• Feb 14th 2007 at 9:05AM
  • 19
Ah, the Edsel. A historical signpost warning against innovation for the sake of innovating. Of course, that wasn't the only reason for the car's birth. Ford perceived a hole in their offerings and decided to take Lincoln upmarket and offer a new model range as "step-up" cars from Ford. It sounds a little bit like the conundrum they find themselves in now, and why there's a refocusing going on over at Lincoln/Mercury. Ford's inability to develop and bring the car to market quickly also hurt the Edsel.

The economy was on the skids by the time the large, thirsty Edsels debuted with their thumping V8s. Consumers were shifting toward compact models, and Edsel was left holding the bag. Had the division come to market with the Comet they deveoped just before folding up their tent in 1960, it might have been a different story. As it was, the Comet went to Mercury and saw much success. The Edsel cars were filled with promise and unique touches, such as a geared center hub in the steering wheel, holding it stationary as the wheel turned, and an ignition interlock that locks the shifter in park until the key is turned, but it seems what really killed the car, besides the subjective issue of styling, was an overly exuberant pre-launch marketing campaign.

More commentary and a video after the jump.

They don't look so bad now, fifty years on, but they're certainly not posessed of the same grace as their peers. Styling was definitely an issue with consumers, who largely disliked the look. Build quality was poor to begin with, as well. Edsels rolled down the same lines as their Mercury and Ford cousins, but the cars were sufficiently different to cause the line workers confusion, which resulted in improper assembly or pieces being left out completely.

The advertising campaign leading up to the unveiling also led to public disappointment, and provides what's likely the greatest lesson to be learned from the Edsel story. The public had been led to believe that something truly new and revolutionary was coming, yet Edsel ended up just being tarted up Fords and Mercurys with high sticker prices. One must tread carefully when playing with customers expectations. The video serves to illustrate just how different the advertising world is today. This Edsel spot is not only far too long, the pace is way too slow. Then again, they weren't all hopped up on trans-fats and high fructose corn syrup back in the day, they just had to sit through these things at the drive-in before the Creature Double Feature.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      #9: The Edsel was named for the father of Henry Ford II, not the original Henry Ford. Edsel was the only child of the founder of Ford, and the father of Henry Ford II, William Clay,and Benton, all of who came to work for the company following their father and grandfather's deaths in 1943 and 1947 respectively. THAT is the correct history of where the name came from get YOUR facts straight.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Frank (#5) hit the nail on the head.

      another factor rarely mentioned is that many of the top 'powers that be' within Ford itself hated the Edsel, and plans to discontinue it were actually in the works even before it was introduced in the fall of 1957.

      in reality, they planned 1959 to be the final year, but made it thru 1960 to prevent lawsuits by dealers who dropped other profitable franchises to take the Edsel franchise.

      there were four Edsel models: Ranger, Pacer, Corsair, and Citation. the Ranger and Pacer were built in Ford factories, and the Corsair and Citation were built in Mercury factories. much is made of supposed "bad" Edsel quality; in reality, the quality was no worse than many cars of that day.

      for those who find the Edsel story fascinating, you should read "The Edsel Affair" by Gayle Warnock. he was Director of Publicity for Ford, and he gives an incredible inside perspective of what REALLY went on.

      • 8 Years Ago
      It's funny how the Edsel has become the poster child for misguided model launches when GM, Ford and Chrysler (and Mitsubishi and Kia and others) have generated collosal flops that weren't named after the CEO's son, but were just as profoundly bad.

      With the glut of new models flooding the market every year today, crappy new models are met with a resounding "meh" rather than a thud. The worst thing you can have is market and media apathy, like the Ford 500, Jeep Commander and Pontiac G6 have seen.

      Instead of the fans booing, today it's the equivalent of fans pulling out a newspaper or talking on the cell phone when a dud is introduced.

      The biggest irony I see is what hit me when I saw the photo at the top: The Edsel's face resembles another flop -- the Subaru B9 Tribeca. Meh.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Edsel gets a bad name like something was wrong with the car. Nothing was wrong, it was just a marketing error.
      The problem was it was basically the same car as a regular Ford. You could bolt an Edsel front end onto a 57 or 58 Ford. The same window post design gave it totally away. It was not even high end or higher tech except for the push button transmission controls in the steering column. So anyone with any smarts would rather buy the lower cost Ford and get the same car.
      • 8 Years Ago

      Edsel was the deceased beloved younger brother of Henry Ford, and the new car was named after him, not Henry's father.

      The car was one my dad briefly owned, but soon sold, not because it was a bad car, but because everyone at the steel factory where he worked laughed at the vagina front end. It was the styling that killed that car, and not the economy cars, which cam almost a full decade later.

      Doesn't anyone who didn't live in those times understand the real history? Where do you guys get your information? Sheesh.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Looks to me like the Subaru Tribeca has the same grille.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The Edsel was NOT little more than a Ford, as one or two posters here write. Yes, the bodies of the two cars are somewhat similar...to the extent that a Pontiac is "similar" to a same sized Chevrolet, but Edsel used engines that were not even offered (at least not in the same displacements/power ratings) in a Ford. Also the interiors of these cars differ somewhat, as is to be expected.

      I wasn't aware that Edsel "pioneered" the gearshift interlock, I'll bet that feature turned-off quite a few buyers. And I always wondered how Edsels could have steering wheel hub mounted automatic transmission selection if the "gearpad" rotated. As was pointed out: the center of the steering wheel remainded stationary. Didn't I read on here recently that some other manufacturer has incorporated this feature into it's latest show car? Citroen, maybe?
      • 8 Years Ago
      The Edsel failed because of its abysmal quality. My uncle had one for about 9 months. He put his foot on the front bumper once while talking to me about it. The entire assembly fell off onto the ground. Rust everywhere, and mechanical and electrical failures galore. Even worse junk than was typical of Ford in the 50's.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Wow I never knew the Edsel had so many cool features. I never thought the Edsel looked bad(though I wasn't even born during this time). I wouldn't mind finding one for myself to restore or such. This seemed to be a cool car.---Oh and Mr ed, the Japanese took over the rustbucket department. Ive seen many newer models..even Lexus models that have been hit and the paint chipped off. Guess what? Rusting!
      • 8 Years Ago
      The warning light for the cruise control is a feature the Germans are offering in their cars, the Edsel was the first to offer it in 1958, which is a shock to me. Its sad that the brand died, the cars according to this ad had some inovative features for its time, most cars today, don't offer what the Edsel had. At car shows they are a real treat to come across in a sea of muscle cars, hot rods and classics.
      • 8 Years Ago

      Henry Ford II took the Edsel failure personally because the car was named after his father Edsel Ford.
      • 8 Years Ago
      5 minute commercial, I almost fell asleep.
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