Featured is a 1958 Edsel Corsair Hardtop. The year 1958 was the first of three years for the Edsel line of automobiles. All Edsel’s were built at either Ford or Mercury plants. There were no Edsel only factories. This fact actually caused some slowing of production as well as other problems since  when an Edsel came down the assembly line things like trim, wiring ,etc had to be switched.

1958 edsel corsair
1958 Edsel Corsair

The Edsel line of cars from 1958 to 1960 were named after Edsel Ford.Henry Ford’s son, Edsel, was a positive factor in the Ford Motor Company’s evolution. Edsel was the one who often urged his father to make needed changes to keep up with competitors, namely General Motors.

The senior Ford was reluctant to make changes such as the switch from mechanical to hydraulic braking. Without the influence of Edsel Ford, the company could have faced serious problems. Unfortunately, Edsel Ford died in May 1943 at the age of 49. the younger Ford died after contracting a fever after stomach cancer surgery.

The 1958 Edsel

Large automobile manufacturers like Ford, Chrysler and GM require a line of cars where a buyer can step up to a higher priced model without leaving the brand. They want to keep their current customers in the fold while trying to add new ones. That is how the Edsel automobile came to be. Ford felt there was a void in their mid level offerings that needed to be addressed.

The 1958 Edsel Corsair and Citation models were built on the large Mercury frame. Other 1958 Edsel models such as the Pacer, Ranger and Wagons were built on the smaller Ford frames.

edsel specificationsEdsel’s Disappointing Sales and Production Problems

The 1958 Edsels went on sale in September 1957 and were backed with a very large advertising campaign. Edsel’s promotional campaign included ads that created an air of expectation like never before for a new car. When the car debuted customer traffic was good but somehow the sales were not quite as good. There were reasons for this.

One major reason was timing. The country experienced a recession in 1958. Unveiling an entirely new line of automobiles during an economic recession is problematic. All major automakers suffered significant sales declines in 1958 and the new Edsel was no exception

In addition to that, Edsel production, as mentioned above, took place in both Ford and Mercury plants. This turned out to be a major snafu. There was reported to be some confusion by mixing up the two car lines where parts were actually left off some vehicles. There were also reports of parts not fitting properly and problems with obtaining parts from suppliers.

As this wasn’t t enough to sink a new brand, the first Edsels on display at dealer showrooms were the higher end, more expensive models, which wasn’t what the public was looking for at that time. And some actually  thought the new car carried a funny name to boot. Add to that a new brand which did not have past buyer loyalty and a design which looked very different and you might understand buyer reluctance.

The bottom line is that the failure of the Edsel line could very well have been primarily in the failure of management to lay out a satisfactory production and supply method along with Edsel’s introduction during an economic recession rather than the engineering and design of the vehicle itself. If built properly the Edsel was a sound vehicle.

1958 Edsel Innovations

If you set aside all of the production and supplier problems plus the car’s name as outlined above, the Edsel automobile did offer some real innovations.

Some of these included an electronic hood release from inside the car. A speedometer that glowed when a preset speed was achieved. Front seats that were divided 60/40 so the driver had more comfort and room. There was also an option for seat belts at an additional cost. Parts like the distributor, oil dip stick and fuel pump were placed in the front area of the engine bay for better access.

1958 Edsel Corsair Specifications

The engine for the 1958 Edsel Corsair is a 410 cubic inch V-8 putting out 345 HP.

Transmission is a 3 speed automatic with push-button Teletouch Drive. The Teletouch system was removed for the 1959 model year to cut down on costs.

Brakes are four wheel self adjusting hydraulic drums.

Front suspension consists of independent ball joint with coil springs..rear is Hotchkiss. Upper and lower trailing arms that work together to positively locate and control the rear axle.

edsel car historyTotal Edsel production for the 1958 model year was 63,110 units. Out of that total 19,300 were Corsairs. Corsair Hardtop Coupes totaled 3,312 units.

Dimensions included a wheelbase of 124.0 inches..overall length 218.8 inches..width 79.8 inches..height 56.8 inches.  Curb weight is 4,230 lbs.

Additional Auto Museum Online articles are found on the links below…

1958 Cadillac Convertible

1959 Edsel Corsair Convertible

Reference material for this article includes.. Henry and Edsel : The Creation of the Ford Empire by author Richard Bak…1958 Edsel Sales BrochuresDisaster in Dearborn: The Story of the Edsel by Thomas E. Bonsall.

The Edsel Collector Car

The first thing to recognize is that the Edsel line of automobiles lasted for only three model years, 1958 through 1960. This means not a great many vehicles were built. The total number over the three years was about 110,000 units.

1958 edsel photosThe current valuation for Edsels covers a wide range. There are Edsels for sale that are everything from barn finds that may need complete restoration to showroom quality restorations.

Because of this you will see a range from $5,000 to $90,000. Obviously a wide price range. The Corsairs were a top of the line model but you might actually see these in the $40,000 to $50,000 range in showroom condition.

(Article and photos copyright Auto Museum Online)