Continued from Part 2…
The Jordan Motor Car Company began without a factory. In Detroit, chief engineer Russell Begg developed a body to wrap around a six-cylinder Continental engine. Finally Ned paid $50,000 for a five-acre site in Cleveland, and by early July 1915 Jordans were coming off the line.
Jordan quickly recognized the closed car market and added a sedan and coupe in 1917. By 1918 he was building 5000 cars a year, heady business for a small independent in those days. Plant space was expanded, bonuses paid. Then in April 1919 came the first Jordan Playboy. Hardly anybody noticed at first—but Ned was inspired:
Dancing one night at the Mayfield Country Club, Cleveland, with a real outdoor girl, Eleanor Borton. “Why don’t you build a swanky roadster for the girl who loves to swim and paddle and shoot, and for the boy who loves the roar of the cutout?” asked Eleanor. “Girl, you’ve given me an idea worth a million dollars! Thanks for the best dance I’ve ever had. I’m leaving for New York.”
Next day…a custom body designer permitted a private peek at a roadster designed for Billie Burke as a present from her fiancé, Florenz Ziegfeld. Burglary ensues!….The design, very simple, sketched out on an envelope in an inside pocket. Result: The Playboy (a name adapted from Sygne’s Playboy of the Western World, became a part of the American language)—a dashing, debonaire Something in Copenhagen Blue.
We built one just for the fun of doing it…stepped on it, and the dogs barked and the chickens ran…It’s a shame to call it a roadster, so full is this brawny, graceful thing with the vigor of boyhood and morning.
To women, who were buying more cars than ever by 1918, Ned was flattering and beguiling, conjuring up wanderlust and adventure, appealing to taste and style:
Eve walks into the showroom because she’s read an advertisement that is “down her alley.” No injector manifolds…no gear reduction talk…no engineering details. That’s all fine and dandy if you’re selling locknuts.
She looks. The color is Burgundy Old Wine, Egyptian Bronze, Ocean Sand Grey, Copenhagen Blue…the color of the sun, the sky, the grass, her gown. She feels the upholstery material always. It’s Laidlaw—$8 per yard. She steps in, grasps the wheel, relaxes on Marshall cushion springs…a position of poise she sees reflected in the mirror in the salesroom. Pictures herself in the darkest window as she drives down the avenue….Her good taste approves. What price Tiffany, she wonders to herself.
The debonaire salesman would say, “Well, madam, you can see this car has so many things that only custom cars have…and we built so few and for a quite limited group of buyers…let’s see now.…Silvertown Cord tires with two extras, wire wheels, Crane Simplex finish, Waltham clock, Vogue vanity cases…of course you want this car for your personal use…we wouldn’t want to deprive your husband of the old car…the price is $3475, including the Cordovan leather boot and saddle bag in the tonneau for your personal things…you’ll want that, won’t you?” Oh! the joy of watching a real salesman prove that he’s not just a price-conscious order taker.
Continue reading Part 4…