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Bernard Specker Says: “I’m Betting $75,000 On My Future”

Today’s feature images are of Bernard Specker’s Hudson Agency locations in Marquette, Michigan, which was featured in an article in a Hudson Motor Car Company publication in 1954. The piece was aimed at Hudson dealers updating their facilities at the time.

Specker became a car dealer in 1930 and “made money all during the depression.” Later in the early-1950s when Hudson sales were good, he and his crew worked out plans to replace his old Specker’s Garage with a new building, and location that cost $75,000, and a name change to Specker’s Motor Sales. The article states that “As a result of their efforts, sales during 1953 where well over the previous year. Specker stated that “our extra sales were made possible by our new facilities and having the Jet. The Jet is too much underrated by some dealers.”

Specker may have experienced in an increase of sales due to the new facilities as opposed to the shabby-looking old sales lot and building, but the reality was the new Hudson Jet did not perform well in the marketplace and during 1953 to ’54 recession. Hudson profits in 1952 were 10.4 million dollars, but in 1954 resulted in a loss of 8.3 million and a buy out by Nash-Kelvinator.

The complete text of the Hudson article can be viewed below the following images and is courtesy of Auto Historian Alden Jewell. Share with us what you find of interest in the text and photographs.

 

21 responses to “Bernard Specker Says: “I’m Betting $75,000 On My Future”

  1. I admire his gumption but wonder if he felt the same ten years later. Hopefully he cut his losses in AMC by 1962 and switched over to hawking Volkswagens. That may have been a fine new building in 1954 but it must have looked very industrial when compared to a Chevrolet showroom a few years later.

    • I agree. There isn’t anything ‘modern’ about the new building; a blah cinder-block job that resembled a warehouse more than a car dealership. And only one door in/out of the service dept.? That had to be one tiny garage! I’ve often heard the Jet didn’t help sales at all. It wasn’t received well, and was under-powered. To many, it resembled a 7/8 scale `53 Ford, with taillamp trim copied from the Olds 98. I will say one thing; Mr. Specker’s first garage looked more at home behind a house rather than a commercial facility. Looks to have dated back to the turn of the century.

      • For its class I don’t think the Jet was under-powered, but the compact car segment collapsed in the mid-50s. The Jet had either 104 or 114 horsepower depending on the carb and compression ratio used on the engine. Comparable cars from other manufacturers were generally lower – the Henry J/Allstate/Corsair had ~80 horsepower, the Nash Rambler 85 or 90, and the Willys Aero between 72 and 132 depending on engine. None of those lasted past 1955 as American tastes shifted to larger vehicles – by 1957, 1 out of every 7 cars sold was a station wagon.

        Part of the styling came from Hudson’s biggest seller, Jim Moran of Chicago, who liked the wrap-around read window of the ’52 Ford.

          • Yep, that is the self same “Jim Moran, the Courtesy Man” who hawked cars on Saturday night TV in Chicago in the mid 50s. Having switched to Ford from Hudson, Courtesy Motors sponsored the wrestling matches from the International Amphitheater among other programs. During the breaks between matches Moran would have a car wheeled out from behind the curtains like “this beautiful Crown Vicky, it’s got every option you’d want folks!” (Slaps the hood) It was a bit of a wonderment just to see a car drive into the studio live on TV.

            Later, he went on to become the Toyota distributor for the the Southeastern US which was considerably more lucrative as he died leaving an estate of $2.4 billion. Apparently when someone pitched him the opportunity he asked “What’s a Toyota?

            And now back to the Amphitheater folks, for Gorgeous George and Farmer Don Marlin vs. the Bolkov Brothers (boo! hiss!)

      • I have a feeling that the old garage dated back to the carriage trade. The new building, though far from modern, must have felt like a huge upgrade.

  2. Specker lasted until 1997, when it went bankrupt. In the 60s it was an AMC dealer (there’s a photograph of Badger Javelins on their lot in ’69), and at some point they sold GMC trucks.

  3. Well, of course he’s going to be optimistic, who wants to buy a car or truck from a pessimist? Looks like Bernie handled Jeep, Federal and Diamond T trucks, as well. Way on the right of the 1st pic, is a ’50 or ’51 Diamond T 222. (which, by then, was just a fancy IH ). It was twice as expensive as a comparable Ford or Chevy, or Studebaker, and did not sell well. Aside from the Jeep, it looks like Bernie missed the boat, Hudson, Federal, AND Diamond T all bit the dust in the 50’s.He probably could have got you a Packard around this time, as well.

  4. The 1953 HUDSON was the best looking of the lot of step-down cars.

    In both pictures are WILLYS station-wagons [both could be ’53 vehicles], perhaps Specker was also a dealership for them.

  5. The large building to the left of the old dealership location is the Marquette County Courthouse which still stands pretty much unchanged. One of the spires of St. Peter Cathedral is visible further in the background. Since this was a prime downtown Marquette real estate location it seems probable that the move could have turned out to be a profitable “trade” for this dealer .

  6. Can someone explain how territory qualified a potential prospect ? I do agree with his idea about getting out of the dealership to meet customers. I’m in dealerships everyday in my profession and no one, I mean no one , prospects outside the showroom/lot in my area. When I started in new car sales back in the 70’s (Lincoln Mercury) it was company policy to spend time outside building dealer relations by being, well in the community. God forbid someone miss an UP today ! Don’t even get me started on cell phones.

    • Hi John, I’ll take a stab at it. Today, vehicles pretty much sell themselves. I read, by 2020, which isn’t far away, 90% of all vehicles sold will be trucks or SUV’s. There’s very little “selling”, like in the past, where you had dozens to choose from, heck, a slick salesperson could sell Yugo’s. People know what they want, and the salesperson just writes up the deal. Soon, you won’t even need a salesperson, I bet.

      • Howard , I do agree with your statement that the car customer of today requires a different type of salesperson from the character played by Kurt Russell in the 1980,s movie Used Cars. The public is a bit more educated about car buying, they talk to people they know, they read about cars on the internet and then they begin the looking process at the dealerships. And this is where a “good” salesperson can prove their worth. In a very short time a high pressure “sleaze ball” type who will say whatever to close a sell will reveal their true character and the customer will walk out. But on the other hand if this salesperson proves to be sincere and honest and someone who the customer feels they can trust then they likely can help a customer make that final decision. At least this has been my experience. A poor salesperson can be a real pain, but a good salesperson is very important in the car buying process in my opinion.

        • Some 15 years ago I managed a retirement plan for a medium sized family-owned Ford dealer. One of the salesmen had carefully built a “book” of customers, and had mapped all of their preferences, frequency of purchases, forms of financing, and their kids and other family members. He knew when to contact them and what to show them. He knew what product “hooks” and new features test would attract each customer back to the showroom. He would make a call or two a day to set up appointments, and was, by far, the most successful salesman of the team. Smart man.

    • I worked in a divisional factory sales department starting back in the sixties. Dealers were (still are) assigned what was called an APR or “area of primary responsibility” which gave them a territory to focus or concentrate on for purposes of contacting prospective customers or locating recalled vehicles, for example. Added up all of these APRs covered the entire country and were written into the dealer/factory franchise agreement. Potential prospects were those who owned either the dealer’s brand (s) or a brand that was positioned in the same price class. There were companies such as R.L. Polk that bought data from state motor vehicle departments, sliced and diced it and then provided it to dealers for prospecting purposes. Ancient mediums such as telephone land-lines and U. S. Mail were used!

  7. I love old wooden garages like my grandmother had
    I would give a lot to be able to live upstairs at the one in the photo.
    The Federal sign would be my nightlight.

  8. In years passed prospects visited an average of 4.6 dealerships before buying a car. Today, it’s 1.3. Woe unto the salesperson who doesn’t realize the customer is there to BUY, not to shop. Ask for the sale!

  9. I suppose it’s the height of foolishness to think there might still be dealer level sales records around for Hudson. It would be interesting to see how his Jet sales numbers compared to other Hudson stores in Michigan.

    But I do like his attitude. Build, grow, update. Sit on your thumbs in that business, and you won’t be around long.

  10. The Hudson dealer reminds me of so many small independent dealerships that I grew up with in and around Long Island. Great photos as usual.

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