Saturday, January 3, 2015
1958 Ford Edsel
That's why we're all here, right? To celebrate E Day, the date 50 years ago when Ford took one of the autodom's most hilarious pratfalls. But why? It really wasn't that bad a car. True, the car was kind of homely, fuel thirsty and too expensive, particularly at the outset of the late '50s recession. But what else? It was the first victim of Madison Avenue hyper-hype. Ford's marketing mavens had led the public to expect some plutonium-powered, pancake-making wondercar; what they got was a Mercury. Cultural critics speculated that the car was a flop because the vertical grill looked like a vagina. Maybe. America in the '50s was certainly phobic about the female business. How did the Edsel come to be synonymous with failure? All of the above, consolidated into an irrational groupthink and pressurized by a joyously catty media. Interestingly, it was Ford President Robert McNamara who convinced the board to bail out of the Edsel project; a decade later, it was McNamara, then Secretary of Defense, who couldn't bring himself to quit the disaster of Vietnam, even though he knew a lemon when he saw one.