Most of you undoubtedly remember the original post on this rather novel ’59 Edsel. It ran almost exactly two years ago, after I found it on the street. The story was picked up by a number of blogs, and it’s become a bit of a celebrity. And I continue to see it on the streets, confirming its regular use. But at the time, it was very much a work in progress, so when I stumbled upon it parked at Randall’s home, I thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up and see how it’s progressed. The answer is very well indeed:
Perhaps it wasn’t quite clear enough in the original article, but this is Randall’s only car, his daily driver. Thus, creating a ’59 Edsel that would be drastically more efficient and economical, powerful, better handling, and reliable was the over-arching priority. And doing it all on a shoe-string budget as well. Randall’s car has met these goals very well: he’s put over 25k miles on it in the past two years, and has taken it on numerous long-distance trips, including to Southern California as well as bouncing along rough back roads in the Alvord Desert in Eastern Oregon. This is not your typical Sunday car show classic, by any stretch. And my hat’s off to Randal for that.
In the past two years, the 1988 Ford 2.3 L turbo four has been upgraded and refined, so that it’s an impeccable runner, and both a powerful and thrifty one. A Megasquirt controller now runs the fuel injection, which also has new and improved injectors. Randall has been able to optimize all aspects of the engine’s operations to his satisfaction.
The engine he picked up for $200 didn’t include the intercooler, and he did without initially. But he’s added a fat aftermarket unit (designed for a twin-turbo Nissan 300 Z), and it’s made a substantial difference. Power is up, to an estimated 200 hp net, and that’s without increasing the boost. That’s more than adequate for the job, as the Edsel is not as heavy as one might assume, weighing an estimated 3600-3700 lbs. In fact, traction in corners when accelerating is a bit of problem, and high on the wish list is a new rear axle with limited-slip as well as a lower (higher numerical) ratio, to allow better use of fifth gear. Currently, fifth is pretty useless below 65 mph.
Despite that, the Edsel can readily average 20 mpg, attaining 24 mpg under ideal highway conditions. That’s a solid 100% improvement over what the 292 Y-block V8 delivered in contemporary tests. And performance is substantially better too, as the 292 made about 160 hp net, and weighed several hundred pounds more.
Randall continues to make improvements to make the car a more livable daily driver but without changing its looks. Like the sequential LED tail-lights. The dashboard clock is getting a new quartz movement. He’s rigged up the radio with an ipod interface, using the existing push-buttons as controllers (I lost some of the details of that…). New tires with vulcanized whitewalls replaced the painted-on ones. And the Edsel keeps racking up the miles.
But Randall is starting to think about the next project car, which will be a turbo too. Like maybe converting an early-eighties Firebird Turbo TA to modern electronic fuel injection and engine controls. Or an Eco-Boost squarebird. Or…
A Volt driveline in a Citation!
No, the Volt driveline is nowhere nearly as dependable. Would nover go 25000 miles without spontaneous combustion.
This. Is. Sweet.
I’ve daydreamed about doing something like this in the L-170 when its number comes up.
Impressive. Randall should be working for Ford!!
What could be a lot of fun is stuffing the new Ford 1.0 Ecoboost triple into something like a Morris Minor or a Nash Metropolitan. Or, if someone were feeling perverse, putting a Buick GNX turbo 3.8 into a Jeep CJ6 that originally had the Dauntless V-6.
“Hey, watch me do a backflip!”
I often thought that the AMC four would be a perfect retrofit to the Kaiser-era CJ5 and CJ6.
Almost as powerful as the Buick mill, a whole lot lighter; fuel injection. And…it’s arguably an authentic Jeep engine! Because, by the time it was designed, AMC had pared down to only Jeep products, as well as assembling (more or less) Renaults.
So the Jeep 2.5 was no less a Jeep engine than the Willys Go-Devil that powered it through WWII.
No matter, though. Jeep or Edsel or any other brand…I do like the idea of updating the drivetrain of a classic DD with then-unheard of technologies.
I am surprised that you and he did not get into a discussion about Borg Warner Overdrive. An OD unit mated to the 5 speed plus a really short rear axle would make this a pretty pleasant drive in almost all conditions.
You had me laughing out loud at the sequential turn signals. That is cool.
For his next trick, I would go a different direction – with all his familiarity with the Ford system, a similar setup in a Fairmont Futura would be a blast. Knock probably 1000 pounds off the Edsel and you would have quite a little rocket. Or, a Fox body wagon to make a real sleeper.
Yep, a Fairmont wagon, weighing somewhere under 3000 pounds would be truly awesome with this setup.
Are you kidding about the overdrive? The T5’s fifth gear is an overdrive, but it’s a bit too tall to use much at the speed limit (65). He needs a shorter axle ratio just to make the existing OD work properly. Or am I missing something? Turning it into a ten-speed? 🙂
I think he was thinking about sticking something like 4.11 or 4.56 gears in the rear for very fast acceleration. Having a potential 10 gears is just a side benefit.
I was going for super-duper overdrive that combines tire shredding acceleration with 2000 rpm at 70 mph on the interstate. Or is this going too far (to the extent this is possible when discussing a turbo Edsel.) 🙂
Why not? But I think the four would probably be a bit happier at about 2400 rpm at that speed.
That would be more of a reason to drive 85 mph, I would think. 🙂
I see your line of thinking more clearly now (duh)! But Randall is not inclined too much in that direction. And then there are those drum brakes…
Megasquirt for the win.
I like how he re-purposed the original shift lever for the floor shifted 5sp and the white boot to blend in with everything.
Good catch. I saw that shift lever and wondered WTF. Flipping back…it really IS the shifter off the column, white end, chrome rod and all!
50 shades of awesome.
Someday my house will be done and I’ll be doing something similar with a 5.3 Chevy Gen III/IV and a ’68 C-10 pickup….
Had a 15-minute radio program that my partner and I wrote, “Radio Subiaco”, for KCCL radio in Paris, Arkansas. We wrote it to amuse ourselves, sort of like Rocky and Bullwinkle. Later had a jazz program at IIT that I called “The KLM Fly By Night Show”. Talked real soft and extracted most of my knowledge from what I read off the album jackets. I had my fans.
Love the shifter knob, straight out of the three-on-the-tree on the ’59. Always hated the ivory knobs that Ford thought were upscale. Even as a kid I preferred the black knobs that Ford installed on its more plebeian models.
Counterpoint: The white steering wheels and knobs in Fords of this era were often the only appealing parts of these dull interiors! 🙂 An early Falcon with black knobs and steering wheel would have been a really depressing place to spend time.
Oh my. Sentiments such as yours are why I never made it as a stylist in Detroit.
It’s great to hear that the car is still doing well. Thanks for the follow-up, Paul.
I always liked the Edsel’s looks,it was unusual but not ugly.I get a lot of stick from my Dad for liking Edsels,Mk 4 Zodiac/Zephyrs and 70 Superbee/Coronets.
I see he has a dual master cylinder, which I’m assuming isn’t stock. A very, very important upgrade on a car that vintage! Randall ain’t no dummy.
One of these days I will start work on the diesel Brougham project. Taking a classic C/D body Fleetwood and drop in a mechanically injected 6.5 Detroit Diesel with Banks turbo like factory. 3.08 posi rear end with posi and overdrive to keep things friendly on the highway. It will be the ultimate in what the original intention was to have your cake and eat it too.
Nice. I’ve thought that a ’58 big series Edsel with a Cummins 4BT would rock…
As a Diesel enthusiast and Cummins fan who has had a red wonder in my equipment for the majority of my driving career it pains me to say this:
Cummins 4BT is overrated as a swap candidate. Yes it will fit, but its a heavy paint shaker of an engine. NVH is not prioritized in a wood chipper or bread van.
A VW 1.9 TDI or MB 5cyl Turbo from the 80s-90s is going to much better for swapping into a car.
Agreed. A really big four-cylinder, and a diesel at that, would be punishing in a passenger car.
Lots of people who swap in a 4BT are putting them in 4×4’s like Scouts and CJs where the MPG and torque make up for the paint shaker like operation for them. That and the fact that you used to be able to get them relatively cheaply and there were a lot of bellhousings to mate up to many transmissions.
For a car however I agree it is a heavy obnoxious choice.
You know, Randall and his Edsel have been going through my mind a lot as I was pondering what to do with the ’63 Galaxie, as it needed engine work anyway. No, I didn’t do it, but I sure thought about it.
A person needs to wait a few years, get an Ecoboost from an F-150, and put it in a ’71 LTD. That would be equally awesome.
A guy on YouTube has a ’70 Monte Carlo with a Cummins 24-valve turbo diesel and it’s a real charmer.
Wish there were more used German common-rail 6-cylinders to be had over here. The truck diesels sound crude in a car and the gassers, even with a turbo, are low on torque. Common-rail engines (built after about 2004) do away with most of the noise and smoke.
A Mercedes V6 or BMW inline-6 would be perfect. An old car like this sweet Edsel would give you plenty of room to package the after-treatment parts which are considerable (particulate trap, 2-3 catalysts, etc.) but clean up the exhaust nicely.
Wrecked BMW 335i or X5 3.0D. 3.0 liter I-6 turbodiesel with 265 hp and 425 lb/ft in US spec trim.
You’ll probably need the whole car – the better to source all the electronics required to make the damn thing run, as well as a source of a transmission that’ll work with the BMW diesel.
But if someone could pull this off, that’d be amazing.
Alternatively, you could just find a wrecked 330i/530i/Z4 3.0i with an M54B30 gas inline 6 with 225 hp/214 lb-ft and possibly a manual transmission. This is a great engine in the 3-series I drive around and would be great fun in an old car. BMW even used this engine in the 4500 pound X5, so I figure it could move a late 50’s American sedan around pretty well.
A little simpler and cheaper, if someone wanted to go that route, would be the M-B OM606 turbodiesel – to buy and get running at least. Not a CRD, but it’s still a fairly smooth-running, quiet diesel that makes good power… and it was capable of over 30mpg/hwy in the W210 E-class. There was a non-turbo version, too (even cheaper and simpler) and while that would equal extremely leisurely acceleration in a 50s land yacht, it still makes more power than a Chevy Stovebolt or something like that.
The BMW diesels are very sweet. I’ve never driven one, but I’d like to… as well as an A8 TDI or Audi’s ridiculous 12-cylinder diesel.
Yes I was thinking that too, either the 5 or 6 cylinder older MB turbo would be a good match to an old full-size American car. Sounds like a Cummins 4BT is the Cummins 6 with two cylinders chopped off – brutal for NVH. I looked up the 6BT and it weighs 1,150 lbs (!) like Craig was saying.
It’s too bad it would take buying a wrecked late model BMW or Benz to do a CRD swap but man those engines are sweet. I’ve driven the BMW, MB and Audi CRDs. The BMW is the most powerful, the Audi the smoothest and the MB is in the middle.
The OM642 engine, otherwise known as the 3.0 Mercedes V6 “BlueTec” is an attractive engine that would do well in an application like this or any other sort of resto-mod. The biggest problem is cost and complexity. Servicing the engine itself in a Sprinter van is not so bad (most of the time) but trying to put one in an Edsel would cost you an arm and a leg. I cannot begin to imagine the wiring issues involved there let alone all of the added stuff the new diesel take, DEF, etc.
I suppose if you have all the time and money why not…
With my Brougham project, the operative word is ease and serviceability. I would think for an Edsel type of vehicle you would want to drop in a 7.3 Powerstroke. You could basically transplant everything from a donor truck. For the Brougham I will do with a 6.2 or 6.5 Detroit Diesel with the mechanical DB2 pump. Since the C/D bodies were already engineered to carry the 700R4 and Chevrolet rear ends everything will just bolt up for the most part. Seeing that we have a shop and the labor the costs would be brought so far down that I would likely recoup my cash outlay if I would ever choose to sell it. Of course enjoy the benefits of 30+ highway MPG and probably 20 at least in the city.
Guy claims he put in the 6.2 in his Fleetwood for $600 bucks in the comments.
I can imagine putting in a 6BT in anything but a truck would make the car incredibly nose heavy.
I would avoid the OM603 3.0 MB I6 the ones from the 80s had major cylinder head issues. The 3.5s were better but still had issues.
Back when I was fresh at Oldsmobile and they were readying the 350 Diesel for sale (which I wasn’t involved in), they had copies of the other diesel cars for sale in the market at the time. A Rabbit diesel coupe (which really wasn’t a competitor but obtained for FYI) and a couple of Mercedes 200 and 240 Ds. People often comment on the diesel Oldsmobile as being slow but driving those other cars were painful so that alleviated the worry. Remember, MB didn’t come out with the turbo diesel until 1979 so all diesels in 1977 were really slow. Smoke like hell did they ever and the noise. So that was that.
There is a 65 Cadillac with Cummins diesel.
The biggest problem with Cummins, other than size issues with inline 6 is weight. You are looking at like 1000 lbs dressed. Only 3/4 ton trucks can manage it well.
The weight of the 6BT is why many swappers go with the 4BT instead, that and the fact that you used to be able to get Wonder Bread bread vans that had their
Chevy 350s and Ford 300s replaced with them, for dirt cheap.
Wow! This is inovation taken to different level. Truly remarkable.
Dang! I didn’t know about how special this Edsel is. I was following it one day recently on River Road after visiting Thistledown Farms…….
I don’t think I’ve ever commented on an Eco-Boost Edsel feature, but I love this car so much… maybe more than anything else that has ever appeared on CC. I’m a huge fan of the Ford turbopinto engine (and homebuilt EFI), and if this car weighs ~3,650lbs., it’s only around 200lbs. heavier than the T-Bird that it’s powerplant originally lived in. Improved acceleration, fuel economy, weight distribution and driveability… totally awesome – and I’m sure it pisses off the “put a Chevy small block in everything” purists to the Nth degree.
If I ever manage to accumulate enough free time and motivation, I would love to do something like this. I also frequently fantasize about adapting modern tech stuff to old world mechanicals – fuel-injected Straight-8s or Corvair engines, overdrive units behind Powerglides, turbo Slant-6s, etc.
Thanks for providing an update on this unique ride. Though I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to old V8s, I admire the owner’s courage. It’s certainly hard to argue with the improved fuel economy. And trying to wring better performance out of a 292 is no job for the faint of wallet. Considering the intended use, it’s hard to make a rational argument for rebuilding a Y-block for a daily driver.
One minor quibble though: most numbers I’ve seen for a fully-dressed Y-block suggest that it weighs in at just over 600 pounds – a little over 150 more than a turbo four. So not quite hundreds of pounds more, but toss out the Fordomatic as well (I’m not THAT much of a purist) and you’re probably there.
FWIW, the cast-iron Fordomatic did get the heave-ho. The T5 is very light.
Ha this is great. very creative. I’ll share a useless fact. There is a storefront in downtown Winter Haven Fl. that claims to have been the first Edsel dealer. Last time I was there, a decade ago, it looked to be housing someones personal car collection.
As much as I like original restorations, this car is an amazing feat. I read the original article as well, as I hadn’t seen this car before. It’s backyard “engineering” like this that keeps the car hobby alive. I only wish I lived in an area where I could drive a vintage car like this year round without it being destroyed by the ravages of mother nature.
The original article states that the owner lowered the car by torching the springs. This is a big no-no with coil springs. He should have cut them (which would increase the spring rate too), or ordered custom springs from a place like Eaton Spring (more expensive, but nothing crazy). Not to take away from what the owner did, but I wonder if a modern 4.6L V8 with a 4R70W transmission would have produced similar fuel economy results? That drivetrain would have been able to pull the factory gearing with easy too.
In the end though, please keep us updated on this car and kudos to the owner for keeping old iron on the road.
A 4.6/4R70W would probably be the cheapest and easiest way to modernized an old car like this. That is if you want the quickest way from point A to B cost wise and serviceability. If you ever got stuck anywhere you could get it worked on fairly easily. Heck you could probably figure out how to drop an Edsel body on a Panther chassis.
I would agree that the 4.6L 4R70W would be pretty cheap, but the owner’s $200 2.3T and T5 is hard to beat. Personally, if it were my car, I prefer V8’s over a Turbo I-4. I have a lot of miles behind the wheels of Crown Vics, and I have knocked down MPG’s in the mid-high 20’s. Mind you, a Crown Vic is much more aerodynamic than a 59 Edsel, but I think low to mid 20’s with a 4.6L wouldn’t be out of the question. Plus, the 4.6L is pretty much indestructible, and the 4R70W is certainly much more durable than the “glass T5”.
It would be lighter than an aero Panther so I could see it getting about the same MPG as the turbo 2.3 set up that is in there maybe 1 MPG less. Stick a MT behind it and I’d bet they would be neck and neck MPG wise.
I missed the cost, so that’s a good deal. I don’t mind looking at neat experiments, but after 40 years designing things that have to meet real world goals of cost and serviceability I am conditioned to do so. Even with my home brew projects. The biggest thing about doing a resto mod like this it brings a lot of practicality to an old body design bringing a lot of fun at a reasonable cost. Especially for something like this 4 door Edsel that might not be cost effective to do a concours general restoration. Maybe a 70s Mark V or Conti with 4.6 be fun have a barge like that. I know of a guy in Australia with a very mint late 70s Continental he converted to LPG or NG that gets about 18mpg equivalent at a reduced cost per unit of fuel.
That is why I am excited about my diesel Brougham deal to get 20s mixed driving and 30+ highway I would find myself driving it every day.
I agree with you 100% on that one, which is another reason I’d prefer a 4.6L over a Turbo 2.3 (not that I am knocking this guys efforts, he just has different tastes/goals than me).
A diesel Brougham would be an awesome project. When I had my Olds B-body I wanted to do the same, as I was never a fan of the 307.
what are the brakes like?
The Edsel was the basis for Ford’s modern self-adjusting drum brakes (with a fruit salad of brightly painted components, springs, caps, etc.)
But I’m sure there never was a disk option on the car. Has the owner upgraded the front to disk, or the system to power boost (didn’t look on the pics for master cyl before starting to type this.)
Edit: definitely a split hydraulic master cylinder, but tough to see the boost can…
We talked about the brakes some. They’re the original drums, which Randall said are quite large and wide. (Are they bigger than comparable Galaxie brakes?) Yes, he put on a dual circuit master cylinder, but otherwise it’s the stock set-up. He claims to not feel under-braked. He’s also a very competent driver, and understands the need to maintain engine braking on long down grades.
Given the extensive daily driving he does,including to large cities, it would seem to me that a disc brake conversion on the front might add an additional degree of ease-of-mind. Maybe that would not be so easy, unlike some later cars?
I know a guy here, a pro body shop owner, who restored a ’59 Ranchero, to like 99 point condition, but upgraded the brakes to front power disks (wanted better safety for driving in the mountains and on the autobahn.)
He took it for the Swiss MFK, and since disks were not optional, the inspector failed the car!
In the meantime, I heard that the MFK guys are becoming more reasonable, but it always depends on the individual inspector… Another guy is redoing a ca. ’60 Caddy ambulance, and fitted Tahoe or Silverado disks up-front since believes nowadays MFK, realizing that these cars are not regular commuter vehicles, will err on the side of a competent resto-mod upgrade.
Here is a driving video of the Turbo 2.3 Edsel. 🙂
Nice! Thanks for posting this. See you around!