For a vehicle that only lasted a couple years on the market, Gordon Buehrig’s Cord 810 and 812 have sure had an outsize influence on car designers and enthusiasts ever since. David North, Stan Wilen, and Bill Mitchell packed the Oldsmobile Toronado with all sorts of design elements paying homage to the Toronado’s front-wheel-drive predecessor. Multiple customizers through the Fifties tried their hand at making a sports car out of the coffin-nose Cord. And on at least three occasions, entrepreneurs have resurrected or attempted to resurrect the Cord. So Marty Martino’s really just following in a grand tradition by building a modern Cord out of the bones of a fifth-generation Corvette.
“I never thought of this project as a ‘sport custom’ in the traditional way, but being that it’s a one-off Cord-inspired design, I now see it as a continuation of the genre,” Marty said after reading our recent story on Fifties-era sport-custom Cords.
The roots of the project date back to the late Eighties, when Automobile Quarterly ran a design contest asking for its readers to envision the Cord 810, Tucker 48, or Packard Caribbean as they would have appeared in 1990. “What really made the contest exciting to me was that it was to be judged by Alex Tremulis, Frank Hershey, Dick Teague, Bill Mitchell, Chuck Jordan, Jack Telnack, and Dave Holls, many of my automotive heroes!” Marty said.
Marty selected the 810, and while the phone-dial wheels, wraparound indent, and jellybean taillamps all reflect the era in which he re-envisioned the Cord, the coupe managed to blend the original’s subtly stepped fastback, haunches, hidden headlamps in winglike fenders, and speed line grille in with contemporary shape and proportions. The entry made it into print as one of four runner-up designs that the judges chose. Not bad, Marty thought, considering “most of the entrants were accomplished illustrator/designers, students at Art Center, and so on,” he said.
The rendering got filed away until about a decade ago, when Marty’s younger brother, Robert, expressed an interest in building a modern Cord using a Corvette as the donor car. Robert, according to Marty, “had long held 1936 and 1937 Cords as his favorite prewar car design… and considers the Cord Sportsman the Corvette of its day.”
They figured the fifth-generation Corvette would work best for this project given that Marty had already built the PsyClone Motorama tribute car from a C5 and that both the C5 and the Cord had hideaway headlamps. Robert wanted a convertible, so the brothers found a profile shot of a C5 Corvette, laid it on a lightbox, then drafted the CordVette’s design on a blank piece of paper above the profile shot using many of the same elements and lines that Marty had incorporated into his Automobile Quarterly rendering. Marty also did a little Bondo sculpting on a 1/25-scale model of a C5 to see his alterations in three dimensions.