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1958-60 Edsel

Misunderstood, But Still a Disaster







On September 4, 1957, Ford Motor Company released the Edsel, a car that was named almost as an afterthought after Henry’s only son.  There was some expectation that the Edsel was to drive the company’s growth in the last half of the century.  Heavily promoted as a totally new automobile with unique and distinctive styling, new engines and futuristic features, it would prove to be little more than an amusing, but important, footnote in automotive history. Two years, two months and fifteen days later, on November 19, 1959, Ford announced that the Edsel was being discountinued.

A total of about 118,150 Edsels were assembled, and at the time it was claimed that Ford lost in excess of $250 million on the project, a cool $2 billion plus in today's dollars.  However, many contemporary analysts, this writer included, believes the actual loss to Ford was likely far less than half this amount.

Edsel's mission was to fill a perceived hole in market coverage within Ford's automotive product line. In its initial season, a total of 18 models in four series were brought to market. Based on the Ford Fairlane models, and sharing a number of chassis and body components, were the Ranger and Pacer series. The upscale series, the Corsair and Citation, shared many of their body and chassis components with Mercury.

Ranger was the price-leader with 2- and 4-door sedans, 2- and 4-door hardtops and three station wagons: the 2-door Roundup station wagon plus the six- and nine-passenger 4-door Villager wagons. Moving up the price ladder was the Pacer, which offered a 4-door sedan, 2- and 4-door hardtops, plus a convertible. Also associated with the Pacer were two versions of the Bermuda station wagons, both featuring imitation "driftwood" paneling with fiberglass rails wearing matching appliques. Both of these wagons featured four doors and were offered in a choice of six or nine passenger capacities.

These Ford-based models offered just one engine selection, a 361 cid/303-hp "E-400" V8. This was the first member of the FE family of big-block engines, which would live on for many years at Ford with such displacements as 352, 390, 406 and eventually 427 cubic inches. The "E-400” represented the engine’s ft-lbs torque rating. A 3-spd manual transmission was standard with these models. Optionally available was a Borg-Warner T-85 overdrive unit and a column-shift automatic transmission. The most popular transmission was the push-button operated Teletouch automatic. With control buttons located in the center of the steering wheel, this was the most unique feature of the Edsel.  Once you got past the grille, of course.

 

The '58 Bermuda wagon can bring big money in the right venue.

A maze of drums, dials, buttons, and shapes, Buck Rodgers would feel right at home.

Front grills were "toned down" for '59

IAt the top of the Edsel line were the Corsair and Citation series. The Corsair featured just a 2- and 4-door hardtop, while the highest priced series, Citation, offered added a rather spectacular convertible. Starting at just over $3,800, the list of available options was long and could easily take the suggested retail price well over the $4,400 mark.

Both the Corsair and Citation models came with only one engine, a 345hp, 410ci "E-475" V8. Like the E-400, this represented the ft-lbs torque rating of the engine. It was shared with both Mercury and Lincoln products and would live on for many years as the 430.

While the Edsel received glowing reports from the press, a late 1957 recession soon took its toll. The new division couldn't have been introduced at a worse time. With tight budgets, fierce competition from other makes trying to stem their own losses, and some serious quality issues, Edsel sales were soon way behind expectations. Despite hopes of a projected 200,000 units for the first season, just 63,110 Edsels were produced for the 1958 model year.

Plaguing the Edsel were reports of assembly defects, sporadic quality control and limited supply from outside sources for needed parts. In January 1958, the Edsel Division was rolled in with the Lincoln and Mercury brands to form the MEL Division of Ford Motor Company. Quality did improve after the merger, but it was too late to stem the bad publicity.

For the 1959 model year, Edsel returned with just ten new models. Featuring a redesign to coincide with the new Ford Fairlane body and chassis, Ford was putting its best foot forward to try and make it look like the Edsel was here to stay. Only two series remained, and both shared the body and chassis features of the Ford Fairlane. Ranger returned as the price-leader, offering the same four models as in 1958, while the Corsair nameplate was attached to the upper-line models and included a 4-door sedan, 2- and 4-door hardtop plus a convertible. Station wagon availability was cut to 4-door models offered under the Villager nameplate.

Ranger models came equipped with the "Y-block" 292 cid V8, which had been borrowed from Ford and was rated at 195hp. Villager and Corsair models came standard with a 332 cid version of the FE V8, rated at 245 horsepower. Available in only the Ranger and Villager models was a six-cylinder engine, also borrowed from the Ford parts bin. Optionally available in all models was the "Super-Express" V8, the 361 cid/303 hp engine that the year before had powered all Ranger, Pacer and wagon models in the Edsel family.

Production trickled out of the Louisville plant throughout the model year, reaching a total of 44,891 units, with about 2,500 more produced in Canada.

go to Edsel, page 2

P. Skinner and the editors at Collector Car Market Review

Current Values:  1958   1959  1960  or  Main Edsel Menu    Edsel page 2

 
 

 

 

 

Jim Carlsons Auto Center