Before there was Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Roy Rogers, James Stewart, or even Gary Cooper, there was Tom Mix.
Mix was the iconic Hollywood cowboy hero of the silent-film era. Having starred in close to 300 films, his popularity in the early 20th century would have rivaled many of today’s superstar celebrities. Moving from Pennsylvania to the West as a young man he wrangled cattle and rode horses before the 20th century arrived. His way of life and the company he kept was representative of the Old West. He rode with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders during his inaugural parade and served as a pall bearer at Wyatt Earp’s funeral.
As the silent-era of movies slowly faded into the background and films with dialogue rose in popularity, Mix’s spotlight started to dim. By the 30s, most of his money was gone; however, he was still able to afford a brand-new, Gordon Buehrig-designed Cord 812 Supercharged Phaeton, one of the coolest cars ever designed.
His Cord 812 was no ordinary Cord. True to Mix’s flamboyant and outlandish lifestyle, his vehicle was outfitted with various customizations and upgrades. According to Bonhams, Mix’s car was designed with a “front-wheel drive chassis, supercharged Lycoming V-8 engine and open 5-seat coachwork” and featured “an exposed rear-mounted spare tire with extended rear bumper, raised rear license plate bracket on the left bumper spring, two Kilborn Sauer fog lights and single Trippe driving light, which are seen in period photos with the famous cowboy star.”
Other customizations included “TM” embossed leather stone guards, flag poles on the front bumper, bumper guards, grille protector, Mix’s initials on the side of the car, his last name on the horn, leather holster for his gun, an accelerator that fit the heel of his cowboy boot and two medallions given to him by the King of Denmark on the front of the car.
Mix’s new car was beautiful and fast … just the way he liked it. Unfortunately, the Cord 812 is linked to the Hollywood cowboy in a way that no one wants to be associated to a vehicle.
On October 12, 1940, Mix was behind the wheel of his yellow Cord 812 when he tried to cross a bridge in Arizona countryside. He was driving so fast that he didn’t notice–or failed to heed–signs warning that the bridge was out on the road ahead. The Phaeton swung into a gully and Mix was smacked in the back of the head by one of the heavy aluminum suitcases he was carrying in the convertible’s backseat. The impact broke the actor’s neck and he died almost instantly.
In 2010, the hammer fell on Mix’s Cord for $155,000 according to Bonhams. After extensive renovations, the Tom Mix Cord 812 Supercharged Phaeton has made its way around the show circuit picking up awards and honors at some of the most prestigious events: the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Glenmoor Gathering, Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, The Elegance at Hershey, Keels and Wheels and Santa Fe Concorso, among others. Tom Mix was truly one-of-a-kind and so was the car he drove.
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