x x x
x x x x x
x x x x x x
Jeff Cocking's 1959 Edsel Ranger
(from Volume 16, Issue 174)

Almost since its debut, the Edsel wound up the car everybody seemed to “love to hate”. It has certainly been the butt of countless jokes, and became synonymous with “failure”. But 50 years later, when one pulls into a car show it is greeted with smiles, and invariably a group gathered around it. It would seem the lovable looser has come into its own, kind of like the ugly duckling transforming into a swan. Alright, maybe the swan thing is a bit of a stretch, but due to the fact you don’t see very many around they have become welcomed sights.

To gain some perspective lets look back at a bit of Edsel history. The Edsel came about as a way for Ford to fill a void in their mid-size automobiles. While Chevy owners could “upgrade” to a Buick, Pontiac or Oldsmobile, and Dodge owners could opt for a Plymouth or Chrysler, the Ford buyers were looking at Mercury as their only step up. The idea was that Ford was losing customers to the other companies in the process, so they decided to launch an entirely new car division - Edsel. Following a big promotional campaign prior to the car’s debut, approximately 2.5 million Americans poured into Edsel dealerships on “E-Day”, September 5, 1957. However when few cars were actually being sold it became apparent that public expectation was higher than the car could live up to, which is never good for sales. To make matters worse, by the time the first Edsel had arrived in the showroom the country was in a recession. Not only were Edsels not selling, sales at other companies were down; DeSoto by 54%, Buick 33%, Mercury 48%, and Dodge 47%. Consumers were turning towards smaller, more fuel efficient cars.

In addition to the Edsel’s styling being radical and not to everyone’s liking, there were also other issues. Edsels were run between Fords and Mercurys on the assembly line, and in this interruption of routine the workers sometimes forgot to install some parts. Cars were arriving at dealerships with parts missing, and to compound the problem many dealers were poorly equipped to replace them, or add on accessories. The Edsel went into a downward spiral, and the more the cars failed to sell, the more dealers dropped the Edsel line. The more dealers quit stocking them, the more the public was afraid to buy them. After only three model years (1958-60) and just 110,847 total Edsels later, Ford officially cut its losses and discontinued the line.

Jeff Cocking became interested in 50’s and 60’s cars because his dad had collected dealer promotional models from when Jeff was a kid (many of which are quite valuable today). They had also gone to car shows with many of his dad’s cars, which included a ‘31 Chevy, ‘40 Chevy, ‘58 Ford Fairlane, ‘60 Ford truck, ‘63 International truck, and a ‘63 Cadillac convertible. Jeff decided on an Edsel because of the underdog story behind it, and the fact you don’t see a lot of them.

Jeff’s particular 1959 Edsel Ranger was purchased new at Rusty Eck Edsel of Wichita, Kansas in late ‘59, driven for 10 years, and then parked in a backyard for 27 years, only being started every 6 months. In 1966, Keith Mayginnes of Wichita purchased the car from the 88 year old original owner. He put a gallon of gas in it, and drove it two miles home with one brake working. He did some body work on it, and sold it to a friend who rebuilt the engine and transmission before trading it in at the Rusty Eck dealership for a truck. While sitting on the showroom floor at the dealership Edsel Ford II signed the glove box door and title in 2001 when Ford was on a Mustang promotional tour. In 2007 Jeff bought the car from Bob Dowding of Largo, who had purchased it from the Rusty Eck dealership and trailered it to Florida. It has since had new paint, bumpers and the grill rechromed. The brightwork is a combination of junk yard hunting and eBay. Having been found in 1996 with 38K miles, it now has 46K.

The car is equipped with the “thrifty six” 223 cubic inch engine, reflecting the recession of ‘58 and the consumers need for better gas mileage. The car has too many new parts to list, and is a never ending project for Jeff. Anytime he finds a nicer part, he swaps out the old one.

It is estimated that today less than 6,000 Edsels have survived, which is why you see so few of them at car shows. Their low numbers, combined with a distinctive look has made them standouts on any car show field. CN