Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Enduring Legend that is the Edsel

Even those who know little about 1950s cars have probably have at least heard of the Edsel, even if they'd never actually seen one.  I had only just turned four years old when the car was introduced in the autumn of 1957, but I distinctly remember watching when after all the considerable hoopla, it was finally unveiled on television. My mother said, "They've got to be kidding!  That's ugly!" As it turned out, she wasn't alone her assessment.

Promotional model cars were given away at every new Edsel dealership to every adult who came by for a test drive or probably merely to ask for one.  Here's mine. Even now, fifty-six years later, the 1958 models can easily be found any given day on ebay. Following are the 1959 and 1960 promo models.

Promotional model of the 1958 Edsel, given away free to anyone who came in to test drive an Edsel to give to junior as a plaything.  The warpage is typical of plastic used in promo models of that era.

Promotional model of the 1959 Edsel.  The design became more conservative, but the distinctive vertical grille remained.
Promotional model of the 1960 Edsel, the rarest Edsel.  The rarest of all Edsels is the 1960 Edsel convertible, of which very few are known to survive.  The distinctive grille was dropped, though the taillights pick up the concept.  The full-sized Ford had a very similar silhouette.  A few months after the 1960s were introduced, the Edsel was gone forever.

Edsel was designed by Roy Brown, Jr., who only recently died at age 96.  Roy had also supervised the design work for the amazing 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, which eventually became the iconic Batmobile for the 1960s television series.  A comprehensive page for the Futura is here, and I've previously posted some pictures of it here.  To me it's a pity that Ford didn't just go ahead and manufacture the Futura if they really wanted to do something daring and different.

Now and then I wonder:  what might have happened if the Edsel had been a success and endured as a Ford division? Because I bought the book Edsel - The Motor Industry's Titanic some years ago, I remembered that Roy was still thinking about this, too.

I didn't know until tonight he had done other drawings which appear here as part of a very entertaining and informative website about the Edsel.
And how's this for ugly?  The 1960 Edsel that might have been: