The Truth About Cars » edsel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Apr 2014 14:00:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » edsel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Curbside Classic Special: 1959 Edsel “Eco-Boost” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/curbside-classic-special-1959-edsel-%e2%80%9ceco-boost%e2%80%9d/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/curbside-classic-special-1959-edsel-%e2%80%9ceco-boost%e2%80%9d/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2011 23:47:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=397846

Editor’s note: Ladies and gentlemen, for one night only, it’s the return of Curbside Classics to TTAC. You can catch Paul Niedermeyer’s work (along with contributions from an ever expanding crew of TTAC commenters and more) on a regular basis at the new Curbside Classics site. But this piece? It just had to be on TTAC.

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. Now just watch Ford add a RWD Eco-Boost turbo four to its line of crate engines.

This piece originally appeared at www.curbsideclassic.com

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Junkyard Find: 1958 Edsel Villager http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/junkyard-find-1958-edsel-villager/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/junkyard-find-1958-edsel-villager/#comments Thu, 03 Mar 2011 23:14:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=386132
How cool does a junkyard car have to be before we acknowledge that it’s just too far gone to return to street duty? A first-year Edsel wagon? Very, very cool. This one, however, appears to have been baking/freezing in a Great Plains field for a few decades, and there isn’t a whole lot of Edsel-ness left. Still, such cars allow us to contemplate Ford’s Edsel Nightmare.

GM’s strategy of having a progressive ladder of increasingly prestigious marques worked very well for them, and so Ford decided they needed a new marque to plug in between aspirational Mercuries and got-it-made Lincolns: Edsel! Everyone agrees on that part of the story, but then the usual single-interest-partisans-versus-everyone-else conspiracy theories get rolling (yes, there are single-interest Edsel fanatics. Hell, there are Cavalier X-11 and Wolseley Six fanatics).

Probably things would have gone OK for the Edsel if the late-50s recession— the worst since the end of World War II— hadn’t jabbed conspicuous-consumption car sales in the liver with a rusty catfish knife. As it sorted out, the few car buyers who were shopping decided that regular Fords were just fine with them. Meanwhile, one of the main architects of US military involvement in Southeast Asia consolidated his power at Ford Motor Company, using his influence to kill the Edsel in favor of the much smaller Falcon; by the time McNamara took over as FoMoCo president, the Edsel was doomed. Sure, the Falcon flew out of the showrooms and was the basis for the insanely successful Mustang… but that just proves to Edsel fanatics that Americans are idiots. Why, you’d be able to buy a 2011 Edsel Xtreme GT right now, had McNamara not exercised his evil powers. Edsel nuts hate McNamara even more than the Corvair Jihad hates Ralph Nader, and that’s saying something.

A really devoted rat-rodder might have done something with this car, but it would have been far easier to pay $200 over scrap value and get a somewhat less hopeless example.

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Edsel: The Official Pace Car of 2011 Gator-O-Rama 24 Hours of LeMons http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/edsel-the-official-pace-car-of-2011-gator-o-rama-24-hours-of-lemons/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/edsel-the-official-pace-car-of-2011-gator-o-rama-24-hours-of-lemons/#comments Sun, 27 Feb 2011 07:21:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=385440

This faithful TTAC writer enjoys his break from reality to be a judge at the 24 Hours of LeMons. That said, a perk to having the great Murilee Martin on board is that my LeMons coverage now embellishes his: take a look at the ’58 Edsel Ranger pace car we “procured” from a race team.

One thing about the “rat rod” school of design is how great it makes an otherwise junky heap look in the hearts and minds of most bystanders.  An ugly flat black paint job on one of the ugliest cars known to man is a Reeses peanut butter cup of automotive design!  That said, the 1970s forged (yes really) Lincoln mag wheels and 390 V8 from a ’67 Ford Galaxie make the theme cooler than cool.  And the white shag carpet seemingly taken from Dirk Digler’s rumpus room?  Why not, it’s Rat Rod!

Also note the wicked body roll in turn one here at MSR Houston.  And yes, that’s during pace car laps!  Which begs the question, maybe we need more Rat Rod themed rides in Lemons?

'58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta '58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta '58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta '58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta '58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta '58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta '58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta '58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta '58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta '58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta '58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta '58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta '58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta '58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta '58 Edsel Ranger at the 24 Hours of LeMons. Picture courtesy Sajeev Mehta ]]>
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The Curbside Classics Graveyard: May They Rust In Peace http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/the-curbside-classic-graveyard-may-they-rust-in-peace/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/the-curbside-classic-graveyard-may-they-rust-in-peace/#comments Sat, 13 Nov 2010 16:02:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=372530

Even in Eugene, where Curbside Classics miraculously soldier along on the streets for decades beyond their normal life expectancy, the forces of entropy cannot be forestalled forever. If it’s still running enough to get there, you could donate it to the official CC Sales Lot, and pass that slipping and leaking transmission on to the next sucker loving owner. But when the tow truck has to be called, Judgment Day has arrived. Will you pony up and put yourself that much deeper under water? Or will it end up at the Pick and Pull, donating its vital organs to keep its kin on the road a bit longer? But for the chosen few, there’s one other alternative: the Curbside Classic Graveyard, where it may rust (superficially) in peace until the second coming of Henry Ford (or his only begotten Son Edsel).

Where exactly is this automotive Elysian Field? 29329 Airport Road, and this screen shot from Google Street View will help you find it if you decide to come to Eugene. It’s a stone’s throw from the Eugene Airport, and 95% percent of all traffic to and from there pass it, as I did for years until I caught a glimpse of something, and decided to stop and take a look. One thing is clear; this is not a working junkyard. The doors and gates have been locked for ages, and the cars have obviously not been cannibalized.It’s a good thing I’m tall, as all my shots were taken over the top of the six foot fence.

I’ll post my shots according to the random sequence of how I shot them. The first thing that caught my eye were these two Fiat 850 Spiders, one trying to protect its open cockpit from the elements. Ooo! What’s that lurking in the background?

A Hillman Imp, no less. It’s been way to long since I’ve seen one of them. This was probably Eugene’s only Imp, which means it certainly rated an invitation to the CC Graveyard. If I can’t find it on the streets, I can hope to find it here. Lots of vintage bikes back there too. And I can’t even make out all of what’s behind them.  I’m going to have to come back and hop that fence.

Panning to the left we see a rather eclectic assortment of vintage iron: a couple of old Chevy trucks, and…I’ll stop and leave some for you guys to identify.

Moving a bit further left, one of those ultra-boxy Rambler Americans, next to its predecessor. I’m seeing an obvious pattern here: this graveyard is organized like human graveyards: by families.

I’m repeating the top picture here just for continuity. A couple of ’58 Edsels, one a Citation, the other a Corsair. Or is one a Pacer? Some definite repeated patterns emerge behind them in those windshields: old Fords, to keep it in the family, of course.

In the front row of the Ford family plot sit the proud Thunderbirds. How appropriate.

Along the west side, the Ford trucks are lined up, in what appears to be chronological order.

There’s some decided inter-familial co-mingling going on in the front row though.

But it soon turns into a nice big Corvair plot, well represented with coupes, sedans, and a fairly uncommon second generation sedan too.

That white four door by the shed could by my first car. Man, those coupes had an overly-long rear deck. No wonder the Mustang was so popular.

Lets swing back to the right, to the head of the Corvairs, where the big Chevies await their Resurrection. Or maybe in the case of cars, it’s their reincarnation.

Did I mention Mustangs? Of course they’re represented here too, as well as some interesting big iron from the fifties behind them.

Here’s the Mustang tails, including a charming customized one with triple lights on each side. Damn; haven’t seen that since I left Iowa in the mid seventies. Charming. Maybe it helped get it in the door here.

Let’s grab another parting shot of that crowded center section before I get too choked up and can’t operate my camera anymore. What a lot of deserving souls resting here.

It’s quite obvious that these cars were all well-used and even battered before they earned admission. This is no fancy-pants collection; my guess is that it started as a wrecking yard, but someone’s emotions got the better of them; like a farmer who couldn’t bear to send his pigs and chickens to market. Given how long the office has been closed, it will probably be his heirs that get/have to deal with them. Wouldn’t surprise me if that happens sooner than later; it’s hard to forestall the Grim Reaper forever.

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