History of Famous Automobiles The Edsel Part 2

About the history of the famous or infamous Ford Edsel remembered as one of the worst cars made.


THE EDSEL (1958-1959)

There were also an abnormal number of engineering bugs. In many early Edsels, gears were noisy, pumps leaked, brakes failed, push buttons stopped working, hoods stuck, transmissions froze, paint peeled, hubcaps fell off, batteries died, doors refused to stay closed, heaters worked only in summer--and on and on. Most of the problems were later corrected, but by then it was far too late.

The Edsel quickly became an expensive joke. Comedians likened its grille to a horse collar, an egg, Bugs Bunny, and a toilet seat. A standard laugh-getter was "What can you expect? He bought an Edsel!" Consumer Report said its gadgets "will certainly please anyone who confuses gadgetry with true luxury," and called its instrument panel "a mismanaged dilly." The dealers--each of whom had shelled out $100,000 to sell Edsels--dropped like flies. The man who held New York's franchise announced, "The Ford Motor Company has laid an egg," and promptly became a Rambler dealer. Many others, not so lucky or wise, simply went bank-rupt.

After a year of failure, Ford tried to save the Edsel with $20 million worth of advertising. The company also scrapped two of four lines (Citation and Pacer) and redesigned the other two (Ranger and Corsair) as low- to low-medium-priced cars. By then, even Consumer Report reported the Edsel to be "a quite satisfactory, in some ways even likeable car. . . ." The Edsel had become a bargain, but to Ford it was still a white elephant. One problem was that the Edsel was competing in price with Ford's own Fairlane, a situation Ford had hoped the Edsel would eliminate. The factory, trapped by the production process, kept stamping out thousands of cars hardly anyone wanted.

The bell finally tolled for the Edsel in November, 1959, almost exactly two wretched years after its birth. The factory had produced 110,000 cars, most of which were unsold. The company lost around $250 million, shrugged its corporate shoulders, swallowed its amalgamated pride, fired the appropriate people, and turned to the new compact Ford Falcon to try to recoup the loss. The Edsel had died, 16 years after the man it was named for.

The Edsel is gone but not forgotten. Like the Henry J., the Packard, the Kaiser, and others, Edsels are still being sold or traded by car buffs, as curiosities or classics.

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