Martin S. Papazian's Cordster

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The Cordster is a custom roadster originally owned and designed by Martin S. Papazian of Worcester, Massachusetts. Built in the early to mid 1950s, the car was based on a combination of Cord, Jeepster, Studebaker, and Cadillac parts. The Cordster went through three versions of changes covering first the drivetrain and then the body. This is the earliest known photo of the Cordster. Martin's oldest son, C. William "Billy" Papazian, is sitting in the car. The car is parked in front of a tire shop on Grove Street in Worcester named Bowker-Hamblin Malmquist, Inc., right after a set of new General Super Squeegee tires have been put on it. Martin's youngest son, Bruce, explains that this photo was taken when the car was fresh out of the body shop without a license plate, an inspection sticker, or windshield wipers yet installed. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
"Prize automobile equipped with General Squeegee tires". A photo of the car was published in a 1954 newsletter for General Tires.
A letter from managing Editor James E. Potter of Motor Trend regarding the Cordster. Billy had sent a photo of the Cordster to the magazine, and James replied that they wanted to run the car in their "How I Customize My Car" column. Scan by Bruce Papazian.
A newspaper article about the Cordster attending the 1954 International Auto & Boat Show in West Springfield, Massachusetts. The article was published April 22, 1954. The car won 1st place in the "Unusual Customs Design" class at the show, and Bruce still has the trophy in his collection. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
An early photo of Martin with the Cordster. This photo was taken before the emblem on the hood was installed. The same photo appeared in a 1954 newspaper article about the car. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
A Worcester, Massachusetts newspaper article in which Martin is interviewed about the creation of the car and his progress making it roadworthy shortly after the initial build.
A color photo of the first version of the Cordster taken at Linder's Auto Parts in Worcester. At the time, Martin was working at Linder’s as Parts Manager. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
A photo of the first version of the Cordster where the 1951 Studebaker steering wheel, and dashboard with instruments can be seen fitted to the Jeepster body. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
Martin's son Billy driving the car in 1954 to help promote a new motion picture titled "Pushover" starring Fred MacMurray and Kim Novack. The photo was taken in front of the Plymouth Theatre on Main Street in Worcester. Billy was 19 years old at the time, and Martin’s stock Willys Jeepster can be seen parked behind it. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
At the top of the poster taped to the side of the Cordster it says, "You Won’t Have to PUSHOVER With An Engine by STUDEBAKER. This car is a pushover." Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
Note also that the poster on the car reads “Courtesy of Linder's Auto Parts.” Emil Linder, the owner of Linders was a close friend of Martin as were their fathers before them. When Martin was building the Cordster, it appears Emil, through his parts business, helped out by sponsoring aspects of the project while employing Martin as his Parts Manager. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
A photo of Billy, fresh out of Basic Training and on leave from the Air Force with the Cordster in the background. The photo is dated November 1954, and he is standing next to the stone house Martin designed and built in 1940 on Moreland Street in Worcester, Massachusetts. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
A photo of Martin's daughter, Marlyn, posing next to the car. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
Notice the trophies in the photo next to Marlyn, which were still in Bruce’s possession in 2014. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
A photo of Martin's daughter Dawn with the Cordster in the background. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
A photo of the Cordster taken at an unknown indoor car show. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
A letter from Edgar H. Stone of the New England Speed Equipment, informing Martin that he had used the car to promote an upcoming car show via a television commercial. Note also Stone’s promise of a “Good sized trophy,” if Martin agrees to enter the Cordster in the show. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
Bruce Papazian came across this photo of the Cordster on Worthpoint.com. The seller could not remember where he got the picture, or who he sold it to.
A page from the Souvenir Program of the 1955 Hartford Autorama showing the Cordster.
The third and final version of the Cordster, as built by Martin. The top was chopped, and the split Willys Jeepster windshield was replaced by a widened laydown windshield from an MG. He had also replaced the Studebaker engine and transmission with 1952 Cadillac components by this time. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
A scan of the receipt for the Cadillac engine and transmission.
A photo of the Cordster from the Petersen Publishing Digital Archive. Eric Rickman snapped this photo at the 1955 NHRA Drag Safari in Orange, Massachusetts. Zooming in on the passenger side of the windshield it looks like Martin was running in the C/Gas class. Photo courtesy of The Petersen Digital Archive.
Martin's participant plaque from the 1955 NHRA Drag Safari in Orange, Massachusetts. When interviewed about the Cordster by Arnie Shuman back in 2002, Wally Parks, the original organizer of the annual Drag Safari and founder of the NHRA, remembered the Cordster as, “A very nice piece.” Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
A photo of the Cordster in it's final form with the windshield laid down. Notice the Studebaker in the background. During the time of the Cordster, Martin always drove either a stock Jeepster or a stock Studebaker as backup/chase car when they took the Cordster to events. Billy usually drove the Cordster itself. Photo courtesy of Bruce Papazian.
A photo of the Cordster sitting in Doy Terry’s parents’ driveway, taken right after it had been retrieved from a junkyard and sold to Doy by Andy Lodes. Photo courtesy of Randy Ema.
The Cordster as it sat, without engine or windshield, painted 1969 Chrysler gold in this for many years last known series of pictures, taken by Bob Robinson. It was being offered for sale by Jack Glover at the Sunset Trading Post in Sunset, Texas in 1978. The engine is gone. The hood is being propped up with a stick stuck between the hood and the grill. This photo was published in the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club's Newsletter and again in the June 2001 edition of the Lone Star Street Rod Association’s Street Light newsletter. Jack had picked up these remains of the Cordster from Doy Terry, in trade for a piano. Photo courtesy of Bob Robinson.
Another picture of the Cordster from the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club's Newsletter taken in front of the Sunset Trading Post, where a non-original bucket seat can be seen sitting on the floor in place of the original Jeepster bench seat. Photo courtesy of Bob Robinson.
This picture is also taken in front of the Sunset Trading Post. The unattached laydown windshield frame from an MG can be seen behind the back seat. The spare tire mount on the back of the Jeepster body is also visible along with one of the Cord fenders that were molded into the Jeepster body. Photo Courtesy of Bob Robinson.
This is the photo that Billy Baker sent Bruce Papazian in October of 2016. The photo is from a Baker family photo album, where it had been for the past 56 years. Apparently Bruce's brother Billy left it in the Cordster when he junked it; "It’s taken in front of my parent's house on Moreland Street in Worcester, Massachusetts, after the top was chopped, the Jeepster windshield was removed and the lay down windshield from an MG had been fitted," Bruce told Kustomrama in 2016. Photo courtesy of Billy Baker.
The Cordster as it sat in April of 2020. "On April 24th I received a voicemail from James Bear Roderick asking for a call back to help him track down some information on an old car," Bruce told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama in April of 2020. "I called him back and he said he had an old Cordster car he was researching and saw it on Kustomrama. He said it was outside of Tulsa Oklahoma, and he wondered if I could provide him any info on production figures for it. I told him that car was a one-off custom car built by my father and I have been looking for it for 20 years. I told him everything I knew about it was on the Kustomrama website. He said the Cordster he knew of was sitting outside a barn on his family's property for years waiting for him to do something to make it look better for a friend. He said he had gone to school restore to learn to restore old cars but was since out of that business. He said he took pictures of it the other day he would send to me to see if it was the same car. It was. I asked if he thought the owner would sell it, and he said he would find out. Agreed to price was what the current owner, Roger D. Dunham, paid for it in 1978, corrected for inflation." Photo courtesy of James Bear Roderick.
Photo courtesy of James Bear Roderick.
James Bear Roderick kindly pulled the car out of the field it was in for easy access by a flatbed with a winch. Photo courtesy of James Bear Roderick.
Oklahoma sunset. Photo courtesy of James Bear Roderick.
May 21, 2020 the car was finally picked up and delivered to the ACD Factory. Photo courtesy of James Bear Roderick.
A photo of the car taken after it had been moved to the ACD factory. "The tires hold air and it is being inspected," Bruce could tell Kustomrama, adding that next step is media blast to see what's really there. Photo courtesy of Bryan Shields.

Lost and Found


The Cordster is a custom roadster originally owned and designed by Martin S. Papazian of Worcester, Massachusetts. Built in the early to mid 1950s, the car was based on a combination of Cord, Jeepster, Studebaker, and Cadillac parts. The Cordster went through three versions of changes covering first the drivetrain and then the body.[1]


Sports Custom family car

Martin’s objective when building the Cordster was to produce a “Sports Custom” family car. He felt that the two-seater sports cars of the day were limited to people that could afford to own two cars due to their limited seating capacity, so he set out to create his own. Due to his personal liking for the 1936 Cord’s front end appearance, the “snappy” body of the Willys Jeepster, and the good ride of the early 1950s Studebakers, Martin choose this combination for his family sports car.[1]


Vital parts located

According to an early newspaper article on the car, a 1952 Studebaker sedan came in at the auto wrecker that Martin worked. It had 400 miles on it, and the body was badly damaged. He found the motor, rear end and transmission in good shape, so he started planning. He wanted a 1948 Willys Jeepster body and several months later located one in a Leominster garage after writing and phoning all over the state. After looking around, he was finally able to locate a 1936 Cord in Holden. The Cord was owned by a man who had an old car hobby.[1]


Combined frames

The frames of the Studebaker and Jeepster were cut and combined to produce a 128” wheelbase, using the Studebaker frame from the cowl forward The frames were box-welded and re-enforced with quarter inch plates.[1]


Easy maintenance

The Studebaker V8 engine was installed in the reworked frame. All components from the Studebaker frame were welded in to keep the chassis components standard Studebaker to ease future maintenance since the frame from the cowl back was Jeepster.[1]


A low center of gravity for improved handling

The motor, which normally sat on the front cross member of the Studebaker, was dropped inside the frame, two feet back from its normal position. The radiator, steering column, and linkages were all positioned and levered to maintain the Studebaker engineering without disturbing the drive shafts. This gave the car a lower center of gravity, which improved handling, and allowed enough space under the hood to replace the Stude power plant with a V16 Cadillac if desired. The fluid level in the transmission could be checked from under the hood, with all other parts readily accessible for servicing. A Ford ever-hung foot brake was installed on the left of the steering column for enhanced vehicle maneuverability and to provide easy access to the master cylinder. The anti-creep feature and hill hold features were retained as originally designed.[1]


Body modifications

The Cord grille was sectioned and spread to fit the Jeepster cowl. The hood was then lengthened and split in the corners to fit the Jeepster cowl as well. The Cord fenders were narrowed to fit the wheel centers. The ventilator was removed from the top of the Jeepster cowl for a cleaner appearance. The body between the two front fenders was smoothed by fitting a trunk lid from a Model A Ford there. This allowed removal of both front fenders as one piece from the front center of the car to the cowl.[1]


Inside, the 1951 Studebaker dash, complete with instruments and steering wheel, was fitted to the Willys Jeepster body. The Jeepster body was channeled two inches, and Cord rear fenders were chopped and welded onto the Jeepster's rear quarter panels.[1]


Minimum chrome

Martin liked chrome in its place but felt that it was being overdone at the time, so his design kept exterior trim to a minimum. He decided to install bumpers from a 1929 Willys Knight. These were chosen for strength, simplicity, and lack of chrome. Front parking lights were 1948 Chrysler, while the rear lamps were from a 1950 Buick. Most of the chassis and body fabrication work was done by Paul Walker of Paul Walker Restoration in North Oxford, Massachusetts, with Martin's "valet" service serving as an extra pair of hands.[1]


Two-tone green pain job

Final metal finish and paint were performed by Arthur St. Auto Body of Worcester, Massachusetts. It was painted in two tones using a light Seafoam Green paint for the majority of the body, with a darker shade of green for accents. A matching dark green top and upholstery work was tailored by Henry's Trim Shop of Worcester. The top was made from 5 ply guaranteed fade-proof material, while the upholstery was done in two-tone Naugahyde.[1]


First version completed in 1953

The first version of the Cordster was completed in 1953. Total build time was 20 months of evenings and weekends. Martin ran the car on General Super Squeegee tires and was featured in several General Tire Company ads to promote them. The wheels were dressed up featuring 1953 Studebaker hubcaps.[1]


Good for at least 100 mph

According to Martin, the car was good for at least 100 mph, and it rode and handled beautifully. He was not that satisfied with the brakes though he thought their performance was average over the range.[1]


Award winner

Once completed, Martin was also a little disappointed that the Cordster did not cause quite the sensation he had imagined. The car won many awards however, and It took home first prize in the "Open Custom Class" at the 1953 Medford Speedorama, first prize in the "Unusual Design" class at the 1954 Springfield International Auto and Boat Show, first prize in the 1954 New York World Motor Sports Show, second prize in the "Unusual Custom Design" class at the International Auto Show in Boston, Massachusetts, second prize in the "Custom" class at the Rhode Island Motor Sports Show in Providence, Rhode Island, second prize in the 1955 International Automobile Show in Jersey City, New Jersey, second prize at the 1955 Springfield International Auto and Boat Show in Springfield, Massachusetts, and honorable mention at the 1955 Hartford Autorama in Hartford, Connecticut.The Cordster also made a couple of TV appearances, and on numerous occasions, was featured in newspaper articles.[2]


Linder's Auto Parts

Emil Linder of Linder's Auto Parts in Worcester was a close friend of Martin's as were their fathers. It would appear that during this time, Emil, through his Linder's Auto Parts business, helped out by sponsoring aspects of the project and employing Martin as his Parts Manager.[2]


A fascination for classic cars

Martin found himself much more drawn to classics than hot rods or customs. Before he built the Cordster, Martin had owned stock dual cowl Packards, an Auburn Speedster, and a couple of Kissel Golden Bugs. He installed a Buick engine in one of the Kissels. At the time that he built the Cordster, he was fond of Studebakers, Willys Jeepsters, and Henry J’s for daily drivers.[2]


Chopped top and Cadillac engine

Later on Martin chopped the top, replacing the split Jeepster windshield with a widened laydown windshield from an MG. Before that, he replaced the Studebaker V8 with a 331 cu. in. Cadillac engine and Hydra-Matic transmission. The engine swap was done, in part, to solve some camshaft reliability problems he was having with the Stude engine. According to the receipt from Linder's Auto Parts, the 1952 engine and transmission cost $350 when purchased on October 30th, 1954. The engine had a 4 barrel carburetor, and in stock trim was rated at 190 hp, but the dual exhaust and Smitty glasspack mufflers probably added a bit more. The car, with this second drive train setup, before the body modifications, was shown at the 1955 Hartford Autorama.[2]


At the drags

Also in 1955 the second annual NHRA Drag Safari came to the Orange Airport in Orange, Massachusetts. Martin presented a Sook Trophy at the event for "Best Workmanship." Both in business and in his personal life, Martin went by his middle name, "Sook." At that time, he had recently started a gun oil business and was using the trophy as a promotional tool. Martin ran the Cordster at the event as well. It is not known what the E.T. was, but as his son, Bruce, recalled, Martin reported that he finished the quarter clocked at 79 mph, which was respectable for the time.[2]


Martin's oldest son, Billy, takes possession of the car

In 1954, Martin's oldest son C. William "Billy" Papazian joined the US Air Force. By the end of his tour, he was stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. Around 1957 he took possession of the Cordster from his father, and used it as his daily driver when he was discharged from the military. He enrolled at Midwestern University in Wichita Falls. As a student Billy had trouble keeping the high maintenance car in shape. With all the lead in the body, it was reported that lots of cracks had to be chased to keep the car in top condition.[2]


Billy gives up on the Cordster

In around 1960, Billy gave up on the Cordster and junked it. The last straw was when he cracked the block one cold Texas night when the car didn’t have antifreeze in it. The car was out of the Papazian family's control from then on, and they lost track of it.[2]


Bruce starts tracking the car down

In 2000, Martin's youngest son Bruce, posted a request for information about the Cordster on eBay. He offered $100 for information leading to the recovery of the car and included a picture and brief history. He received several replies from people who recalled the car, and who were willing to share memories. However, after a couple of days, eBay removed the ad because it was in violation of their policies.[2]


After the ad was taken down, Bruce made a request to the Texas registry to search for the title via its serial number and Martin’s birth date, 9-3-1910. They found nothing.[2]


The hunt continues

In 2001 Bruce contacted the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana to see if they had any records on a 1935 Auburn Speedster that Martin traded to Paul Walker in exchange for the work he did on the Cordster. Bruce was put him in touch with Randy Ema of Orange County, California. Randy was the museum's historian and is a noted Duesenberg expert. Randy had a file on the Speedster, that Martin gave to Walker. When Bruce explained the exchange that had occurred and why, Randy told him that he had a file on that car too and that it was known as the Cordster.[2]


L'Abortion - The Sunset Trading Post lead

Randy sent Bruce a snapshot of the Cordster and two pages copied from the 1978 number 4 issue of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club's Newsletter that he had on file. These two pages contained an article about the Cordster titled "L'Abortion." The story featured three photos of the car partially disassembled without an engine. One of the pictures showed a sign for the Sunset Trading Post, which Bruce traced to a business owned by a Jack Glover of Sunset, Texas, about 60 miles from Wichita Falls on an access road to Highway 287.[2]


Later in 2001 Bruce posted a request for information about the car in the Lone Star Street Rod Associations monthly publication, "Street Light", along with a picture of the Cordster taken by Bob Robinson as it stood for sale, in front of the Sunset Trading Post. No one ever contacted Bruce with any information. He continued searching for the car on various websites as well, without luck.[2]


Jack Glover

In 2002 Bruce called Jack Glover and asked him what he knew about the Cordster. All Jack could remember was that he got it from Doy Terry of Wichita Falls, and that he, in turn, sold it to someone perhaps from Mansfield, Texas around 1978.[2]


Doy Terry and the Papazian Custom Tourer

Later in 2002, Bruce contacted Doy Terry. As soon as Bruce told Doy his name, he interrupted and said that he once owned a car named a "Papazian Custom Tourer." Doy told Bruce that he had owned it for several years and that he had purchased it from Andy Lodes at a Wichita Falls gas station near the Sheppard Air Force Base. Doy believes he bought it in 1967. He had the Cadillac engine and transmission rebuilt, restored the body, and painted it 1969 Chrysler Gold. He never got it back on the road though, and he told Bruce that he took the engine out to put it into a 1955 Cadillac he acquired before trading the rest of the car to Jack Glover for a piano, despite his wife's objections. That was around 1971, and it is the last Doy knew of the car. Bruce sent Doy a copy of the picture that Randy Ema had sent him. Doy confirmed that it was a picture of the Cordster taken in the driveway of his parents' home in Wichita Falls right after he towed it home with the help of his brother Dale who steered the car while Doy pulled it. According to Doy, the piano was eventually donated to Midwestern University.[2]


Billy Baker comes forward with new information

In 2016 Doy Terry placed ads seeking info about the Cordster on several Craigslists around Texas. He reported that several people responded that they remembered seeing it for sale in front of Glover's Sunset Trading Post, but no one had any new info on where it went after that.[2]


On October 30, 2016, Bruce Papazian received a text message and photo from a Billy Baker of Midland, Texas; "Billy was given my contact info by Doy when he responded to one of his Craigslist ads. I spoke with him the next day. He told me his father, Albert Baker, known as AW, retrieved the Cordster from a salvage yard in Wichita Falls, Texas and got it running again in 1960. Billy was 5 years old at the time, but said he remembers riding in it and being frightened by the noise it made," Bruce told Kustomrama. The Baker family was living in Holiday, Texas at the time, which is about 10 miles south of Wichita Falls.[2]


Albert offered the car to Billy's older brother, Wylie Baker, who was just about to get his driver's license at age 14, but Wylie turned it down. Apparently there were problems with the top mechanism that made it difficult to put it up, and he wanted something more modern. Wylie believes his father then sold to a salvage yard for $75, and that’s the last they knew of it. Billy said the car impressed him so much he’s thought about recreating it, but the cost of the Cord parts he would need was so high, he never did it.[2]


Found outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma

In 2014 the Cordster was posted in the Kustomrama Lost and Found section, asking readers to reach out if they had any information about the whereabouts of the old custom to share. "On April 24th I received a voicemail from James Bear Roderick asking for a call back to help him track down some information on an old car," Bruce told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama in April of 2020. "I called him back and he said he had an old Cordster car he was researching and saw it on Kustomrama. He said it was outside of Tulsa Oklahoma, and he wondered if I could provide him any info on production figures for it. I told him that car was a one-off custom car built by my father and I have been looking for it for 20 years. I told him everything I knew about it was on the Kustomrama website. He said the Cordster he knew of was sitting outside a barn on his family's property for years waiting for him to do something to make it look better for a friend. He said he had gone to school restore to learn to restore old cars but was since out of that business. He said he took pictures of it the other day he would send to me to see if it was the same car. It was. I asked if he thought the owner would sell it, and he said he would find out. Agreed to price was what the current owner, Roger D. Dunham, paid for it in 1978, corrected for inflation."[2]


Roger D. Dunham, the traveling salesman

In April of 2020 Roger D. Dunham told James Bear Roderick that he had a special place in his heart for the Cordster. "As a salesman traveling north on US 287 near Sunset, Texas when from the northbound lane, I saw what I supposed was a Cord sitting on the high ground near a trading post. At the first crossing I turned around and returned to see the Cordster, gold in color and without a top. I asked Jack Glover, owner of the Sunset Trading Post, for the selling price. When he said $1,500 I nearly ripped the pocket of my slacks getting to my wallet." Roger had the car shipped to and stored at my residence at 6611 S. Calendar Road in Arlington, Texas, "just north of Mansfield, Texas until 1980 when we moved to Skiatook, Oklahoma."[3]


Roger had the Cordster stored at the family farm near Vera until 2005. In May of 2005 he commissioned Karl Skalnik of Skalnik Automotive to sandblast the gold paint and primer coat the body and undercarriage with gray primer. The vehicle was delivered to the warehouse of Remediation Solutions Inc. where it was to be refurbished by James Bear Roderick, a recent Wyotech graduate. "We did some research about drive train and the body parts. It was apparent that the Cord front clip was carefully attached to a Jeepster body and custom rear fenders. But, our plans changed and the old girl was stored for work at a future date. James Roderick, President of Remediation Solutions Inc. and father of James Bear Roderick, has been so generous to keep her covered and sheltered for nearly 15 years." After owning the car for 42 years, Roger had an emotional attachment to the car, but he was very pleased to know that it would be in the hands of the Papazian family again.[3]


The restoration

A friend, Carl Whitney, told Bruce that the contents of the old Auburn Cord Duesenberg factory had been purchased by Glenn Pray years ago. Glen had moved it to Broken Arrows, Oklahoma, and it was now a business run by Glen's son, Doug Pray, named ACD Factory. Bruce reached out to Doug, who agreed to pick the remains of the Cordster up and bring it in to his place. "Not only are they the foremost authorities on restoring Cords," Bruce told Kustomrama, "his foreman who just retired is a Jeepster expert, currently owning three. Doug said the pictures I sent did not intimidate him at all, and between the three of us we can bring it back as far as I want to take it. He said it will be a really fun project that they will enjoy working on."[2]


James Bear Roderick kindly pulled the car out of the field it was in for easy access by a flatbed with a winch. May 21, 2020 the car was finally picked up and delivered to the ACD Factory. "The tires hold air and it is being inspected," Bruce could tell Kustomrama, adding that next step is media blast to see what's really there.[2]


References




 

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