5k: Polarizing Design; 1959 Edsel Villager

While there have been many sales flops in the history of the automobile, and many controversial designs over the years, surely the most infamous “failure” is the Edsel. This was Ford Motor Company’s late-’50s attempt to start a new mid-level brand to compete with the likes of Pontiac and Plymouth – a bit nicer and better equipped than a basic Ford, but cheaper than a Mercury. Edsel started with a full lineup for 1958 with two different wheelbases and a selection of sedans, hardtops, convertibles and wagons…but was killed off after only two and a half model years. Today’s 1959 Edsel Villager 9-passenger wagon is the middle child in the short-lived Edsel family tree (and to this editor, the most attractive). Find it here on ebay with bidding near $4k and a $10.5k Buy it Now price in Midland, TX.

In plain sight above is the controversial horse collar grille that earned the Edsel its myriad nicknames such as “an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon.” Below is the only photo the seller provides of the entire car. These ’59 Edsels are much sleeker, longer and wider looking than the ’58s and don’t look too far off from Fords of the same era that they were based on, apart from that infamous grille.

This particular Edsel was previously listed on ebay earlier this month and did not meet reserve, with a high bid of $4716. Perhaps $5k is all the money for this car, but even in rough cosmetic condition it has a certain appeal. It has a claimed extensive service history, the same owner since 1960, running and driving well, with functional air conditioning. No details are provided about the V8 but from some research we think it’s either the Express 332 cubic inch, 225 hp version or the Super Express 361 c.i., 303 hp optional mill.

From the auction photos we can see this car looks original but well-worn. It would likely be a great candidate for a cosmetic restoration; some minor rust repair and paint work, and interior freshening would get this car to presentable status pretty quickly. The body looks straight and unmolested in the pictures provided with only some gas-fill staining and rear wheel arch rust to correct.

image from EphemeraNow.com

The lead Edsel designer Roy Brown just passed away a few weeks ago; find Hemmings Daily’s nice obituary write-up here. Our own Hunsbloger says, “unfortunately for Edsel owners, his death won’t have the same impact on sales $ as Caroll Shelby’s did for signed gloveboxes.” This editor was surprised to learn that in addition to the love it or hate it Edsel (which I happen to love), Mr. Brown also penned the Cortina, one of the most widely accepted and best appreciated of Ford’s compact cars. Roy Brown was someone I would have liked to meet; it seems he had a strong will. When asked about being made the scapegoat for Edsel’s failure he said, “I cried in my beer for two days and then I said, ‘The hell with it. Enthusiasm got me where I was, and it’ll get me back.’” 

image from EphemeraNow.com

The Edsel is a fascinating subject, which we could expound on at length…but in the interest of repeating what has been said already we will point you to Ate Up With Motor’s history writeup, the Edsel Pages resource site , and Wikipedia’s article which is less of a specs page and more of an actual analysis of the brand. In addition, Classic Motorsports bought a ’59 Villager wagon as a project car a few years back and expounded on its driveability and surprising utility value for its age. Wonder if they are still cruising it around Florida?

image from EphemeraNow.com

If you’re looking for a unique but solid ’50s wagon, in my mind you could do a lot worse than a 1959 Edsel Villager – and if you don’t mind (or actually prefer) the polarizing design then today’s feature car in Texas would be worth consideration. We will be watching to see if it gets anywhere near the seller’s Buy it Now price.

Find a better longroof horsecollar for less? Email us here: tips@dailyturismo.com