CC In Scale: Edsels, Of All Things!

Why Edsels? North Americans reading this may nod and understand – but why should an Australian, who’s never even seen an Edsel, want to build so many of them?

Something about these cars appeals to me. Being a child of the fifties, there were three big automotive impressions made upon me in my formative years.

One was the 1959 Chevrolet, specifically this view. Picture yourself as a three-year-old, in a country where most cars were considerably smaller (105” wheelbase, 132CID six) and much more conservative – seeing this for the first time. As this is the Australian version, it has those cute little indicators hanging down from the batwings. Like little chrome bats. I was really intrigued. Someone at Holden (which assembled these) had a sense of humour;

The next was once I’d started school. I had a mile walk each way (no money for a bus), and there was such a variety of cars both moving in traffic and parked by the curb. Ones I remember still were an MG ZA Magnette a 1938 Chevrolet and a 1947 Buick. And there were always Holdens.  I soon realized Holden styling seemed to lag behind American styling by about three or four years. Why is it so?

1959 Holden. Yep, same year as the Chevy.


The third was in third grade. If you finished your classwork, there was a stack of old fifties National Geographics you could have a look at. Being something of a brainiac, I always had time – okay, I rushed through my classwork to make time. The articles were interesting, I did actually read some. But the car ads! The shapes! The colours! All that chrome! So big!

People drove cars like that? Wow! What kind of a place was this America?

And naturally I found the Edsel. The ad I remember had pictures of the whole Ford range for 1958. I knew Ford, but not this style. I knew Mercury, same. The Lincoln brand I’d heard of, but never seen one. But what was this Edsel thing?

Over the years I picked up the Edsel story, and what a huge mistake it turned out to be. I won’t go into it here, but that overdecorated styling with that weird vertical grille kind of stuck with me. Over the years I also developed a sense of what looked right and what didn’t. I’d see a car and want to take off some excess chrome, reshape this, move that line to there. Cars like the Edsel were just begging to be ‘corrected’.

Fast forward to 1999. I’d been building cars for about thirty years. By now Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine was established (it’s now defunct), and in their annual polls US car modellers had been asking for an Edsel for ages. Finally, AMT released one. It’s a great kit, with full engine and chassis detail, fits together really well, and still stands up well today. One of their all-time best, in my opinion;

The only criticism I’ve heard is that the engine is undersized. I can’t say that I noticed until it was pointed out, but the Y-block in their ’56 and ’57 Fords is notably larger. Hmm. Maybe done for ease of assembly?

But overall I was so impressed that I bought another one. Some guys buy the second one to take more time over and build better; I just wanted another Edsel in different colours. Never mind a two-tone, how about three? The local hardware store had just got a new line of paints in, so…

Then AMT released a second version, with fender skirts and a Continental kit. An even longer Edsel! Had to have that….

My Edsels are (mostly) the kind of thing you might have seen back then – or might not. I’m not a stickler for factory colours. No neon pink Edsels though: that’s not my style, though I’ve seen it done (shudder).

They’re kind of multiplying. But wait! There’s more!

Remember I said at the start about wanting to correct what I saw as stylistic errors? Custom model car building is a thing. I bought another Edsel and started cutting, filing, sanding…

It still has the vertical grille but it protrudes less (subtlety is the name of the game for me) I simplified the texture to match the side grilles, and dumped the thick chrome ‘horse collar’ in favour of thicker perimeter chrome. With a spotlight at the bottom, just because. I cut back the headlight pods too, and installed rectangular lights, a feature of many American show customs in the early sixties;

For the sides I linked the front and rear trim to break up the disjointed look. Now it flows. At the rear I just lowered the taillights to rest on the bumper, leaving a squared off rear deck. Why gold and green? Because the Olympics were on at the time, and they’re the Australian team colours. Right, that’s out of my system.

But wait, there’s more.

That Edsel itch was still there. Being a good American company, AMT released another version of the kit, a pre-decorated one. Now several companies will paint the body and call it a day.  Somehow AMT got workers to paint everything in the right colours, cut all the parts off their sprues (the plastic frames the bits come on) and touch up the attachment points. And all for about $10 extra IIRC. I’m amazed. They must surely have lost money on these – they didn’t stay in the range for long and never reappeared. An American friend sent me one, as I hadn’t seen the pre-dec Edsel here;

Now I’m not much of a fan of black cars. Probably comes of too much time in the back of a black Austin A30 in a series of hot Australian summers. Anyway, while I liked black and red, I wanted to reverse it. And while I was at it, change the black to a medium metallic grey. Less stereotypical, more subtle;

I liked the result. Let’s try some more. How about two strongly-contrasting shades of the same colour? And let’s make the main one a dark metallic, with a light solid colour for contrast.

So that’s it from me on Edsels. I do have a spare kit or two in my stash, but don’t hold your breath!

Next fortnight, probably more Skylines. We’ll see.