The Second Happiest Day. (The day I got the Cord 810)


It was a Glenn Pray Cord and people were given to calling it a kit car, but it wasn't: It was a production car made in Oklahoma, by Mr. Pray in a factory setting to very precise standards that Gordon Beuhrig approved. He made about 100 of them before calling it quits. And they were marvels of engineering and technology for the time. Some people marveled that they even ran. But they were advanced; the body was 3-layered "memory plastic." They ran one through a brick wall, then used a 500-degree heat gun on it, and the body returned to its original shape. Really. It needed painting, and the windshield and headlights had to be replaced, and the frame was damaged. But the memory plastic remembered. They fired .22s at the door, and were able to heat-gun the marks out of it. So they said, anyway.

I think this one was number 70 off the line, and when they were brand new they were around $5,000. That was probably what a loaded Cadillac cost at the time, in the 1960's. The price included airfare to Tulsa, then it was up to you to drive it home. My folks flew to meet their Cord, drove it back to KC where it sat in that garage. It was not a joy to drive. And my mom didn't drive a stick shift any more. I inherited the car years later in a state of some disrepair. My euphoria would soon dissipate.

It was fast, with its supercharged corvair spyder but no real shakedown had ever proven the cars, so with a mixture of parts ranging from Chevy to Citroen, it had problems that were never really resolved. Wiring was a bete noir that tested the most seasoned mechanics. The carb was a Weber side draft and that was a challenge to keep clean and operating. This factory model had air conditioning which issued from a large cannister that sat atop the engine, and we finally removed it for good. The little moon hub caps were from a  Harley Davidson ServiCycle, and the steering wheel was a Studebaker banjo type if I recall correctly.  It was a handsome automobile, suicide doors, front wheel drive, beautiful dashboard and instrumentation, sleek lines hearkening back to Gatsby days. But it needed about 10 grand to make it right.


When you goosed it up to supercharger speed, that would boost it noticeably, but the suspension was not marvelous. It was okay on a straight line, roaring along. Until smoke started pouring out from under the dash as it did with me halfway to KC from Iowa. I pulled over and it seemed to smoke less--I couldn't find anything burnt under there, and drove it on home. Maybe too strong a fuse or something, but It ran and the wiring smoked only occasionally. You got used to it.

What one didn't know about the car could, indeed, hurt them. Turning tightly in a cramped space, say parallel parking, subjected the tires to a deep scoring by sharp frame flanges, and that could result in a rather perfect blowout at high speeds. We spied that on a lift and ground down the edges, so the flanges couldn't reach the tires.

The Cord and I were not on great terms. It cost me money daily, and many refused to work on it. So it went to Texas, to a Glenn Pray Cord fancier. So the second happiest day was getting the Cord. The happiest day was getting rid of it.