CC Comparison: 1958 Edsel and 1960 Comet – Edsel and Son of Edsel

As nearly all car enthusiasts who surf the internet know by now, the 1960 compact Comet was originally planned to be an Edsel.  What Edsel offered in 1958 was apparently not what the public wanted, so in just two years Edsel (as it were) “morphed” into something smaller, plainer, simpler, and less expensive–and which sold quite well.

When I saw this 1958 Edsel Citation 4-door hardtop parked just down the street from me, I thought I’d park my ’60 Comet next to it so we can visually compare the two.

Edsel’s distinctive vertical grille–love it or hate it–was blamed for the car’s failure.  So the Comet’s grille is about as plain as it can be and is based on the big ’60 Mercury grille.  The Edsel’s front end is so much more “architectural” and three-dimensional than the Comet’s.

I like how the quad headlight pods “leap out” from the front fenders.  Then there are these radiating “spokes” around the headlamps.  The taillights have the spokes too.

Down the side, E D S E L in smart gold letters.  The green Edsel symbol sparkles like a polished emerald.  This vertical oval motif appears in several places around the car.

The same style letters appear on the rear of the Comet, but they’re chrome, not gold.  (By the way, that’s the original gas cap, which is often missing on these cars.  People replace lost originals with modern aftermarket caps, and they look really bad!)

Here’s the classic green oval again on the C-pillar.  Edsel stylists must have really been in love with this shape.  I guess they were trying to establish a strong Edsel identity.

This rear view mirror could only be from an Edsel!  (Or maybe the Packard Predictor.)

Optional spinner wheelcovers are truly a complex work of art!

The Comet wheelcovers retain the tri-bar pattern, but are much more subdued.

The rear deck is flat, with just the suggestion of “fins”.  The taillights are exaggerated boomerangs–pure ’50s Googie design!  I also take note of the nicely-formed backup lights and the rear bumper which echoes the split bumper up front.

The stylists, as I said, were really enamored with ovals.  So for the Comet they made a plain oval taillight, and mounted it diagonally (you know, like the 1958-60 Lincoln headlights).  The Comet has big fins in order to make this work.

The aborted 1960 Edsel (which was only offered for one month late in 1959) has similarly-shaped taillights, doubled with backup lamps and mounted vertically.

You can really see Comet’s family resemblance to the ’60 Edsel from the rear, with the oval taillights (now canted) and that coved-in section with chrome lettering.

State of (or is it “Republic of”) Texas 1957 inspection sticker on passenger side of Edsel windshield.  Homer approves.

Now let’s take a look inside this top-of-the-line 1958 Edsel Citation.  (Note:  Before anyone freaks out, I had permission to enter the car and take pictures.)

My first impression was, “This is really lush!”  The seats are soft, supportive, and comfortable.  The upholstery is very high quality–seats, door panels, and the black vinyl headliner which is nicely stitched.  Roomy, too!  Feels airy and you’re not sitting too low.  However, I’m not a fan of modern “add-on” radios in a vintage car.

The “Control Center Instrument Panel” is one of the neatest dashboards of the ’50s.  No, that’s not a bathroom scale in the center, but a revolving speedometer that lights up red when you go over a pre-set speed.  There’s a tachometer, fuel gauge, clock, and a “Dial-Temp” heating and air conditioning control.  Engine temperature is monitored by warning lights.  There’s also a low fuel level and low oil level light.  The plastic ivory switches were susceptible to becoming brittle and cracking over time.

The hood has a bulge in it which gives the impression that you’re driving a ’30s or ’40s car.  Certain Pontiacs of the ’60s and ’70s also were like this.  I like looking over a broad, sculptured hood that isn’t just a flat sheet of metal.

Internet photo of a ’58 Edsel with the E-475.


Under that hood is the E-475 (the bigger of the two Edsel engines–basically a Lincoln engine).  It provided the Edsel with waves of smooth, silent, flowing power and lots of torque (and lousy gas mileage–if you care about that sort of thing.)

Here’s one of the premiere Edsel features–the “Teletouch” transmission control buttons in the steering wheel hub.  Not only is it beautiful to look at, but these buttons snap in and out in such a clean, satisfying way.  They are electrical, not mechanical.  When it worked, it was great.  Unfortunately, there were reliability problems.  Sometimes a low battery wasn’t powerful enough to get a car out of PARK.  Other units caught on fire.  Many ’58 Edsel owners who had problems with Teletouch gave up on it and put in a floor shift.  Which really is a shame.  But if something breaks and you can’t fix it, what else can you do?  Luckily the buttons on this Edsel still work.

The dash was redesigned for ’59, featuring more chrome and an even more “out-of-this-world” design.  But Teletouch is gone, as well as the tachometer, the Dial-Temp, the bubble speedometer, and the ivory switches.

The Two Chrome Oval Theme was incorporated into the Comet dash, which was like a miniaturized ’59 Edsel dash.  The metal knobs for lights, wipers, heater and defroster are the same as those used on the ’59 Edsel.

So which was a better car–an Edsel or a Comet?  Depends on who you ask and what your priorities are.  From a functional point of view, the Edsel has much more power, rides smoother, has more room, looks more impressive, and has a lot of detail features that are very satisfying.  It’s definitely a far better car for cruising the new interstate highways at high speed.  However, it is also thirstier, harder to maneuver in tight spaces, costs more, and a lot of people weren’t comfortable with the looks.

The Comet apparently had what people were looking for.  Styling that was modern but simpler.  It provided better gas mileage with an engine that was much easier to service.  The Comet was smaller outside but not too small, retaining something of the familiar “big-car feel.”

The Comet, as a car, is rather mediocre.  Jean Shepherd, walking through a junkyard found the example above and asked, “What is a Comet?  A Comet Custom!  We all know, don’t we, friends.  Just a bad car with lousy valves.”  (Shep could be rather harsh sometimes.)  While the Edsel was a flawed car that “reached for the stars”, the public preferred a down-to-earth car with an outer space name.

“Thrift-Power” six runs like a sewing machine, while the Edsel V-8 thunders through its dual exhausts.


Despite its pedestrian nature, a Comet can be “lovable”.  I remember how satisfying it was to get that little engine to run so smoothly (after it ran so badly when I got it).  I did carburetor adjustment, valve adjustment, and a bunch of other tweaks and got everything working as it should.  Just about everything is easy to get to and understandable.  The car is solid and durable with fewer things to go wrong than in, say, an Edsel with a stuffed engine compartment and power everything.

A Comet has just enough of that ’50s Space Age charm–the “gunsight” fender ornaments, the chromed dashboard, the graceful fins ending in slanted oval taillights–to keep it from being dull.  I even like the way they wrote “Comet” in ’50s Rocket Script.

So like dinosaurs that supposedly became birds, the Edsel (by way of Falcon) became a Comet.  Which car would you pick–Edsel or Comet?

See also:

CC Forgotten Future:  1960 Edsel Comet

Curbside Classic:  1960 Comet–Orphan Looking For A Home