Concept Car Redux

Despite a good number of views for yesterday’s post in particular and for the blog in general, only three readers cast votes for the A Or B? post. (It’s not too late to vote, by the way.) Since the post title was not A Or B Or C?, my other probable all-time favorite concept car could not be included. Here is a picture of the DeSoto Adventurer I:

 

DeSoto Adventurer I Cars Of The Fabulous 50s

 

This was legendary auto designer Virgil Exner’s favorite car and according to him Chrysler Corporation almost put it into production. Supposedly, the project remained in concept status because some executives still had memories of the Airflow “fiasco” of the 1930s and, allegedly, Chrysler management was too afraid to go out on an automotive limb. To quote John Greenleaf Whittier for not the first time,

 

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

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Related to Whittier’s famous line, according to 365 Days Of Motoring, it was on this day in 1937 that the Auburn Automobile Company manufactured its last Cord car. From Wikimedia, a picture of a 1937 Cord 812 supercharged cabriolet:

 

See the source image

 

In all honesty, these cars were greater in design than they were in execution. At least initially, the Cord 810/812 had transmission and overheating issues. Those faults are conveniently “forgotten” by the make’s partisans. Still, in design these cars were transcendent.

These were the last front-wheel drive American cars until the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado. The Cord 810/812 was the first car with hidden headlights and one of the first with a pre-selector transmission. The transmission had four forward gear ratios instead of the usual three, plus Bendix “Electric Hand” preselector. With this, the driver first chose the desired gear via a switch-like lever on an extension of the steering column, then shifted by stabbing the clutch.

The quality issues and the 1937-38 “Recession Within The Great Depression” doomed the Cord and the Auburn Automobile Company, which also included Duesenberg. It might have been, indeed.

 

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A Or B 2

First…from here comes the “news” that the FDA has asked a group of advisors to set aside December 8-10 to participate in meetings to discuss COVID vaccines. The meetings would be a key step in the agency’s emergency authorization process. If emergency use is approved next month that would represent the fastest vaccine development in history, by far. Maybe I’m out of my lane, but I think the ability to sequence the virus genome must have played a role in the speed of development AND will continue to revolutionize future vaccine research.

Second…from here comes the news that the FAA has cleared the Boeing 737 Max to fly after the planes were grounded for 20 months. Boeing has made the automated flight control system “less aggressive” and added more redundancies.

Yes, I rely on CNBC for my news. I don’t trust CNN and I don’t trust Fox News. I know I’m in the minority among Americans who seek news.

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OK, after a long hiatus A Or B returns. Use whatever criteria you want to choose between these two cars that, in this case, have a lot in common.

 

See the source image

See the source image

 

The top picture of a 1935 Auburn Speedster 851 is from Mecum and the bottom picture of a 1937 Cord 812 is from Top Speed. Obviously, I chose photos that showed the most famous views of the cars.

Both cars represent the agony and the ecstasy of the Cord Corporation. Both exteriors were designed by the legendary Gordon Buehrig.

Do you care about specs? To me, these cars are more rolling sculpture than engineering marvels and, besides, cars from the 1930s cannot compare in any way to modern cars in terms of performance and reliability. OK…the highest output Auburn engine for 1935 was a 280 cubic-inch, supercharged inline-8, made by aircraft company Lycoming, that produced 150 HP, but probably had more torque than 150 LB-FT given its old-fashioned undersquare (bore < stroke) layout. The ’37 Cord had a 289 cubic-inch V-8 made by Lycoming, which in its highest supercharged spec made 190 HP.

From what is my most valuable book, Encyclopedia of American Cars by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide®, comes this passage:

 

“Perhaps to avoid a brewing scandal over his management of these enterprises [Duesenberg, Cord, Lycoming, Ansted Engines, etc.], Cord fled to England in 1934 and promptly dropped from sight…Like a prodigal son, E.L. Cord returned from England in 1936 to salvage his crumbling empire, only to find the IRS and the Securities and Exchange Commission ready to launch major investigations of his doings.”

 

Cord’s automotive empire collapsed shortly thereafter and he sold what was left of his corporation in 1937. Of course, he later made millions in real estate and in uranium mines. He also became a US Senator from Nevada, which is where he moved after he sold his company.

I think Elon Musk represents the spirit of people like E.L. Cord and Preston Tucker. Of course, the automobile business is one that requires huge capital investment to succeed in any meaningful way. The sheer size has taken some of the romance away.

OK…1935 Auburn 851 Speedster or 1937 Cord 812? Please let me know which car you prefer and, if you are so inclined, why. Thanks.

 

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