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Jordan Playboy - c.1924

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Hard times slim industry, Detroit statrs selling dreams
by Richard A. Wright

A famous car of the '20s was the Jordan Playboy. Despite its flashy name, it was a mediocre car. Sales never hit 10,000 a year and it was gone before the stock market crashed in 1929.

It is remembered because of an ad that its maker, Ned Jordan, wrote in 1923. The ad, headed "Somewhere West of Laramie," did not dwell on the technical aspects of the Playboy. In fact, it did not mention them.

"Somewhere west of Laramie there's a bronco-busting, steer-roping girl who knows what I'm talking about," Jordan wrote (so legend has it) on an envelope while riding a train over the Wyoming plains bound for San Francisco. "She can tell what a sassy pony that's a cross be- tween greased lightning and the place where it hits, can do with eleven hundred pounds of steel and action when he's going high, wide and handsome.

"The truth is -- the Playboy was built for her."

The ad, which was published just a week after Jordan feverishly penned it and forever changed the marketing of cars, went on in this vein, then concluded:

"Step into the Playboy when the hour grows dull with things grown dead and stale. Then start for the land of real living with the spirit of the lass who rides, lean and rangy, into the red horizon of a Wyoming twilight."

In the '20s, just about every family had a car. The automobile was accepted and reliable. There were literally hundreds of name-plates to choose from and now cars had to be sold to buyers who by and large already owned one. And they all functioned in more or less the same way.

So what made a Jordan Playboy different? Romance. Or, as we call it today, image. Apparently not too many customers bought it. But the industry did.

Detroit began selling not only cars but dreams.

In 1929, the year the stock market crash in October triggered the Great Depression, new-car sales in the United States totaled a then-record 3,848,937. They would not reach that level again for 20 years.





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