Ford Motor Company's 1959 Edsel line of cars were centered around the Corsair, Ranger and wagons.
The year 1959 was the second of three years for the Edsel line. All Edsel's were built at either Ford or Mercury plants. There never were dedicated Edsel factories. This fact in itself caused some concern at the plants since every so often when an Edsel rolled down the line things like trim, wiring , etc had to be switched.
The beautifully restored car shown in this article is the 1959 Edsel Corsair Convertible. There was a bit of restyling from the 1958 models. Most of this involved a more unified grille, restyled taillights and a redesign of the side trim. Many said that the 59's were a bit more chromier than the 58 models.
A Car Named After Edsel Ford
The Edsel line of cars from 1958 to 1960 were named after Edsel Ford. Many will remember two things about Edsel Ford. One was that he prodded his father, Henry Ford, to make changes and modernization updates to his automobiles, often after quite a struggle. The senior Ford had a reputation of resisting change, even after smart competitive changes were already in place at his competitors. The hydraulic braking system is just one example. Edsel Ford is credited with pushing modernization at Ford Motor after becoming president of the company. Some might say that without Edsel's insistence on more modernization Ford Motor Company may have fell prey to General Motors or Chrysler.
The second thing people may remember about Edsel Ford was his premature death in May 1943 at the age of 49. Ford died after contracting a fever after stomach cancer surgery,
The Short Life of the Edsel
In many ways the failure of the Edsel line has been overdone. Most point out that any new car line which had a life span of only three years was nothing short of a disaster. Financially it was a sort of disaster for Ford since they reportedly invested some $250 million in the car. This was $250 million in 1958 money. Many say that the failure of Edsel almost bankrupted Ford.
So what happened with the Edsel? The target buyer for the car according to Ford Motor was the young professional who may have outgrown the regular Ford line but not enough so to be able to get into a Mercury. The plan was that the Edsel would keep them in a Ford built vehicle while they waited for the money to be able to purchase a higher end Mercury and thus keeping from losing them to Chrysler or General Motors in the meantime. Doesn't sound like a bad plan.
Ford Motor Company spent a great deal of money on marketing research before designing the Edsel. The feedback received from the target buyer group essentially said that they wanted something aviation looking which was in vogue during the mid 50's. They also desired a hood and grille that brought back images of pre World War Two automobiles.
1959 Edsel Specs
The 1959 Edsel had a length of 210.9 inches. The wheelbase was 120.0 inches. The vehicles weight was about 3,700 lbs and the new car price was between $2,800 and $3,100. The costliest model in the line was the Corsair Convertible like the one shown here at about $3,100.
Standard in the 1959 Edsel Corsairs were Ford's 332 cid V-8 engine. Optional was the 361 cid.
To give you an idea of Edsel car production figures, during the 1958 model year, which was Edsel's first, there were a total of a little over 60,000 units built. A total of about 2,800 units were convertibles. These were Pacer and Citation convertibles. During the 1959 model year, Ford built a total of 47,300 Edsels out of which about 1,300 were Corsair Convertibles. This of course makes the 1959 Edsel Corsair Convertible a rare find today. During the 1960 model year, Edsel's last, the company built only about 2,800 Edsel units with about 75 of them being convertibles. So ends the story of the Edsel line of automobiles.
(Photos from author's private collection)