Historic Car Brands
The Jordan Motor Car Company was founded in 1916 in Cleveland, Ohio by Edward S ‘Ned’ Jordan, a former sales executive from the Thomas B Jeffery Company.
It’s likely that Ned Jordan and engineer Russell Begg would have stayed working for the Thomas B jeffery Company, had not its principal survived the sinking of the Lusitania in 1916 and decided on a ‘sea change’, selling his Jefferey Company to Nash.
Jordan and Begg, with some other Jefferey staff, began producing ‘Jordan’ branded cars.
The choice of badge design was interesting, on the eve of the USA’s entry into World War I: a red inverted arrow, which is a strong ‘peace’ symbol.
The lineup was almost exclusively ‘assembled’, using bought-in mechanical components: mainly Continental engines, Detroit transmissions, Timken rear axles, Autolite distributors, Gremmer steering gears, Delco generators, Bijur starters and Stromberg carburettors.
1919 Jordan Suburban seven-seater – Free Library Philadelphia
Jordan established its Cleveland plant on the Nickel Plate Railroad tracks that gave ready access for incoming parts and outgoing, finished cars. In its first year of production, Jordan sold more than one thousand vehicles.
According to Ned Jordan’s biographer, James Lackey, the source of early Jordan bodies is unknown. Jordan painted the bodies, attached them to the chassis and trimmed the interiors. Later production bodies were fabricated from aluminium panels over wooden frames and railed-in from a variety of manufacturers in Ohio and Massachusetts.
In 1917, Jordan’s 60 Series Limousine had a six-cylinder, 303.1 cubic inch (five-litre) Continental engine and straight sixes powered its 1919 Series F and 1920-1921 Series M cars.
In 1922, the Series MX model was powered by a 246 cubic inch (four-litre) six-cylinder, flathead engine.
In 1926, the Line Eight and Great Line Eight models had straight-eight cylinder engines. The 1931 Model 90 was powered by an eight-cylinder, 85 horsepower engine.
1930 Jordan Model Z Sportsman – Free Library Philadelphia
Being assembled vehicles, using proved components, Jordans lacked advanced engineering, but did incorporate some initiatives: one of the first cowl fresh-air ventilation systems, followed by all-steel construction in the mid-1920s, eight years before Chrysler and 10 years before Buick.
Ned Jordan was ahead of his time, as far as car marketing was concerned and the company’s advertising was always more original than the cars themselves. He sold the ‘sizzle’ more than the ’sausage’.
The most famous ad was the Somewhere West of Laramie gem, in 1920, with art by Fred Cole, selling the Playboy model.
Ned Jordan reasoned that since people dressed smartly, they wanted to drive smart looking cars and the Jordan flair came in part from an adventurous colour palette, at a time when most automobile producers limited themselves to a single colour combination, or black mudguards with a single body colour.
Jordan automobiles were available in no less than three shades of red – Apache Red, Mercedes Red, and Savage Red – as well as Ocean Sand Gray, Venetian Green, Briarcliff Green, Egyptian Bronze, Liberty Blue and Chinese Blue. Plain black was also available.
The most flamboyant colour scheme was the four-passenger Sport model’s Submarine Gray, with khaki top and orange wheels.
Jordan was also one of the first automakers to christen its model types with evocative names, such as the aforementioned Playboy; the Sport Marine, with fashionably low 32 x 4-inch wheels and the Tomboy.
In 1920, the company released the Friendly Three coupe, with the slogan: ‘Seats two, three if they’re friendly’.
Jordan used ‘posh’ suburbs as backdrops for his advertising photographs, setting the cars in front of mansions.
Like most car makers do at some point in their history, Jordan made its flop in 1927, with the Little Custom, US$1450 luxury compact. Compact luxury vehicles didn’t have any market success in the USA until the 1960s and 1970s.
1928 Jordan Little Custom – Free Library Philadelphia
Little Custom setup costs drained cash that was never repaid with profits and led to a company takeover by its bankers. Jordan and his wife began divesting their interests in the company in 1928.
The company survived the Stock Market Crash of 1929, but the resulting car market contraction and intense competition among what were then too many US automakers proved too much and Jordan ceased production in 1931.
The true total production of Jordan cars is unclear. Some sources list the total amount as more than 100,000 units, while other sources list the production as low as 30,000. HV’s best guess is around 80,000 cars over Jordan’s 16 years.
Jordan Speedway Ace – Old Cars Weekly