Classic Cars of the 50’s

There were some very beautiful cars made in the 50s and they deserve an entire page on this website. I must admit, I got a little carried away by the Edsel information I found.

FORD EDSEL

Pat Feeney’s dad owned a car lot and I carpooled with her. A few times she showed up in an Edsel and I believe one was a tri-tone, so I went on a quest to find out more about the Edsel and here is what I found.

THE THREE EDSEL YEARS

In 1956, Ford Motor Company realized that there was a void in their selections of mid-size automobiles. GM could keep Chevrolet owners in their fold by offering a path of advancement to Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac, while the Plymouth owner could move up to Dodge, De Soto, Chrysler and Imperial.  But Ford buyers were looking at Mercury, Lincoln and Continental. Ford needed a new car line between Ford and Mercury and thus, planned an entirely new car division and an entirely new car.  The design was to be completely unique – distinguishable from any angle. 

The 1958 Edsel came in two sizes, actually two distinctly different designs.  The “Senior” series cars are Citation and Corsair models, built on the large Mercury-based frame.  The “Junior” series cars are Rangers, Pacers and the station wagons, Bermuda, Villager and Roundup, built on the smaller Ford-based frame.

One talked-about feature was the “Teletouch” shifter, which controlled the automatic transmission selection electronically from push buttons in the center of the steering wheel hub.  (A series of planetary gears in the column kept the buttons stationary as the wheel turns.)  Many other Edsel-original ideas are still found on today’s cars.

The car was referred to as the “E” car (for Experimental) from its inception.  The name “Edsel” was bestowed by Special Products Division General Manager Richard Krafve, after reviewing a list of nearly 8,000 suggestions from their advertising firm, Ford employees, and even renowned poet Marianne Moore whose ideas turned out to be ridiculous.  Here is an article about her suggestions.

Some of the better suggestions include:

  • The Intelligent Whale
  • Mongoose Civique
  • Pluma Piluma
  • Anticipator
  • Regna Racer
  • The Silver Sword
  • Dearborn
  • Pastelogram
  • Magigravure
  • Utopian Turtletop
  • Turcotinga
  • Varsity Stroke
  • Fée Rapide
  • Bullett Lavolta

After a massive promotional campaign, which included multi-page “teaser” ads in major national magazines, some 2.5 million Americans poured into Edsel dealerships on “E-Day,” September 4, 1957.  But it was quickly apparent that few cars were actually being sold.  The public expectation was much higher than the car could live up to, and sales reflected the disappointment.

The name “Edsel” quickly became synonymous with “failure” even though many factors were involved. By the time the first Edsel hit the showroom, the country was in a recession. 1958 was probably the worst year since World War II to unveil a new car line. Car-buying habits had turned toward smaller and more fuel efficient cars.  Edsel’s styling was radical, and not to everyone’s liking. 

On the assembly line, Edsel was run between Fords or Mercurys, causing the assembler to have to interrupt his routine and sometimes forget to install some parts.  Other parts wouldn’t fit together correctly. Because of problems with suppliers, many of the early cars arrived at dealerships with parts missing. 

There was a long list of options buyers could select. Some cars arrived at the dealership with the extra parts in the trunk. Many dealers were poorly equipped to replace the parts or add-on accessories.  The Edsel was more expensive than other comparable cars, and the price of the loaded, top-of-the-line models that were first on the showroom floor scared many buyers.  There was no owner loyalty to count on.  And, finally, it had a strange name no one could relate to.

As more cars failed to sell, more dealers dropped their Edsel franchise.  The more dealers that folded, the more the public was afraid to buy the car. After three model years and just 110,847 Edsels later, Ford Motor Company threw in the towel. Today less than 6,000 Edsels survive, and each one is a cherished classic.  The 1958 Edsel advertising said it best – “Once you’ve seen it, you’ll never forget it.  Once you’ve owned it, you’ll never want to change.”


1958 Edsel Facts

Chief Designer: Roy A. Brown, Jr. Just before starting work on the Edsel, Mr. Brown completed the 1955 Lincoln “Futura” show car, which went on to become the “Batmobile” in the 1966 television series “Batman.”

The official first day of Edsel production was July 15, 1957.

1958 Edsel U.S. Manufacturing Plants (with dataplate code):

  • J – Los Angeles, CA (Citations and Corsairs)
  • S – Somerville, MA (Citations and Corsairs)
  • W – Wayne, MI (Citations and Corsairs)
  • E – Mahwah, NJ (6,200 Rangers, Pacers and wagons)
  • R – San Jose, CA (5,500 Rangers, Pacers and wagons)
  • U – Louisville, KY (33,000 Rangers, Pacers and wagons) – Louisville was still producing 1958 Edsels as late as August 29, 1958!

First year sales were projected to reach 200,000, but total production for all 1958 models was 63,107 units.

Unique Features
  • Floating speedometer that glows when a pre-set speed limit is exceeded.
  • Transmission that locks in park until ignition key is turned (new with Edsel – still used today)
  • Top portion of seats slant forward to provide shoulder support
  • Triple-thermostat cooling system (head/block/radiator) during warm-up for increased fuel economy & heater performance (E-475 engine).
  • Front-mounted distributor, coil, fuel pump, oil filter dipstick for easy access.
  • Hood hinged in the front for safety (Although this somewhat limits access to the aforementioned distributor, etc!)
  • Hood release controlled electronically, from inside the car.
  • Front seats split 60/40 for better driver comfort.
  • Self-adjusting brakes were a safe and convenient method of compensating for normal brake lining wear.  This mechanism has been used in drum brake systems ever since. (They were not, however, an Edsel invention as is commonly thought.  The same basic design was introduced on the 1948 Studebaker.)
  • A HUGE array of bells and whistles available as options, including seatbelts!
  • To boost sales, the Edsel Division ran a short-lived promotion where the new Edsel owner had a chance to win a live pony. Ponies in the car showrooms caused many problems.
  • The “horsecollar” grille was considered part of the bumper assembly. The center chrome section is officially known as the “impact ring.” It became the symbol of failure of this car. It has been compared to many things including lips sucking on a lemon and worse.
  • To make it seem even more powerful, the 1958 Edsel displays its torque rating (“400” and “475”) on the engine.  Traditionally it’s the cubic displacement or horsepower that’s advertised.
  • By 1957, not all states had accepted the use of “quad” headlamps. As a precaution, Edsel designers developed the front fender opening large enough to accommodate two 5.5 inch lenses OR a single seven-inch lamp.
  • The Villager station wagon was originally called the “Caravan.” There was even a production-ready script design.
  • The plastic hood ornament inserts had to be rationed, as employees were fond of sneaking them out of the assembly plants. Once on the car, the wind blew out many of them, until a redesigned retaining ring design was implemented.
  • Despite the extreme security surrounding the 1958 Edsel release on E-Day, September 4, 1957, a used car dealer in Cleveland somehow obtained and displayed an all-white Pacer convertible on his lot on September 2, 1957! 

Pictures of the ’58 models.

Pictures of the ’59 models.

Pictures of the ’60 models.

Slow beginning, but good demo of the Edsel’s classic details on a restored 1958 Ford Edsel. 

Specialty Edsels.
(Pretty sure none of you ever knew about these.)

The complete story of the Ford Edsel.

1959 Ford Edsel TV commercial. (The music and voice will remind you of the 50’s.)

1960 FORD EDSEL CONVERTIBLE

The most collectible 1960 Edsel model was the convertible which sold for $3,800. Only 76 models were produced for the consumer market making this the most popular of the 1960 Edsels among auto history enthusiasts.

file 20151228184325 rise fall 1960 Edsel Ford
1960 EDSEL CONVERTIBLE WITH HORIZONTAL GRILLE
For 1960, the upright central grille was replaced by a horizontal motif which was divided in the center, which almost looked like a 1959 Pontiac automobile by General Motors.

Controversy over the Edsel began before it was introduced to the public in Sept. of 1957. For many auto historians, the Edsel is looked upon as a failure. Consumers did not like the horse collar grille with the boomerang shape tail lamps and two-tone scalloped body side design.

1959 EDSEL RANGER
1958 FORD EDSEL ROUNDUP 2 DOOR STATION WAGON
RARE EXAMPLE OF TRI-TONE EDSEL
’58 EDSEL RANGER HARDTOP COUPE
TRI TONE EDSEL HARDTOP SEDAN
REAR VIEW OF TRI TONE EDSEL HARDTOP SEDAN
RARE EDSEL WAGON WITH TRI-TONE PAINT
Edsel offered a station wagon model called the Villager, with a low silhouette appearance that could provide room for six passengers. The total cost for the consumer model was $ 3,072. 

Exterior Colors

The 1958 Paint Codes are listed on the data plate in sets of three: the first is the main body color, the second is the roof color, and third is the rear scallop color. (Except for Citations and Corsairs built in Los Angeles, which have no scallop color listed in their color codes.) For convertibles, most Edsel color codes have a space in the middle position to indicate no paint. Citation convertibles built in Wayne, MI have the middle code set to the main body color code.

EDSEL COLOR CHARTS BY VEHICLE YEAR & MODEL

*A dozen Roundups were set aside as Edsel Service vehicles, and painted Edsel green and white. These were given paint code “SSS.” At least one early Pacer was found to have a paint code of “P” – primer!

Two-Tone
Two-Tone Paint option had either the body, roof or scallop painted a different color than the other sections.

Black with Red, Coral, Copper, Gold, White or Yellow
Silver with Red, Coral, White or Yellow
Red with Black, Gray or White
Turquoise with White
White with any color except Yellow
Powder Blue with White or Royal Blue
Horizon Blue with White
Royal Blue with White or Powder Blue
Ice Green with White or Spruce Green
Spring Green with White or Driftwood
Spruce Green with White or Ice Green
Brown with White, Driftwood or Yellow
Driftwood with White, Spring Green, Brown or Yellow
Yellow with Black, Gray, Brown, Driftwood or Coral
Coral with Black, Gray, White or Yellow
Chalk Pink with White or Brown
Copper with Black or White
Gold with Black or White

Exceptions by model:

  • Black/Red, Black/Yellow, Black/Coral, Gray/White, Gray/Yellow, Gray/Red, Gray/Coral, Blue/Blue, Green/Green, Yellow/Coral were not available on Bermuda.
  • Black/Coppper and Black/Gold were only available on Citation and Corsair.
  • Turquoise/White was not available on Villager/Roundup wagons or Ranger/Pacer sedans.
  • Gray/Red was not available on Bermuda or Pacer sedans.
  • Coral/White was only available on Bermuda and Pacer sedans.
  • Brown/Yellow was not available on Bermuda or Pacer convertibles.

Tri-Tone

Pacer hardtop
CAE – Red body, Black roof, White scallop
DAE – Turquoise body, Black roof, White scallop
QER – Yellow body, White roof, Coral scallop (Discontinued in 1957)
RAE – Coral body, Black roof, White scallop

Citation and Corsair hardtops
CEB – Red body, White roof, Silver scallop
DEA – Turquoise body, White roof, Black scallop
UAE – Copper body, Black roof, White scallop
XEA – Gold body, White roof, Black scallop
TEM – Pink body, White roof, Brown scallop (Not available on Corsair)

Other Unique Cars from the 50’s

REAR OF ’58 PACKARD HAWK COUPE
Polarizing Packard – 1958 Packard Hawk | Hemmings
58 PACKARD COUPE
’58 PACKARD HAWK COUPE
’50 PONTIAC CHIEFTAIN