leather interior and black canvas top, it is equipped with dual side-mounted spares, chrome wire wheels, driving lights, and dual cowl lights, and it would continue to present well for show with minor freshening; recent work has included the installation of correct cowl light and headlamp lenses and correct interior door handles. In addition, this would be an outstanding touring car suitable for ACD Club events and CCCA CARavans, in which many L-29s have covered thousands of enjoyable miles.

As the company’s own advertising put it, “No car ever built has a greater hold upon its owners than the Cord Front-Drive. The man or woman who has never driven a Cord, regardless of how much other fine car experience they have had, cannot appreciate the difference. The ease of handling, comfort, sense of safety, and the difference in maneuverability of the Cord are a revelation. We invite you to find out, by actually driving a Cord, why owners say ‘It spoils us for any other type of car.’”

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

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
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

+1 203 912 7168
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

+1 415 302 2247
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

+1 617 513 0388
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

+1 954 566 2209
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

+1 519 352 4575
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

+1 310 559 4575
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

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

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

+1 805 231 6410
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

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
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

+1 519 352 4575
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

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
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

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
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

+1 519 784 9300
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

+1 310 559 4575
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

+31 653 84 19 60
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