The world's best known Cord sells for US$2.42 million


March 12, 2012

The L-29 Special was designed and built specifically for international show competition at a rumored US$20,000. It won the Paris, Monte Carlo and Beaulieu Concours d'Elegance in same year - 1930.

The L-29 Special was designed and built specifically for international show competition at a rumored US$20,000. It won the Paris, Monte Carlo and Beaulieu Concours d'Elegance in same year - 1930.

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When the Great Depression claimed E.L. Cord's industrial empire, the Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg marques went with it. The Cord L-29 was perhaps one of the most distinctive cars ever produced, thanks to the extra long bonnet necessitated by the straight eight engine and front-wheel-drive system. Though cloaked in various bodies, the long low lines of the L-29 are unmistakeable. The world's best known Cord, winner of countless awards, fell under the auctioneers hammer on Saturday, and sold for a record US$2.42 million. Great piccies.

Introduced in the summer of 1929, the Cord L-29 was a very high-tech vehicle for its day. Its front-wheel drive-train was inspired by the Miller-powered 1927 Indianapolis 500 car built by Cornelius Van Ranst and Tommy Milton and was the first American front-wheel drive production car.

The L-29 also had hydraulic drum brakes all round, putting it ahead of most of the competition at that time. The Model A Duesenberg of 1921 was the first passenger car to have four-wheel hydraulic brakes and even Ford did not swap from cable operated to hydraulically operated drums until 1939.

The L-29 was offered in a wide variety of factory bodies, powered by a 125 bhp, 298.6 cu. in. L-head inline eight cylinder engine, running though a three-speed selective sliding-gear manual transmission.

This particular car was designed by Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky and built by Hayes Motor Body Works specifically for international show competition and a rumoured US$20,000 was spent on the project - a very large sum of money at the time, and the build was completed just months before the stock market crash that precipitated the depression.

When the car arrived in Europe howvwer, it swept all before it, winning the Paris, Monte Carlo and Beaulieu Concours d'Elegance all in the same year (1930) - the feat had been perfromed before, but not by an American car.

In total, 5,010 L-29s were produced including 43 custom-bodied versions of which this car is one of only twelve still known to exist.

This car returned to Hayes after its European showings, then sold through a number of well-documented owners until it was completely restored in preparation for its entry into the special Custom-Bodied Cord class at the 1987 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, where it won Best in Class, the Co-Chairmen's Award and People's Choice.

The Hayes Coupe featured in many publications in the late eighties including Motor Trend, the April 1988 Collectible Automobile and The Classic Car and reproduced in highly detailed 1:16-scale model form by the Danbury Mint.

In mid-1991, the car received Level 1 Original Certification (CL-073) following detailed examination by the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club and at the 2008 Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance it won Best in Class for the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg class.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, (Australia's largest Telco), (Australia's largest employment site),,, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon

The Cord L-29 was NOT the first American front-wheel-drive car; I believe the Christie was in (limited) production before 1910. Christies for racing were built before 1905.

Lars Johansson

it's already to plant the steering shaft in your chest in a frontal collision, yeah I wanna buy that

Bill Bennett

20 000 dollars then, vs 2.4 million now, how much is the difference?

Dawar Saify

re; Bill Bennett

What do you know. An almost century old car is not as safe as a modern car.


This car is anomolous. And anomolousness automatically cancels grandiose statements like "The world's most famous". I was a friend of Gordon's and never knew of this vehicle. It obviously is beautiful but in no way American which is something that he imbued his wonderful cars with.

The Cords designed by Gordon Buehrig were simply the world's most famous.

The letter exchange between LeCorbusier and Gordon would confirm that.

EL Cord was not done in by the Depression. It did not claim his industrial Empire. He switched production to aircraft engines with the ascendancy of the Nazi Party and it's looming threat to the free world.

Island Architect

The Cord was the only FWD AUto to make it in the market with over 5000 units built, the first FWD auto was in 1894ish with one prototype. Christie made a prototype in 1904' but only sold 3 trucks in 1912 and failed. There was also the Ruxton, but they only made about 200 and that was after the Cord. But could be called the First FWD auto with a Supercharger. There was an Alvin, if I remember, but like most the others it was a prototype and used only for racing. I think the Cord should have been labeled "The First FWD Auto that was offered to the public" back then, 5000 vehicles, even at the exchanged dollar rate is a respectable number of cars. Ferrari only sold just under 3100 cars in 2011!

This info was from a book called "The Hisory of the Automobile", do not remember the author or publisher, but was printed in the late 1970's.......


The cost to build this car today would be $252,000 dollars according to the US Government inflation charts.

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