Like many of you, I have long had the habit of glancing sideways when I drive past a used car lot. One damp evening last fall, I was running an errand and happened to see quite a sight – a 1936 Ford DeLuxe sedan, displayed prominently in front. I had seen these at shows, and remembered that Paul Niedermeyer captured one such show car for us here. But one of these in the wild was quite another thing. I had a few minutes, so I decided to stop in. The lot was closed, so I could look the car over in peace and quiet. Then, my over-active imagination took over.
“Hello, friend. Name’s Ned – Glad to know ya!.” I looked up to see a middle-aged fellow in a windowpane-plaid suit with a fedora cocked back on his head. With a smile that seemed a mile wide, he said “You’re mighty lucky, friend. I was just closing up the agency when I saw you walk in. For you, I’ll make the time.”
Before I could reply, he started in again. “I can see that you are a man of good taste. This new Ford is the most beautiful car on the market, never mind the price. Looks almost like a Lincoln, wouldn’t you say? This baby is STREAMLINED!” I started to say something again, but he kept going before I could get a word out. “This is the car of the future. Modern beauty, modern get-up-and-go. Come on into my office. We can do a little paperwork and you can drive this honey home tonight!”
Finally given a chance to say something, I stammered “Well, I was just looking.”
“Ah, you are one fellow on the ball. Only a fool would buy without a good look inside, and I can see that you are no fool, no sirree. The Ford DeLuxe is mighty fancy. Lookit those seats – that’s genuine broadcloth, friend. Let’s take ‘er for a spin. I think I have the key right here . . . ”
“No”, I finally said, “I really am just looking. I had not planned on stopping in, but I just saw the car and decided to on a lark.”
“Of course you did, friend. Only a car as beautiful as this would pull a careful shopper like you in off the street. But let me ask you, if not a new Ford tonight, then what? Let me do you a favor and save you some time. You can shop around all you want, but then you will just come right back here. Sure, you’ve got your Chevrolet, but who wants an underpowered 6 nowadays? You know, we outsold them last year with the ’35, and that car wasn’t nearly the looker that this one is. There was only one reason to ever settle for a Chevy, and that was looks. Now that one advantage is gone, and Ford has them runnin’ scared, yessir.”
“Plymouth is not a bad little car, not a bad car at all, if you like that sort of thing. But your Plymouth is still a 6 and, between you and me, it’s a little homely. Still, they have been coming on over the last few years. In fact, the way it looks to me – and I’m in the business – Plymouth will soon outsell Chevrolet, just you watch. Of course, the Ford will stay on top. Mostly, because the Plymouth is mighty expensive for what you get. A Plymouth equipped like this DeLuxe Touring Sedan is $680. I can sell you this Ford DeLuxe for $650. Now mind you, that is the Touring Sedan with the trunk. You can probably feed a family for a month on that 30 smackeroos I’m going to save you. We can go cheaper yet if you want one without the trunk, or if you could settle for a Standard model. Hell, if you’re on a really tight budget, I can put you in a Standard coupe for $510, or just $10 more for a Standard Tudor with a back seat.”
Ned was really on a roll. “Prices like this is one of the reasons that Henry Ford made his three millionth V8 engine this year. This is the same kind of engine that’s in a $2,600 Cadillac, you know. Truth is, Chevrolet will never have a V8 because it would put Cadillac out of business. With a V8 for under $700, Henry Ford may put ’em out of business anyway, and I ain’t just whistling Dixie! ”
I was not ready to just let old Ned steamroll me, and decided to push back a bit. “Even though the Chevy and the Plymouth are sixes, don’t they put out pretty much the same power as this Ford?”
“Ahhh, friend. You are a smart one. I can tell a man of intelligence when I see him, and I see him right here in front of me. Now here’s the straight dope. The Chevy advertises 79 horsepower, and the Plymouth advertises 82. Now that seems pretty close to the Ford’s 85 horses, don’t it? But it’s not, and here’s the difference – the Ford’s 85 horsepower is HONEST, V8 horsepower. Six cylinder horsepower just isn’t the same thing, even it the advertised figure on that six wasn’t puffed up. But Henry Ford signs his name on this car, and he wouldn’t advertise a genuine 85 horsepower – V8 horsepower, at that – if it wasn’t true. Besides, you don’t read about gangsters stealing Chevrolet’s or Plymouths as getaway cars in bank robberies, now, do ya? They steal Fords because they really depend on the power and speed that you can only get from a Ford V8. Yessir, with a Ford, there is no compromise – you get the most beauty, you get the most value, and you get the most power. And that’s a FACT!”
“But what about the brakes?”, I asked. Chevy and Plymouth both have hydraulic brakes, and everyone says that they are a lot better. Ned was ready for me. “A lot of folks get caught up in all this talk about liquid brakes, but it’s all horsefeathers. Listen, friend – we all know that cars leak. They leak oil, they leak water, and even a little gas, sometimes. Just a fact of life. These liquids aren’t even under any real pressure. Do you really want to risk your safety to a newfangled system full of high-pressured juice? Chevy and Plymouth are gonna have a lot of trouble with them brakes, just you watch. Henry Ford says ‘No-sir’ – in a Ford you get the safety of steel from pedal to wheel. Every Ford’s brakes are time tested, my friend.”
Ned was really warming up, but I decided I had better get home. “C’mon, now, friend” he pleaded, “I can make you a steal of a deal on this new Ford. You know, you can buy this car for $25 a month through Ford’s Universal Credit Company. I know that times have been tough, but Mr. Roosevelt got things mostly fixed up over the last four years, and he’ll finish the job real soon. You mark my words, next year is going to be like 1924 all over again and everything’ll be back to normalcy. That $25 monthly payment will go down smoother than good legal scotch whiskey, my friend. You know – ” he said, as he lowered his voice, “I’m not supposed to do this, but I have a bottle of scotch in my desk drawer right now. If you care for a little nip, I will join you while we write up this deal. Whaddya say – shake on it?”
I decided that I had better wrestle my imagination into submission, and told Ned that I really had to get home, that the Mrs. was probably wondering where I was. “Oh, the little lady! Well, why didn’t you just say so. Say, she probably wouldn’t like this black job anyway. But you know what, we just got the prettiest car delivered this afternoon. Just like this one, but in Washington Blue, and with whitewall tires and a RADIO! When ya bring ‘er back, just see me. Name’s Ned.”
He had to kind of yell that last part. You see, that imaginary salesman almost had me talked into a swig of whiskey and a new ’36 Ford for $25 a month, so I figured I had better get out of there before the topic of a trade-in came up. There was no way I was going to try to get Ned’s head around the concept of a 2007 Honda Fit. Really, a four cylinder car more powerful than his Ford V8, with an automatic transmission, power windows and air conditioning. Hydraulic brakes, too. I ran back to my car and didn’t look back as I got back onto the main road. I have never seen this black ’36 Ford sedan since. I shouldn’t be surprised. That Ned seemed like a real closer.