Motor City

30 July 2016

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Lot 140

1930 Cord L-29 Cabriolet

  • Serial no. 2927648
  • Engine no. FD 2709

Sold for $187,000


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.

  • 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


"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."

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more