An exceptional engineer he worked for Duesenberg, Cord and the racing side of Louis Chevrolet. He designed the Frontenac racing heads for Ford, front wheel drive race cars for Durant and a lot more. He raced in the 1921 Indy 500.
Cornelius Willett Van Ranst was an occasional driver and an excellent engineer. He had been working at Duesenberg whenhe was hired by the Chevrolet brothers. He raced at Indy in 1921 driving a Frontenac but retired when a Water hose split.
Later in 1921 Louis Chevrolet and Van Ranst developed an overhead-valve cylinder head for the popular Ford Model T engine. The Fronty Ford cylinder heads produced by the Chevrolet Brothers Manufacturing Company went on to revolutionize racing on half-mile and one-mile tracks throughout the country. A Fronty Ford placed fifth in the 1923 Indianapolis 500 and the Chevrolet Brothers were deluged with more orders than they could fill during the next couple of years.
In 1927 Tommy Milton and Cornelius developed Cliff Durant's Detroit Special, a radical new car for Indianapolis. When Cliff fell ill, Tommy took the wheel and brought it in eighth after a number of unscheduled pit stops.
He specialised in front wheel drive design and was largely responsible for the engineering of the Cord L29 Saloon. Van Ranst chose a 4.9 litre straight-eight Lycoming engine as used in the Auburn, and turned it around so that the transmission and differential were facing forward.
He joined Packard in 1930 to design a medium-priced, front-wheel drive car. He designed a twelve-cylinder engine for it but when the front-wheel drive part of the project was abandoned he sold his interest in engine to Packard and departed. In the mid 1930s he also assisted with the development of Packard's automatic transmission, working with Forest McFarland and Tommy Milton.