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.
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.
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
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
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
Edsel page 2