Rural Missouri - July 2021 - 49

by Edward Richards |
M
info@ruralmissouri.coop
photos by Zach Smith | zsmith@ruralmissouri.coop
ultimillionaire. Giant of industry. Twice the cover
subject of Time magazine. All of these
describe one-time Marshall resident
and automotive innovator
E.L. Cord. Yet he is not as well-known
among most Americans as Henry
Ford or Walter Chrysler, whose cars
and corporations still carry their
names.
Errett Lobban Cord - who
preferred " E.L. " because of his
unusual name - was born in
Warrensburg on July 20, 1894
to storekeeper Charles William
and Ida Lobban. When
his store failed, E.L.'s father
was given a job in a jewelry
store in Joliet, Illinois, by
his brother-in-law. Charles
Cord later moved to Marshall
in July 1907 according to The
Marshall Republican and started
the town's fi rst wholesale grocery
business. Three months later, he
sold his business and moved to Los
Angeles.
Like most boys, E.L. liked cars. His
contemporaries would say, " He liked fast
cars. " He was a salesman for a used car agency
at age 17 and at 18 got a job at a Buick dealership.
At 19, he built his fi rst " cut down, " what we now call a hot
rod. He bought a run-down Model T Ford for $75, repaired
it and sold it for $675. Within 18 months he had made and
sold 20 such conversions at an average profi t of $500. He
entered races, not only because he liked speed, but also
because if he won, he could sell the car for $200 to $300
more than he would otherwise receive.
At Christmastime 1918 he headed east
where in Chicago he was hired as a salesman
for the Thomas J. Hay Co., sellers of Chandler
cars. Always looking for a better position, he left
to sell cycle cars. Then, in early 1920 he returned
to Los Angeles with the California rights
to sell a new type of gas heater. Meanwhile Jack
Quinlan, sales manager for the Hay Co., acquired
regional distributorship for the Moon car
made in St. Louis. Quinlan knew E.L. was a super
salesman and offered him 25% interest in the agency to
entice him back to Chicago. E.L. readily accepted. This
was a pivotal moment in his career.
The agency was soon selling 60% of factory production.
Cord earned $100,000 selling cars - roughly $1.33
million today, when adjusted for infl ation - and was one
of the young stars in the automobile industry. He became
good friends with one of his customers, Ralph Austin Bard,
a director of the ailing Auburn Automobile Co. Finding
Cord's ideas on production sound, Bard took him before
the unhappy directors of Auburn. Cord was hired as vice
president and sales manager in June 1924. The offi cial
souvenir book for the 1974 grand opening of the
Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum
states that E.L. turned down, " a reported
$36,000 salary, and asked only to be given
20% of whatever profi t he made for the
fi rm, plus an option to buy all its common
stock. " During his time at Auburn
he introduced a four-cylinder
engine to reduce price and increase
fuel economy, and added an inline
eight-cylinder model for those wanting
performance. He moved Auburn
a decade ahead in style by using
six-spoke wheels, forward slanting
louvers on the hood, non-glare
windshields and other body changes.
By the end of 1924, E.L. had
paid off the company's considerable
debt. The company ended 1925 with a
surplus of more than $655,000 versus
the previous year's losses. This quick,
profi table recovery enabled him to gain
control at Auburn. He was named president
at age 31 - the youngest president of
any motor car company.
In 1926, Cord acquired the struggling Duesenberg
Motors Co. of Indianapolis. He directed Fred
Duesenberg to design a super luxury car. E.L. insisted that
every detail be innovative. He wanted a big, heavy car that
would do 100 mph, dictating the engine be a twin-cam,
straight-eight with chain drive to the camshafts - the latter
to reduce engine noise. He designed a dash with instruments
that had never been used before, added an altimeter
and introduced the three-spoke steering wheel. Bodies
were custom built.
Marshall
In December 1928, Cord introduced the famous Duesenberg
Model J. This luxury car soon became a status
symbol for the rich and famous. It is no stretch
to say it is now one of the most desirable vintage
American cars, often selling for over $1 million.
The saying " It's a Duesy, " although recorded
before the company ventured into passenger vehicles,
later proved synonymous with something
of the highest quality.
As Cord rose to prominence as an innovator in
the auto world, his status as an industrial titan also grew.
He formed Cord Corp. in 1929 as a holding company for
150 companies he controlled, including such names as
New York Shipbuilding, Stinson Aircraft and the precursor
of American Airlines.
The same year, he introduced the Cord L-29. True to
E.L.'s belief that " novelty sells, " the L-29 was the fi rst
JULY 2021 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP 49
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Rural Missouri - July 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - July 2021

Contents
Rural Missouri - July 2021 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - July 2021 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - July 2021 - Contents
Rural Missouri - July 2021 - 4
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