CLASSIC CAR LITERATURE
Storytime with Liberty (1918 & 1919)
Detroit's Liberty Motor Car Company formed in 1916 with a mission to produce a "medium priced car with body refinements as a most attractive feature." The Liberty touring sedan was first offered as a $1,095, 6-cyl. (23hp) car riding on a 115" wheelbase. Within seven years that car would grow to a 56-hp variant in a 117" wheelbase selling for $2,095. To sell these cars, Liberty offered plenty of traditional sales literature but, for two years, they used some clever storytelling to sell their automobiles.
The first booklet, published in 1918, measures 3" X 4-1/4" with 16-pages. It was titled "Burgoyne's Surprise: The Story of a Man Who Found the Unexpected" and it chronicles the car buying experience of Walter Burgoyne and his wife. The story begins with the couple strolling the annual auto show aisles in frustration. Eventually Mrs. Burgoyne leads the couple to the Liberty display where she can appreciate the car's "low-cut, smooth flowing lines."
Mr. Burgoyne showing the Liberty to his wife.
The Liberty representative proceeds to tell the Liberty story, highlighting the company's founders, luxurious upholstery, and roominess. He then summarizes that the car's "outer charm is a reflection of its inner goodness." The salesman believes all of these traits are obvious to "those who have discrimination to observe."
The next day, the Liberty salesman shows up to the Burgoyne's home and takes the excited couple on a drive. When they return, they report their findings to a friend, raving about finger touch shifting, smooth rides on bumpy roads, enough power to drive over hills with ease and the pride they felt as they drove the Liberty around town. It should go without saying that the Burgoyne's purchased a Liberty and recommended one to their friend.
Burgoyne's on a test drive.
The second Liberty story booklet, titled "We Shall Have a Motor Car", was published in 1919. It measures 4-1/2" X 5-3/4" with 30-pages and a foreword. In the foreword, we learn that our characters live in "a certain village of Connecticut, hidden away among the hills and linked to the outside world by a single archaic trolley line." So sheltered are its residents that they have the "traits and mannerisms of colonial days and are totally uncorrupted by modernism." In brief, they are perfect candidates to make an unbiased decision about a quality motor car.
The narration of this story comes from the voice of Simon, a third generation butler, and it is presented in colorful prose. The heart of the story starts while Simon picks his master up from the trolley in a snowstorm. The bad weather convinces the master that he's had enough of the unreliable trolley system and decides to buy a motor car. He charges Simon with the task of motor car selection and gives him a $2,000 budget.
We Shall Have a Motor Car brochure cover.
Simon's first stop is with his cousin in New York City. Although the cousin is somewhat disrespectful, he is worldly and believes Simon should find a car that is steady, easy to handle, has nice upholstery and is of good value. Naturally, that vehicle is a Liberty Six since it can "slide through traffic like an eel" and "leave the rest of 'em standin'" as you pull out from a stop. As an added bonus the car could be purchased and run for a year for less than $2,000.
When Simon leaves his cousin he somehow finds himself "on a street called Fifth Avenue" and sees many Liberty cars on the road. Simon goes so far as to stop one of the car owners who willingly brags about low repair and maintenance costs, high value and the added benefit of having his wife love the car's good looks.
Finally, Simon finds a Liberty dealership and takes a demonstration ride where he sits "perfectly natural" in the driver's seat, relaxes in the luxurious upholstery, enjoys a steady and stable ride on the highway and cobblestones and feels connected to the ample power when climbing hills or accelerating on the straightaway. Simon instantly makes the purchase, gains his master's resounding approval, and enjoyed 12-months of trouble free motoring.
Both of these booklets relied on the story to illustrate the pages but they also included specification pages and photographs of the different Liberty body styles. The unique booklets presented the same information as traditional sales brochures, but did so in a colorful, entertaining way.