Junkyard Find: 1958 Edsel Villager

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1958 edsel villager

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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  • 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.

  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.