When the Auburn Automobile Company was facing an ever growing well of red ink in 1924, they realized they needed to make a drastic maneuver in order to move a glut of unsold inventory if they had any hopes of saving the firm. Auburns were quality cars, but they were also staid and somewhat boring in the face of their competition. The board at Auburn hired a hotshot young salesman; E.L. Cord with the task of turning around their fortunes. Cord was an Auburn distributor and entrepreneur and his solution to unsold stock was as genius as it was simple. A natural showman, he simply repainted the bland Auburns in bright new colors and marketed them in retail spaces around the country. His elegant plan saved the company and as a reward, he was offered a place in management. But Cord’s ambition was much higher, and rather than accept the job, he decided full control over the company was a better deal. By1928, he was in complete control of Auburn and had begun to amass an impressive manufacturing empire that included eventually Auburn, Lycoming Engines, Checker Cab, Duesenberg, Stinson Aircraft and New York Shipbuilders, among others.
Having re-invented Auburn as a leader in stylish and quality automobiles, Cord decided to add a car worthy of 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 both innovative and beautiful. The L-29, as it became known, was a sleek and gloriously low slung machine, thanks to its front wheel drive and a De Dion front axle arrangement which allowed the body to be mounted very low on the chassis. The project was spearheaded by an ex-Miller engineer who had vast experience with front-drive. The L-29 shared the 301 cubic inch Lycoming straight eight with Auburn, but with engine and three-speed transmission turned 180 degrees. The forward mounted transmission meant no tunnel was needed, and the body could be mounted low in the chassis, with a flat floor for additional passenger comfort. Performance was adequate, and thanks to the low center of gravity, handling was quite impressive. Designers took full advantage of the low body height, gracing the L-29 with an array of fabulously rakish bodies. Only 4,400 L-29s were sold between 1929 and 1932, and it remains a highly collectible icon of the Classic Era.
This truly stunning 1931 L-29 Cabriolet wears a recent and extremely high-quality restoration and remains in fresh, show quality condition. The known history of this wonderful car begins in 1946 when it was purchased for a mere $750 by a Mr. Huffey of Cincinnati, Ohio. Several short term owners followed until 1953 when it was purchased by Jerry Fisher, also of Ohio. It remained with Fisher for some time until reappearing in 1969 when Hubert Wood of South Charleston, Ohio acquired it and performed an amateur-level restoration, as was quite common for the time. A new owner was found in 1980, which proceeded to drive the car to his private museum in the western United States.
In 2013, the car was purchased by its last owner, and a full and comprehensive restoration was undertaken. The Cord was completely disassembled and every component carefully stripped with preservation of original parts a priority. The chassis, springs and axles were stripped and painted or powder coated. The body was carefully restored using as much of the original sheet metal as possible, with the structural wood work being replaced as needed. A striking color combination was chosen with deep maroon main body and fenders accented by black stripes and black painted wire wheels. The wheels are wrapped in blackwall tires (including the dual sidemount spares) lending the car a magnificently sporty and aggressive look. The paint quality is gorgeous, with very high quality metal work and a deep beautiful gloss. The chrome trim was similarly restored to a show-quality standard and has been expertly refitted.
The cabriolet body style features a two-seat cockpit up front, with room for two occasional passengers in the rumble seat. As part of the restoration, new black leather was fitted to the seats and door cards using original works patterns. The leather is piped in dark red to complement the exterior with dramatic effect. Rear passengers are treated to the same high-quality upholstery in the rumble seat. L-29s have a magnificent dash design, with beautifully ornate panels inset into the fascia and a distinctive shift lever sprouting from the dash. This car had the instruments and dash panel fully restored to the same high level as the exterior with exquisitely detailed switchgear, textured panels and intricate dials. A new black canvas top, subtly stitched in red, has been fitted to a renewed top frame with new wooden bows and restored metal components.
The big Lycoming inline eight-cylinder engine was fully rebuilt with new Babbit bearings, as well as new pistons, rings and shell bearings. It also received a new camshaft and the crankshaft was polished and balanced while the cylinder block was bored, honed and the head planed. The resulting engine is strong and exceptionally smooth, supported by freshly rebuilt cooling and charging systems. Concurrently, the transmission was carefully cleaned, inspected, resealed and re-installed with a new clutch and pressure plate. Upon reassembly, the engine assembly was correctly painted and beautifully detailed with newly plated hardware and correct fittings and wiring.
A truly stunning automobile, this L-29 Cabriolet is one of the most desirable of the breed. This example still wears its original engine, original body as well as original body number and serial number tags. An unrestored original trunk rack is also included. This extremely high quality restoration done in fabulous colors makes this breathtaking Cord a very worthy candidate for show at virtually any important event.
Feb 26, 2015