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March 7, 2013

Roy Brown Jr., Edsel Designer, Dies at 96: "Ford tried to build a 1977 Ford in 1957."

neo-neocon Roy Brown Jr. must have known: I remember when the Edsel came out, although I was extremely young, and I've never been into cars and didn't understand a bit about the furor and the controversy. But in retrospect it looks kind of snazzy (that's the also-snazzy Roy Brown Jr., at 81, standing in front of his creation).

BrownEdsel.jpg

Posted by gerardvanderleun at March 7, 2013 12:01 PM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

I was a dashing USAF pilot when the Edsel was introduced. I think the only person in the world who didn't snicker was Roy Brown Jr., and I'm not sure about him.

Posted by: BillH at March 7, 2013 1:12 PM

I was a snot nosed kid that looked forward to the yearly styling changes back in the 50's and 60's. I have to say, compared to some of the other cars back then, I don't think the Edsel looks too bad at all. We used to have a 1960 Plymouth that was so butt ugly I was embarrassed to be seen in it.

Posted by: JimBobElrod at March 7, 2013 1:24 PM

Was a preteen when the Edsel came out...and was passionate about anything concerning automobiles. Wanted to inspect,learn and absorb everything possible when a new model was introduced.

I clearly remember crawling over the Edsel and being quite impressed with some of the innovative, never before seen features of the car. One thoughtful idea (i thought) was the electro mechanical push button transmission system. Was much cooler than the selector handle protruding from the steering wheel column. The buttons were a somewhat Flash Gordon spaceship style. The only thing like it out of Detroit.

Was not aware at the time but the mechanical push buttons were not interfaced with a conventional transmission but with the first Turbo Encabulator as explained here,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ac7G7xOG2Ag

The Edsel was doomed to fail because of shoddy UAW workmanship.


Posted by: Rocky at March 7, 2013 3:20 PM

The Edsel was lost from the beginning because of a stealth ad campaign run from Madison Avenue: a whisper and rumor war against it. The front end was compared to a woman's sex organ's external appearance.

I was too young to have heard or understood what was snickered at during that time. Years later during the 1970s I was told all about it by a Madison Avenue ad executive who was there in person at the time.

Dan Kurt

Posted by: Dan Kurt at March 7, 2013 6:25 PM

I hadn't heard about the ad campaign, but the failure of the Edsel was a total team effort. Hubris in the executive suite, penny-pinching by Ford's accountants (which meant advanced features like the push-button transmission weren't adequately tested, and were built cheaply), and poor build quality at the factory. Sabotage from Madison Avenue would have been the icing on the cake.

Posted by: waltj at March 8, 2013 6:10 AM

For some reason we called 'em "Ethels"

Posted by: glenn at March 8, 2013 8:09 AM

1977? No, it looks like most Fords of the mid 1950s. If you want to know why it flopped, go look at pictures of its competition. Remember, that was the year of the '57 Chevy, a true icon of mid 20th century American card. The MoPars of that year were gorgeous. Compared to them the Edsel was a PoS. For had some beautiful cars in the Mid 50s, such as the original T-bird, and the absolutely classic Continental Mk. II.

Posted by: Fat Man at March 8, 2013 10:18 AM

The push button transmission was neither new or unique. My uncle's '56 Plymouth had that - IIRC 4 buttons, mounted in a little nacelle on the upper left of the dashboard. Don't remember any problems he ever had with the tranny over 4 years of ownership.

Posted by: bud at March 8, 2013 6:16 PM

No, the push-button transmission wasn't a new idea, and I also remember the flawless operation of the MoPar version from a cousin's Dodge built a few years later, around 1960. But Ford hadn't yet made one until they installed it on the Edsel without completely working the bugs out of it. There were other design problems as well, such as running electrical wiring too close to hot parts of the engine and exhaust system, with predictable results. Ford should have taken some of the money that they spent on the Edsel's extravagant marketing campaign and invested it in the car's engineering instead.

Posted by: waltj at March 9, 2013 6:13 AM

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