Earl Cars: Better Looking—Better Built - Page 4
As the new car on the scene, the Earl tried to woo buyers with its many "extras", at no extra cost. Earl claimed that allowed customers at least a $100 savings over other marques. There were linoleum floor boards and carpets front and rear. The drum-type headlamps had non-glare lenses, and there were side parking lights, as well. The steering wheel consisted of four metal spokes and a wooden rim. There was walnut trim on the instrument board, which featured a speedometer and odometer. The Sparton horn, manufactured by the Sparks-Withington Co. of Jackson, Michigan, blared that familiar ah-oogah sound. A Perfection heater was good for cooler weather. The hood was side-opening. An Earl Motors crest adorned the front of the car, the crest of the Earl family. One version was a white circle with green rim an "Earl" written in orange letters in the center. Another was a white wreath with silver accents encircling the coat of arms which had a blue inner field featuring three elongated scallop shells. The blue was surrounded by a larger red area, and a profile view of a knight's helmet (or, on some models, a lion's head) topped the family coat of arms. A Boyce motometer sat above the emblem at the nose of the car, covering the radiator. There was a divided front windshield with a sun visor, and a single windshield wiper on the driver's side. Side windows were crank-operated. The car, with dome light and rear-view mirror, also offered a robe rail and mats for the running boards, and was accompanied by a full set of tools.
An October, 1921 ad gave the Earl this tag line: "Where Values Rule Earl Is First." Another ad in the Pittsburgh Press of December 11, 1921, featured the Earl Motorcar at $1285 and extolled it as a sensation at the recent London Automobile show where it had been exhibited for the first time ever. The copy writer explained that the car had "aroused greater interest, more discussion, and more appreciative comment than any other American car in the London Show." In the U.S., the copy continued, it repeated its favorable impression as "a car of such distinction, a car so individual, that we believe it will win your instant admiration the moment you set eyes on it." Said to have been developed in the Allegheny Mountains, it claimed quick pick-up and an "almost complete absence of gear shifting." And "motor-wise London marveled when the selling price was named."
Despite the popular buzz, Earl continued to experience challenges in production and sales. It didn't help, either, that in the summer of 1922, whether prompted by an unruly competitor, a disgruntled employee, or even a jokester friend, there was trouble afoot. Beverly Rae Kimes, in her expansive catalogue of pre-war cars, explained that a bewhiskered Mr. Branigan, a hoaxster posing as a representative of Earl Motors, began to make numerous orders. Once he ordered and had delivered to Earl headquarters 100,000 menu cards for a non-existent company banquet. Another time he sent expensive new awnings. It was just the sort of headache a new company didn't need.
While there is a good deal of variance in the names and descriptions of models made by Earl, it's fair to say the company was willing to try many body styles, woo dealers, alter prices, and reach out to buyers in numerous advertisements, all in an effort to grow the business. Earl even made a right-hand drive car for export. Despite some gaps in our knowledge of when such changes occurred, it may nonetheless be useful to describe some of the models in further detail:
Roadster. An open, two-seater roadster was deemed, in a 1921 ad, "conservative enough for the gentleman who doesn't like crowds" and "snap enough for the youngster who still has a full life to live." Continuing, the ad explained the car had "flexible power, instant pick-up, speed to spare and the low, sweeping lines which custom builders could not better." The car, which sold for $1395, was available in horizon blue with blue and black striping; mustard with blue striping; or gray with blue striping — and black wire wheels. Rather than a running board, it had a step, and it featured a sloping rear deck.
Touring Car. A 1921 ad for the 5-passenger convertible touring car depicted a well-dressed young man seated on a leather seat and leaning slightly out the window to speak with a young woman in riding habit perched atop her horse. In the background was a manor house surrounded by a fenced-in estate. The claim was that the car, available for $1285, embodied the four essentials of a worthwhile car: "appearance, performance, comfort, [and] durability." Its promises were many: "It will win the admiration of yourself, your family and your friends at first glance and give generously, day in and day out, any service you ask"; "Its low, sweeping lines give its trim silhouette individuality and distinction"; and "The EARL high-powered motor will delight you with its quick pick-up and reserve energy under all conditions of traffic." Advertisers of the day may have been just as prone to exaggeration as ones working today, though. While the ad claimed the Earl had proven its hill-climbing abilities for two years, the Earl was actually still enjoying its first year of production.
A year later the Earl Touring Car, available at $1095, was advertised as setting a new standard of motor car values. Besides design and engineering achievements, "All the savings made possible through cash purchases in low material markets and large-scale production by experienced factory workers have helped to hold down the price and create its unapproachable values." It boasted "a new steering gear, rigid 7-inch channel frame, rugged front and rear axles, quiet transmission, 56-inch rear springs, Alemite lubrication and a special Borg & Beck disc clutch."
Brougham. The two-door Brougham (aka Town Car) body was built by J. C. Widman Co. and was built to provide "intimacy and riding ease in an exquisitely finished four-passenger enclosed car. Selling at $1995, one 1921 ad called attention to its "fascinating low lines and graceful proportions, heavy gray brocade upholstery, dull platinum fittings, and tilting front seats." It was the car Earl featured at the 1922 New York Automobile Show, a show where twelve new cars enjoyed their national debut.
In an advertisement appearing on January 19, 1922, the copy targeted the country-club set and suggested the Brougham was perfect for golfers. It explained, "The country club is a great factor in our modern life and it has a direct bearing on the character as well as the number of motor cars. There are in round numbers more than two million country club or golf club members. As these clubs must of necessity be in the country where space for indulging in golf is obtainable, the usual method of reaching the club is by automobile. For such occasions closed cars or semi-closed cars such as the Earl touring sedan and the Earl sedan offers [sic] comfort and convenience; but it is the Earl brougham, quite a new type of brougham, by the way, that has a distinctive advantage. The Earl brougham offers a special social service by its unique arrangement of a trunk which is an integral part of the design, lending beauty and symmetry to a car or unusual charm. The trunk is specially placed on the rear.[Note: the trunk rested on a platform protected by maple slats in a natural finish.] It is of beautiful long-grain French finish Duratex covering and bright with nickel studding. Inside of the trunk is a grain leather hat box which a woman can not [sic] help but appreciate. Also there are two good sized suit cases. The suitcase makes it possible to carry an extra suit, dress, in each suitcase and such other apparel or individual toilet requisites as are needed. This arrangement is pronounced admirable by all socially inclined who have seen it. However, these little niceties are equally of value to the tourist, either on long or short trips. The trunk is dust proof, affording all weather protection." Before the days of built-in trunks, it was definitely handy to be able to pack your gear outside of the passenger compartment. And the rear-mounted spare tire gave extra protection against a flat tire during a sporting journey.