DESIGN FOR AN ESSAY ON PRECISIONISM
I heard my father’s voice when I saw that “coffin nose” on the image of the Cord 812 Phaeton convertible in the catalog for Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art, the exhibition opening at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. During the Depression, one of his many jobs was as a salesman for the Auburn Cord Duesenberg dealership in Milwaukee. It came just after his stint running bootleg liquor—very quickly, in a souped up Model A—between Milwaukee and Grand Junction, Nebraska (a tale for another time). Did he sell a Cord? Let him tell it. “Who in hell’s bells was going to buy a Cord in the middle of a Depression? They were too pricey, even for the well-to-do who still had money.” For fun, out of boredom, he put them through their paces along Milwaukee’s Lake Drive. Not many Cords were made; fewer were sold.yet Gordon Buehrig’s design was visionary, is legendary, and the Cord was the car of choice among those of us who spent grades 5 through 8 drawing cars during filmstrips about the Hoover Dam.