This is a question I get often when I am telling someone about a Cole or the history of the company. Since most people have not seen a Cole at a car show or event, many think it must have been a make that was around for a few years like many of the pre war makers. When I tell them that Cole was around from 1909 and 1925, they are surprised. Then when I tell them some of the innovations that Cole is responsible for or was early and played a big part in the industry (like the V8), they say “How come I have never heard of or seen one of these?” I then let people know that there are 77 known Coles to survive out of the 40,717 that were produced during the life of the company and they say, “why so few?”. I bet there are more than 77 out there globally, though we have not identified them yet. Even if there are a 100 or 150 Coles out there, that is still a 0.3% survival rate which is very small.
Why so few? That is a question that I have been pondering and looking into. From looking into this there appears to be three primary reasons that the survival rate for Cole is comparatively smaller than average.
- The scrap drives of World War II were looking for metal, and specific types of metal were prized more than others. Aluminum was highly sought after for aircraft and other applications. Well, the big Cole cars had lots of sought after metals! All Coles going back to the beginning had aluminum engine blocks and many had all aluminum bodies. Coles also had plenty of brass, bronze, nickel, and German silver. Essentially Coles were highly sought after for scrap and it was your patriotic duty during the times to turn the car in.
- Another contributing factor, was that Cole as a company ended in 1925. After liquidation, JJ Cole Jr. started another Cole company that sold parts and service to Cole owners until the early 30’s, however after that it was not easy keeping these cars driving. Between the end of the parts supply and the great depression, there was just too much time between when the company ended and the start of the war. That means that the people who had Coles, probably could not keep them running so they turned them in to the scrap drives. Other cars that were manufactured until the early 30’s had a chance to keep them driving and the big volume cars like Ford, Cadillac, and Buick all had the service network to keep many of their cars driving. It just wasn’t practical to keep a Cole on the road for many people so they were scrapped.
- The last factor is that in the late 30’s, most Coles were out of style compared to what was coming out. Just like with today’s autos, a car that is 15-20 years old is not exciting to the buying public. Given that, the cars were out of favor and hence much easier for people to turn them into the scrap drives for all of that important metals that they were built with.
There is no concrete data or information that really exists about that time and especially for Cole specifically, however by looking at the era, the needs, and the dates, it is not hard to make some conclusions. At this point we have a limited number of Coles that still exist and we are lucky to have those! The people that are lucky enough to own a Cole have now become the caretaker of a piece of history from a by gone era and one of the most important times in the auto industry.