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      Car History: Car History Year 1929
    Posted on Sunday, September 26 @ 22:41:41 UTC by Cars
      Cars It was the year of Chicago's St. Valentine's Day Massacre and the Wall Street Crash. But while rival gangs of hoodlums were bumping each other off in the Windy City, and ruined stockbrokers were hurling themselves to oblivion from the upper floors of New York's skyscrapers, in Indiana the Cord Corporation were putting the wraps on a new automobile with novel features and great styling that, in many eyes, would make it the most beautiful car of the period. That car was the Cord L-29.

    Errett Lobban Cord was a colorful character, a wheeler dealer who, at the beginning of the Twenties, was a successful used-car salesman. By the middle of the decade, however, he had become president and major stockholder of Auburn. Shortly after, he acquired Duesenberg, and by the early Thirties he also had interests in the Lycoming engine plant, American Airlines, the airplane manufacturer Stinson, and various other businesses in the automotive industry. Cord was an empire builder, but the methods he used to gain controlling interests in companies were dubious. By 1929, Cord perceived the need for a car that would fill the gap between the attractively-priced Auburn and the mighty Model J Duesenberg, which had recently been introduced by the Cord Corporation. The result was a car that bore his own name: the Cord L-29. One of the most significant aspects of the L-29 was its front-wheel-drive layout, which had a dramatic effect on the overall styling of the car and made a major contribution to its rakish good looks. The L-29 was not the first American automobile to utilize front-wheel-drive, as for a short period prior to WW1, the Christie had been available with just such an arrangement. Although that project did not succeed, by the late Twenties interest in front-wheel-drive had been revived again following the successful showing of several similarly-equipped race cars in the Indianapolis 500. Cord employed race car builder Harry Miller and Detroit engineer Cornelius Van Ranst to design the front-wheel-drive set-up for the L-29. Miller's cars had already proved themselves on the track, while Van Ranst was also a keen exponent of the front-wheel-drive layout. Indianapolis race car driver Leon Duray would also act as an adviser on the project. The team began with Auburn's 298.6 cu.in. flathead, in-line, eight cylinder engine, which produced 115 horsepower at 3300rpm, basing the driveline layout on Miller's 1927 Indy race car. This meant the final drive and transmission had to be ahead of the engine, which had to be turned around so that the flywheel, clutch and chain drive faced forward. The cylinder head was also modified to place the water outlet at the front. A three-speed, sliding-pinion transmission was fitted between the clutch and final drive, the latter having the drive shaft to each wheel equipped with Cardan constant-velocity joints to allow for suspension movement and steering. Miller also designed an inboard braking system, using Lockheed hydraulic components. The front suspension comprised quarter-elliptic leaf springs and Houdaille-Hershey shock absorbers, which were also used at the rear with semi-elliptic leaf springs. The car was based initially on a ladder frame, which was common practice at the time. However, when Cord himself drove the prototype over a patch of rough ground, the chassis flexed so much that it caused ail the doors of the car to spring open. He immediately ordered Auburn's chief engineer, Herb Snow, to fix the problem, which he did by designing the industry's first X-frame chassis. This provided a much more rigid foundation for the car, and would be copied by other manufacturers as time went on. Placing the transmission and final drive ahead of the long, straight-eight engine made for a Song wheelbase, 137 inches in fact. This was much longer than any comparable automobile of the period, but it did have an advantage when it came to designing the bodywork. The Duesenberg-type grille, long sweeping hood and flowing fenders produced a rakish appearance, which was accentuated by the low overall height of the car. Because of the front-wheel-drive layout, no central transmission tunnel was needed in the floor which not only improved foot room for passengers, but also allowed the floor to be a low, step-down design. This ensured that the car retained good headroom for passengers inside while maintaining a relatively low overall height (61 inches for closed cars and 58 inches for open models - most other cars of the period were at least 70 inches high). At the same time, a generous ground clearance of 8 inches was also possible. Not only was the Cord L-29 a good looking car, but it was also well appointed inside. The luxurious interiors of closed cars were trimmed in good-quality broadcloth, while open cars received leather upholstery. In both cases, this was set off by silver-plated interior fittings. In addition, the front seats and steering column were adjustable, while fingertip gear shifting was provided by a small lever on the dashboard. Cabriolet, sedan, brougham and phaeton body styles were available, although many private coachbuilders, on both sides of the Atlantic, used the Cord as the basis for special bodywork. However, beautiful as the cars undoubtedly were, in performance terms they were somewhat sluggish. It took over 30 seconds for the L-29 to reach 60mph from a standing start, while top speed was not much more than 75mph. When compared to contemporary Cadillacs, Lincolns and Packards, the car was definitely a follower rather than a leader - but it did so in such great style. Although, in theory, the front-wheel-drive layout should have ensured good traction on poor surfaces, in fact much of the weight of the L-29 was over the undriven rear wheels. As a result, the cars gained a poor reputation for dealing with loose surfaces. Furthermore, the constant-velocity joints were lacking in durability, and therefore rather frequent replacement was necessary. Although many of the problems that beset the car could have been solved with a little more development work, Cord himself was impatient to put the L-29 into production and insisted that it be introduced before 1930. Unfortunately, teething troubles were not the only problems that would affect the sales of the L-29. Two months after the car was introduced in 1929, the stock market on Wall Street crashed, destroying the L-29's chances of becoming a commercial success. In an attempt to overcome the poor sales of 1929, the price was dropped by $800 for 1931, but this did not achieve the desired results. Production was halted at the end of the year, the last 157 cars being built as 1932 models. These had a more powerful 132 horsepower, 322 cu.in. straight-eight engine. This engine had originally been intended to power a new Cord, the L-30, but with the economic situation so poor, and so few L-29s having been built (around 5,000), it was never put into production. indeed, there would not be another Cord for four years, and in the meantime E. L. Cord would concentrate on his other business interests. Even the new car would only last for two short years, after which Cord sold his empire for a reported $4,000,000, killing off Auburn and Duesenberg in the process. Specification CORD L-29 Engine Cast iron - 8 cylinders in line Displacement 298.6 cu. ins Bore and stroke - Horsepower 125 Body styles Sedan; Brougham; Convertible Coupe; Convertible; Sedan No. of seats 2-5 Weight (lbs) c. xxx lbs - Price $3,095 - $3,295 Produced 1,819     Specification DUESENBERG Engine Cast iron - 8 cylinders in line Displacement - Bore and stroke - Horsepower <265 Body styles Custom built No. of seats - Weight (lbs) c. 5,000 lbs Price $8,500 (chassis) Produced -     Specification CHEVROLET MODEL AC Engine Cast iron - 6 cylinders in line Displacement 194 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3 5/16 x 3 1/4ins. Horsepower 46 Body styles Sports; Roadster; Phaeton; Cabriolet; Coach; Sedan; Landau No. of seats 2-5 Weight (lbs) 2,175-2,585 Ibs Price $525 - $725 Produced 1,328,605  
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