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Ford Edsel

Louisville’s Ford plant rolled its last Explorer off the line in November 2010.

In this Et Cetera: the 50th anniversary of the end of another Ford model — the notoriously unsuccessful Edsel.

The name became synonymous with failure but did you know that two-thirds of all Edsels were made in Louisville, Ky.?

Touted as the “car of the future”, the auto’s grill featured a vertical chrome oval and a futuristic push-button transmission on the steering wheel.

During the design phase, the vehicle was dubbed the “E-car,” short for experimental car.

Following an exhaustive search for a name, the car was anointed the Edsel, after Henry Ford’s late son.

Not long after its over-hyped 1957 debut, Edsel sales suffered at the hands of a recession.

The car also reportedly developed problems—some claimed the push-button transmission would freeze and others joked Edsel stood for “Every Day Something Else Leaks.

Edsel’s PR team likely made matters worse by cooking up a promotional campaign that flopped too.

The Washington Post reported that Ford offered the chance to win a pony to anyone who test drove an Edsel.

Ford got stuck, not only with cars they couldn’t sell, but with ponies they couldn’t give away.

They pulled the plug on the doomed line with the 1960 model.

Fifty years later, Edsels are prized by collectors who traveled to Louisville in 2009 to show off their cars and tour the Ford Plant.

More to note:

  • Edsel Ford, Henry Ford’s son for whom the car was named, died of cancer in 1943, years before the vehicle bearing his name debuted.
  • Debuting in 1957, the Ford Edsel was produced for three model years, 1958, 1959 and 1960.
  • The last Edsel rolled off the line November 1959.
  • According to officials of United Auto Workers Local 862, two-thirds of all Edsels were produced by Louisville’s Ford Assembly Plant.
  • According to Wikipedia, the Edsel was unveiled on September 4, 1957, which Ford dubbed “E Day.”
  • The Edsel launch was hyped during a star-studded television broadcast of “The Ed Sullivan Show,” featuring Bob Hope, Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby.
  • According to Wikipedia, “fewer than 6,000 Edsels survive and are considered collectors’ items. A mint 1958 Citation convertible sometimes sells for over $100,000.”
  • According to The Courier-Journal, it cost Ford $400 million just to prototype the Edsel - which equates to roughly $3.5 billion today.
  • Click here for more about Ford Motor Company.
Program 411
"Louisville Life" recalls a Louisvillian who stood nearly 8 feet tall - the legendary Jim Porter, meets a glaciologist at the top of his field, looks back at the infamous Ford Edsel and more. (#411)