Remembering the Jordan Playboy

by on August 13, 2013

Almost a century ago, a newcomer to the American car market, Cleveland’s Jordan Motor Car Company, turned heads with the attractive styling and innovations of Jordan cars. Founded in 1916 by Ned Jordan, Jordan was also one of the first automakers to christen its model types with evocative names, such as the Sport Marine (with fashionably low wheels to make it a “woman’s car”), Tomboy and Playboy. They were also the first to focus their beautiful advertising not on the car itself, but on the pleasures of driving such a classy vehicle–thanks to Ned’s expertise as an advertising executive. Within two years of starting the company, Ned was selling more than 5,000 vehicles a year.

Though not related by blood, our Jordan family has always admired the founders of Jordan cars for their attention to detail in design and their innovations in engineering and advertising. The Playboy, introduced in 1919, was the most celebrated of all Jordan cars. Jordan had considered naming the sporting car Doughboy, but decided that the soldiers returning from World War I would be more attracted to a fun, whimsical name. Good idea. The Playboy was also the very first sports car designed for ladies; its tight steering wheel and compact cab make it almost impossible for a man to swivel into the driver’s seat. According to Western Reserve Historical Society, the Playboy–and its advertising campaigns–offered what Ned Jordan referred to as the promise of happy days:

“Some day in June, when happy hours abound, a wonderful girl and a wonderful boy will leave their friends in a shower of rice—and start to roam…Give them a Jordan Playboy, the blue sky overhead, the green turf flying by and a thousand miles of open road.”

Sally Jordan always wanted to own a Jordan. In 2009, Sally gave her son, John, a 1926 Playboy for his birthday. After a six-month restoration by Jordan Winery’s own David Carmack, John’s vintage Playboy was ready to hit the road. John’s Playboy has its original Honduran mahogany spokes and steering wheel and its marble gear-shift knob. It is one of only a handful of 1926 Playboys left in existence today and often makes appearances at winery events.

Considered the most famous car ad of all time by many history buffs, the Jordan Playboy’s “Somewhere West of Laramie” debuted in 1923, clearly demonstrating Ned Jordan’s gift for words. This advertisement features the silhouette of the Playboy roadster with a beautiful girl at the wheel, whizzing along at high speed with her long hair flying in the wind. Galloping beside the car is a man on his horse trying to keep up with her and her Playboy. (If you can’t read the copy below, check out this blog with several Jordan car ad excerpts.)  There are so many great lines, including:

“She loves the cross of the wild and the tame.”

“Step into the Playboy when the hour grows dull with things gone dead and stale.”

You can read more about Jordan cars on Wikipedia, the Western Reserve Historical Society or at The Automobile and American Life.

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