The immediate problem for dealers at the end of the Edsel's run was trying to unload the now-orphan make. The factory issued discounts and rebates to dealers with Edsels still in stock. A flat $300 was given for each 1960 on the lot, and up to $400 for unsold 1959 models still on hand.
During its short run, the Edsel lost up to
$250 million for Ford.
In an attempt to control damage, factory agents went to each dealer to negotiate settlements for their stock of cars, parts, and even the lighted Edsel signs. One factor that helped soften the death blow was that there were only two dealerships left that still sold the Edsel exclusively.
Any Edsel customer who had bought a 1960 model prior to the announcement of the car's cancellation was issued a coupon offering a $300 discount on the future purchase of another new "domestically produced" Ford Motor Company passenger car. Each coupon was serially numbered and included no expiration date. At last count, about 150 of these coupons were outstanding, and would be honored today.
Once in England, Roy Brown headed styling projects for the Ford Anglia Estate, the Zephyr Zodiac III, and the Cortina, a car that made more money for Ford than the reported $250 million the Edsel lost it.
The end of the Edsel snuffed out the last ember of the so-called Reith Program that had looked so promising on that spring day in 1955. Jack Reith was given the reins to the newly independent Mercury Division, but when it was put back with Lincoln in 1957, he suddenly found himself "awaiting reassignment." Before long, he would be gone from the Ford Motor Company; before the 1950s were out, he would be dead of a shotgun blast that may or may not have been accidental.
Today, the 1960 Edsel is a unique collectible auto.
On November 9, 1960, Robert Strange McNamara was announced as the new president of the Ford Motor Company. That same morning, a young Massachusetts Senator awoke to learn that he had narrowly out-polled the Vice President of the United States in voting for the nation's presidency.
Soon John F. Kennedy would seek out McNamara to serve as Secretary of Defense. In the first days of 1961, McNamara resigned from Ford and headed to Washington, where he became a lightning rod for controversy in a far deadlier struggle than the contest for medium-priced car sales.
As for the Edsel, it quickly attached itself to the English language as a synonym for abject failure. But it did win on one count: It became an instant collector's item and remains one of the icons of its time.
For models, prices, and production numbers of the 1960 Edsel, see the next page.
For more information on cars, see: