The Tom Mix Cord: Saga of a Western Film Star’s Classic Motorcar

by Bob M. White


A request to resurrect a commentary done for another publication when this book had first published provided the opportunity to revisit its pages. It had slipped from my memory just how really well done this entire book is; genuinely a labor of love for the author and one that attests to the skills and abilities of its publisher for the page layouts are as wonderful as the story that is related on those pages. Good to know too is this publisher’s business model permitted an initial press run that means new copies are still available from the publisher as these words are being posted. Moreover, this Cord—Tom Mix’s Cord—is still cherished and safe with the book’s author Bob White. White had been actively hands-on involved with the team he had assembled to meticulously restore the car during the early twenty-teens.

Tom Mix (1880–1940) was arguably the first big western star. His career statistics include 291 films made 1909 to 1935 meaning all but nine were silents. He also traveled the country giving live performances with his Tom Mix Circus and, as with his films, he performed all his own stunts, sometimes resulting in injuries. Then there was The Tom Mix radio program sponsored by Ralston Wheat Cereal with its Tom Mix/Ralston Straight Shooters’ Club. That show aired from 1933 to 1950, continuing for a full decade following Mix’s death because Mix himself had never been part of the cast for one result of those injuries had left his voice unsuitable for broadcasting. 

White doesn’t (pardon the next bit of wordplay) whitewash Mix’s less than perfect married-five-times personal life even as he celebrates Mix’s genuine dedication to representing, espousing, and living what the best of the west was all about. There’s a lovely Tom Mix quote that’s on front-of-the-book end paper. It reads: “The Old West is not a certain place in a certain time . . . it’s a state of mind. It’s whatever you want it to be.”

As period images attest, Mix understood the value of showmanship from the big white hat he wore to his constant companion, Tony the Wonder Horse. He enjoyed other fine rides too, meaning automobiles, including this 1937 812 Cord, serial number 31910H with engine number FC2634, in which he would meet his demise when, unable to stop in time, he swerved so sharply to avoid the construction barrier that the Cord turned turtle. Mix, now beneath his overturned car, would not survive his injuries.

The Cord was subsequently repaired and then owned by a succession of people until being purchased in 2010 by Bob White who undertook restoring it to its original “as owned by Tom Mix” splendor and then documenting both the car and Mix’s life in this book.  A key chapter—which is equal parts informative and entertaining—is the one that documents in words and images those alterations and addition Tom Mix made, or caused to have done, to the car very much personalizing it. As restoration proceeded a number of those personalizing items had to be recreated as this 46-page chapter details.

The entire presentation that is this book is exemplary. It also is a benchmark, an example every vintage car owner should take note of—especially if that vehicle is in some way truly historic—for documenting a vehicle. Aside from being interesting, this documentation can become very relevant whenever there are any deviations from “factory original” when a vehicle is presented for show or concours judging. Admittedly, not every vehicle has as extensive or interesting a background as this Tom Mix Cord but tracing any car’s history, documenting as best as possible prior ownerships, and the like is a worthwhile project.   

The Tom Mix Cord: Saga of a Western Film Star’s Classic Motorcar
by Bob M. White
MT Publishing Company Inc.,  2016
135 pages, 98 b/w (many period sepia toned) & 135 color images, hardcover
chapter end notes, index, bibliography
List Price: $42.50
ISBN 13: 978 1 9387 3099 2

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