Sunday, December 4, 2016

What if… Edsel had its own version of the Thunderbird?

[Editor’s Note: Daniel Lindquist of KDC Garage not only has some interesting ideas about alternate automotive histories, he can also render those histories in Photoshop and form a narrative around them. One of his latest: an Edsel-flavored Thunderbird.]

The Ford Thunderbird began life in 1953 as a direct response to Chevrolet’s recently unveiled Corvette prototype. Calling in some major players in the design field, the Thunderbird rapidly developed from idea to prototype in about a year. Ford was very pleased to see record-breaking sales of the Thunderbird reach 23 times the number of Corvettes sold in 1955.

With a new Edsel Corsair model staged for production in 1958, Edsel saw the great success and popularity of the Thunderbird as a viable platform for a mid-level entry personal luxury car within the Ford corporate lineup below the top-of-the-line Continental. In 1956, borrowing the Thunderbird’s basic frame and removable hardtop roof, Edsel had its design team rush to create a prototype similar to the Thunderbird in length, though being slightly heftier in general proportions to fit the fresh styling of the new Corsair.

Edsel was so confident it had a winner, that an operable prototype of the car was driven to a meeting with Ford execs where it was touted that the new Raven model would provide a bit more headroom and elbow room than the Thunderbird, and offer even more luxury options at mid-level pricing. Edsel also went on to elaborate how Ford could then focus more attention to racing applications of the Thunderbird as to be more competitive against the Corvette.

However Ford execs, fearing diluting the market for such a popular vehicle as the Thunderbird, quickly axed the project, and this specially made prototype was presumably destined for scrap. Edsel continued with its full-sized Corsair as planned for the 1958 model year. Though, sadly, on November 19, 1959, Ford discontinued the Edsel marque and the last Edsel car soon rolled off the assembly line.