In my neck of the woods, this past Sunday was one of those amazing, picture-perfect weather days with sunshine, warm (but not hot) temperatures and low humidity. Optimal for being outside, and ideal for checking out local car shows. The beauty of these shows in the Upper Midwest is that people are especially thrilled to bring their cars out for display after hibernating for the long, cruel winter, so you will typically see enthusiastic owners with all manner of automotive treasures, from lovingly restored muscle cars to some truly rare machines. Like this 1960 Edsel wagon.
In this case, the show was located in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a short drive over the border from Illinois. The city was the longtime home to American Motors’ “Kenosha Main” manufacturing plant (it started as a Nash facility), and so my son and I headed-up to the show fully expecting to see a great array of AMC products, which we did. But the event was not exclusively dedicated to American Motors products, and there were plenty of other unusual and interesting cars on display. And there was one particularly rare car that caught my eye….
Basically, there’s low likelihood of seeing any Edsel from the 1960 model year, given that only 2,846 were built before production ceased in November 1959. Plus, since these Edsels were hardly “must-have” items when new (or used), good condition survivors are even more scarce.
This 1960 Edsel Villager wagon certainly fit the bill for a lovingly preserved example.
The unique Edsel trim pieces were in great shape.
The flanks were smooth and blemish free.
The distinctive Edsel tail lights, bumper and heavy chrome trim attempted to provide differentiation from the more mundane Fords that utilized the same body.
Though sharing dashboard design with Ford, the Edsel did sport special trim pieces and a standard electric clock.
In this particular car, the seats had clearly been recovered, but the specific Villager-only front door panels looked to be in pristine original condition.
A glance to the back revealed the glassy cargo area with ample room for kids and gear. A great family cruiser, even if it was from an unsuccessful, oddball brand.
A detail I always love to check-out at car shows are window stickers, and this Villager had one prominently displayed on the top of the dash, visible through the windshield. It is so cool to see what options and colors the car came with from the factory, as well as which plant produced the car and which dealer sold it. In this case, the Villager was nicely equipped, built (like all final Edsels) in the Ford plant in Louisville, Kentucky, and was apparently delivered to a dealer in Phoenix, Arizona.
But one detail gave me pause: the car was listed as a 2-door, 3-seat Villager. What an odd duck! Who could have wanted a 2-door wagon with 3 rows?!? This was indeed a very unusual Villager…. Unlike many of the cars at these shows, with an owner nearby to answer questions, this Edsel was all alone with no one in sight to offer more specifics on the bizarre build configuration.
After checking out the rest of the show, my son and I wanted to get another look at the Edsel. But like the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot and the fabled Unicorn, any glimpse of the 2-door 1960 Villager turned out to be fleeting, as the car had already departed, leaving us wondering “what the heck was that?!?!?!”
My son and I debated the rarity of various cars at the show as we headed back to the Land of Lincoln. A quick visit to The Brat Stop in Kenosha, famous for their amazing bratwursts and Wisconsin cheeses (their aged cheddar is to die for) had armed us with the perfect dinner for outdoor grilling, and while the coals got ready, the research into the Edsel began. I was convinced that this wagon was the rarest car of the day at the Kenosha show.
Sure enough, 1960 Edsel Villager wagon output was incredibly low. Only 216 2-seat models were sold, and a scant 59 3-seat Villagers were produced, making that wagon the least common 1960 Edsel. Even the convertible, at just 76 units, enjoyed higher output.
But there was one problem: all souces indicated that Edsel Villagers for 1960 were 4-doors only. There had been a 2-door Edsel Roundup wagon offered for 1958, but after that all Edsel wagons were marketed solely as 4-doors.
In fact, the only 2-door wagon offered by FoMoCo for 1960 was the Ford Ranch Wagon, a baseline, base trimmed model. The 2-door Ranch Wagon was not a particularly popular Ford wagon, with 27,136 leaving the factory (compared with 144,688 4-door wagons). Wagon buyers were showing a marked preference for the more practical 4-door configuration.
So how on earth could there have been any 2-door Edsel wagons for 1960? Was this car a fake?
When it comes to clones, likely candidates are usually high-value muscle cars, deliberately designed to deceive. Usually, the value of the finished “fake” typically exceeds the costs of parts needed to execute the artifice. But Edsel wagons? The market for those cars is remarkably small, and dollar values are quite low. Would someone actually go to the effort to create a non-existent 2-door 1960 Edsel wagon?
The answer, in a word: yes! Through the magic of the internet, I was finally able to discover more about this most unique Edsel. Thanks to edsel.com and site’s coverage of Modified/Customized Edsels, the mystery was solved. Turns out the car belongs to David Hooten of Wisconsin—remember that name? Hint: it was listed as the name of dealer on the (fake) window sticker. And speaking of “Hooten’s Motor Sales” in Phoenix, the street address was shown as 1960 Ranger Road. Clever!
Without question, Mr. Hooten did an incredible job replicating how a 2-door Edsel wagon would have looked had such a car been offered. So, yes, in this case, the car really is a unicorn—a one-of-one mythical creature that never was.