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With Cord revival project stalled, Cord rights to be auctioned off again

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Photo by GmanViz.

Though Craig Corbell said he got to within a year of putting prototypes for his Cord revival project on the road, he’s decided to drop the project altogether and put the rights for the Cord name back up for sale, citing in part the lack of guidelines from the federal government regarding low-volume replica cars.

“I’m the type of guy who’ll get distracted by shiny things I see on the corner,” he said. “And this has just been a long time waiting.”

Corbell bought the rights to the Cord name for $242,000 in late 2014 from the family of the late Glenn Pray, who had previously secured the rights to build the Buehrig-designed, Corvair-powered Royalite-bodied Cord 8/10 in the 1960s. Over the last five years, Corbell said he “was hot to trot busy flying all over the place” laying the groundwork for two separate vehicles that would wear the Cord name.

The first, a reverse trike, would have used a Motus 180-hp V-4 motorcycle engine and would have been aimed at an aging baby-boomer market no longer able or willing to ride motorcycles. The second, a more straightforward four-wheeled replica, would have been “designed to resemble the aesthetic of the Cord 810 and 812 models, while incorporating modern design, technology and manufacturing enhancements” and would have reportedly been powered by a Hemi V-8 engine.

When Corbell announced his plans a couple years after buying the rights — and again at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in 2017 — he noted that he intended to take advantage of the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act, which Congress passed in December 2015 as part of a highway funding bill. Under the act, replica carbuilders can sell complete turnkey vehicles rather than sell drivetrain-less cars, as they have done to avoid running up against safety and emissions standards since the Sixties.

However, the act also required the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to come up with some guidelines for replica carbuilders who intended to take advantage of the ability to build complete vehicles within a year of the act’s passage. To date, the EPA has issued a draft guidance document, but the NHTSA has yet to indicate publicly that it has even started to work on the guidelines.

After years of delays, SEMA officials warned the NHTSA last October that they were prepared to file a lawsuit to spur the agency into action. At the time, Stuart Gosswein, SEMA’s senior director of Federal Government Affairs, said none of the dozen or so companies that had shown an interest in building complete replica cars under the act had yet to back out due to the delays.

While Corbell said that other issues had factored into his decision to sell the rights to the Cord name — the oil and gas industry, in which he has financial interests, has suffered a slowdown that has lasted longer than anyone expected, he said — he had also grown impatient with waiting for guidance from the NHTSA and EPA.

“Until we get all the information from the government, I don’t want to get a long way toward getting stuff made and then have to do something different,” he said. “I believe something might be coming from them this year, but I personally have not had direct communications with them.”

He said that he had just gotten ready to start building a pair of prototypes for the four-wheeled replica and that, were he to pick up development again today, he could have the prototypes done and driving within eight months. The three-wheelers, which he said were “reworkings, reimaginings” of another project, weren’t as far along, but he said their shorter development time would have allowed him to introduce them at the same time as the four-wheeled replicas. Though he said he received considerable interest in the project, he didn’t plan on taking any deposits until he could show off the prototypes. His original timeline called for the replicas to be introduced as early as 2017.

“Whoever picks up the rights will have access to everything I’ve done,” Corbell said. “I look forward to helping whoever the new owner is to accomplish their goals.”

The Cord rights will go up for sale for no reserve at the Worldwide Auctioneers Auburn sale scheduled for Labor Day weekend. In addition to the rights, the sale will also see the one-off Exner-designed 1966 Duesenberg Model D prototype cross the block. For more information on the sale, visit Worldwide-Auctioneers.com.