Edsels

egkelly1egkelly1 Member Posts: 30
My question is prompted by the fact that a guy down the street has two of them! Both are in fair-to-poor condition (surface rust, interiors dirty and worn). As with all such cars, restoration would cost a lot-and I have no idea if the cental sterring-console mounted push-button ATs are even repairable today! Is there enough commonality of parts (with FORD contemporary cars), to make parts easy to find? Finally-the things are so damn ugly! I can understand why they were such a sales disaster for FORD. Is there a market for EDSELs, or is it just another automotive criosity?
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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Well, for a beat up 4-door sedan, the only real market is either the scrap yard or as a donor car for the more desirable convertibles--whatever would fit, that is...bits and pieces and certainly some of the running gear. But the 4-door and 2-door market for Edsels is very weak and any restoration of these cars would have to be strictly emotional and not rational.
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    I'd buy a junker edsel like that, but only for the push button transmission, and only then if I knew it could be made to work on a newer transmission. It's a feature I'd like to have (if you're gonna have an automatic, why pretend it's a manual and put the shifter in the floor? Just give me the buttons). But as far as cars go, the only Edsel I'd buy to drive would be one someone else has already taken the bath on restoring.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    Usually quit working after a few years. I understand they are nearly impossible to fix.

    I've seen several Edsels converted to a floor shifter.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,610
    I seem to recall reading about them being unreliable, too. I think the problem was that they were electrical, whereas the pushbutton Mopars back then were mechanical, and much more reliable.

    Well, I don't know for a fact that the mechanical push-buttons were more reliable...all I know is that the ones on my '57 DeSoto never gave me any problems! Did the Edsel have a button for "Park"? On the Mopars, for the first few years at least, there was no "P". You just put it in neutral and put on the parking brake.
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    I realize they're generally worth not much money, except the convertibles and some coupes. The cool thing about Edsels is that they're so rare, and despite the low sales, I don't think they were actually 'bad' cars, were they?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Yeah, I think they were fairly troublesome, but to be fair to them, just about every 1958 American car was rather shabbily built. It was rather a low point in American car design and manufacturing. They were cranking them out fast and their was no foreign competition worth worrying about.

    I don't personally think their rarity is an asset. If anything, the car is still a symbol of ridicule more than respect, so if you show up in one, it's going to be as the class clown, not the hero of the football team.
  • fezofezo Member Posts: 10,384
    Gee, there used to one around here but I think the only ones that posted were me and Shifty - and he was only doingit out of sympathy...

    I like the 58 Edsels - but it's strictly because of the flop issue. The fact that Edsel is really another word for failure. People that don't know a Chevy from a Ford know about Edsels.

    That said, the Aztek (sorry that always comes up in such discussions, but not talking about it is like pretending not to notice an elephant in the room) is almost making Edsel talk irrelevant. It's one thing to say as recently as 1958 that someone as big as Ford could lay such an egg. To have it currently going on at GM is a riot. I even like that they basically did what Ford did for 1959 - they toned down the ugliness without actually eliminating it. May as well get a push button tranny on the steering wheel hub....
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,610
    ...I wonder how much of the car's failure came about because of bad timing, more than any particular ugliness of the car itself? The car was conceived in the mid 50's, when times were prosperous and everyone thought the middle-priced car field would expand forever. GM and Chrysler already had three divisions in the mid-priced field, but Ford just had one: Mercury, which was itself a relative newcomer to the automotive scene.

    Unfortunately, the Edsel was launched in September 1957, just as the country was on the brink of recession. Ford's original plan was to build 100,000 Edsels for 1958, but they came up short with only about 63,000 built. But to be fair, the whole mid-priced field got whacked that year. Pontiac, Olds, Buick, Mercury, Dodge, DeSoto, and Chrysler all got hit hard.

    Suddenly, the horsepower race seemed foolish and small cars like the Rambler were soaring in popularity. Edsel showed up to play with a 303 hp 361 in the lower 2 series, and a 345 hp 410 V-8 in the two upper series, hardly an economic choice either way. These things were heavy, bulky cars too, usually weighing more than the Dodges, Pontiacs, DeSotos, and even some Chryslers that they were supposed to compete against.

    Then there were the quality issues. I've heard that the Edsel didn't have its own dedicated assembly line, but the cheaper models were built on sped-up Ford assembly lines, while the pricier models were built on sped-up Mercury lines. So they were probably rushed through quicker than lots of other late 50's cars.

    As for ugliness, I think that just like the Aztek, they could've really cleaned up the car's look with just a minor trim jiggle. For instance, I notice that if I look at a photo of an Edsel and put my finger over the center part of the grille, the rest of the car really doesn't look that bad!

    For 1959-60, the Edsel was consolidated to a single 120" wheelbase, and model lineups were slashed considerably. The '59 was a much more sensible car, running mainly on 292 V-8's, with the 361 still as an option and even an inline 6. It was still ugly, but just not flamboyantly so. The '60 was basically just a Ford with some '59 Pontiac styling cues thrown in.

    One thing I think is interesting about the Edsel though, is that once it cleared out, Mercury moved down to that same 120" wheelbase, and moved considerably downscale in price. For '59-60, Mercurys, even the cheaper models were on mammoth 126-128" wheelbases. I guess it could be argued that the Edsel really didn't die, that it became Mercury! It was the "traditional", overblown Mercurys that actually died. In fact, one Mercury model was originally slated to be an Edsel, although I don't know if it was the Comet or the Meteor.

    Chrysler pulled a similar stunt in 1960, drastically reducing the DeSoto lineup while readying Chrysler to go into that market. For '61, Chrysler actually undercut DeSoto in price, a move intended to wean people off of DeSotos and into Chrysler Newports. When the non-letter 300 series came out, it was priced about where the DeSoto Firedome would've been. And even the New Yorker came down somewhat in price, to not much more than what a Fireflite would've run. Just like Edsel, the car was still basically there, just not the name.

    Somehow, GM was able to escape all this in-fighting back then...it really didn't catch up to them until the mid-70's. I wonder if the Edsel had premiered a few years earlier, if it would've lasted longer.
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    the difference is Aztek is one model in an old nameplate, Edsel was a whole new car line (dealer network, separate advertising, lots of $ spent on hype in general). The Aztek is ugly IMO, but apparently it's not a total failure (sales aren't great, but this JD Power crap might help that).

    I think the thing with Edsel was that Ford already had a 'medium-priced' vehicle in those days (Mercury), and there was not much to distinguish the higher end Edsels from Mercs, and nothing to distinguish the lower end Edsels from Fords, other than UGLINESS. Nothing like having only one car to market in a new dealer network and having it ugly.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    My understanding is that the Edsel promised more than it delivered. Apparently there was a lot of hype about how advanced the car was--maybe the pushbutton controls in the steering hub were part of that--but in fact the car was pretty ordinary engineering.

    Edsel didn't have a monopoly on ugliness in those days. Just look at Buick, Olds, Rambler, in fact pretty much every '58. Exner's 1960 redesign was seriously weird.

    Aside from being the answer to a question no one asked, I'm not sure why the Edsel is synonymous with loser and the '58 Buick isn't. Maybe it's because Edsel is an orphan and Buick isn't--yet. Maybe it's the name. Maybe it's the shape of the grille and the way it resembles...well, never mind.
  • fezofezo Member Posts: 10,384
    Yeah, Edsel's timing could not have been worse and the poor guys who bought dealerships!

    In terms of Azteks, on a percentage basis of what sold vs what they expected to sell that the Aztek is every bit the failure that Edsel was. Fortunately Pontiac dealers have something else to sell. Not that I, personally, would buy any of what a Pontiac dealer has to sell at the moment but at least it's there.

    The change in Edsels from MY 58 to 59 looks an awful lot like the Aztek from 01 to 02 - a toning down of the current design. There's no doubt that the second year is - I was going to say more attractive - less ugly. That said, if I was going to pick up an Edsel, I'd want a 58.

    1958 was a terrible year in car design. It's what killed the 50's. There are some nice Chrysler exceptions but I'd be hard pressed to think of another manufacturer who had decent looking 58's.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    There was tremendous hype about the Edsel and the car was very very average and very very ugly. It was just doomed from the start with those two factors in the mix. At least the Aztek made good use of interior space...it had SOMETHING going for it.
  • crossedrealitycrossedreality Member Posts: 72
    The Aztek would be a great vehicle if they could just replace the entire exterior.
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    ...And the interior, and the drive train, and the design staff, and the General Manager, and the....Well, you get the idea.
  • egkelly1egkelly1 Member Posts: 30
    ..but I just saw the movie "Peggy Sue Got Married". It was a pretty good flick-for those of you who haven't seen it, it concerns a housewife who gets transported back to her teeenage years (in 1958). Anyway, her father comes home and announces (proudly) to his family, that he has just purchsed a new 1958 EDSEL! Peggy Sue begins LAUGHING uncontrollably!.."you bought an EDSEL?"-I'm sure this scene was fairley common in 1958-even then the car was something of a bad joke!
  • fezofezo Member Posts: 10,384
    I remember that! Classic stuff.

    Then again wasn't it Cindy Williams driving around in the Edsel in AMerican Grafitti?

    The point of the Aztek actually offering a new idea of some sort while the Edsel offered nothing at all new is very well taken. The 58s were either a bad looking Ford or a bad looking Mercury while the 59s and 60s were just not quite as bad looking Ford.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,610
    ...of the tv show "Too Close for Comfort". Ted (Knight) and Muriel (forget her real name) were parking out in the boonies in a '55 or so Ford convertible. He mentions something about getting a new car, and she asks what kind.

    "Oh, I don't know. DeSoto...Studebaker...Edsel. Can't go wrong with one of those!"
  • modvptnlmodvptnl Member Posts: 1,352
    not really into Edsels but I have had some conversations with my dad about them. The reason it was even brought up was we saw one @ Saugus Speedway in a demo derby in the late '70's!!

    My dad had said the Edsel was the most market researched car ever up to that time. His comment was Ford pretty much tried to appease everyone but in the process turned every one off........Or it could have been the grill!!!!!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Yes, the car was the subject of exhaustive market research and in fact the story of the Edsel is still taught in university business courses as a great example of the hazards of over-thinking a product.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    I told this story here before somewhere.

    Americian Grafitti was written my my best friend's cousin and his wife. Williard Huych (sp) and Gloria Katz.

    The Edsel that was used in that movie sat in a driveway in my home town in California with a For Sale sign on it for probably three months before the studio bought it for the movie.

    This would have been around 1972. I remember the guy wanted 200.00 for it. I even stopped once and looked at it.
  • fezofezo Member Posts: 10,384
    I kind of remember you saying that. Man, I'd like to have that beast.....
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    The 1958 Edsel that Cindy Williams was driving in American Grafitti was also the top-of-the-line Citation model. Ertl is offering die cast models of Ron Howard's '58 Impala and John Milner's Deuce. Franklin Mint offers a nice model of the 1958 Edsel convertible and Danbury a superb model of the Bermuda 6-passenger wagon.
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    Speedshift and Shiftright make an excellent point that Edsel promised far more than it delivered. When we finally got a look at the fantastic new '58 Edsel, the only new feature we could find was the push-button gear selector - apparently something that no one had asked for. Ironically, it was this selector that ultimately made the distinction between Ford's rather poor '58 reliability and Edsel's very poor record. And no wonder. This Rube-Goldberg system utilized multiple contacts in the hub switch, several slip rings attached to the steering shaft, and a servo-motor to select the gears.
  • egkelly1egkelly1 Member Posts: 30
    ..the world's most prestigious car (Rolls-Royce) for years used a simialr "Rube Goldberg" mechanism for gear shifting. The shift lever was on the floor (between the front seats), but when you moved the shift lever, you actually were actuating a servo motor, which then drove a servo which changed the gear selection. talk about stupid! This is the kind of moronic "engineering" that makes for poor reliability and expensive repairs-while adding NO utility to the car! Whoever dreamed this up should have been shot!
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    Is my hero!. I typed this entire message with a machine set in motion by dropping a coin in a slot, which filpped a light switch, which turned on an electric motor, which, through a complex system of gears and differentials, turned a fan, which pushed a model sailboat through a rain gutter, which trippen a photoelexhgtsga. ,ds^&DJLK:lkdep3iouf098dsfjsdhfoee.w...............

    Dang machine! Never works right!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Rolls Royce was often the King of Goldberg. Somehow they thought that combining the brake system and the suspension using patents from Citroen would really work. This is why a brake job on a 70s Rolls costs $8,000, for openers.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,610
    ...what car was the first to offer them, anyway? I know Chrysler had the Edsel beat by a year, as all 1957 Mopars equipped with an automatic transmission had a pushbutton selector. I don't think Chrysler was the first though. Didn't one of the independents, like Packard or somebody, also have pushbuttons?
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Didn't Riley have some kind of toggle set-up for its "pre-selector"?
  • fezofezo Member Posts: 10,384
    I know Rambler tried them for a bit.

    Didn't some Chryslers have them in 56?

    I always thought they should put them in PT Cruisers. I mean if you get a manual Cruiser it has the neat cue ball shifter but if you get an automatic it has a generic Chrysler shifter. Clearly they need pushbuttons!
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    Packard had a pushbutton transmission in 1956 called the Ultramatic. It was, however, a very unreliable transmission and a lot of people replaced them with Chrysler Torqueflites. Mercury also had a pushbutton transmission in 1957.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    Was the first year for Chryslers to use push botton drive. I remember in '55, the shift lever stuck straight out of the dash.

    Corvairs did the same thing.
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    The new Toyota Prius has the shift lever sticking out of the dashboard like the old Mopar products.
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    Didn't the Cord 810/812 have some kind of electric shifting mechanism on a manual trans?
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,610
    Did they have a lockout feature to prevent you from accidentally putting the car into reverse when you're going forward, or selecting a low gear at too high of a speed?

    I know on the Mopar pushbuttons, at least the Torqueflite for 1957, if you pressed reverse at any forward speed over 10 mph, it would just go into neutral. And if you pressed "1" or "2" at too high of a speed, it wouldn't downshift until it was safe. I forget the actual speed thresholds, though. I'm not sure, but I think if you start off with "2" selected instead of "D", once it gets to a certain speed it'll upshift anyway. At least, from reading the service manual I got for Christmas, that was the jist I got.

    I was just wondering if Mercury and Edsel had any safeguards like that built in for their pushbuttons. I guess it's harder to accidentally put a column shifter into the wrong gear, but I could see how easy it would be pressing the wrong button on a dashboard!
  • crossedrealitycrossedreality Member Posts: 72
    Not that I wouldn't love to see what would happen if you threw something into reverse at full throttle/80 mph. Wouldn't want to be in it though.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,610
    ...but one day I watched in horror as my Dart got put into "Park" at about 35-40 mph. I had just had a lot of work done to it, and let one of my friends, who is a big Mopar fan, take it for a spin. Well, the original owner of the car did not have a left arm, so the turn signal stalk was rigged to be operated with your right hand. It was still mounted on the left side, but, through a series or right angles, bent around under the column and was mounted about where the column shifter is. Needless to say, my friend tried to signal left with the gearshift!

    That was about 80,000 miles ago, so I guess no permanent damage was done! Not that I'm going to try it, but I wonder what the highest speed is that you could "park" a car without destroying the tranny. Oh, and since then, I've replaced the turn signal stalk with a normal one, so hopefully I won't get a repeat performance!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    We could talk about Cord in another discussion, but let's try to stick to Edsels here.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,610
    ...did the Edsels still use a pushbutton tranny for '59-60, or did they go to a column shifter?
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Member Posts: 219
    Their push button transmission lasted just one year. I always thought it was kind of cool, but apparently it was a real weak point from the very beginning. I recall reading where some priest or something was honored with a new Edsel and the transmission failed in a spectacular way (catching fire) on his way home.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    If the Edsel was first prize I wonder what the runner-up got. A Renault Dauphine?
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Member Posts: 219
    He must have gotten two Edsels.
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    ...had the pushbutton transmission's wires mounted too close to the exhaust manifold. That caused a lot of transmission failures and probably explains what happened to the priest's car.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Sounds like the priest took a bribe...maybe he had it coming :)
  • bob0527bob0527 Member Posts: 1
    For what its worth,my dad bought one of the first 58's made and I got it in 62.when I got rid of it there were 132,000 miles on the clock and the only problem we had was a problem with the self adjusting brakes. Which by the way was an innovation on that car. great ride,handling and one of the fastest cars in the neighborhood to boot.Miss that car!!
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    Even a broken clock is right twice a day! Sounds like you got one of those 2....
  • crossedrealitycrossedreality Member Posts: 72
    It's worth noting that only works on analog clock systems. Modern technology has rendered broken clocks completely useless.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    yes, but some day technology will fix that!
  • jpstaxjpstax Member Posts: 250
    My wife's father bought a '59 Edsel Ranger. She remembers the engine was at least 400 cubes, and it was fast. Does anyone know of a website that is devoted to the Ford Edsel? She would love to see pics of the exterior, interior, and engines.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Tell her to go to the search engine www.google.com, and then click on the "image" search and then type in the year and model of Edsel she would like to see.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    The '59 Ranger came standard with a 200-hp 292. Optional was the 223 six, 332 V8 and 361 V8, the last with 303 hp. The 332 and 361 were early versions of the 352/390.

    In '58 the Ranger's only engine choice was the 361/303. The more expensive Citation and Corsair had the 410, a version of the Lincoln 430, with 345 hp.
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