(first posted in 2010 at the other site; in 2011 here at CC. A 25,000 mile update is here)
There’s a big difference between creating and re-creating. The proto-hot rodders of yore scoured the junk yards for new solutions, not to replicate. The competition was as much in creativity as it was pure speed. Much of that has given way to endless replication, whether it’s a perfect restoration or a 1000 hp resto-mod. But creative juices are irrepressible, and they were certainly at work here. Want a daily driver Edsel, but not its 1950’s fuel-gulping ways? The solution was just a $200 junkyard engine away. But it had to be imagined first. Now that’s creativity, and a harbinger of the future. Which is exactly what the old car hobby needs: a new model, like this “Eco-Boost” Edsel.
If there was room for a third CC logomobile at the top of our homepage, this would be it. But not just because it’s an Edsel, although daily drivers of that brand are hardly common even here in Havana, Oregon. It’s because this car actually manages to bridge the two extremes the two cars at the top of our page embody: The 1950 hot-rod Caddy represents the glorious past, but it’s hardly the thing for a run to The Laughing Planet cafe, where I found the Edsel. The 1980 Datsun 210 is a highly-practical daily driver, but a mundane living cockroach.
This Edsel is some of both, in a brilliant and refreshingly unlikely combination. In a reversal of the traditional engine swapping protocol, its heavy inefficient V8 was tossed overboard like the proverbial anchor it is, and a 1988 Ford 2.3 liter turbo four has taken up residence behind the distinctive anatomically almost-correct grille. The result is the best of both worlds: a highly unique but practical daily driver. What more could a lover of old cars ask for?
For the record, this is not the sort of mega-bucks green-washing display that appear at SEMA; this Edsel’s owner, Randall, built it on a very tight budget, and has done all the work himself. The car was found in Portland in reasonable shape, and the body got treated to a low-bucks paint job. After driving eighties FWD turbo-four Chrysler products, he wanted something more distinctive, and its hard to beat an Edsel for that. He was also hooked on a turbo-four’s unique potential for economy and performance, so the two had their unlikely encounter here.
We’re not going to recite the whole Edsel bucket-of-tears story verse-by-verse here; most of you know it well enough. Ford’s ambitious attempt to create five full divisions to go mano-a-mano against GM fell apart in 1958 when the gaudy Edsel arrived in the midst of a nasty recession. 1958 Edsels came in two distinct sizes; the smaller Pacer shared a Ford body shell, and the larger Corsair a Mercury shell.
For 1959, Edsels were decidedly toned down, and all of them shared a slightly lengthened Ford body shell. One could even get a Pacer with the 232 cubic inch six, as a delete option. But the standard engine was the old Y-block 292 cubic incher, a heavy and notoriously inefficient lumpen-element. Together with the cast-iron housing Fordomatic, there was probably close to a half ton of iron sitting over the front wheels.
And a notoriously inefficient half ton. A vintage Popular Mechanics review of a ’59 Edsel yielded 12.1 mpg (20 L/100km) on the highway and 8.5 mpg (28 L/100km) in city driving. Randall says the Eco-boost Edsel can get 24 mpg (9.8 L) in gentle driving, and 20 mpg (12 L) comes quite readily. That’s a solid 100% improvement. Or more accurately, a 50% reduction in fuel used.
Speaking of weight, this Pacer sedan was listed as weighing some 3800 lbs, which probably translates to about 4000 real-world pounds. I don’t have ready access to what a 2.3 turbo four and T-5 manual weighs, but I’m guessing about half, if not less. That made the Edsel’s sit pointed skyward. Randall’s solution:
The front was still sitting up too high so I used an oxy acetylene torch to selectively add many thousands of calories into the bottom three coils on each side. I carefully wrapped the rest of the springs with water soaked rags to help isolate heat transfer. The car is now perfectly level.
That, and lots of other details comes from one of his blog posts at eco-modder, where he describes the journey of his Edsel’s inner transformation. A reader had sent me the link some time ago, and I tried vainly to contact him, but I knew it was just a matter of time before I ran into it.
As soon as he started it, the sound was very familiar indeed: I bought a Thunderbird Turbo-Coupe in 1983, the first year for this engine. And its strengths and vices were well known to me. I could easily hit 30 mpg in the aerodynamic T-Bird. So the Edsel’s 24 mpg seems perfectly credible.
The Edsel probably weighs about 3300-3500 lbs now, a bit more than the T-Bird, but not much. But then maximum performance was not the goal here, although the Edsel is undoubtedly brisker than in its V8 incarnation. The 292 was rated at 200 gross hp, which equates to some 165 net hp. The 1988 turbo four was rated at 190 (net) hp, although it’s not quite making all of that here.
Randall purchased the engine and transmission for $200, but not all the electronics came with it. So it’s currently being controlled by a 1984 computer, and the intercooler is still missing (for now). It probably makes closer to the 145-155 hp of the earlier versions. A mega-squirt set-up is high on the wish list, but it runs quite fine in the meantime.
The Edsel’s 3.11 rear axle gearing were an obstacle, since the little four doesn’t have the low end grunt of the big V8, at least until the boost comes up. A rear end swap would have been pricey, and a new set of tires to replace the old tall 800×14″ bias ply donuts were necessary anyway, so the solution was to, once again, go against the grain. A set of low-rolling resistance 195/70 14 inchers, painted white, increased the effective ratio by 7.3%. Not quite perfect, but fifth gear is now very usable by 55 mph, and starting out on a hill no longer raises beads of sweat.
Curbside Classics is all about honoring cars still at work on the streets. And every time gas shoots up, I start worrying about finding that Mark III or some other gas hog I’ve yet to encounter. Its given impetus, along with a bit of anxiety to my documentation of the survivors. But finding this Edsel was like a giant boost to my all-too often lagging optimism: this is the way forward.
After decades of stuffing ever bigger and more powerful monster V8s into old cars, that past time has reached its obvious limits. 600 cubic inches and a 1000 hp? Sure, why not? Everybody can have their idea of fun. But if the old car hobby is going to be more accessible and affordable, not to mention drivable, than a new paradigm is needed.
The earliest hot-rodders were truly creative in their search for speed and power: GMC truck engine sixes with five carburetors. Or Buick nailhead V8s with their porting completely reversed. Writing a check for a 600 hp crate engine ain’t exactly the definition of creativity or originality.
My hat’s off to Randall and his “Eco-Boost” Edsel. It’s as good of a role model for the next generation of old-car car hobbyists as it gets. And he’s infected with me with thoughts of slipping a turbo four to slip into my ’66 F-100, and beating Ford with an Eco-Boost four cylinder full-sized truck.
Despite my fertile mental ramblings, in 1983 I certainly didn’t ever imagine that my T-Bird’s engine would someday be powering an Edsel, or mentally powering a pickup. Now it seems so obvious. That’s how paradigm shifts work; they sneak up, and suddenly they’re the next big thing. Maybe Randall will transplant the batteries and drivetrain from a Tesla one of these years.
Yikes, 0-60 in 5.2… days?
Kidding aside, I enjoy these low-bucks restorations. Even if they give me ideas…
Better power-to-weight ratio than with the V8, and very close to what the T-Coupe had.
Maybe a turbodiesel, but this application just screams (literally) caning it to 5,000 rpm to get anything out of. Total antithesis of the idea behind these big bruisers.
Oh well, to each his own.
Have you ever driven a turbo four like this one? Like all turbos, their maximum torque is actually quite low on the rev band, and they develop maximum power at lower rpm than a comparable non-turbo engine. The myth about turbos requiring lots of revs is just that. And it’s one that just doesn’t want to die.
Admittedly, the early versions of the 2.3 Ford turbo four had their shortcomings, which later version improved to various extents. It was weak below about 2000 rpm, when the boost started to come on. And it had nasty vibes at the high end. It was happiest between 2000 and 4500 rpm, not a very broad powerband. But today’s turbos have long solved all those problems.
Well let’s keep the discussion to this particular turbo four.
See, I like my torque to come on right away, and drop off at about 2000 rpm.
I’m admittedly cynical about anything that isn’t naturally aspirated.
Not that I’m on here to leap to the defence of the FE. That engine should’ve stayed in the truck line.
This isn’t even an FE; it’s the older Y-block.
But you have a valid point; the question is what does it cost to feed max torque just off idle?
Sorry but there are very few car/lt truck engines that make their torque peak below 2K rpm. The torque king the Buick 455 makes has it’s torque peak at 2800 rpm. Another of my favorite torque monsters that are actually MD truck engines is the IH SV series of engines they make their peak gross torque at 2200-2800 rpm depending on the the displacement and those engines have red lines as low as 3600 rpm.
For comparison a real Ford EcoBoost reaches it’s peak torque below 2000 rpm, but it maintains the peak all the way to near 5000 rpm.
IIRC the Mopar slant 6 reached its torque peak at either 1600 or 1800 rpm. And long live the Model A which peaks at 1000.
If I remember correctly the Olds 307 topped out at 255 ft/lbs at 2000.
Probably why it motivated Cadillac Broughams up ’till 1992. Well, that was actually the best of a bad situation, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
“Admittedly, the early versions of the 2.3 Ford turbo four had their shortcomings…”
To say the least. There’s not enough room on this blog for all of the issues I had with my 1980 Mercury Capri RS Turbo. By the late eighties, the 2.3 Turbo was a *vastly* improved motor. A friend had a 1987 Turbo T-Bird which was a great ride.
Congrats to Randall for such an interesting and practical upgrade.
Ford had some growing pains with the T2.3 for sure. The early carbed cars weren’t too good at all. Neither were the Buick, Chevy and Pontiac offerings though.
Ford and Ma Mopar worked wonders with turbos and electronics just a few years later. GM waited. And somehow they won. The GN stole the thunder from the TBird turbo, Mustang GT turbo, Capri RS, SVO, and every FWD Mopar offering.
Yes, we came to find out that carbs and turbos really don’t mix. That’s not entirely true, FoMoCo cheaped out on stuff like head gaskets and other things. Mopar really advanced the cause with the FI 2.2 Turbos, IMO they were the real deal considering all of the applications they were in. The turbo Buick V6s ruled, with the addition of FI and computers. I guess the addition of two more cylinders made all of the difference… GN’s are cool, but give me a Trans Am GTA anyday.
This is SO not fair. Just sayin’ 🙂
I was really thrown off by that indentation in the firewall. That just looked weird.
Yeah, not fair. One of my first thoughts was, “Is that a non-power DRUM BRAKE master cylinder?! Nah, can’t be.” I’m going to declare a “partial win” on the clue because I was the first to say it was a Ford Turbo Coupe engine that appeared to be transplanted into something else. 🙂
Well, you weren’t that far off–it’s a Ford (product) Turbo four-door, of sorts.
This is definitely a “so crazy it might just work” idea–great execution.
Cooool a novel way to put an oldie into daily use my choice would have been a diesel 6 but this looks like it works ok certainly more sensible than stuffing the biggest V8 available in which seems the usual route for 50s americana this way youre classicly mobile without a fuel bill like the national debt No wonder the clue was tricky a turbo Cortina motor in a Edsel
Hmmmmmmmmmmm. How bout an early 1950s Buick Roadmaster sedan (granted I find one with a decent body and a busted straight 8 ) with a EcoTec Turbo 4cyl out of a wrecked Pontiac Solstice? Wonder what fuel economy on that would be?
Or maybe more “correctly” use that engine in say a 1952 Chevy sedan with dead Stovebolt 6? There’s some ideas for the future.
4.2 Toyota Landcruiser turbo diesel to replace a stovebolt would nearly be a bolt up swap did you get diesel toys in NA
That is absolutely fantastic!
There’s a lot of cheap horsepower to be had in that little mill too.
Fabulous. This idea is filled with exciting possibilities. Major hats off to Randall, a beautiful job.
An extreme example would be Neil Young’s LincVolt, a 1959 Lincoln Continental refitted with a turbo-electric drive train: http://www.lincvolt.com/
He kept the collector-quality exterior and interior, and is now installing a 30 KW micro-turbine, 150 KW electric motor (200 hp, 480 lb-ft), and A123 lithium batteries. Its first hybrid-electric system achieved 62 mpg at 65 mph, but the crew was careless with the charger and it had a fire, so now it’s being restored and upgraded.
We can imagine fantasy cost-no-object projects like Neil Young’s, and real-world daily drivers like this Edsel. Great stuff.
Nothing personal, but I can’t excited about the LincVolt. It strikes me as the perfect example of too much money chasing a desperate attempt to get publicity and green cred. An expensive ego-trip. To each their own.
Sure, though it is a good example of what is possible. His point that an eco-car can be a wonderful big classic and not be some kind of golf cart is good for opening some minds.
Electrifying a Curbside Classic sort of car at a Curbside Classic sort of budget is pretty common. You can see many examples at http://www.evalbum.com. Older cars are lighter and much easier to work with, not to mention more interesting. Such as this ’69 Valiant, “originally purchased to make into a hot rod, but then decided to hot rod in a different direction” http://www.evalbum.com/1399
I don’t mean to divert this topic, these engine swaps are fascinating. Kudos for putting this idea forward. What’s a good term for a car like Randall’s?
Agreed with MikePDX. There are no end of “non-classic” old cars out there, in decent condition but offering no real powertrain excellence or benefits. A guy wants to “E-rod”one? Git’er’done, I say! Far more impressive than buddy buying a GM crate SBC, a commercial chassis, a Mustang II front end, etc., etc., and just bolting it all together for the millionth time… and not every EV guy has to be an EV/green d*uche…
I guess my dreams would be more modest: a 1962 Buick Special Convertible with the drivetrain from a 3800 equipped F-Body. The other end of the Fireball V6 story! I guess there’d be some gains in Fuel economy (probably real world 23-25mpg versus 15-20 of the original engine) but it would be worlds quicker.
I wish GM made a diesel smaller than the Duramax Diesel, because any Diesel Equipped B-body would be 2nd on my list. 3rd would be a W123 or W124 Diesel with a Modern 3.5L BlueTec Diesel, or wait for it… a 2.0L GEMA 4 in a K Car LeBaron Town & Country Wagon or Convertible. Oh the endless possibilites… maybe.
The 2.3 turbo is around 450 lb, a T-5 maybe 75 lb. A Y-block 292 is something like 630-640 lb dry; not sure about the two-speed Fordomatic, but I’d guess something in the neighborhood of 200 lb. (For comparison, an iron case, dual-coupling four-speed Hydra-Matic is 240 lb, and the less-complex Fordomatic is presumably a fair chunk lighter.) So, if you also calculate the difference in ‘wet’ weights, you probably cut the total powertrain mass roughly in half. Less torque than the 292, but probably very similar horsepower, despite the cobbled-together electronics. Interesting trade.
This swap intrigues me so much I had to look that up.
The 292 was pushing 200 hp and 285 ft/lb and an 84 Turbocoupe 2.3 was rated for 145 hp and 170 ft/lb.
With some decent electronics, an intercooler and a small bump in boost you’d be right back up where the 292 was if not more.
Keep in mind that those numbers for the 292 are both gross, and net for the 2.3. That brings them quite a bit closer in reality. And the 2.3 can be pumped up to almost any power number you’re willing to stomach. 350 hp is not uncommon from them, even as DDs.
I forgot about the gross ratings.
350 is a good estimate with mild mods. We never dynoed my 88 Turbocoupe but it was good for a couple high 13 second runs and driven daily, the air even worked.
In period road tests, an Edsel with the original powertrain did 0-60 in a few ticks under 11 seconds, even with the two-speed auto and tallish axle, so something like 160-170 net horsepower sounds about right.
Well, I’ll be damned. The hood springs were a big clue, but the general simplicity of the underhood area should have told me this was from the really old days (although I never in a million years would have guessed an Edsel).
I had a love/hate relationship with the 2.3 Turbo over the years (had a ’79 Mustang Pace Car, ’84 Mustang SVO, ’85 T-bird Turbo Coupe, ’86 XR4, and ’88 XR4). Loved the high-end power, but hated the lack of low end and the agricultural sound of the big Four. I’m glad this engine found a good home, and one where it’s a vast improvement over the original drivetrain.
Randall fleshed out an idea rattling around in my head for a long, long time. With computer engine controls and fuel injection boosting efficiency in new cars so much…what if someone plugged a new computer-run engine, complete with e-brains and wiring rat’s nest, into some of the old hero cars!
I thought of the possibilities…1968 full-size luxo-LTD wagons that deliver 24 mpg. Or, plastic-roofed Chevy Blazers getting low-twenties. A Malaise-Era Camaro with a 0-60 time of four seconds – and fifteen miles a gallon.
Or, my personal favorite: A CJ-2A, with a Suzuki three-cylinder engine as a 40-mpg around-town gofer. Beats a golf cart, hey?
Obviously a lot of us were thinking along those lines. My hat’s off to Randall for making the word become flesh, so to speak…
Japanese front cuts abound for just that reason
…Question: What transmission did he go with in this thing? On his blog, he makes some reference to using a five-speed. But I don’t see a shifter on the Edsel – unless he found a way to turn an automatic column shift linkage into a 5-on-the-tree.
Also, what would he do for a clutch pedal and linkage? There aren’t a whole lot of late 50s FoMoCo products in boneyards to donate clutch pedals, etc.
It’s a T-5 five speed; the floor shifter is only barely visible in the pics. Clutch pedal/cable was from a Mitsubishi pickup; gas pedal and linkage from a Ranger. All the details are in his blog, which I linked to in the article.
See I told you it was a Ranger! 🙂
This is a very Green car never mind fuel economy this car was pieced together from existing parts no polution created to manufacture it just little outside the square thinking and voila an eco classic
Great article, Paul! And, I desire to take the time once I get up off my okole to be up in the immediate future with a Curbside Classics of my own, but for now – on the ’59 Edsel – The Six was the Ford “Mileage Maker” 223 unit. This was usually teamed with what Edsel called “Mile-O-Matic” 2 speed automatic, the Fordomatic unit.
I think this is a great combo as featured and we all know time and $$$’s adage – we’re usually short of both. The only thing I’d do is order a set of period-correct Cokers (radials for everyday driving) and leave it ‘as is’.
I am a big fan of the ’59 Edsel as I like it’s toned-down styling. Originally, there were plans for the Corsair and Citation to continue on with the Mercury body shell, but as ’57 went into ’58 and Edsels sales (along with the other medium price cars) were decimated, the continuation of the Corsair/Citation “big” Mercury body was nixed.
Agree Y block Fords (312 T-Bird nonwithstanding) were boat anchors even when new. They have a nice burble, though.
I’m also a big fan of the truncated ’60 Edsel. I came into this world the day Ford formally announced they would cancel the Edsel. Ironically, one year later Chrysler announced they were discontinue DeSoto. What a coincidence for a gearhead like me!
BTW I spent considerable amounts of time in the land that “time forgot” for cars;
Alameda, California. Next to Havana, Alameda has more classic curbside iron cruising around per sq/mi – km. than any other place in the Northern Hemisphere.
I’d say North Oakland/Berkeley gives you a run for Alamedas money on Iron cruising the streets. Damn that I was driving too when that Sweet 1963 Falcon Futura 4 door Sedan ( Slate gray, red vinyl 260 V8) passed me in traffic today,
I consider it a bad day if i dont see something old parked on the roadside or driving about , today I saw a 404 Peugeot ute/pickup in good order minding itself by the curb a 69 current warrent of fitness and registered so some one uses it. Lots of oldies here the climaye is easy on them
Also, for our CC fans out there, Mike PDX’s Avatar is P G and E’s “Reddy Kilowatt” (Pacific Gas and Electric, Co. of Northern California). I’m a Bay Area ex-pate.
We used to call P G and E “Pacific Graft and Extortion Company” !
Thanks, Mike for reviving Reddy!
Thanks, Billy! Reddy is back!
Hey @MikePDX I know this is way late in this thread, but thought you’d like the Reddy Killowatt song from my youth.
Electricity costs less today, you know,
Than it did just fifty years ago!
A little birdy told me so!
Tweet! Tweet! Little bill!
Or as we used to sing it, we for “just fifty” in the second line, we would substitute “fifty million”. Seemed more honest to us, especially if you took into account the inflation factor.
Reddy was also used by Indiana and Michigan Electric Co. Reddy iis still cool.
Reddy Kilowatt was used by a lot of electric utilities across the country. Also used by the predecessor of First Energy (in Northeast Ohio, Ohio Edison). You’ll remember First Energy, as they had something to do with the major blackout about 5 or 6 years ago…
Mazda RX-8 Wankel in a ’75 Chevy Monza, as originally intended?
I’ve thought about stuffing a 2.3 turbo 5sp combo into a 65-6 Mustang, 67-8Cougar, or 60-63 Comet/Falcon many times. For a base Falcon/Comet it would match the displacement of the base motor and the weight of the first year short (Ford) base versions are 2500lb or less, so a good chunk less than many of the original homes of the 2.3 turbos. Since the 2.3 3 sp Falcon reportedly got up to 30 MPG hwy, getting into the mid 30’s should be doable with the FI, 5sp, and modern LRR radials. To top it all off a bumper sticker that reads: Better MPG than a Honda Accord.
I am really conflicted about this one. Part of me admires the guy’s ingenuity and his unique vision. It is sure something that I had never thought of. The other part has a hard time distinguishing this from all the hot rods with 350 Chevys. If you want something with a 2.3 turbo, then get something with a 2.3 turbo.
I was never a big fan of that engine. I test drove a TBird Turbo Coupe back around 1985 but just didn’t like the feel of the powertrain. Every 2.3 I ever drove (turbo or no) was rough as a cob and I recall it being really gutless at low revs. Does this one make the Edsel shake when it starts? That is so wrong.
I think I have to join 86er. I know that life is all about tradeoffs, I will trade some fuel mileage for the low-end grunt (and sound and feel) of the V8, even it it is an old leaden Y block. If lovin’ torque is wrong than I don’t want to be right.
I really admire what the guy did. It’s clever, it’s friendly to the environment, and… it has to be more fun that the original Edsel engine. Parts for these 2.3 engines are also soooo easy to find, maintenance must the same piece of cake job as having a Chevy 350 or a Ford 302 for a pet, ubiquitous engines/accessories with endless supply. THAT to me is actually what’s most clever about his choice, he picked an engine that guaranteed a steady supply of parts for decades to come.
But the very choice of a 2.3 over the V8… again, if the gas mileage was his thing, that was the one to go with. For some people, the gas mileage doesn’t matter. It may sound weird in this day and age (and definitely sounds wrong in some circles), but that’s where just like you, I don’t want to be right.
It took me a while as I was just getting into cars at an admittedly late (post-teen) age… to realize… what it was about the big V8s back then. More importantly, why do people love them still. I discovered pretty quickly that they weren’t all designed to be fast. The concept of a lopo 302 in particular astounded me. Supercharge them all, was my first thought.
But I came to understand it at last. It’s in the feel of it, that smooth steady delivery of power all the way to the cruising speed. And that’s what the V8 is all about.
Still, for his needs (gas mileage, ease of maintenance) it’s a score. Notice also that it’s a 5-speed, without a doubt further adding to the overall MPG. Very well done!
Clearly gas mileage was a major issue with this owner. This is his daily driver, and some folks (including myself) just have a hard time with the idea of driving a car that gets 10 mpg (or less).
He’s young, and was steeped in turbo fours since his first car. So they’re a familiar commodity to him.
Another aspect I didn’t get into in the article is that the Edsel handles much better now. He replaced all the suspension bushings, and the manual steering is more pleasant. The car probably has a 50-50 weight distribution now.
I’m not suggesting or advocating that this be done to all old cars, but it is a creative and low-bucks solution to the specific goals that he had in mind.
I definitely agree, 10 mpg for a daily driver is a hard thought to fathom. Although that didn’t stop me from coveting this kid’s F-body Camaro way back when in college (i know, i know, you’re not a big fan of those, lol). He was going to sell it to me… that thing was getting the average of 10 mpg city and maybe 14 highway. But it was dead durable and a chick magnet, just an awesome non-winter beater and he was fixing her himself. Did I mention that early on it looked like I was going to be a Chevy guy?
Then the kid crashed the car, and life took me in a totally different direction. I never got to experience a 10 mpg city daily driver…
As for the bushings, they are soooo important. I will never forget when we did the front c/a bushings on my Mark (there’s only one set there as she only has lower c/a arms) AND put new ball joints in. We also swapped the engine mounts that week (stock ones were completely shot), so that added to the WOW factor when I drove the car out of my friend’s shop, but man… that was like a whole different car, I could not believe the creamy smooth yet crisp and responsive handling. And that was still with a leaky rack which I didn’t have the funds to replace then. I became a big believer in suspension bushings that day. (Btw, everyone who’s into cars should live the experience of burning the old c/a bushings out of the c/a arms, it makes for a great memory). We also did poly bushings instead of the rubber ones, which means the suspension clicked when hitting bumps or under heavy braking for the following 6 months or so, but then the clicking gradually went away and the solid feel of the suspension remained and should be there for a long time. I cannot recommend this enough, for all cars over 20 years old.
Just like a guy who is a speaker restorer (an amazing professional whose labor my friend and I have enjoyed for some time now) said to my friend and me when we first saw him (my friend wanted to restore his 20+ year old Acoustic Research living room speakers): “You haven’t heard what these speakers are supposed to sound like for over 10 years now.”
And it’s the same way with the car suspensions!!! Which makes makes this whole restoration deal so much more than just a cosmetic exercise. No, what we’re rediscovering is actually how awesome these things felt once, maybe not as tight as today’s cars, but pretty darn good in their own right.
This Edsel is amazing. I know I’d like to ride in it! 😀
Great article. Real paradigm shift. Now I’m up late at night thinking of pulling the straight six (with 3 DeLorto’s) out of my barnfind 240z to put into something a little smaller than this Edsel? Like the idea of a smaller lighter engine up front to balance out the weight to improve handling.
Yeah, what this guy did is pretty cool, but there is something about those big old lump V8’s. The low pitched slightly rumpy sound and feel, the low rpm torque with an automatic trans….I had a 1962 Continental when it was forty years old or so. Driving across the US I got 15 mpg. I never wanted to know around town. If I had a ton of money I would buy a first year 1961 and put in a modern Ford V8 and transmission. With the demise of the Crown Vic I guess that might mean a new pickup truck drive train. That would retain the sound and feel, and besides losing a couple hundred pounds would have a more efficient transmission with more gears and lockup, and a much more efficient engine that polluted about a thousand times less. Then you would have to figure out how to put an electric fuel pump in, someone would have to figure out the insanely complex for no particular reason heating and air conditioning system, (three blowers, everything vacuum operated including the temperature) etc. Plus putting in front disc brakes and 15″ radials, etc. We’re talking Jay Leno level money here. And then it’s still a death trap compared to a Nissan Versa. Still….if I won the lottery…..
By the way the whitewalls on the Edsel are too wide.
Good story and coverage Paul, look forward to more items like this (creatively powered classics).
Thanks Paul! It sure is fun to read your article and see all of the comments.
I have performed additional work on the car since you photographed it. The floor now has carpet and sound insulation. Next I will be installing the intercooler.
I should take some driving videos and post the videos in this forum.
Please do; I’d love to do an update.
Also, this piece was also run at TTAC :http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/curbside-classic-special-1959-edsel-%E2%80%9Ceco-boost%E2%80%9D/
I think he made a great choice, and with some simple mods, the car could be quite a bit better.
I currently daily drive a 1976 Volvo 245 with a Ford 2.3t and T5 trans. With the 87-88 LA series ECU, an intercooler, and a reliable boost setting, it gets 20-22 mpg daily, will roast the rears through a welded diff, performs well at drift days, and tows our vintage camper with ease. We can tow over the pass out of Seattle at 70 with lots left. It makes 300ft lbs of torque from 2650 rpm. Hell I have even towed our XR4Ti Stage Rally car to a Rally event with it. 500 hp is not too hard, 1000hp 2.3t’s are out there. A 2.3t notch mustang won the Hot Rod power tour thing. 30mpg to the track, sub 9 second passes.
I personally would take a well built turbo 4 over a comparable V8 any day.
I’m late to this discussion but I just want to say how much I admire Randall and his can-do ingenuity and engineering expertise. I love the concept and the execution. As an owner of an original 2.3 Turbo 4 carburated motor, I was an early fan to the small 4/turbo concept.
Here is a video taken while driving down the highway.
Last year the Edsel was fitted with an Eaton TrueTrac Torsen differential with a 3.89:1 differential ratio. One wheel burnouts are a thing of the past now. A side benefit was the the car being unstoppable during the recent snowstorm. Also the torched coil springs were replaced with Ford Aerostar progressive rate coil springs that are very smooth and were a direct drop in. The video was taken while driving down the highway near Eugene, OR. A brief 60-80 pull was demonstrated to show how quiet the car is while the engine is at maximum acceleration.
I see a number of comments that said 4.7 crown-vic / auto trans combo would be better than the 2.3 and I agree it would have probably been better suited for the added luxury of low vibration operation and awesome V8 sound. The main reason for the 2.3T was it’s super cheap availability on craigslist. I tried out many different engine mount designs and finally had to weld two stock mounts in series on each side of the engine in order to get rid of the crazy 2.3L engine vibration. Even then I had to cut approximately 30% of the rubber material away to make them soft enough. These engines are very rough at anything below 2000 r/min. It is now super smooth and quiet and most people are very impressed with how comfortable it is to drive.
Check out the driving video. 🙂
I would have put a 4 cylinder Cummins turbo diesel in there.
I think someone earlier said “Eco-classic”. Not a bad name for this genre.
I found this article in the archives some time ago, and it is among my favorites. While this Edsel is a turbo-4, what amazes me is the idea that the modern American V-6 engine could power what we used to consider land yachts so much more efficiently, powerfully, smoothly, reliably, and with much less pollution than anybody could dream of in 1959.
Nice looking car. It’s an unforgivable shame that the Edsel didn’t sell very well. Perhaps it wasn’t marketed like it should’ve been.
It’s been said McNamara didn’t much like the Edsel project and, presumably, didn’t give it much support. Still, despite the fouled-up way it was handled, it might have had a chance if it just wasn’t so darn ugly. That horse-collar grille is what really did it in.
If they didn’t like the horse-collar grille back in the day, imagine if they could have seen a pic of the current Lexus grille?
GREAT JOB Randall ! .
I love this car , looks good and the up grade engine makes good sense .
This was new to me–great work on the Eco-Edsel! I really like it as a low-buck build that works exactly as intended. Looks like a classic, runs with a little less thirst. Is the 2.3 the *perfect* engine for the car? No, probably not, but this is old-fashioned “get it done” ingenuity in action.
With the ubiquity of small, high-output engines currently, in both FWD and RWD configurations, the possibilities are endless of other swaps to wake up desirable cars with less-than-desirable powerplants. The Lancia Gamma that was recently written up, with an Alfa 2.2 JTS rather than its original “don’t turn the wheel too far” powerplant? Vega with the Solstice GXP’s turbo 2.0? Bustleback Seville with the XTS’s turbo 3.6?
Maybe that last one appeals to only me.
I think that this is a great swap/ project! It’s definetely unique, and uniqueness should be what people go for. One of the coolest custom jobs that I’ve seen involved a mid 50’s Austin, with a Thunderbird SC supercharged engine shoehorned into the engine bay……complete with intercooler (but with some custom rat rodded pipes so that it would fit). He said that he ran high 12’s in it, and I can believe that……essentially it’s about half the weight of the Thunderbird and doubles the power to weight ratio.
I saw a Tucker 48 engine up for sale recently – while pricey, it could make a really interesting swap into, say, a VW microbus. An originally air-cooled vehicle powered by an originally air-cooled engine!
Google the EV 57 Ford here in NZ it does advertisements for an electricity provider so is regularly seen on TV, Lots of purists and hot rodders are horrified but they lack imagination.
I missed this first time around, but I think it’s wonderful and got some mental cogs turning. I think the same approach to many other cars … essentially “eco-resto-mod” … would be very interesting. Modern (but not oversized) tires and brakes, upgraded suspension (bushings, shocks, and steering ratio/feel), good seatbelts plus an efficient modern four cylinder turbo would make a very nice Falcon, Dart, or even A Body wagon.
I reckon Mr. Hopkins has done a tidy job fixing up and re-configuring his ’59 Edsel to fit his modern automotive needs. Or at least he had 5 years ago. Does anyone know if he’s still driving his eco-mod creation now?
I noted the original article was from 2011 and so I’m wondering if ‘the way forward’ in the classic car hobby is the same now as it was eight years ago? I’m not a classic car hobbyist — I have one old car now and used to have two, but I didn’t then mess with them unless they needed fixing as opposed to them being hobby vehicles for me to tinker around with — and I don’t see a future benefit to having fewer original (or mostly-original) old cars extant. You can save old cars from the junkyard and pull them off the scrapheap but if everyone who has an old car updates it by switching out the original engine, the original transmission, adding power steering components to a manual-steering car and changing over the ‘GEN’ to an ‘ALT’, et cetera then it ceases to be a classic car does it not? It’s just an old car body and that’s all it is. Guts missing! Ecomods — or are they ‘eco-classic-mods’? — and resto-mods are of no interest. I’d be most interested, however, to see one of those 1969/70 Ford Mavericks mentioned in the other thread with the 3-speed semi-automatic transmissions still in place. That looks like fun to pore over one of those.
I’m pleased to say my aging FORD still has its guts. Primitive, cheap and imperfect the car is yet ready to go go go in 2019.