Though Oklahoman Glenn Pray purchased all the assets of the defunct Cord and Auburn automobile companies – including the rights to use both names as well as their leftover parts inventories – he later said he probably should have bought just the names and left the rest to save himself years of hassle. Now, more than 50 years later, the Pray family has put the rights to the Cord name up for sale again, once more raising the possibility of a resurrection of the influential marque.
When E.L. Cord decided to get out of the car business in August 1937 and take up real estate in California, he sold his stake of the Cord Corporation – the holding company that controlled Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg and Checker automobiles, along with American Airways, Stinson Aircraft, and several other companies – to a group of investors operating as the Aviation and Transportation Corporation. ATCO, in turn, shut down car manufacture at Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg and sold the Auburn and Cord assets, including the rights to the Auburn and Cord names, to Dallas Winslow, a businessman who had become rich and famous by buying up the assets of other, smaller defunct automobile companies including Flint, Briscoe, Stearns-Knight, Peerless, Franklin, Wills St. Clair, Haynes, and dozens more. He got all but the tooling and dies, which Norman DeVaux bought and in turn marketed to Hupp and Graham.
Winslow apparently had little interest in the Cord and Auburn names and trademarks. Instead, he spent the next 20 years marketing, selling, and in some cases reproducing parts for those cars. Pray, on the other hand, saw the potential in the defunct marques, and so approached Winslow in 1960 to inquire about what Winslow had been calling the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Company. On a shop teacher’s salary, he managed to put together the $75,000 deal and then move 350 tons of parts and the operations of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Company to a former pickle factory in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
Interestingly enough, Pray told his biographer, Josh Malks, that he later discovered that neither the Cord nor Auburn names were registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office; Winslow had let them expire while he owned the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Company. Pray ended up spending $500 each to re-register the names – Cord in 1963 and Auburn in 1966. “If I’d known that all I had to do was spend $1,000, I’d have had me the Cord and Auburn names and wouldn’t have had to drag all that stuff down here.”
While Pray was happy enough to sell parts to Auburn and Cord collectors and restorers, he really wanted to put the Cord and Auburn automobiles back into production, something he needed both names to do. In August 1964 he succeeded with the former, basing a downsized (8/10-scale, as its name would later declare), Buehrig-designed, Royalite-bodied version of the Cord 810 on a custom chassis using a Corvair drivetrain under the hood to provide front-wheel drive. Production of what would prove to be one of the world’s first continuation cars stalled after about 100 were built and after Pray left the Cord Automobile Company, but he somehow retained the Cord name through the ordeal.
Though he never again tried to resurrect the Cord name, Pray did make sure to keep the trademarks registered afterward, both to continue selling Cord-branded reproduction parts and to license the Cord name to other companies like Mattel and Hallmark. While Pray, through the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Company, sold off the Auburn name and trademark in 2005 for $500,000, he held on to the Cord trademarks until his death in 2011, and now his family has decided to part with them.
According to Doug Pray, Glenn’s son and current president of Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Company, the two trademarks, USPTO registration numbers 2936082 and 2234293, are both current, though one is set to expire next April (the other was renewed a couple years ago). They also come with about half a dozen licensing contracts for the Cord name already in place. “We will continue to run the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Company – we have no desire to sell that – but we don’t plan on manufacturing new Cords, so we’ve decided to sell the trademarks,” Doug Pray said. No parts, drawings, or blueprints will accompany the sale of the trademarks.
Given the $500,000 sale of the Auburn trademarks and what he heard was the $1 million sale of the Duesenberg trademarks in recent years, Doug Pray said he’s looking to get about $750,000 for the Cord trademarks. The family is hoping to negotiate a private sale, but if the trademarks haven’t sold by late next month, they will go up for grabs at the Leake Collector Car Show and Auction in Dallas in November.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Daniel Strohl.