The same word can conjure up different images for different people. Take ‘Bermuda’, for example. A sun worshiper immediately thinks of pink-sand beaches and tropical paradise. To clothiers and white-belt wearing geezers, Bermuda means a pair of shorts. Farmers have visions of big Bermuda onions. And for Car Guys like us, the name recalls the one-year-only, top-of-the-line station wagon from that most unfortunate of of nameplates, Edsel.
Aaron Severson has covered the Edsel story far better than I could here, so I shall offer only a brief precis for the uninitiated: (Mis) conceived as a Dodge-, DeSoto-, Olds- and Buick-fighter by the Dearborn powers that be, the poor Edsel never stood a chance. Mostly what it did was cannibalize sales from Mercury at the upper end of the model range, and Ford at the lower. The brand was was so unloved that even Ford President Robert McNamara confided to an associate at its introduction that the machinery to phase it out was already running! Talk about no respect.
Since there were no dedicated Edsel plants, they were built alongside both Fords (for the Ford-based Pacer and Ranger) and Mercurys (Citation and Corsair), causing the assembler to have to interrupt his routine, and sometimes to forget to install some parts. The Edsel also suffered from parts that wouldn’t fit together correctly. Hampered with controversial styling, a dreadful name and dubious features like different-just-to-be-different Teletouch drive, the Edsel was indeed euthanized in its third model year, living it out as a Ford whose disguise was thinner than 99-cent store gravy. The inaugural 1958 model is the one most people think of when the marque is mentioned–that’s the one with the free-standing horse-collar grille, officially known as the “impact ring”, and boomerang taillights, and of which our splendidly restored feature car is an example.
I shot this wagon at the Vintage Travel Trailer Show during Palm Springs’ annual Modernism Week. This particular example is a nine-passenger version, making it the rarest of 1958 Edsel wagons; only 779 were produced, of which maybe a dozen survive. Like all 1958 Edsel wagons, it shares its body with the Ford wagons, including its 116-inch wheelbase, and measures 205.4 inches in length. This particular example has the one-year-only Teletouch push-button automatic transmission (cool feature: a series of planetary gears in the steering column keeps the buttons stationary as the wheel turns) mated to the E400 5.9-liter V8 and Edsel-exclusive floating-drum speedometer (it glows when a preset speed limit is reached). Our featured Bermuda also sports the optional ($27.70) spinner wheel covers and back-up lights (an $8.50 option).
The Bermuda was a 1958-only model; the following year, the Villager took over as Edsel’s lone wagon offering. While unappreciated in its day, the Bermuda is a sought-after collector car today as one of the rarest models of a rare brand.
And besides, you’ve just gotta love those tail lamps…