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The 1957 Ford Edsel

The Edsel Phenomenon The Edsel was sort of (by todays lingo) a "radical" automobile created out by Ford Motor Company between 1958 and 1960, more a marketing campaign than an automotive breakthrough, but many classic car afficianados beg to differ with such statements. The Edsel brand name, nevertheless, is infamous as one of the biggest bombs in the history of automobile marketing. The Edsel for 1958 was first introduced on "E Day" September 4, 1957, with a big money prime time promotion television special, The Edsel Show. That was not enough to change the opinion of the public who, for the most part, disdained the style. In addition, Ford claimed it was an entirely new kind of car. It was simply a cosmetic reshape of other pre-existing Ford car chassis. This film is a compilation on network TV promos for Edsels in 1957 and 1958. One of the voiceovers is the eloquence of then actor to be future U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

The Edsel From Time Magazine 1957: It's E-day, as Ford Motor Company introduces its newest make, the Edsel.

In an industry celebrated for its spectacular failures, the Edsel still takes the cake. Although as mechanically sound as other Ford products, the car was criticized from Day One for being too ugly, too expensive and vastly overhyped.

The 1958 Edsel was intended to be an intermediate-level brand, bridging the gap between the cheaper Fords and pricier Mercurys and Lincolns. The most-affordable Edsel (the Ranger) cost 70 bucks less than Ford's top-end Fairlane, while the most-expensive model (the Citation) cost more than a Mercury Montclair.

In the post-mortem that followed the Edsel's early demise, the faulty pricing structure was cited by Ford as a big reason the car failed. Sales weren't helped, either, by the fact that it rolled out of the plant at the beginning of a recession. But there was more.

The Edsel -- named for Edsel Ford, Henry Ford's son who died of cancer in 1943 -- was the subject of an intense marketing blitz while still on the drawing board. The company promised an eager public something revolutionary, carefully baited the hook, and then failed to deliver. The Edsel was just another sedan on the basic Ford chassis.

Well, maybe not just another sedan. The classic barfly standard that everyone is good looking at closing time isn't true in this case. The Edsel was butt-ugly, period. A half century later, it's still butt-ugly.

Almost immediately after E-day, the superhype that had generated so much anticipation boomeranged on Ford. Automotive writers roundly trashed the Edsel, going so far as to compare the oval-shaped vertical grille to the female sex organ -- racy stuff for 1957.

Henry Ford II, who had opposed naming the car after his late father, believing it to be undignified, was no doubt furious and mortified. Robert McNamara, soon to become U.S. secretary of defense in the Kennedy administration, was president of the Ford Motor Company at the time and realized instantly he had a lemon on his hands. (A few years later, he'd be a little slower to realize that he had even a bigger lemon on his hands in a place called Vietnam.)

During the Edsel's first year, 1958, four models were produced and barely more than 63,000 were sold in the United States. Sales dropped in 1959, even though Ford had cut back to just two models, and on Nov. 19, 1959, barely two years after E-day, the company threw in the towel on the Edsel.

In one of those little logic-defying ironies, the Edsel today is a prized collector's item, fetching as much as $200,000 for a rare 1960 convertible.


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10.12.2012 Walter Cooke, NV I had an Edsel back then for about five or six years. I thought the car was pretty good.

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