(This article originally appeared in Hemmings Classic Car #115, April 2014)
A Look at Some Pre-War Ford Sales Literature (Part 3 of 3)
In terms of sales literature from the 1930s, high-end manufacturers like Packard, Cadillac and Pierce-Arrow spared no expense on sales literature. For these manufacturers, catalogs that featured hand drawings on high-quality paper within elaborate colorful covers were the norm. It appears Ford recognized this and, on a smaller scale, produced a similar catalog in 1935 called “The Economy Way to the Fine Car Field.” The catalog includes two gorgeous color illustrations on tissue paper. The first scene shows a group of women exiting a Ford as they arrive at a theater. The second illustration shows a couple next to an ocean liner with their baggage. In that second scene the driver remains in the car – perhaps he was their chauffeur? The text of this catalog points out that a “V-type engine of eight or more cylinders is the first modern motoring essential.” Ford didn’t get too carried away with snob appeal as they state with pride that “What Henry Ford has done is to bring this fine-car engine within the reach of the average family.” Within the remaining pages of the catalog are the mechanical safety and comfort features of the ’35 Ford – “Center-Poise” ride, mechanical brakes (Ford wouldn’t introduced hydraulics until 1939), all-steel body and styling that was “fresh and modern but not bizarre.”
Interesting among Ford’s pre-war sales literature is a group of four catalogs that addressed women consumers. Certainly other manufacturers would occasionally direct ads or include a few pages within a catalog towards women but those pieces usually were quite simply a message about how easy their car was to drive and often contained plenty of politically incorrect statements by today’s standards. What sets Ford’s brochures apart is the fact that the company recognized women as a legitimate segment of the market.
In 1924 Ford targeted women from high income households with a catalog called “Ford Closed Cars.” Here it was noted that “so many women of wealth…prefer the Ford” because “with no gears and easy steering” women could drive without fatigue and the car’s “power, endurance and simplicity” make Ford the most dependable woman’s car. The catalog also made note that while many similar households still maintained a larger car for the family, the woman of the household would often select a Ford for her convenience.
Ford’s 1925 catalog “Her Personal Car” is an 8 ½” X 11”, 16-page catalog with black & white photographs. Each photograph depicts a different scenario and shows how a Ford, specifically closed bodies again, would improve their lifestyles. An eyebrow raising statement in the catalog describes how the Ford will bring the “woman of athletic tastes” to her destination “fresh, immaculate and dainty.”
In 1934 and 1935 sales catalogs showed readers the Ford V-8 “Through a Woman’s Eyes” and “Why Women Prefer the Ford V-8.” These catalogs came from the perspective of women who had just purchased new Fords. In the ’35 catalog, the woman starts the tour with a description of the car’s design and works her way through the powerful engine, roominess, and standard equipment. Throughout she talks about the great value she received when buying a Ford. She also states that she was once “the most timid driver in the world” but thanks to the power of the Ford V-8 she “makes no odds of any driver.” Ford beauty also allows her to park her car “along the drive of the Country Club – right in sight of the big veranda any afternoon – and make just as good an entrance as the grandest lady there.”
Ford produced an overwhelming amount of sales literature between 1903 and 1942. While catalogs initially relied on written words and technical descriptions, they evolved into colorful tools that used emotion and social competition to sell cars. Throughout these pre-war years, one thing remained consistent – Ford would use its position as value leader to sell cars and the Ford brand to the general public.