Parked in 1992: 1958 Edsel Ranger 2-Door Hardtop

When the Ford Motor Company became a publicly listed company with the first sale of shares on the 18th of January 1956, many small investors jumped on board for what they believed was going to be a journey into easy earnings. That over the next 4-years, the company managed to lose a sum of money equivalent in today’s terms to $3 billion in a failed program was a bitter pill for many of these investors to swallow. The program was the “E Car” program, and it delivered to the world the Edsel. The failure of the Edsel has become the stuff of legend, but while it was unloved when it was new, the Edsel has now developed something of a cult following. This 1958 Edsel Ranger Hardtop has just been listed for sale here on eBay. Barn Finder Rocco B referred the car to us, so thank you for that Rocco. The Edsel is located in South San Francisco, California, and bidding has actually been a bit subdued. It has seen the price rise to $3,510, but the reserve hasn’t been met. There is also a BIN option available at $9,500.

The failure of the Edsel has been attributed to a number of factors, and high on the list has always been the vehicle’s styling. Having read a significant amount of information about the history of the Edsel over the years, this failure cannot be laid fairly and squarely at the feet of the styling department. According to those within the company at the time, the original styling of the car was quite elegant and would have been almost universally accepted by the buying public. Ongoing interference by staff from the accounting department, engineering, and more notably, from upper management, eventually led to a disjointed appearance that didn’t receive any real public acceptance. This Ranger would have been the entry-level vehicle in 1958. It looks to be in fairly reasonable condition. The only obvious rust is a small spot in the lower fenders on both sides. Apart from a ding in the lower quarter on the driver’s side, the rest of the car looks like it is in good condition. The owner says that the floors of the Edsel are solid, with only minor oxidization.

It is under the hood where things get a touch confusing with this Edsel. The owner initially says that the car is numbers-matching, but then seems doubtful about this fact. Whether it is or isn’t, what we get is the 361ci “E400” V8 engine, backed by a 3-speed manual transmission. This is an engine that produces 303hp, and as the name implies, 400ft/lb of torque. The bad news here is the fact that not only doesn’t the engine run, but it is actually seized. It isn’t clear whether any attempt has been made to free the engine, but if it is original, then hopefully it will be possible to do this. When considering the failure of the Edsel, another area that is often pinpointed for criticism is mechanical reliability and quality control. Once again, this is an issue where the blame can be placed fairly and squarely upon the shoulders of Ford management. With no dedicated plant on which to produce the Edsel, Ford management chose to run the Edsel down the production line with the rest of the Ford products at the time. To simplify what actually occurred, Ford was producing 60 cars per hour, and Edsel were treated as an outside company who contracted Ford to produce its vehicles. The build rate for the Edsel was set at a ratio of one Edsel per hour, but instead of reducing the Ford vehicle production by one car per hour to accommodate the Edsel, this car became the 61st car per hour to roll off the line. It meant that not only did workers have to complete their assigned tasks faster, but they often had to change tools and dip into different parts bins to allow for the different components that were used for the Edsel. That combination resulted in sloppy workmanship and the poor quality of the end product. Many within the industry believe that this could have been avoided if Ford had either chosen to build one less car per hour or if they had chosen to have dedicated shifts within the plant to produce nothing but the Edsel.

Another area where the Edsel broke new ground was in the area of interior design and ergonomics. Some of their ideas were more successful than others. Being fitted with a manual transmission, our feature car is not fitted with the “Teletouch” gear selection system. This feature was prone to reliability issues, so was dropped by the company after one year of production. The rolling dome speedometer was welcomed by motoring writers, who said that it was clear and easy to read. Unfortunately, during development it was found to be unsteady in its movement, so it was engineered with additional stabilizing weights. While this cured the inherent unsteadiness, it also made the dome slow to respond to speed variations. More successful was the design of the switches and controls, which is one area where the Edsel received universal praise. The interior of this Ranger is in overall quite reasonable condition. The carpet in the front is quite jarring, and the sooner that went, the better. The rest of the trim is in really good condition, and the headliner looks really nice. One bonus is the fact that the car is fitted with the optional factory radio. The owner says that all of the interior components such as the radio and lighter work perfectly.

The Edsel is an interesting car for a number of reasons, and one of those is that it is more popular today than it was when it was new. It is a car that should have been a sales success, but many factors converged, resulting in a car that was a dismal failure. As has been the fate of so many marketing failures, many of the early Edsels found themselves being driven into the ground and eventually finding their way to the crusher. This car has managed to avoid that fate, and if I were a betting man, I would be willing to bet that in the very near future it will find its way back onto our roads.

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Comments

  1. Big_Fun Member

    Wonderful article! Facts that I never knew on the back story of the Edsel. Very clean and concise, woven into the information of the car for sale. I learned a lot on the subject. Thanks again, Adam…

    Like 15
  2. Howard A Member

    Growing up in Milwaukee, I’ve always rooted for the underdog. I’ve always liked the Edsel, from a styling point of view, although, I’ve never actually ridden in one. The Edsel had features not many others had. It was if they pulled out all the stops,,, for nothing. Silly consumers, the Edsel was one of the best offerings in the late 50’s. I thought the Edsel was, and still is, a cool car.

    Like 9
  3. Rocco B.

    Nice write up Adam. I never look at eBay listings. They are too small to read on my phone. Here is the tip that I sent in from Craigslist.
    https://sfbay.craigslist.org/pen/cto/d/south-san-francisco-1958-edsel-ranger/6888964388.html
    Looks like the seller has dropped his price.

    Like 3
    • CJinSD

      Can a survivor have a seized engine?

  4. Coventrycat

    I don’t think the styling was that bad, and I always wondered if that was a Packard with their upright grill on the front instead of a horse collar how things might have turned out.

    Like 1
    • Ed P

      Packard tried to buy Ford/Mercury bodies for a 57 model year car. Ford wasn’t interested.

      Like 1
  5. norm bissonnette

    I thought this Edsel was the best one . It was based on the lighter Ford Fairlane body-shell yet , with that E-400 engine and a manual transmission , these cars pulled like a freight train ( some police forces had them ) . Fast cars !

    Like 5
  6. Bob C.

    It seems the 1959 models were more plentiful and still are. The 1960s were pretty much a cleverly disguised Ford Fairlane. They also began sharing power plants with Fords in those years, like the 292, 332, and 352. Even the 223 six.

    Like 2
  7. Greg Yancey

    My 11 year old self loved the Edsel when I first read about it in Mechanix Illustrated magazine. Auto tester Tom McCahill etched the perfect description in my memory when he said the front end styling looked like a ‘Mercury sucking a lemon.’ How could I not love it after that?

    Like 5
    • hsche

      Nice write up. I was little when they came out. The Edsel was my favorite car in 58.

  8. Will Fox

    I had an ‘unusual’ childhood, in that in the mid 60’s, I discovered the Edsel at a young age, and it quickly became a fascination for me. A Champlin gas station near home had a near mint `58 Pacer 2dr. hardtop parked on the side; salmon and grey two-tone with matching interior. I oggled that car for a couple years; the station owner thought I was peculiar–as an 8 yr old perhaps I was. It was his car, and he told me he stopped driving it in `62. He got constant ribbing by friends, and the trade-in value had tanked, even with low mileage. So there it sat, with 23K miles on it and the original BF Goodrich whitewalls it left the factory with. Then one day when I was not quite 11, the station was being sold and “my” Edsel went down Dodge street on a hook to parts unknown; probably a scrap yard. I was crushed. I was on my bike as it got hauled away. I actually got a lump in my throat seeing go away. Mom said I moped for 3 weeks. It was as if a first girlfriend moved away. And hit me just as hard.

    Like 15
  9. George R

    I had a 58 Corsair 4 dr hard top, with the E475 engine. 410 cubes. Not an FE engine. The combustion chamber was in the block. If I remember correctly, the 475 ft pounds of torque with a 4500 pound car coupled to a 2.73 rear end resulted in numerous u-joint replacement and transmission repairs. Sold it in 1965. Before that I bought another 58 Edsel from a Ford dealer for $50. Parts is parts. Still have the bill of sale and VIN tag from that one. And an original Edsel owners card, and a shop manual.

    Like 3
  10. John S

    The Edsel was, in many ways, advanced for it’s time. It had a lot of interesting features that made it stand out… but it was rather homely. I’ve always thought that it’s styling was a failed attempt of copying the 40s’ Packard design with the vertical/horizontal grille thing… Packard made it look good… Ford, on the other hand, did not. The negative press, (“looks like it’s sucking on a lemon…”) coupled with the public’s lemming-like mentality to go with the crowd and agree with what the news papers said sealed the fate of an otherwise fine car. Edsel Ford and his design staff came out with some beautiful looking automobiles previously… wonder what made him decide that this design was good?

    Like 2
  11. Pete Phillips

    Standard shift in a 1958 Edsel is very, very rare!

    Like 2
    • Russ Emmons

      I have a 58 Edsel station wagon with standard shift & the optional Overdrive unit. It is a “Roundup” 2 dr. model one of the rarest of Edsel models. It is now a work in progress–hasn’t been run in years–can hardly wait!

      Once saw a 58 in a car lot with automatic column shift just as the 58 Fords were—-This option was even more rare then the standard shift.

      Like 1
  12. Cadmanls Member

    Don’t want to upset anyone but when I was still peddling two wheels and building models. I think it was an AMT of a 58 or 59 and one option was a gasser form of the car, straight front axle,etc…Turned out great! This could be a great car to build it, big block Ford 4 speed fill the rear wheel wells, oh my. Never have seen one but model looked great!

    Like 3
  13. RNR

    In the fall of 1971 I was a senior in high school and the north side of Main Street was being demolished in the name of Urban Renewal (a better name would be “Urban Removal”). There in the middle of a newly razed commercial block was a rundown house with an unregisterd ’58 Edsel next to it. I rode my bike to City Hall and asked the Urban Renewal director about the car – he said he just got off the phone with its owner, and told me he gave him a week to get the car off the property before the dozers came. I pedaled over to inspect the car, a Pacer two door, blue with white coves and roof, automatic with a serviceable interior. It was in much better shape than most 13 year old cars in Western New York, though its left rear quarter sported quite a bit of hammer and dolly work that needed finishing. The owner came out and said he’d take $50; my parents were surprisingly not appalled at the notion, but I had only $65 in the bank. I passed. Soon the Edsel and house gave way to the Jefferson Plaza Project, and I still think about the first “one that got away”

    Like 5
    • Pookie Jamie

      RN. I’m from buffalo. I know the area all too well. I hailed from Cheektavegas.. Harlem Rd and Central to be exact. My grandparents owned a bar there in 71. I was just being born. Nice to hear about my stomping grounds….

      Like 2
  14. scottymac

    Greg Yancey: Believe Uncle Tom’s quote was Oldsmobile sucking a lemon –
    https://rmsothebys-cache.azureedge.net/7/f/6/c/a/f/7f6cafd6e794173a6afa40fa78da761c1fd504b1.jpg

    John S: Edsel died in 1943, so had no voice in styling the car that bore his name.

    Adam Clarke: Recession, recession, recession. Auto sales tanked, almost 2 million less sales in 1958, versus 1957. Couldn’t have been a much worse time for an unknown car brand to debut. Ford’s advertising didn’t help – “It gave customers the expectation that they were going to get an irresistible car of the future.” Richard Feloni, writing “4 lessons from the failure of the Ford Edsel”

    Like 5
    • Adam Clarke Staff

      Scottymac, I definitely agree with you on the issues surrounding the recession, and the impact that this had on the Edsel. One interesting side-note that I didn’t mention in the article was about Robert McNamara and his role in the Edsel story.

      McNamara was a fiscal conservative, and he was totally opposed to the program from day one. He actually said that it was a bad plan, but his view could not gain traction amongst the rest of the Ford management team (who almost all admitted as much later). When it became obvious in late 1958 that the Edsel was a failure, he strongly advocated for the company to focus on two ideas. The first of these was to swing its weight behind the Falcon. The second, in his own words, was to “put an extra $200 worth of value into the Fairlane.” Ford eventually adopted both of these proposals, and both were successful. That Ford eventually would lose McNamara to the Kennedy Administration was a shame, because he had a vision that would almost certainly have seen Ford products out-sell GM. He cited many different reasons why he chose to leave, but my favorite quote from him was, “If you are going to get caught up in political fighting, you’re better off to do it in Washington than in the Ford Motor Company.”

      Like 3
  15. Dani Smartt

    Guess it is time for me to take a drive to the Oregon Coast and see if that Edsel bone yard is still there.

    Haven’t been that way in about 7 years.

    It had about a dozen residents at the time. Maybe, just maybe, in July.

    If it is, I will take pics.

    Dont need another car, but could be tempted.
    Would have to sell my 69 Montego to make room .

    The Galaxy convertible would stay, as well as my 84 Ram Charger, but an Edsel would be so nice.

    Like 3
  16. CJinSD

    When I was in college, I met a young German guy at a party at JMU who had just purchased a 1958 Edsel Ranger two-door hardtop. This was about twenty five years ago, and my daily driver at the time was a well-sorted Jetta. I drove the Edsel up a mountain road and back, in a way that only twenty year old me would have driven a thirty-five year old car. It steered and handled remarkably well for any full-sized Ford. The last of the Panthers wouldn’t have touched it. I was truly impressed, and later outran my female companion of the day who was pursuing us in my Pirelli-shod Jetta through the rain. That Edsel was a pretty memorable car, and I’ll always have a soft spot for them.

    Like 4
  17. Ted

    Curber. Soon as you see full caps you know it. No way this car is going to change hands at 12K, and it’s a shame for now he’s priced it out of the realm of reality. I could see this as a driver with no other changes other than the mechanicals to get it roadworthy so I’m betting most of us would look at this as a 4K car. Love to know what the guy snagged it for, $2500?

    Like 3
  18. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    I liked the 59 better, I like the grill layout better. I once owned a 59 Ranger 4 door. It had the 272 V8 automatic. I was auditioning for a singing job at a night club, a patron asked if I was interested in buying his car for $50 bucks, I went outside with him and saw it was the Edsel. I said no, but I’ll give you $200 bucks for it. He was a very happy man, as well were I. I drove the wheels off that car until it finally spun a rod bearing. As far as I know it’s still sitting in the woods beside the road where I left it in Snohomish county Washington state.
    God bless America

  19. Bob S

    I remember the rollout of the Edsel in the small city where I lived. The Ford dealer rented the Scouts Hall, which was adjacent to the dealership, and put on a very large display. I remember the people not being overwhelmed by the Edsel. Even as a kid just starting to drive, my own impression was, that it was the least attractive of the cars for that year.
    Back in 1960, I frequently drove my bosses 58 Citation 2 dr Hdtp. My impression of the car, was that it wasn’t as nice as his previous car, a loaded 55 Olds Super 88 hardtop. I preferred the styling and the driveability of the Olds over the Citation. The Edsel handled like a land yacht, where you had to aim it, rather than the feel of a good handling car. I don’t know if the suspension was purposely soft, but it felt like a sloppy ride.
    The dash was unusual, and I don’t have any memory of a good or bad impression, but I did like the remote shifter in the hub of the steering wheel. My boss was not happy with the car, because of leaks, and substandard workmanship that you wouldn’t expect in a luxury car.
    I remember that the 410 engine had, plenty of power.
    He traded it off on another Olds.
    Bob

  20. Morley Brown Member

    This is perfect, put in a 428, cobra jet, four speed and drive on I love this type , I am on my way.

    Like 2
  21. IkeyHeyman

    Edsel postings always seem to get a lot of comments. For us car fanatics, the Edsel saga seems to be etched deeply into our psyches and exhibits itself as a “love it or hate it” relationship.

    Like 3
  22. TimM

    Cool ride but not my cup of tea!!!

  23. John Deebank

    It stands to reason that most of us on here have a healthy love for Edsel or they would have passed on clicking this posting. Adam gave a very informative history of the Edsel’s beginnings and unfortunate endings. I didn’t know most reasons for the failure but always wanted to know because I thought it was a great car. It was upsetting to realize it was almost sabotage from inside, that and the recession prevented a car from grabbing hold. A gas milage trick would have been an underpowered 6 cyl. Not a good selling point. I really hope a good many Edsels have survived for our next Gen.

    Like 1
  24. Edselbill

    In business school, I wrote a research paper on the Edsel saga. So many of the elements of a failed business plan were already mentioned above.

    One element rarely mentioned was the market research that projected the advent of the two-car family. As the theory goes, (remember this was the horribly sexist 1950’s) the man of the house would purchase himself a new car, upgrading from an entry level brand (Ford, Chevy, Plymouth) to a second tier make (Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Mercury) and Edsel was supposed to fit comfortably in that niche.

    And, the as the theory goes, that man of the house would buy this upmarket car for his wife, or hand the older car down to her. Never did they test the psychology of that transaction, which proved that 1) The “man” would never feel comfortable with his wife driving a car of higher status than him. 2) The sexist man felt his wife needed a car much more “simple” than his existing car, which, to him, would be too complicated or powerful for his wife to manage.

    So, when the country turned into two-car households, that second car, instead of being an upgrade, generally was a “down-grade” to a new economy car.

    Thus, in addition to the huge recession (which also killed many other car brands, including Packard, Hudson, etc..) this drove the introduction and popularity of simple economy cars. (Falcon, Rambler, Chevy II, Valiant, etc..)

    Interesting side-note to this that most people don’t know. Edsel management figured this out by late 1958 and their attempt to save the Edsel brand was to re-introduce the “Make” into a simple “model” that would be sold as an economy car at existing Mercury dealerships. (Individual Edsel dealerships bailed on the car so fast that by late 1959 they needed a pre-existing dealer network.)That car was to be named simply ” E D S E L”. But, after it was developed, just before introduction, they killed the entire Edsel idea, but kept the car. All they needed to do was come up with a name for the car with 5 letters to fit in all of the trim pieces / placements.

    That car was the ” C O M E T”. Edsel owners will see that it was pretty much a parts-bin family to the 1959 Edsel, and nowhere on the Comet’s first few model years does it say Mercury. So much of the trim and styling pieces are a direct fit from the 1959 Edsel that it is a great secret resource for parts!

    • John Deebank

      This is very interesting my friend. It\s what makes this site so good.

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