1959 Edsel Ranger

The find and it's history

I discovered this 1959 Edsel Ranger in a barn in Middletown, Delaware on Saturday, May 1, 2010. I couldn't beleive this car had been stored away and it's exterior had weathered over time but it's interior was emaculate.

Sure it has a lack luster look but with careful restoration it will be looking like it did the first day off the assembly line.

The name Edsel has become synonymous with disaster and failure based on the short three model year run that nearly bankrupted Ford Motor Company in the late '50s. Ford invested approximately $250 million dollars in the development of the Edsel. Ford also pioneered several business practices with the Edsel that are now commonplace: Market Segmentation; Market Research; Virtual Manufacturing; and Quality Metrics are among the practices pioneered by Edsel.

The target market for Edsel were identified as "young professionals on their way up". These were the folks deemed most likely to "outgrow" a Ford but not feel prosperous enough to buy a Mercury, or be too rich for a Mercury but not quite rich enough for a Lincoln. Through salary growth and career advancement these customers could eventually be Mercury and Lincoln owners if only Ford could keep them from trading their Ford or Mercury on a Chrysler Corporation, Studebaker, Packard, or GM car.

What is unclear in retrospect is how one brand, Edsel, could "sandwich" another brand, Mercury, and be properly positioned and advertised in the market to catch both the Ford and Mercury "trade up" market. After all if you could afford to trade up from a Mercury, why would you want to buy a car that looked virtually identical to the car someone who couldn't quite afford a Mercury would own? That's a challenge the Marketing group at Edsel never did overcome.

Once the target was identified groups of "young professionals" were asked what they were looking for in their trade up vehicles and the feedback used to guide the design. The young professionals were looking for a car that was identifiable from any angle (even looking down from their high rise office buildings). They asked for a car with a pronounced hood and grill reminiscent of the pre-war Packards and LaSalles. Being the mid 50's when the research was being conducted, the target groups also asked for jet age aviation style interior and controls, and powerful engines. What the Market Research missed in it's early days was the importance of focus group feedback on the outcome of the creative process before building and launching the product.

There were no Edsel assembly plants. All Edsels were built in Ford or Mercury plants - the dawn of outsourcing and virtual manufacturing. This may well have lead to many of the quality issues as '57 Fords and Mercurys were being assembled on the same line at the same time as '58 Edsels. This was a very challenging manufacturng environment to switch back & forth between different wiring, options, engines, and trim every 8th or 10th car. The UAW was no fan of Edsel Ford the person, in his lifetime, and many members were sure this virtual manufacturing concept was a ploy to cheat them out of additional jobs in memory of Edsel.

Every Edsel was tested, measured, and assigned a quality score as it came off the line. If the average score for the day passed then all cars built that day shipped to dealers. Even cars with missing parts were reportedly received by dealers with notes explaining what needed to be put together by the dealership! In retrospect it may have been better to keep the low scoring cars back for repairs rather than let them out to the public to start and fuel the poor quality reputation that dogged the Edsel.

The 'radical' interior and exterior styling was toned down for '59 in an attempt to stop the sales slide. The 'Tele-touch' pushbutton transmission was dropped. The upscale market between Mercury and Lincoln was abandoned by Edsel. Edsel, Mercury, and Lincoln were merged into the Mercury Edsel Lincoln division (MEL). Only Ford chassis were used for '59 Edsels, although the wheelbase was stretched 1" by the use of longer rear springs and driveshaft. More Ford parts rather than Edsel exclusive parts were used to lower production costs. The Citation, Pacer, Bermuda, and Roundup models were discontinued for'59. Sadly, none of these changes helped and sales for '59 Edsels ended even lower than for the '58 model year.