In the late 1920s, after successfully reorganizing Auburn and taking control of the company, Errett Lobban Cord decided to reward his efforts by building a car worthy of bearing his own name– one that would compete with the likes of Lincoln, Packard and Stutz. In typical E.L. Cord fashion, he eschewed tradition and specified a car that was as innovative as it was beautiful. In 1929 the L-29 appeared as a sleek, attractive and impossibly low slung machine with front wheel drive and a De Dion front axle, designed by an ex-Miller Indy Car engineer who spearheaded the project. The L-29 shared the 301 cubic inch Lycoming straight eight with Auburn, but with the engine reversed in the chassis, driving through a three-speed transmission at the front. Performance was adequate, and thanks to the low center of gravity, handling was impressive. The L-29 was available with various factory bodies, though many were custom bodied by some of the finest coachbuilders of the time. Only 5,014 L29s were built between 1929 and 1932, as the Great Depression took hold and luxury automobile sales plummeted.
This attractive Cord L-29 Convertible Sedan is a fine example of the breed with a rather exceptional history. It was first sold new in Atlanta, Georgia to Mr. Silvey Speer, who purchased the beautiful white Cord as a gift for his granddaughter, Miss Frances McKenzie. But the effects of the Great Depression forced Miss McKenzie to sell the L-29 just two years later. Austin Abbott, an Atlanta based Stutz dealer and event promoter, was the sole bidder on the car – which he nicknamed “Blondie”. Abbot would own this L-29 for over 30 years, using it in literally hundreds of parades and events around Atlanta. If there was a celebration in the city, chances are Abbott was there with “Blondie”, leading the parade. Of the numerous celebrities and politicians that are said to have ridden in the L-29, the most famous among them include Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh who rode in Blondie to the World Premier of Gone with the Wind at Atlanta’s own Loew’s Grand Theater in 1940. A staggering number of period photos show the car in local parades, shuttling celebrities to premiers, opening interstate highways, parading political candidates and even one of a stunt rider jumping a team of horses OVER the top of the L-29!
Abbott’s skills as a promoter turned “Blondie” into a true Atlanta celebrity. In the mid-1960s, the L-29 was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Verney Bentley, also of Atlanta, who continued to enjoy the car in classic car tours and shows, while continuing Blondie’s celebrity status by using it in parades and events. By the mid-1980s it was owned by Murrell Smith who is believed to have performed the extensive, high-quality restoration in the early 1990s.
Now presented in a striking combination of cream with rich blue accents, the older restoration presents very well with good quality paintwork and detailing. The paint shows very well, having mellowed with use since the restoration was completed. The vivid blue flashes on the body swage lines, running boards and the chassis add a welcome splash of color. The famous low-slung lines of the L-29 are further enhanced by the gorgeous chrome wire wheels with blue accented wheel rims. Accessories include Dual side mount spares fitted with mirrors, a trunk with matching tan canvas cover and fine quality chrome bumpers and fittings.
The interior is trimmed in tan leather with matching carpets, and is presenting in fine condition, showing only light use since the restoration was completed. The art deco style dash features original instrumentation and the original steering wheel and controls remain in very good order.
Blondie has been used sparingly since her extensive restoration, and the engine presentation remains excellent. Lycoming’s 301 cubic-inch inline-eight cylinder engine is the same as that used in an Auburn, though cleverly turned 180 degrees for installation in the front drive L-29. It is nicely detailed in the correct green color with good quality chrome fittings and hardware.
With its magnificent lines and ground breaking front-drive layout, the Cord L-29 remains one of the most distinct and desirable American classics of all time. It is of course welcome at virtually any CCCA, or AACA event and would be a welcome choice for touring. The restoration has been very well maintained and the car remains very attractive condition throughout. A fascinating and colorful history only adds to the appeal of this handsome and highly desirable Cord L-29.
Feb 26, 2015