Cord comeback: Famed marque returning, first on three wheels, but with new luxury car to follow

Artist's rendering of the design of the Cord Model III , a three-wheeled vehicle designed to revive the brand in 2017. But the owner of the rights got tired of waiting for NHTSA to issue regulations and offered the brand for sale at auction in 2018 | Cord Automobile image

In the fall of 2014, an unusual lot was on the docket at the Leake Auction Company’s annual sale in Dallas. The lot wasn’t a collector car, nor an exotic, in fact, it wasn’t a car at all. Instead, it was the rights to Cord Automobile, its trademarks and the right to put the famed luxury car brand back in business.

Those rights were purchased at the auction by Houston resident and car collector Craig Corbell. Wednesday at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Corbell announced his plans to bring the brand back to the roads, though at first on only three wheels.

Corbell told the Journal that a design has been done and work will begin soon on two prototypes for a three-wheeled Cord “motorcycle” that he plans to put into production sometime in 2018.

He also said that he is moving ahead with development of a Hemi-engined Cord luxury car that will be carry the brand’s iconic design cues, and will be targeted to compete with the likes of Bentley in terms of comfort, power, features, “everything.”

Corbell explained that he’s starting with what technically will be a motorcycle for two reasons — because there’s a niche for such a vehicle and because he’s among those still waiting for the federal government to sort out the details of regulations forwarded in 2015 that will allow some exemptions for specialty automakers producing no more than 325 vehicles a year.

Rather than wait for those details, he decided to re-launch Cord on three rather than four wheels.

He noted that popularity of three-wheelers, especially as baby boomers who have bought so many motorcycles age and suffer from “bad knees and bad backs.”

Many of them have opted for three-wheel “trikes,” which are both more comfortable and safer.

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“But there is no ultra-high-end version,” Corbell said, indicating the niche he sees for the Cord Model III.

The Model III will have car-style doors and will provide room enough for “two guys like me to sit in it.”

Corbell is a big man with a large heart. He started the ELK (Everyone Loves Kids) Charity Challenge rally. He’s also involved in refurbishing homes that were flooded by the hurricane.

“It’s taken a long time to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with the Cord brand because I want to make sure it’s done the right way and continue the brand in a way that would make Cord and Pray both proud.” — Craig Corbell

The Cord Model III will have two wheels up front and one in the rear. However, unlike the Cord automobiles that pioneered front-wheel drive, the trike will be rear-wheel driven, power coming from a MV4R, a 180 horsepower V4 engine produced by Motus Motorcycle.

E.L. Cord launched his car company in 1929. In 1935 the company launched the stunning, Gordon Buehrig-designed 810/812 “coffin-nose” model. But financial problems led the end of production in 1938.

Glenn Pray, an Oklahoma school teacher and Cord enthusiast, bought the rights to the Cord brand in 1960 and produced nearly 100 vehicles before putting the company into hiatus. Pray died in 2011.

“It’s taken a long time to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with the Cord brand because I want to make sure it’s done the right way and continue the brand in a way that would make Cord and Pray both proud,” Corbell said in a news release.

A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. Glen Pray was my auto shop teacher 1957/1958 at Central High in Tulsa, I’ve followed the Cord story ever since. Great to see it coming back! Jim Hughes

  2. I’ve had a lifelong love for the Cord ever since I first saw it in a book in 2nd grade at 7 years old…
    I never understood how such a beautiful car could have failed, regardless of the economic times..
    I wish the new owner of the rights the best of luck in this endeavor, and that it proves to become successful beyond his wildest dreams…. It’s beauty has been absent from the roads of America for far far too long…

  3. Please build that 3 wheeler! It’s so much better than ANY Slingshot or Morgan. That front end is a timeless classic.


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