Before drunken revelers rang in the calendar year 1960 with tenuous optimism, Edsel was already a dead player. A few unceremonious months out of the 1960 model year’s starting gate, Ford hoisted the white flag over its most infamous blunder, and from that point forward they realized that matching General Motors point for point was a fool’s errand. Even the number two automaker in America could not compete with the decadence that was GM in its prime, begetting a process of shedding brands that culminated (so far) in Mercury’s recent quietus.
If the 1960 Edsel wagon looks familiar, it should. After all, Ford’s half-hearted attempt at badge engineering loosed a Pontiac Galaxie on an indifferent world, a world so unenthusiastic that a mere 275 of these Edsels in name only were trucked and trained from the front doors of the factories of America. This one’s met a sad end, but have you seen another?
Full disclosure: I actually contacted the Edsel Club of America in an attempt to get someone, anyone, to save this old parts car. In a futile attempt to extract the grille from this weather beaten wagon, I realized that I would need a jack and a prayer to crawl underneath and remove the last bolts. I value my life just a little more than a rare part, so I sadly walked away.
This picture offers the best opportunity to discuss the engine, which is the standard 292 Y-Block, an engine that may be more forgotten by the masses than the Edsel brand itself. The Y-Block may not have been the smashing success that the concurrent Chevy 265 and its myriad variants were, but it didn’t assault the nostrils with the scent of failure either. The “Ranger” Six was a delete option in Edsels that year, saving the buyer $97. In that case, why not just buy a Ford? Many did.
Appropriately, a roached and ravaged copy of Gone With the Wind sits on the front seat, as forgotten as the car itself. How did it get there? How does a car owner sell a car to the salvage yard without cleaning out his/her belongings? Gone With the Wind can’t be that bad; is this a silent literary protest from the dim, distant past? We’ll never know.
The cargo area might resemble a neighborhood garage sale, but at least this image highlights the two-toned color, Sherwood Green over Polar White, that ostensibly was original to this wagon; although the piled up junk unfortunately obscures that seating status, rendering the six or nine-passenger determination impossible. For the record, the nine-passenger model was rarer, with only 59 made. Fifty-nine. Is this one of them? Are there others?
In happier times, our featured Villager might have taken its owner fly fishing, mirroring this idyllic scene in the original brochure, a brochure that probably cost more to produce than the profit rendered by the entire 1960 production run.
Time, of course, is kind to nothing but the reputation of the world’s greatest artists and leaders, and this junkyard Edsel is no exception to the rule. It has certainly been parked in the same location for several decades, and its next move is into the jaws of the crusher, which is why I contacted the Edsel Club. Even if the car cannot be saved, its trim and a few panes of glass can. Up front, I’m barely visible in my vain attempt to figure out the grille situation.
The last Edsel was, sadly, the most conformist of the three model years, even though it shared a body with the relatively outlandish 1960 Ford. Edsel’s reputation, of course, is derived from the “horse collar” 1958 and, to a lesser extent, 1959 models. Those who deride the Edsel today are probably unaware that a 1960 model even limped out of the gate.
And although I’ve seen a few 1960 Edsels, imagine my surprise at this wagon hiding in the bushes, symbolizing someone’s market miscalculation, paying the price for someone’s mistake, the child of a misbegotten parent, perhaps wishing it had never been born.
It’s easy for me to attach anthropomorphic characteristics to cars because I love them so much and I’ve taken them apart and reassembled them with my own hands. I’ve treated them with respect. I’ve given them homes and I’ve sheltered them. Remember the movie Cipher in the Snow, the one where the unloved kid died getting off the bus, died from a lack of love? That’s what I see when I see cars like this Edsel, and in a way, I feel like I’m a social worker for abandoned cars. But you can’t save them all, although it’s certainly cold comfort to admit it.