Easy Project: 1958 Edsel Corsair

It seems that time heals all wounds. If we review the entire history of American automobile manufacturing, the title of “The King of Failures” would almost certainly fall to the Edsel. This was a venture that tore up millions of dollars, destroyed reputations, and left a bitter taste in the mouths of Ford management for years after the brand’s demise. Today, the Edsel has become something of a cult classic, and good examples can be highly sought. This 1958 Edsel Corsair is a really nice one and could look great parked in your driveway. It is located in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. The BIN price has been set at a very competitive $12,500, but there is also the option to make an offer. I need to say a big thank you to Barn Finder local_sheriff for referring the Edsel through to us.

In reality, there was no single reason why the Edsel was a failure but changed circumstances and bad decisions would feature prominently on the list. The reality was that the Edsel was not the all-new car that Ford claimed, while it was released during an economic slump. Quality control was a lucky-dip, and this was due to one of those really bad management decisions that demonstrate better than most why the car was a failure. Edsel did not have its own manufacturing facility, with the cars rolling off the production lines of both Ford and Mercury. That’s where the rub was. Ford made the decision that Edsel production should not impact on build totals for either Ford or Mercury vehicles, so these extra cars would need to be fitted into existing production schedules. As a result, prior to the introduction of the Edsel, Ford was sending around 60-cars-per-hour down their lines. The Edsel would become the 61st car per hour, and it wasn’t just the reduced build time per car that hurt quality. Many of the build stations would have to change tools and pick parts from different bins for the automotive orphan. This meant that some parts were attached badly, while some weren’t attached at all. It was this lack of quality that really did major damage to Edsel’s reputation. It isn’t an issue today, because these problems are easy to address during the restoration process.

This Corsair wears a color combination of Turquoise and Frost White. It is believed that the car has received a repaint at some point in its life. It now shows a few chips and marks, but it remains quite presentable. The car has a reasonable coating of dust at present, so it would be interesting to see how the paint, along with the trim and chrome, would present after a wash and polish. The tinted glass looks to be in good condition, as does the distinctive horse-collar grille. Even though they aren’t currently attached, the Edsel does come with a full set of hubcaps, along with a set of rear fender skirts. There is no visible rust, and the owner says that he has been over the car from one end to the other with a magnet, and can find no issues. The floors are said to be solid, while the frame has been fully restored and painted.

Standard fare with the Edsel Corsair was the E475 V8 engine, which is what you find in the engine bay today. This 410ci giant pumps out 345hp, which is sent to the rear wheels via a 3-speed automatic transmission. The car also features power steering and power brakes. The owner states that the engine received a rebuild prior to him purchasing it, but he has still undertaken additional work while the car has been in his possession. This included a new sender unit in the fuel tank, while the brakes and carburetor have both been treated to a rebuild. The owner says that the car sounds nice through its dual exhaust, and that it drives very well.

If there is a highlight with the Edsel, then it is definitely the interior. The seats have been treated to new covers, and plastic covers have been fitted over these for protection. The floors wear new carpet, while the trunk has also been given a refresh. There are few detail items that will need to be attended to such as a crooked fuel gauge and loose wiring hanging from under the dash, but it is the sort of work that requires the outlaying of effort rather than dollars. The factory radio still holds pride of place in the dash, while the Edsel also features the rather cool Teletouch gear selection unit. This is said to work perfectly, which is a real relief. These can be troublesome at times, but there are services out there capable of addressing any issues or problems that may occur.

In spite of the excitement and hype that was generated by Ford in anticipation of the release of the Edsel, things didn’t go as planned. With the Corsair 2-Door Hardtop, only 3,632 cars rolled out of the showrooms in 1958, which was a long way short of what was needed for the whole program to break even. Yesterday’s failure is today’s “must-have,” and nice examples of the Corsair can command some pretty healthy sorts of prices. Looking this one over, it really needs someone who is willing to spend time getting the car’s details right. That would make it a pretty good Winter project car.

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Comments

  1. Kenbone

    Baby moons, fuzzy dice, dancing hawian girl and let it roll

    Like 13
    • Howard A Member

      Fender skirts, fake spots, twin antennas,( continental kit,,maybe) oh yeah, you know what I’m talkin’ about! We’re a vanishing breed, my friend.

      Like 10
      • Paolo

        Don’t forget the “Nixon’s The One!” bumper sticker.

    • Jay Morgan

      Forgot the Fox Tail !

  2. Mike

    Are we going to get that old chestnut here of a certain GM product biting into citrus?

    Like 3
    • TimS Member

      A Buick chewing on an orange? A Pontiac chomping into a grapefruit?

      Like 3
      • Mike

        No silly, a Lasalle nibbling on a kumquat.

        Like 2
  3. IkeyHeyman

    The story of the Edsel is one of the most interesting in American auto manufacturing history – Ford is lucky it didn’t bankrupt them, they ended up losing over $2 billion in today’s money.

    Like 3
  4. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    Looks like a great buy for the price. This is a very nice car with a stunning interior and the finish looks good on the outside as well. The motor has been rebuilt so it seems to be ready to enjoy needing only a good detailing in and out. Can’t see this one lasting for long, it seems like a bargain.

    Like 7
  5. Paolo

    Speaking of the assembly line problems, the Corsair and Citation were built on the Mercury lines which apparently had better build quality and ways to address problems on the line as well as better relations between management and labor. The Pacer and Ranger models really suffered from indifferent assembly quality due to the way the Edsels were jammed into the lines. Management and labor relations were contentious. Lee Iaccoca wrote about it and said it wasn’t uncommon for fistfights to break out during production meetings.
    The thing is that I think the Edsel as a joke has just about run it’s course. Those of us old enough to remember the birth of the Edsel and then the Tsunami of jokes that followed have codified the very word “Edsel” into a punchline. All we have to say is “Edsel” to get a chuckle from each other.
    Someone much younger will more likely see it for what it is, a flashy old car with quirky styling but not much different than other American cars of that era. There was a certain shame attached to the Edsel. When it proved to be a total flop Ford quickly moved to disavow any knowledge of it including destroying files, photos, models and anything else they could make disappear. Folks who bought them realized that Ford had stuck them with a Turd and now they had to face the public shaming of being one of those poor schmucks who bought an EDSEL! Haha! Loser! The context for the joke is fading away. MAD magazine helped boost the “Edsel” joke into popularity. It was the joke that just kept on giving and now MAD magazine itself is gone. Now it’s just another car and can live or die based on on its intrinsic value.
    If any.
    See? It still gets no respect.

    Like 14
    • JP

      I think its failure had more to do with the name than anything else. I mean, Edsel is probably the worst name for a car (or person) ever devised. If it had been called something cool I don’t think we’d be having this discussion, and no one would have even noticed the toilet seat grill. Well, maybe…

      Like 1
  6. Howard A Member

    What,,,a cool car. So much has been said about Edsels, it would be worth it to have just for that. I think the Edsel was a neat car, and I beg to differ, it was NOT like all the other late ’50’s cars, but folks today just won’t see it that way. A shame, the Edsel was too far out there. Compared to the offerings today, if any, wouldn’t it be refreshing to be able to have that kind of choice today? As far as whether is was a well built car, many of you that put the car down on that premise, certainly weren’t around back then. They all had problems. The steering wheel push buttons didn’t do well in the cold. Chrysler was no different with theirs. I remember many “new” cars, with the greasy mechanic leaning on that fender cover fixing something. How someone could say they had great luck with a Mercury, and another saying the Edsel was junk, is pure foolishness, underneath, it was the same car. You’d be the talk of the show, I mean, how many Cobra Jet Mustangs can you look at?

    Like 16
    • Mountainwoodie

      Get ’em HoA! :)

      By the way……..I always liked Edsels. Theres a guy in Imperial Beach, California with a bunch of ’em. When 12 grand is a “competitive” price……….I’m in trouble!

      Like 1
  7. JP

    Kinda wondering why, if the car has been gone over with a fine-toothed comb, the trunk lid alignment is so off. Makes one think it may have been hit in the rear and not repaired correctly. Of course it may just need adjustment, but still…

    Like 4
    • Paul

      That’s how they left the production line…accurate restoration! …..hence the failure.

      Like 2
  8. 38ChevyCoupeGuy

    My father tells a story about his uncle Richard who died in the early 70s,goes like this…. said he came home one evening to his wife was on the couch, not a stitch of threads to be seen, he said if he would have put a headlight on each thigh, it would have looked just like an Edsel front end. Hopefully you are chuckling right now, and story isn’t to violent for a mass of gearheads😁

    Like 5
    • Lynn Dockey Member

      I commented something similar but I guess I got deleted.

      Like 1
  9. al leonard

    You did your research Adam.. commendable job…this car was a victim of a bad economy but mainly Robert McNamara and his stable of “bean counters” killed the Edsel before it even rolled off the assembly line…The Louisville plant was where most were built..I had the pleasure of speaking with two elderly gentleman standing behind my Edsel at the St.Ignace Michigan car show a few years back….the fact that the Edsel was forced on the production line with Mercury’s and Lincoln’s upset the quota they were required to meet daily/weekly….the recession of ’58 didn’t help either…As the proud owner of 5 Edsels, 2 of which have since dissappeared over the Big Pond,these cars were ahead of their time…The 3 remaining in my fleet are a 19K mile “59 Corsair 2 dr HT, a “59 6 pass wagon and a “60 Ranger 2dr sedan….all beauties….Long live the Edsel!!! (would like to include pics but……….)

    Like 6
  10. Dale Watson

    I have a 59 convertible, it is a nice car use it a lot on tours , it is real Fordy just like all my other Fords

    Like 4
  11. Bob McK Member

    I really want this in my garage.

    Like 2
  12. David G

    Ditto that ‘al leonard’, nice work and kudos to Adam!

    As an owner/driver of 4 different examples of these Senior 58s, i’ve noticed the at-times shoddy-ish workmanship but indeed, the Mercury plants that built these Corsair/Citation Edsels were a bit more attentive to assembly details than the Ford plants building the Rangers, Pacers, Bermudas, Villagers, and Roundups. With the C/C cars’ higher price-point i guess this makes sense though. But still, assembly problems were a-plenty compared to other marques du jour, especially on the C/C cars built at the Wayne Michigan Mercury plant as was this one (Code “W” as third character in the VIN).
    For the highest-quality Corsairs/Citations possible for 58, look for one with a “J” as third character in the VIN since something special was going on at that brand new plant at Pico Rivera in the LA Basin since pride of workmanship is evidenced in their builds even today if one knows what to look for. Every one i’ve ever experienced has that ‘good one off the line’ feel and look to it.

    This car seems like a quite-decent example as 58 Corsair offerings go. (Color though is actually Spruce Green Metallic and Frost White. 58’s Turquoise color is much brighter than this shade and Turquoise exteriors would have the Turquoise fabric & *white* vinyl interiors most typically, not this one’s tri-tone green interior which would be preferred for the Spruce Green builds.)
    Love the tinted-glass option, not often seen on a Corsair! Price (to me) seems about right for a car of this (apparent) quality but i’d wanna visit it first to be sure…

    Like 2
  13. Del

    There was a big Recession in 1958 and I think this damaged Edsel sales more than all the bad build drivel. The 58 recession was felt for years.

    This is a wonderful example of a huge motor Edsel.

    Well worth the asking price

    Like 2
    • nlpnt

      Timing is everything in the auto business. The object lesson of the Edsel was that Ford spent an entire decade on the planning, mostly frittered away on marketing research, to come to market with the wrong car at the exact wrong time. Along the way the prelaunch ads promised something really different at a time when the public was clamoring for that only to produce a rebadged Ford (or Merc), a classic case of overpromising and underdelivering. It wasn’t just that it was a failure, it was a failure of what were then the best practices of modern management.

      If Ford had gotten an Edsel on the market in 1953 or 1955 it would’ve been a ringing success.

      Like 1
  14. Paolo

    “Their Aim Was True But The Target Moved.” is a quote I’ve heard about the Edsel.

    And…The Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi features an Edsel crashing through a wall, intended to symbolically represent US military failure in the Vietnam War. McNamara became the US Secretary for Defense after his career at Ford, and oversaw the escalation of the US military presence in Vietnam.

    No respect.

    Like 1
    • Paolo

      The Edsel at the Uncle Ho museum can be seen in a photo far back in one of the museum galleries, kinda hard to make out. The obvious next question is “How many Edsels are in Vietnam?”

      Like 1
  15. nlpnt

    Weirdly enough, Ford probably came closest to the Edsel’s goals during the PAG era; the Mazda 3 and 6 appealed to the Ranger/Pacer target demographic who wanted something just a bit more special and pricey (similar MSRPs but less cash on the hood) than the equivalent Ford, the Volvo line to the Corsair/Citation demo who wanted true but mass-market luxury without the baggage Lincoln/Mercury had at the time, and the Grand Marquis to the Edsel’s target *cohort*, the people who had been young up-and-comers back in the late ’50s.

  16. Bill W

    The comments on the production reasons for Edsel’s downfall are dead on the money!

    1958 was famous for one big reason – a recession! Sales of all manufacturers fell – 1958 Ford car production was down 42.6%, Ford Motor -39.4%, DeSoto -52.1%. Chrysler Corp -44.7%, and total industry was down 31.4%. So the odds of any auto maker building 60 cars an hour was slim to nill. Maybe 45 or 50 cars, but not 60.

    Well, maybe Rambler. They were the only firm that saw their sales, and thus production, rise.

    Sharing plants is was not unheard of in 1958. General Motors had seven plants that built Pontiac, Oldsmobiles and Buicks.

    As for home plant problems, that was another dead end story. Ask the average car owner what assembly plant their car was built and you would get a blank stare. The country perhaps but the location of the plant? Crickets. Same with “home plant”. “The plant has a home?” was one comment I got years ago.

    One car that never had a home plant was Mercury. Prior to 1949 Mercury cars were built at Ford plants. From 1949 to 1957 Mercury shared two assembly plants with Lincoln.

    It just seems writers are putting too much into why Edsel failed. But it is quite simple. The Edsel was put onto the market during a recession and into a price class that was suffering from falling sales. DeSoto was another that would suffer and die due to the recession. Dodge also went down hill, but that was more due to Dodge abandoning the middle price market than being a victim of the market.

    Like 2
  17. al leonard

    Spot on Bill..and yet the “58 Edsel had the second best intro sales rate ever of any car..in spite of the recession

    The 2 assembly line workers I talked to (see my blurb above) could have talked for hours- how I wish I had a tape recorder that day!!! They were actually there and could have provided me with so much first hand information…but hindsight is always 20/20… :(

    Like 2
  18. Beel

    About 1974, Mom and Dad took me to a stock car race and a demolition derby. An Edsel was in the derby. I was just a kid, but Dad pointed out to me the shame of putting that car in the derby. Regardless of snickers, that car didn’t deserve to be smashed in ignominy. I’ve never forgotten that.

    Like 2

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