Last week, when I took my half-dozen readers on a virtual tour down our city's "Automobile Row," we stopped — just go along with this fantasy, will you? — at most of the main car dealerships on Madison and looked at the various makes and models on display.
Later, when flipping through old city directories, I came across this interesting 1912 ad for the E.E. Loving Auto Company, which sold Cole Motor Cars — precisely 100 years ago. At $1,885 this gleaming new automobile probably seems cheap by today's standards — why, that's close to a day's wages for me — but that was an enormous sum in those days.
Judging from the illustration, the car itself is a fine-looking thing, very low-slung and even racy-looking for 1912 — unless (as I suspect) they somehow stretched the image to fit the available space. It may have been a little stubby thing. How would I know? It was before my time.
What interests me, though, about this ad are all the features they brag about that are never mentioned in ads or commercials for new cars today. If you're buying a Ford Focus or a Honda Accord, for example, nobody in 2012 wonders how much the car weighs, or if it has a "Timken Full Floating Axle," or if the car offers a "Lubrication Constant Level Splash System." I mean, we — or, in the case of the Lauderdales, our chauffeurs — know that we should check the oil now and then, but other than that, we just don't care — or worry about — the inner workings of the engine.
When we buy a new car, what we do want to know is: How many cup holders does it have, and does it come with some kind of fancy satellite radio system. Not a word of either one in these Cole cars, though we are reassured that it offers — not leather seats — but a "Cone Leather Face Clutch Enclosed" and "Enclosed Valves."
But in one nod to the future days of hybrid cars, look! — the Cole Motor Car has a "Silent Motor." Oh sure, I bet.
And the most astonishing part of all? Notice the reassuring warranty that came with this automobile. Yes, you could ride easy (for a while, anyway) since your brand-new car was "Guaranteed for One Full Year by the Manufacturer."