Curbside Find: 1959 Edsel Corsair Convertible – One Of 1,300 Built – The Coolest Edsel Of ‘Em All?

Photos from the Cohort by Slant Six, captured at Rose Enterprise Motors in Greigsville, Piffard, NY. 

If you have ever read the least bit about Edsels, you pretty much know all there’s to be said about me. That I was Ford’s biggest fumble and butt-ugly (subjective!) to boot. That I arrived at the worst possible time. And that there wasn’t much reason for my existence. Was I an upscale Ford, or a lowly Mercury? And so on. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

But look, let’s put whatever assumptions you’ve about me aside. Yes, I’m an Edsel, no way around that. But a convertible, and as such, there can be little argument that of all Edsels, I’m the coolest of ’em all.

Yes, being a droptop does help a great deal in making me cool; or nifty. The term I would have used back in the day.

But as I was saying, droptops of any kind are just the coolest. Even those weird-as-heck Exner cars from ’60-’62 look mildly passable as convertibles. What other body style can do that to a car?

So, as long as that soft top doesn’t leak, we’re just the peachiest of rides. I doubt many will disagree with that. Now, I admit enthusiasts bring quibbles about chassis flex or some nonsense like that… But, geez, enthusiasts! Does anyone really care what they think?

So, who am I and what are my credentials, exactly?

I’m a Corsair, a convertible nonetheless. One of 1,343 units built in 1959. And should you care to know, the Corsair line was at the top of the Edsel world for ’59. And being a convertible, I was the priciest model of all Corsairs. In keeping with that idea, I carried a 332 V-8 under the hood, with 225hp of force.

Gosh, my engine revs with excitement just thinking of it all!

Now, the cynics out there may say that many other Fords could be had with a 332 in 1959. True, but that 332 did carry that “Thunderbird” cachet, you know?

Some could also say that I basically rode on a stretched Ford platform; from 118″ to 120″. Still, 4″ less than a Mercury. And didn’t Olds and Buicks share bodies and platforms? No one got on GM’s case over that. So there! I was more than a Ford, less than a Mercury for ’59. Clear as day.

I’m making a case for myself?

Now,  I won’t deny that I, as a brand, arrived at the very wrong f*$%& time. Wait, who let such language out of me? So rude on my part. I almost sound like that foul-mouthed good fer nothin’ Lenny Bruce I heard about…

Then again, you understand my frustrations, right? I mean, when I was conceived, the world was for me for the taking! I was this towering monument to 1950s modernity! Bold and unabashed! Break the mold I was told, and so I did. A confluence of compound shapes and forms, playing against a body filled with brutalist straight-line severity. The glitziness of Broadway against the austerity of a 1930s Bauhaus building. Bold!

Incongruous you say? If you think so, I’ll just say, how conventional of you to expect something as quaint as harmony.

The Ford Nucleon concept of ’57. Just think, a future with a nuclear powered Edsel!


But yes, the timing for such boldness was lousy. Who would have expected I would arrive amid the worst recession since the war’s end? Who knew bonanzas come to an end? I surely didn’t!

And to top it all, who knew people would get simultaneously fed up with modernity and glitz? I mean, after WWII, everyone LOVED the future. And we sold it year after year, with everyone loving it. Plus chrome, lots of chrome… And then, it all came to a stop!

Talk about a perfect storm! A cold market, and a public fed up with novelty, the future, and glitziness. Is like the whole book was thrown away all at once!

Who knew buyers would ever tire of getting more of the same year after year?

So yes, by ’59 Ford was quickly retreating on their commitment to me. You know the old trick; that corporate uncommitted full-commitment: We at Ford, are ready to go mano a mano with GM… unless it doesn’t pan out.

To start with, many of my futuristic options from ’58 fell under the corporate axe. Mainly, the Teletouch transmission, one of my main attractions. Also, the myriad minor instruments that made the ’58 feel like a fighter plane’s cockpit; the rotating speedo, the warning lights for oil, overheating, and the parking brake. I had so much future for the future in me!

Some critics also mention many of those options came with reliability issues, but please. What about Mopars? Heck, even Buicks were lousily screwed together (I’ve read period user reviews, and they were just as lousy. Trust me!).

After all, it was Detroit in the late ’50s. Who worries about tightly screwed panels when novelty is so much sexier?

Still, if you had issues with me in ’58, you had to admit that by ’59 I had adopted a more tasteful and restrained take on the same themes. And I made for a rather attractive Ford model. If you look carefully at my more sedate lines, you can sense that I’m already embodying the spirit of the more formal ’60s.

Not that I was throwing away all my penchant for the late ’50s modernity that defined me in ’58. That Edsel logo, was one nice looking piece of design, and I proudly wore it. Why get rid of a non-tradition in the making?

Well, my futuristic ’58 doodads may have been gone for ’59, but the layout was still full Googie and Jetsons-ready. Not that I can deny the cost-cutting. As you can see, the Teletouch is gone for good, and instead, I’m making use of the corporate Cruise-O-Matic. Of course, rechristened as Dual-Power-Drive for me, Edsel. Oh, and I also had a choice of a low-cost Mile-O-Matic, plus the corporate manual stick shift.

Now, quiet. I hear again some snickering about me being nothing but a glorified Ford. Do I have to remind you that I have an extended wheelbase?

So, no, I’m no Ford. Just look at that lovely E D S E L font on the hood.

Regrettably, as nifty cool as I am, time hasn’t been kind to me. As you can see, I’m suffering from some worrisome tin worm on my underside. Pity.

To think there can’t be many surviving Edsel convertibles like me; such a shame. Then again, if I must go and become a donor to keep some other Corsair rolling and the Edsel legend alive… I know I would have died for a higher purpose.

With 1960 being the last year of Edsel, there’s little to dispute that I was the coolest of ’em all ever. Then again, you may think it was the ’58 Citation convertible. I’ll leave that discussion to you all. But there’s no way to deny that of all Edsels, I’m pretty high up there in the niftiness factor.

So, I’ll leave you with one last view of the Edsel experience with this shot of the interior. Once again, I hear some snickering about this looking a hell of a lot like a lowly Ford interior. But look at that instrument panel! That’s just sooo futurist Edsel!


Related CC reading:

QOTD: 1959 Edsel–How Did Ford Ever Sell 40,000 Of These Things?

Curbside Classic: 1959 Edsel “Eco-Boost” – Reversing Old Habits