Personality Goes A Long Way: 1959 Edsel Villager Wagon

There is something to be said for being unique.  Quirky individuals such as Salvador Dali and Paul Reubens have made legendary careers on the foundation of their eccentricities.  However, making a successful quirky car has always been a challenge.  You could argue that Austin Healey found success with the Bugeye Sprite, or that American Motors managed to capitalize enough on their “different” designs to stay alive in a difficult industry.   However, the norm for quirky designs is usually sales failure, and no car ever failed so publicly as the Edsel.  This Jadeglint Green Metallic 1959 Edsel Villager Wagon, found on Craigslist in Talbott, Tennessee, is certainly quirky.  Fortunately, the selling price for this remarkably complete Edsel is just $2800.

For those of you not steeped in the mythology of the Edsel, let me give you a quick refresher.  In the mid 1950s, Ford executives and product planners thought that there was a hole in their product line up.  They felt that filling that hole with a new division would give them more parity with Chrysler and General Motors.  On September 4, 1957, a day that Ford heavily promoted as “E” day, they debuted the Edsel.  It was named after Henry Ford’s only son, who died prematurely after enduring years of poor health and the rattlesnake temper of his father.  While advertising had promoted the car as “the car of the future,” the public took one look at it at the debut and summarily rejected it.  They hated the styling, were angered that it wasn’t very futuristic at all, and did I mention that they hated the styling with the fury of a thousand suns?  The irony in this dumpster fire was that Edsel Ford was, for all intents and purposes, the chief of styling during his tenure at Ford.  The beautiful designs of the Model A, the Lincoln Zephyr, and the timelessly gorgeous Continental.

While 1960 model Edsels were just coming off the assembly lines, Ford mercy killed the program on November 19, 1959.  A handful of cars were built after this date, but the damage had been done financially to the company, and to the good name of Edsel Ford.  For decades afterward, calling something an “Edsel” was synonymous with declaring it a grand failure.  This is sad, because the cars weren’t that bad.  It was just that the whole misadventure so sullied the reputation of these cars that they never recovered in the eyes of the public.  Of the 118,287 Edsels built, it is estimated that less than 10,000 remain.  The good news is that there are a number of people who collect Edsels, and have performed a great service by keeping the marque going despite the dark cloud that surrounds it to this day.

While this 1959 Edsel Villager wagon looks rough, it was on the road just ten years ago.  The seller claims that it has good floors, good doors, and needs to be restored.  His claim is backed up by the pictures, which show vast areas of the car that are not rusted through like other Edsels.  Make no mistake, there is rust, but having intact doors and floors is a big hurtle to overcome.  The unique trim seems to be mostly on the car, and what appears to be a bunch more is resting on the dash.  Even the bumpers and the “horse collar” grille appear useable.

The scariest area rests in the wheel opening of the passenger side quarter panel.  It appears that rust in this area was previously repaired by slathering it over with Bondo and repainting it.  Calling it a repair is a criminal misuse of the term, because rust can only be overcome by chemical neutralization or surgery.  This was like putting a Band-Aid on a brown recluse spider bite and charging for the privilege.  Hopefully, there is enough steel left to attach some sheet metal patches to.  This would also make me more wary of other areas that might look OK at first glance.

To counter that butchery, take a look at the spare tire well in the rear of the interior.  While the rust is at the point of becoming more than surface rust, there is a lot of metal left to preserve.  However, I must admit that I am a bit put off by what appears to be indoor/outdoor carpeting on the left side of the picture.  While the Edsel was different, I don’t think the boys at Ford were going down to the local home improvement store to score some awesome Astroturf to upholster these rare wagons.

Its not exactly a paradise under the hood either.  The seller tells us that this green hornet is packing a 332 cubic inch V-8, which was rated for 225 horsepower.  This is backed up by a three speed manual transmission, which is unusual for a wagon.  Usually the driver needed as many automatic accessories as possible so they could ride herd over the children in the back.  At any rate, the engine compartment looks complete except for the air cleaner, and the coil lying next to the distributor is probably a good clue as to why the car got parked a decade ago.

So, who would purchase such a unique leviathan?  Well, other than the obvious gaggle of Edsel collectors, I’ll bet this wagon would be a hit with the rat rod crowd.  Restoring it would cost far more than its market value, so cleaning it up and getting it running is probably the only sane option.  Addressing the rust issues, replacing the tires, and giving it a home garage repaint probably wouldn’t break the bank, and getting it on the road again looks to be feasible.  When you combine the styling with the unique exterior paint color, you are left with a vehicle that I guarantee will be a stand out at the local cruise in.  It would be good to see someone enjoying this wagon.  Even if it wasn’t restored perfectly, this one has enough personality to justify its place among its peers.

 

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Comments

  1. Warren

    Hmm, later model 65 or so valve covers, yet retains the early front oil filler. Could be the original 332 FE…..

  2. tom ginocchio

    Good points made. Great article. If I had space I’d grab that Edsel wagon in a NY minute. Correct: It would cost more then its worth but then restoring it would result in owing –and driving–a unique piece of automotive history. They really were mythological !

  3. Roger

    While the rear quarter and dog legs on passenger side definitely need replaced one good point is that basically these are ’59 Ford wagon bodies so imagine replacement metal wouldn’t be hard to come up with,definitely different.

  4. don

    well somebody snatched it up, sold!

  5. Diana Derry

    Not sold. He still has it

  6. Mickey

    Update on this 59 Villager. It is now a semi daily driver. I fixed what needed fixed to be driven. Been driving it for about a year now. Very dependable car. It’s now my parts chaser.

  7. MIKE READING

    my buddy owns this wagon today, he has it running and that motor runs very well, i have riden in it a few times and it is truly a great runner, congrads mickey, mike

  8. Mickey

    I am the owner of this Edsel wagon. I call it my parts chaser. It is driven almost daily. Runs and drives really well. Thanks Mike for your comments.

  9. MIKE READING

    you owe me a few clicks on my a/z card. congrads on that fine running edsel wagon, it really does great

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