Though first envisioned as a more expensive and powerful "super Mercury," the 1958-1959 Edsels ended up positioned between Ford and Mercury. Some 1958-1959 Edsel concept cars, however, were based squarely on Mercury designs.
The initial 1958 Edsel production offerings comprised Ranger and step-up Pacer series sharing chassis, running gear, and bodyshells with the 1957-1958 Fords, and a smaller group of senior Corsair and Citation models bearing like relationships to contemporary Mercurys.
But the poor showing of the 1958 Edsel in the recession of that year -- and indeed the similar poor showings of most middle-priced cars -- caused Ford top brass to reconsider the role of its new car. As a result, model offerings were cut drastically from 18 in 1958 to 10 in 1959, and the base price now topped out at $3,072, as compared to $3,801 in 1958.
Those 10 models in the 1959 lineup spread among Ford-based Rangers and Corsairs, plus Villager wagons. But the original plan had been to continue the broad 1958 lineup that owed much to Mercury.
The stillborn big Edsels would have been quite different from their 1958 forebears because of the all-new platform decreed for that year's 20th anniversary Mercurys. Typical of the times, it was longer, lower, and wider, but also much cleaner than the 1957-1958 design. It was more practical too, with a space-making, slimmed-down dash and huge new expanses of glass for outstanding visibility.
Naturally, the 1959 Merc-based Edsels would have shared these features, as well as a wide-track "cowbelly" chassis. Wheelbase would have been the same 126 inches used for all 1959 Mercs save the opluent Park Lane (128), up two from the 1958 Citation/Corsair.
To set all their 1959s apart, Edsel stylists toyed with variations on established themes. Surviving photos show the stillborn seniors combining a Mercury greenhouse with distinct Edsel faces. Designers were evidently satisfied early on with lowered headlights and a blunted version of the infamous "horse-collar" grille, for both survived to the Ford-based 1959s.
But the big 1959 Edsels were ultimately dropped, though not until fairly late in the game. The reason, of course, was dismal sales of the 1958 models -- barely a third of the model-year total, which itself was a mighty disappointment to Dearborn.
All this doomed Edsel to a quick end. To find out about the last model year, in 1960, keep reading on the next page.