(This article originally appeared in Hemmings Classic Car #113, February 2014)
A Look at Some Pre-War Ford Sales Literature (Part 1 of 3)
From the first decade of the 20th century to the last, the most consistent theme in Ford sales literature was value. From making a Model T affordable to the average family in the 1910s to enhancing standard equipment and trim pieces without raising the price of the car, Ford set the bar for cars in the low-price field. I’ve selected a handful of pieces from Ford’s pre-war era to discuss in the coming months. The pieces stood out for one reason or another yet consistently embody Ford’s approach to selling cars to the motoring public.
Ford’s first production automobile rolled out in 1903. Between 1903 and 1905 Ford produced a total of 5,002 cars. In 1906 the company produced 8,729 cars and by 1907 that number was nearly 15,000. In 1907, sales literature took on an aggressive approach when selling the 1907 Model N. Introduced the previous season, the Model N quickly developed a strong reputation within the automotive industry. The catalog states the Model N was at one time the “butt for jest or ridicule… [and] now the car to duplicate.” The catalog also claimed that “it is not even necessary for us to waste words to assert that this car stands without rival or an equal today.” Ford went on to highlight the importance of economy and value in an automobile stating these two things were of great importance to Henry Ford as he was “working out the design and plans for his cherished scheme – a car that would combine all that we best in an automobile and built in such numbers and at a price that would place it within the reach of…men to whom a motor car is a necessity rather than a luxury.” The Model N catalog measures 4 1/8” X 10 ¼” and has 20 pages. While the catalog contains several illustrations it relies mostly on written descriptions.
The successor to the Model N would be the Model T and you are well aware that this is the car that would allow Henry Ford to realize his vision. Ford took a unique approach to advertising the 1910 Model T by creating a colorful die-cut “Souvenir Booklet.” The booklet featured a green car on top of a yellow letter “t”. Behind this is a purple inner cover that provides a great visual contrast. As 1910 was the second year for the Model T, the booklet states that there was “no sign of waning popularity” for 1910 – boy were they on to something! The booklet highlights each body style offered and the specifications for the car. Since several models included a rumble seat Ford created a unique adjective to describe accessibility by saying the seat was “get-at-able”. A key selling point that the booklet used was the fact that Model T bodies were interchangeable; an owner could buy a closed body for the winter and simply swap it with an open body during the warmer months using “an hour’s labor.”
Next month we will move on to Ford’s Weekly Purchase Plan from the 1920s and also the company’s willingness to improve the quality of its cars while maintaining a fixed price point. The series will finish up when we look at an attempt in the 1930s to replicate sales literature from high-end manufacturers and the company’s early attempts to market cars to women. Stay tuned!