Ford Edsel - Edsel Anniversary


Had Edsel survived longer than three model years, we’d be savoring birthday cake topped with 60 candles on September 4. That’s the day, in 1957, when Americans got their first look at the highly anticipated Edsel lineup; a promotion television show would follow about five weeks later. But what Ford Motor Company promoted as “the car of the future” instead became the poster child for commercial failure.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2017/08/30/ford-edsel-floundered


Certainly the author made some good reasons for the Edsel’s failure. Even though I was in first grade when this car was first introduced, I was although very young an avid car enthusiast for some time before reaching my 4th birthday. I was somehow drawn to cars at a very early age. Most likely because of my dad’s enthusiasm with motor vehicles when I was very young. So that said I was very aware of the introduction of the Edsel back in 1957. My analysis as to why this car failed is obviously base upon my first hand experiences. Most people (adults into buying the new cars at the time) thought the car was way too ugly and looked too over the top even for the late 1950’s. It screamed pretentious and gauche. It didn’t seem to correlate to say the quality of other high end cars like the Cadillac. It was a Ford in an ugly dress. No one would have bought one of these Edsels for a statement of quality and refinement. Just like most most businessmen didn’t wear bright checkered suits to work. The car stood out too much, It was bight but not classy. It was clumsy in terms of design. At best it was curio not to be taken seriously as a fine automobile. You can talk about the marketing strategy of Ford all you want, but this design was a big mistake from day one.


I was working in the Advanced Engineering Dept at FoMoCo in Dearborn when I first saw the Edsel in the Experimental Garage about a year before its release. I knew instantly that it was a mistake. In those days, they didn’t ask for opinions. Hank The Deuce did whatever he wanted. Period.


I remember that our local Ford deal had a 1958 used 2 door with all options on their used car lot in 1962 for $350.00. A friend of mine’s father bought it for her to drive to high school, but she traded it for a Buick Skylark as soon as she got a chance. By the standards of the time, these weren’t bad cars but just designed for a market segment that was going away.


When I turned 16 in 1963 I bought a 1958 Edsel Citation for just $100. I drove it to school and around Louisville for a couple of months, but the engine developed a head gasket leak, so I put it in part exchange for a 1956 Buick Roadmaster Station Wagon. I got a $150 trade-in for it, so I reckon I came out ahead. When my family returned to England in late 1964, I had to sell the Buick because my father would not pay the shipping on it as well as his 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air 2 door hardtop.


Robert McNamara, mercifully, saw the Edsel as a misfit and hastened its demise by promoting the longer wheelbase and up-styled Ford Fairlane in 1957; a highly successful model that would consume a great chunk of the Edsel market, and slow the dominance of the '57 Chevy Bel Air.