Junkyard Find: 1958 Edsel Villager

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Catbert430 Catbert430 on Mar 04, 2011

    The Edsel was not intended to fill a space in the lineup between Mercury and Lincoln, but rather between Ford and Mercury. The Edsel Ranger and Pacer shared Ford bodies. The Edsel Corsair and Citation shared Mercury bodies. I believe that the Edsel wagons (Bermuda and Villager) were all Ford-based rather than Mercury-based. Edsel was meant to be Ford's version of Pontiac rather than Buick.

    • Geeber Geeber on Mar 04, 2011

      One of the problems with the Edsel is that it ultimately filled TWO niches. The Ford-based cars competed with Pontiac and Dodge, but the Mercury-based cars were meant to take on Buick, DeSoto and some Chryslers. Edsel thus bracketed Mercury in its model offerings, which left buyers confused. Couple this with the fact that Mercury attempted to move upmarket with the Park Lane, and Ford did the same thing with the Fairlane 500 (and then the Galaxie), and it's easy to see that potential buyers were confused as to where Edsel fit in the Ford Motor Company's brand totem pole. The irony is that McNamara's four-seat Thunderbird easily outsold the Edsel, and was a huge success. And it was sold by FORD dealers under the Ford nameplate, even though asking prices were clearly in the medium-price field. The 1958 Thunderbird, not the Edsel, was the car that ultimately made inroads into GM's territory.

  • Moparman426W Moparman426W on Mar 04, 2011

    The valiant/dart became the closest amercian product to what mercedes made in those days. They had alot of the same qualities that mercedes had during that era. They had a fairly stout structure, low beltline and generous glass area, with an upright driving position, and pretty good handling with decent fuel economy. And they were mechanically overbuilt.

  • Akear I just wish GM could produce a vehicle 80% as good as the crown.I sat in a Trax at a Chevrolet dealership this weekend and was shocked how cheap it felt. GM does not care.GM - what a disgrace!
  • Akear I like the grill treatment of all Mitsubishi products. It is an interesting and original design.
  • El scotto Some rambling thoughts; Elon is pulling billions in cash out of Tesla. Tesla will be around, Elon won't let them fail. Mitsubishi is an odd place, you can't sell vehicles if you don't have dealers. Out of all the "Automalls" near you, how many have a Mitsubishi dealership? The Agnellis owned Fiat, Fiat got sold to Stellantis. The Agnellis control Exor. How much of Stellantis does Exor own? I really should be drinking beer with Billy Ford and talking Big-10 trash with him. Ford and Lucid should work out a partnership. You want an electric Lincoln? Have Lucid build it and slap a Lincoln name plate on it. BTW, kick Farley's butt to the curb.
  • Akear US contentChevrolet Trax - 5%Honda Pilot - 52%What a disgrace!I glad Consumer Reports panned the Trax, and put it on its avoid list.
  • Akear This is similar to what lazy GM and Ford used to do.