Lot 140

Motor City 2016

1930 Cord L-29 Cabriolet


$187,000 USD | Sold

United States Flag | Plymouth, Michigan



Serial No.
Engine No.
FD 2709
  • Offered from the estate of Wendell Gates II
  • Three owners since new; current ownership since 1946
  • ACD Club Certified Category 1 (CL-083)
  • Formerly displayed in the CCCA Museum
  • Well-known, beloved, and respected in ACD circles

125 bhp, 298 cu. in. side-valve inline eight-cylinder engine, front-wheel-drive, three-speed manual transmission, quarter-elliptical front leaf springs and rear semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 137.5 in.

"My Dad tells me that when I was a very little boy, I admired my first car and asked him what it was. He replied that it was a Cord. In my mind’s eye, I can still see that car: the wire wheels were about as high as I was, and I remember it as yellow (did they make them in yellow?). To me, it was the biggest, most powerful-looking, most beautiful car there could ever be. And my tastes haven’t changed."

When the late Wendell Gates II wrote the above in 1966, he had already owned the car of his dreams for 20 years.

Consider that when he bought his L-29 from its second owners, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Carroll, in 1946, Wendell was a high school student, not yet 16; his car, like him, was scarcely a teenager. It can be safely said that the two of them grew up together, and the car changed as his tastes did. It was black when he bought it; he subsequently painted it red, a good hot-rodder color for the 1950s. Some Battle Creek natives still recall the car being driven in their neighborhood and on local streets. In the early 1970s, Japanese automotive writer Shohtaro Kobayashi wanted pictures of an L-29 for his book, America Classic Cars. Mr. Gates sent him pictures of his car in Auburn, with him and his son proudly posing inside.

Several years later, with a couple dozen trips to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club Reunion in Auburn, Indiana, now under its belt, Mr. Gates decided to give the car a proper restoration. The L-29, still completely functional, solid, and complete, was sent to David Tenbrink of Battle Creek for restoration. Mr. Tenbrink was an L-29 owner himself, and he knew the cars thoroughly, having restored another prizewinning example. He found traces of the Gates car’s original color scheme and was able to match both paint and fabric. The air horns and Woodlites, so often added to cars during restorations of this era, were not; they had been on it since Mr. Gates bought the Cord in 1946! When Mr. Gates could not find a part that he needed, such as the mufflers and a trunk rack, he made it, and a few extras, which he sold to fellow enthusiasts.

The completed car that they turned out, resplendent in its special-order cream and blue, was awarded Best L-29 at the ACD Club Reunion in both 1977 and 1979. In its day, it was better than good: it was the best one there was. Certified by the Club as a Category 1 Original Car, it continued to win awards through 2006, being driven most years to the Reunion, round-trip, from its home in Battle Creek. Only when Mr. Gates’ age limited him from driving the car was it placed, in 2013, in the CCCA Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, where it remained until recently. It was well-looked-after there, and recent inspection showed it to run and drive strongly; all chassis components were found to be in good condition, and after a recent detailing, the car would still show attractively in local shows or on a CCCA CARavan.

Unlike most high school love affairs, Wendell Gates and his Cord lasted. By the time of his passing last December, he had owned his Cord continuously longer than any other L-29 owner, ever—over 69 years. It is offered here today, with considerable pride, by his loving widow, Peg, and their children, to a new home where they hope it will be enjoyed, appreciated, shown, driven, and happily shared with one and all, continuing a now 70-year tradition.

"The old Cord still holds its fascination for me. We’ve gone through a lot, that car and I . . . . the Cord, like most old cars, has a definite personality. It is an old, close friend."