1931 Cord L-29
Chassis no. 2929245
Engine no. FD 4046
298.6ci L-head inline eight-cylinder
Four-speed manual transmission
Former Pebble Beach Runner-Up
One family ownership since 1953
Lovely condition and color combination
Introduced in August 1929 as a 1930 model, the sublimely sleek Cord L-29 quickly became an international style sensation. Production models were honored with major awards at numerous automotive showings throughout Europe, and the L-29 rapidly became the car of choice for Hollywood celebrities. Built in Indiana, with engineering input from racecar builder Harry Miller and Indy FWD pioneer Cornelius Van Ranst, it was perhaps not surprising that a Cord L-29 "Front Drive" Cabriolet paced the 1930 Indianapolis 500.
The L-29's front-wheel drive layout enabled its strikingly low silhouette, while placement of the transmission/differential ahead of the engine necessitated the especially long hood and lengthy 137.5-inch wheelbase. The beautifully streamlined L-29 radiator shell was inspired by that of the ultra-prestigious Duesenberg Model J, introduced by E. L. Cord's Auburn Automobile Co. in late 1928.
Only one two-door factory model, the all-weather Cabriolet with rumble seat, was cataloged in Cord's four-model L-29 lineup. The example offered here is presented by the family of the late Reno physician Dr. William A. O'Brien III. According to notes left by Dr. O'Brien, he purchased the L-29 in 1953 for $350 after discovering the car in Lovelock, Nevada, a small town northwest of Reno. While still operational, the Cord needed a full restoration: "Badly weathered...top tattered...upholstery ripped...wood rotted," Dr. O'Brien wrote of its as-found condition.
Dr. O'Brien immediately commissioned James Gullihur, a pioneering restorer of vintage cars in Reno, to restore the L-29 Cabriolet from the ground up. It took four years and the astonishing sum of $15,000 for Gullihur to complete a show-quality restoration of the Classic Cord. Finished in black, with chassis and inner fender surfaces done in red, the car rolled on chrome wire wheels, available by special order in 1931. The subtle body pin striping replicated that of E. L. Cord's personal L-29.
"This particular car stirred great interest and enthusiasm when shown at Del Monte [Pebble Beach] in 1957, and thereby was responsible for the renaissance of the marque," Dr. O'Brien recalled later. Not only did the car win its Class, it was also Runner-Up to a Rolls-Royce Phantom III for top honors at Pebble Beach that year. The Cord was shown additionally by Dr. O'Brien only once, at a Harrah's show in 1966. During 2008, Dr. O'Brien's heirs lent out the Cord for a National Automobile Museum display in Reno.
The L-29's L-head 125-hp Lycoming straight eight displaced 298.6 cubic inches. The O'Brien Cabriolet's engine sported a Winfield Universal carburetor"Several cars came from the factory so equipped," Dr. O'Brien reported.
The timing of the L-29 introduction preceded the Wall Street "crash" of 1929 by only a few months, a circumstance that severely limited the market for luxury cars such as the Cord Front Drive. The last L-29s were built at the end of 1931. Total production was 5,010.
Few automobiles have had, or ever will have, the timeless visual impact of the L-29 Cord Cabriolet. This historically important example, held in one family's ownership for 60 years, fairly sparkles with the legendary 'star power' of the design.