1950s and 1960s Edsel Concept Cars

Edsel Corsair Convertible Concept Car
Ford destroyed this full-size mockup of the 1960 Edsel Corsair convertible.
Ford destroyed this full-size mockup of the 1960 Edsel Corsair convertible.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

There's an interesting postscript involving Edsel's intended 1960 styling. Though Ford built at least one full-size mockup, the Edsel Corsair convertible concept car, it was destroyed per company practice, leaving only record photos to confirm its existence.

But one Ohio collector, Charles O. Wells, saw those pictures and decided to replicate what Ford had planned, if only for history's sake. He did it by restoring a 1960 Ranger hardtop coupe as a never-was Corsair complete with "dragon's tooth" front and brushed-metal side trim, all hand-fabricated, of course.

But he could do nothing with the back, as photos of the rejected rear-end styling have yet to surface. Even so, his project won a People's Choice Award at one Edsel Owner's Club meet in the late Eighties.

As for the entire Edsel experiment, historians agree that it failed for two reasons. The main one was plain old bad timing. As Art Railton of Popular Mechanics said at the time, "Edsel was born too late."

Special Interest Auto's Michael Lamm later echoed this view, saying the car's "aim was right, but the target moved." Ford's cynicism also played a part. Because it was "researched to death," as Lamm observed, the Edsel was a triumph of marketing style over automotive substance, and was thus almost designed to fail.

Charles O. Wells restored his 1960 Edsel Corsair hardtop using cues from the convertible picture.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Yet one wonders whether Edsel might still be around had it arrived three years either side of 1958 and been truly different. One long-overlooked factor in Edsel's quick demise is the product's unintended "overselling" a good two years before it appeared. This came mostly through "rumor mill" reports that seemed to promise all manner of exotic features, thus setting public expectations far above what any Detroit maker could have met at the time.

Ultimately, the Edsel was not just too late but too little -- not a "car of tomorrow" but just another "car of today." If no worse than its rivals, it was certainly no better, so its rejection was perhaps a foregone conclusion. After all, nobody likes broken promises.

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