1950s and 1960s Edsel Concept Cars

1960 Edsel Concept Cars
This Edsel concept car envisions a unique Corsair as the top-line 1960 Edsel, but more prosaic Ford-based models were used instead.
This Edsel concept car envisions a unique Corsair as the top-line 1960 Edsel, but more prosaic Ford-based models were used instead.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1960 Edsel concept cars promised a unique line of cars, but the production 1960 Edsel turned out to be nothing but a restyled version of that year's bigger, all-new standard Ford.

As later recorded by Edsel public relations director C. Gayle Warnock in his book, "The Edsel Affair," this decision had come way back in April 1958, when it was abundantly clear that the Edsel experiment had gone awry.

The man behind it was none other than the no-nonsense Robert S. MacNamara, then a Dearborn vice-president, who declared the 1960 Edsel should be merely "a variation on the Ford car, using the same major components with modified front and rear ornamentation."

Even so, "instant recognition" was still deemed important to Edsel sales when work on the 1960 began. Special Interest Autos magazine suggested as much in 1970 with a rescued photo of the front-end treatment originally intended.

This was somewhat like the final production design save a prominent bright central bar running up from the bumper into a chrome-edged nacelle. Both bar and nacelle were roughly triangular, with the latter blended smoothly into flanking cross-hatched sub-grilles. The hood formed its top portion, and continued its line rearward in Edsel's customary tapering-vee bulge.

If not exactly timeless -- the effect reminds one of TV's Ollie the Dragon -- the treatment was at least identifiably Edsel and far less prone to joke-making than the original horse-collar.

Trouble was, it meant unique hood and grille stampings, and that was too much for the sales-conscious MacNamara. His cost concerns also overruled 1960 Corsair models (which would have worn a wide, tapering swath of brushed metal on their lower flanks), as well as a rear-end treatment that used Ford's new flat-fin rear fenders to revive a 1958 Edsel hallmark: "gullwing" taillights.

An Ohio Edsel fan restored an Edsel Ranger hardtop to look like the never-to-be 1960 Edsel Corsair.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1960 Edsels thus bowed in October 1959 with just five Rangers and two Villager wagons bearing a split grille remarkably like that of the previous year's Pontiac, plus four vertical ovals stuck awkwardly onto the Ford rump for tail- and backup lights.

There were also bullet-style parking-lamp housings an big E-D-S-E-L lettering on the lower rear fenders, but most everything else was 1960 Ford. Not that it mattered much, for Edsel's plug was pulled barely a month after the 1960s went on sale.

To learn what might have been if Ford had kept the brand, read about the Edsel Comet on the next page.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out: