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Before the War: Advertising the Cord

1930 ads promised a new kind of motoring.

Once the luscious turkey with all the trimmings was enjoyed by family and friends, there was time to relax, perhaps even doze before the leftovers were hit once more. For some, it was time to catch up on their new magazines. For that select group that chose to read, Cord was waiting.

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Ads jumped from magazines. One ad bandied, “A new kind of motoring,” and added, “Everyone concedes that nothing less than a totally new kind of motoring could make possible the successful invasion of the Cord into the fine car field. It is self-evident that the exclusive advantages resulting from front-drive construction are obtainable in no other way. Particularly is this true of its maneuverability, the way it holds the road, and the relaxation possible in the rear seat.” Imagine reading this while reclining in an easy chair, your hunger pleasantly satiated with rich food. If ever this was the time to plug the sales pitch for the Cord, this was it.
Stressing the luxury of the ride, the Cord ad writer went on. “If you have never ridden in the rear seat of a Cord, we promise you a revelation. Select a route with which you are familiar, one over which you have ridden many times, and ride in the rear seat of a Cord over this route. We leave the verdict entirely to you.”

But the Auburn Automobile Company took that a step further: “After such an experience you will be eager to learn more about this car, why it performs differently, why it ‘feels’ different and why it gives you a renewed zest in motoring.

“It is a matter of record that no new car was ever built with greater care, and with more extreme measures to insure its quality than were taken by the builders of the Cord,” bragged the head office. “But our vigilance did not end with the Cord’s introduction. Since then owners have been regularly canvassed for their opinions. A continuously improved car is the result.”

Concluding, the ad noted, “Today the Cord is an even more efficient, an even more quiet, and an even more refined car than the ultra standard that it inaugurated.”

Interestingly, the emphasis is not on all the innovations of the Cord. Not much is made of its front-wheel drive or low height, both revolutionary in many respects. Nothing is mentioned of the man behind the name —?E.L. Cord —?and his list of accomplishments, far from the least of which was the control of the Auburn company, the advancement of Duesenberg, and the launch of the Cord.

Could it have been possible for the Cord to have become the innovative car of the early 1930s? Perhaps. Did the Great Depression doom the sales growth of Cord? Probably.

Could Cord have quickly captured the mass production title among luxury car makers? Unlikely, with the strength of dealer networks holding strong allegiance to the likes of Pierce-Arrow, Packard, Cadillac, and other competitors.

Yet, Cord is remembered today by a scant number of those who, quite young at the time, sat in their easy chairs and read the new ads in 1930, and by those who wished they could have been there.

First encounters can be memorable, and so it was with Cord. Many people who saw a new Cord wend its way through town were prone to remark about the car’s looks, its sporty lines, its unique silhouette, its long hood, and the revolutionary front-wheel drive with accompanying sounds only a Cord could emit. There were some who detracted from the first-person experience by noting the unproven characteristics of the feature. Some harped on the fear of breakdown. Others moaned over the potential nightmare of having the transmission repaired by mechanics who were unfamiliar with the technology.

Even those encounters that brought ill comments could have been memorable, for the Cord, regardless of any weakness, was notable in appearance and was clearly a different cut from the main mechanical meat served at American automobile dealerships.
Who owned a Cord? Naturally, people who could afford the purchase, people who wanted to step above Auburn, but might never realize a Duesenberg. Cord owners were doctors, movie stars on the rise, people who faced danger, those who were athletic and competitive, and those who wanted to be different. In 1930, it was still very much an age of individualism, fiercely defended and expressed. It was a time of dreams, of hopes, of challenges, of determination. And Cord reflected much of the era, before the war.

If we could have been among the band of post-feast magazine readers in 1930, that Cord ad would have been the best serving of the day.


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