Curbside Classic: 1959 Edsel Ranger – Unintended Positive Outcomes

It was an Edsel-type day.  Much like the story of Edsel, this particular day had held so much promise, was something that had been eagerly awaited, yet it turned out to be vastly different than initially intended.  Finding this Edsel by mid-afternoon was so symbolic, so appropriate.

It was a wonderful treat.

While I’ve never elaborated about where I work or what I do for pay during the day (it’s rather irrelevant for this venue), let’s just say I’m never truly and entirely off the clock.  Some days simply require my attention despite not physically being at work, something to which Editor Jim Klein can attest.  He got to overhear a conversation or two about various goings-on while traveling to the CC Meetup in Detroit two years ago.  The good folks in Human Resources are perhaps my biggest ally and cohorts.

From 1993; it isn’t nearly as bad in 2019

This particular day certainly fell into the needing to be available category, despite technically being on vacation leave so I could spend the day with my daughter while the wife was out of town.  It was a noxious cocktail of a continually rising Missouri River that was creating the fourth highest crest ever for this area combined with the aftermath of a stout tornado that recently hit Jefferson City, showing its abilities within a mile of my house.  For a county that previously had only four confirmed tornados since 1959, none of which were very strong, this tornado was an EF-3 that hit one of the more densely populated areas of town.

The tornado announced its destructive arrival in the state capital by landing on the Chevrolet / Toyota dealer.  Well over ninety percent of their nine hundred plus unit inventory was damaged or destroyed.  On the premises, and also damaged, was a 1967 Corvette and a Checker Aerobus.

It also heavily damaged over 500 buildings in town – or maybe more.  I’ve lost track.

Multiple apartment buildings took direct hits before the tornado worked its way to the Missouri River on the north end of town and finally dissipated.  The debris cloud rose to an altitude of 13,000 feet during the height of the storm.  I’ve talked to people living fifteen miles away whose property was showered with insulation and other tornado related debris.

It’s a miracle only one person died as a direct result of the damage.  The initial reports of apartment buildings taking direct hits generates nothing but concern.

But we are supposed to be talking about our featured Edsel aren’t we?  Well, the day of the tornados certainly didn’t turn out as planned; the only real bragging rights is having simultaneous natural disasters.  How often does that happen?  Might coining a new word, Edsel-esque, be appropriate?  Nothing was turning out as planned or anticipated.

For whatever reasons, Edsels have been popping up in my life lately.  Nothing tremendous, but just enough.  It does seem fitting given a number of other things have not panned out quite as intended.  That statement is not a pessimism filled rant, it’s simply an observation.  Life if full of things that don’t go as planned, which is quite reflective of the Edsel itself.

The Edsel emergence started with stumbling upon a B-movie from 1975 starring Cloris Leachman and titled Crazy Mama. Set in 1958, Leachman’s character is traveling with her mother and recently impregnated daughter, along with an assortment of other eccentric people, from Southern California to her hometown of Jerusalem, Arkansas.  Her landlord had evicted her from her beauty parlor and she, along with the entourage, are now on a cross-country crime spree.

As an aside, it was hilarious to see Jim Backus, the voice of Mr. Magoo and the man who played Thurston Howell III on Gilligan’s Island, yell and call Leachman’s character a “crazy bitch.”

Perhaps he later went home and had an Old Fashioned with Lovey.

In the movie Backus drove this Cadillac Eldorado that Leachman’s character promptly steals.

As another aside, I had never realized Leachman had as good a figure as she did.  Wikipedia says she was 49 years old and had birthed five children when this movie was made.

Anyway, this group’s ongoing crime spree included the theft of many different vehicles for use as getaway cars in their various heists.  One of these cars was a 1960 Edsel Ranger.

It’s pretty amazing how Leachman’s gang was able to find a worn 1960 Edsel at a time that is supposed to be 1958.  No doubt this major league error wasn’t a planned outcome, as the Edsel was simply a cheap old sedan procured by some unknowledgeable person on the crew.  They likely figured it could be used for a getaway car….

And then recycled into a police car toward the end of the movie.

The Edsel seems fitting for use in this movie.  Leachman’s character does not have the outcome in Jerusalem that she had intended.  Where she had hoped to purchase the old family homestead with her stolen money, she finds herself fleeing the constabulary after a shoot-out at a wedding reception.

But I’m talking about the wrong year of Edsel.  I need to focus on 1959.

Edsel sightings are weird.  While there were more 1958 models produced, it seems these are rarely seen.  If they are seen it tends to be in a museum.  The ’60 is so rare it’s almost tartare; I’ve seen all of one in the wild in my entire life and I immediately knew that was a serendipitous event.

The 1959 Edsel is the Edsel that seems to be the most frequently found.  I know of a few other ’59 Edsels parked in various places, awaiting that fateful “some day” when they are resurrected.  The 1959 Edsel also seems like it’s the one mostly likely to be used as intended instead of being pampered.


Case in point on usage is this 1959 Edsel Ranger recently featured in Hemmings’ daily newsletter. It’s called the Kozy Traveler Kar Kamper – for me the misspellings don’t generate a lot of confidence in the manufacturer.


The intention was to remove the trunk lid of the host vehicle and use the trunk floor as the base of the camper unit.  It was then supported by brackets mounted to the gutters of the car.  The ad in Hemmings says the camper is 1968 vintage.  A search for the Kozy Traveler Kar Kamper shows a identically named company founded in Goodland, Kansas, in 1965 that is now defunct.

While the trajectory of the Kozy camper appears comparable to that of the Edsel, there are other things that likely didn’t turn out as intended.  At least for this poor Edsel.

This unfortunate beast of burden is powered by a straight-six mated to a two-speed automatic.  With the gearing and aerodynamics of this rig, it undoubtedly takes the phrase of “leisure travel” to a new dimension.

One thousand words in and there’s still precious little mention of our featured Edsel.  Did I intend it that way or did I not?

Finding this particular Edsel was fortuitous.  As stated earlier I had taken the day off to be with my daughter while my wife was out of town.  Sure, my offspring is old enough to stay at home alone but children have that awful habit of growing up.  These opportunities are rapidly dwindling.

We had gone to get some ice cream at a local establishment, a place that vastly exceeds that 32 Flavor place in variety and quality while greatly undercutting them on price.  How about a pint of ice cream in a waffle cone for $3?  See for yourself.

Going there is a sort of tradition; we took the child there for breakfast on her tenth birthday.  So after eating entirely too much on this most recent visit (my sugar consumption is going to haunt me one of these days) we left this 1940s era establishment.  Deciding upon an adventure to avoid the traffic being detoured by the store due to the flooding, we ventured up the steep hill of an alley.

Getting to the top, there she sat.  If you look at these pictures, you can tell it wasn’t alone.

My daughter and I both realized finding this Edsel was a reward sandwiched amongst a huge pile of a profession’s crap.  Dealing with a growing natural disaster, and the aftermath of a second, plus interviews with three different television reporters will drink a lot of time on a person’s day off.  Thankfully my daughter is understanding of it all and we have already discussed another attempt at our day.  There will no doubt be more ice cream involved.

This all leads up to the conclusion of this narrative.  Sure, the Edsel saga did not unfold as Ford had planned.  But might the Edsel have been as memorable otherwise?  Good also comes from bad, as the Edsel created production capacity Ford quickly put to good use with the Falcon.

Finding this Edsel came about from the frustrations of a day not going as planned, with outcomes that some could consider failure.  But it isn’t.  It was simply a reminder that things happen for a reason, one can salvage good things from bad if they think about it, and a person needs to realize the joys of the moment.  Had I been distracted, this Edsel would still be awaiting its moment of international recognition.

The Edsel was truly a reward in which we both equally enjoyed the discovery.

Found June 5, 2019, Jefferson City, Missouri

More Edsel related reading:

1959 Edsel Ecoboost by PN

1960 Edsel Ranger by PN