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Cordell - Turvaville Motors


Norm Madsen

Page 1

Photographs posted on our club's website recently caught my eye and my imagination. The pictures showed early dealers selling some of the wonderful old cars I so admire. Tallahassee has had its Cadillac dealership since the early 1900s, and stickers on the trunks of new Fords boast that their seller has survived, "since 1926." But where could one buy a Chevy in the '30s, a Hudson in the '40s, a Nash in the '50s? Curiosity got the better of me when I saw on the website a snapshot of Cordell-Turvaville Motors, a dual dealership, selling Packards and Hudsons.

Outside curb-shot of 1200 N. Monroe St., 1946

I was particularly interested in Packards, having recently purchased a 1954 model. Turvaville seemed an unusual name---anyone with this surname would surely be a relative of the former Packard-Hudson dealer. I grabbed the phonebook and called the first listing to catch my eye: J.D. Turvaville. I told the gentleman who answered that I was looking to find out who the local Packard dealer was in the 1950s. "That was me," he said, and agreed to let me come pay him a visit. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Turvaville the next Saturday. The spry 87-year-old was a virtual history book, recalling a myriad of names and dates long-gone. J.D., as he prefers to be called, moved to Tallahassee in 1936---October 12th to be exact. His older brother, Roy, had an opportunity to become the regional wholesale distributor for Hudson automobiles for North Florida, and asked J.D. to help him find financing and become a partner. The two moved to Tallahassee from Tampa, and arranged to lease a gas station/flower shop at 1200 N. Monroe Street. From this location they would sell gasoline and Hudsons. The first shipment of cars arrived in two boxcars---two autos on the floor of each boxcar and two above them. The brothers worked through most of the night unloading the eight Hudsons and Terraplanes. Then they had to negotiate early possession of their new location, because the cars had arrived two weeks early. They agreed to pay the occupant two weeks rent, plus the two weeks profit she would have made on her flower/gas business, and moved in. The Turvaville's hired J.C. Newberry, who had been operating the station for the previous occupant, to keep the gas business running. Newberry would later work for them as a car salesman. The brothers had to guarantee loans in order to sell cars on credit. Times were tough, and they found themselves having to repossess numerous cars and pay the bank for them out of their own pockets. By 1939, cash had run low and Roy had had enough. He gave his half of the business to younger brother J.D. and moved with his wife and four children back to Tampa, where he still owned his home. In September 1945, J.D. sold a half-interest in the business to Joe Cordell. Cordell, described by J.D. as a "natural-born salesman," would be in charge of sales, while Turvaville would run the Service and Parts departments

J.D. Turvaville (left) and Joe Cordell 1949

Tallahassee's Packard dealer had no public location at the time. The local dealer, Leo Hoffman, was leaving town due to a divorce and abandoning his dealership. Joe Cordell, whose brother was the Packard dealer in Dublin, Georgia, had long wanted to sell new Packards. The partners seized the opportunity to add the Packard line, got permission from Hudson, and became a dual dealership. They had a glass showroom built in place of the gas pumps and prepared to receive Tallahassee's first postwar autos. Cordell-Turvaville Motors had its grand opening in 1946 with one Packard and one Hudson.

The New 1947 Hudson and Packard Clipper