Well aware of the L-29's shortcomings, Gordon Buehrig resolved to avoid them with changes for the 1936 Cord 810. As with Russell E. Gardner's largely experimental front-drive car and the short-lived Ruxton, the L-29 was hampered by excessive overall length, dictated in part by its overly long inline engine.
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The two-seat 1936 Sportsman convertible coupe was arguably the ultimate expression of the masterful 'coffin-nose' Cord 810/812 design created
by Gordon Buehrig.
But Buehrig was blessed with a more compact power unit engineered specifically for revised front-drive mechanicals that also required less space. He thus settled on 125-inch wheelbase, making the new Cord far more manageable than its forebear. The powertrain ended up fully two feet further forward than before, resulting in spacious, comfortable five-passenger seating despite the 12 fewer inches between wheel centers.
Also unlike the L-29, the new Cord would employ unit construction, with a massive U-shaped front sub-frame to support the powerplant, secured to a rigid, self-contained four-door sedan body. This welded, reinforced all-steel structure would not only be much stronger and safer than the awkward old body-on-frame arrangement, but would improve engine accessibility, lower the center of gravity, and substantially reduce unsprung weight, the last two benefiting dynamic balance.
Finally, to enhance both balance and interior room, there would be a recessed or "step-down" passenger compartment floor, predating Hudson's highly publicized "first" by more than a decade.
These were exciting times for Buehrig and his team, who were soon working at Auburn. And work they did, buoyed by their own enthusiasm, toiling long hours through the summer and fall of 1934 to create a totally new car for a new age. Soon they'd prepared a clay scale model, and studied every line for ways to reduce wind resistance before applying their conclusions to a full-size mockup.
The end product not only reflected their attention to detail but managed to be both strikingly futuristic and timelessly handsome. Door hinges, gas filler, and even the headlamps were all concealed. Running boards were discarded as old-fashioned, and "Venetian blind" hoodside louvers wrapped all the way around the front to stand in for the traditional radiator.
A distinctive, one-piece "coffin-nose" hood was hinged at the rear, "alligator" style, while the rear deck was artfully tapered and taillamps flush-mounted. By mid-1930s standards, the second-generation Cord was straight from the 21st century.
Meanwhile, Lycoming chief engineer Forrest Baxter was busy laying out the new V-8. Because compactness was paramount, it would be a 90-degree unit, with a relatively large, 3.5-inch bore for maximum power. A long, 3.75-inch stroke yielded a total 288.6 cubic inches. Under test, the production-approved engine churned out 125 horsepower at 3,500 rpm -- the same horsepower as the L-29's larger straight eight -- or one horsepower for every 2.33 cubic inches.
High-compression (6.5:1) aluminum cylinder heads were specified, as were aluminum pistons with Invar struts. Carburetion was by a Stromberg dual-downdraft instrument on a precision-engineered intake manifold, assuring even fuel distribution at any speed. Full-length water jackets, "silent chain" camshaft drive, and extra-wide main bearings also aided efficiency in this L-head.
For more features of the 1936 Cord 810, continue to the next page.
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