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  • "On This Date in History..."

    Syndicated national columnist George Will rarely writes on anything automobile-related, but his column today is interesting and much "on topic" for us in automobileland...and with a certain Studebaker application. [:0]

    He discusses "50 Years Ago Today" that the country (or the world, Ford Motor Company hoped!) was eagerly anticipating the Edsel's introduction. George cites the post-mortem opinions of various wags and historians in and outside the industry. Surprisingly, there are few automotive errors in the piece.

    He points out [correctly] that only American Motors increased sales in 1958, although it would have been nice had he also cited Harold Churchill's modest success with the 1957 1/2 - 1958 Studebaker Scotsman as having encouraged "Church" to proceed apace with plans for the wildly-successful (by Studebaker standards) 1959 Lark. []

    George Will stated two interesting facts worth a retrospective chuckle:

    1. The Edsel's initial sales were so discouraging that Manhattan's only Edsel dealer bailed out of his franchise Nov. 27, 1957...to begin selling Ramblers!

    2. American Business Writer John Brooks, writing for The New Yorker, calculated that Ford Motor Company lost so much money on the Edsel that FoMoCo would have lost less money had they never conceived the Edsel and instead simply manufactured and given away 110,000 contemporary Mercurys!

    [u]OUCH!</u> (And we thought things were dismal at Studebaker in 1958...well, they were...but the cost of manufacturing and giving away 110,000 medium-priced cars...that's more than Studebaker's entire 1958 model year run!)

    Things are always so crystal-clear in the rear view mirror...(a little poetry there to elevate the literary posture of the forum....) [^][8D] BP
    We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

    Ayn Rand:
    "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

    G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

  • #2
    quote:Originally posted by BobPalma


    Things are always so crystal-clear in the rear view mirror...(a little poetry there to elevate the literary posture of the forum....) [^][8D] BP
    Well, Bob, I really wonder just how 'crystal clear' some things are in the Edsel story. I really, truly wonder if Ford actually did lose that great of an amount they stated. For one, it has come to light some inside Ford wanted to see the Edsel as a 'failure', so the books may have been padded. (i.e. potential profit from sales projections vs. 'actual' showing as a 'loss') Remember Studebaker did that same thing in 1965 & 6 trying to show the automotive division lost money when they actually made a small profit in the end. The most damning evidence to me, are the Canadian Monarch and Meteor cars. These had lots of unique trim on them. (Not so good for someone restoring one) They were sold after the war for many years. In fact, there was no 1958 Monarch as the Edsel was supposed to take its place. These cars, especially the high dollar body styles like convertibles consistently had yearly production totals well below Edsel's, yet Ford chose to keep producing them year after year. They must have made money on these Canadian cars, or common sense would have dictated that they wouldn't. I'd like to see the REAL balance sheet on the Edsel, unedited...

    Craig

    Comment


    • #3
      quote:Originally posted by BobPalma


      Things are always so crystal-clear in the rear view mirror...(a little poetry there to elevate the literary posture of the forum....) [^][8D] BP
      Well, Bob, I really wonder just how 'crystal clear' some things are in the Edsel story. I really, truly wonder if Ford actually did lose that great of an amount they stated. For one, it has come to light some inside Ford wanted to see the Edsel as a 'failure', so the books may have been padded. (i.e. potential profit from sales projections vs. 'actual' showing as a 'loss') Remember Studebaker did that same thing in 1965 & 6 trying to show the automotive division lost money when they actually made a small profit in the end. The most damning evidence to me, are the Canadian Monarch and Meteor cars. These had lots of unique trim on them. (Not so good for someone restoring one) They were sold after the war for many years. In fact, there was no 1958 Monarch as the Edsel was supposed to take its place. These cars, especially the high dollar body styles like convertibles consistently had yearly production totals well below Edsel's, yet Ford chose to keep producing them year after year. They must have made money on these Canadian cars, or common sense would have dictated that they wouldn't. I'd like to see the REAL balance sheet on the Edsel, unedited...

      Craig

      Comment


      • #4
        I agree with Craig. Other than in marketing, where was the money spent? It was NOT an all new car. The lower models were facelifted 57 Fords and the upper models were facelifted 57 Mercurys.

        Edsel's engines and drivetrains already existed. The only innovation that I can see is the infamous Tele-Trouble, er make that Tele-Touch transmission control.

        It seemed to me that Studebaker did an even more drastic face lift in 56 than Ford did with the Edsel. Of course they got trapped in the same predicament that Studebaker had. Very few body parts would interchange between the different models.



        I could hardly wait to see what the Edsel looked like in the fall of 57, but as soon as I saw that the Ranger & Pacer was a 57 ford from the beltline up, I was completely dissappointed. Also, to my eyes, the 57 Chrysler products looked more modern than the 58 Edsels.



        Leonard Shepherd
        http://leonardshepherd.com/

        Comment


        • #5
          I agree with Craig. Other than in marketing, where was the money spent? It was NOT an all new car. The lower models were facelifted 57 Fords and the upper models were facelifted 57 Mercurys.

          Edsel's engines and drivetrains already existed. The only innovation that I can see is the infamous Tele-Trouble, er make that Tele-Touch transmission control.

          It seemed to me that Studebaker did an even more drastic face lift in 56 than Ford did with the Edsel. Of course they got trapped in the same predicament that Studebaker had. Very few body parts would interchange between the different models.



          I could hardly wait to see what the Edsel looked like in the fall of 57, but as soon as I saw that the Ranger & Pacer was a 57 ford from the beltline up, I was completely dissappointed. Also, to my eyes, the 57 Chrysler products looked more modern than the 58 Edsels.



          Leonard Shepherd
          http://leonardshepherd.com/

          Comment


          • #6
            I agree with Craig also. I have read that it was an open secret that then-Ford President and bean-counter Robert McNamara so hated the Edsel that he took certain creative liberties in the bookkeeping department that made sure the Edsel failed. Pulling this figure purely out of memory, didn't Ford sell some 58,000 Edsels in 1958? If so, I've seen worse first year sales figures for other models. The senior Edsel Citations were really just big Mercurys with different body panels, ditto for the Ford-based junior Edsels. Could the Edsel have really cost $250 million to develop? Ford might have been dollars ahead to have hired Brooks Stevens or Vince Gardner...proven designers that could squeeze all-new designs out of meager styling dollars.

            Studedude1961
            --1963 Cruiser

            Comment


            • #7
              I agree with Craig also. I have read that it was an open secret that then-Ford President and bean-counter Robert McNamara so hated the Edsel that he took certain creative liberties in the bookkeeping department that made sure the Edsel failed. Pulling this figure purely out of memory, didn't Ford sell some 58,000 Edsels in 1958? If so, I've seen worse first year sales figures for other models. The senior Edsel Citations were really just big Mercurys with different body panels, ditto for the Ford-based junior Edsels. Could the Edsel have really cost $250 million to develop? Ford might have been dollars ahead to have hired Brooks Stevens or Vince Gardner...proven designers that could squeeze all-new designs out of meager styling dollars.

              Studedude1961
              --1963 Cruiser

              Comment


              • #8
                One final thought on the Edsel. Maybe poet Marianne Moore was right. Perhaps Ford should have named the new car the MONGOOSE CIVIQUE.

                Studedude1961
                --1963 Cruiser

                Comment


                • #9
                  One final thought on the Edsel. Maybe poet Marianne Moore was right. Perhaps Ford should have named the new car the MONGOOSE CIVIQUE.

                  Studedude1961
                  --1963 Cruiser

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Bob P., interesting post. Kent's local historian also had an article in the local paper last Sunday about "E-Day". It included a story and photo about the local Kent, OH Edsel dealer (Ralph May) and nearby Ravenna, OH Edsel dealer (James Hogle). The photo showed both of them sitting on the hood of a '58 Edsel. Thomas Bonsall's excellent book, "Disaster in Dearborn", chronicles the Edsel story very well and Bonsall even mentions going to Ralph May's Edsel Dealership in Kent, OH on "E-Day" with his Dad. I believe that a Hogle owned Ravenna's Studebaker dealership until mid'62 from looking at dealer contract cards in the SNM once, so it appears the family went from selling Edsels to Studebakers!

                    About George Will--his mother was from my sleepy hometown of Greenville, Pennsylvania. A little braggin' perhaps, but for a town that wasn't a suburb of anything, Bill Mitchell of GM Styling fame was from there, the inventor of the parachute was from there, and when I was a teenager, the parents of John Dean (of Watergate fame) lived there (John used to visit) as did the parents of David Soul the actor. Rumor was that Soul would go to the Lutheran Church with his parents when in town, and word would get around so that attendance was twice normal then! BTW, their name was really "Solberg".

                    Bill Pressler
                    Kent, OH
                    '63 Lark Daytona Skytop R1
                    Bill Pressler
                    Kent, OH
                    (formerly Greenville, PA)
                    Currently owned: 1966 Cruiser, Timberline Turquoise, 26K miles
                    Formerly owned: 1963 Lark Daytona Skytop R1, Ermine White
                    1964 Daytona Hardtop, Strato Blue
                    1966 Daytona Sports Sedan, Niagara Blue Mist
                    All are in Australia now

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Bob P., interesting post. Kent's local historian also had an article in the local paper last Sunday about "E-Day". It included a story and photo about the local Kent, OH Edsel dealer (Ralph May) and nearby Ravenna, OH Edsel dealer (James Hogle). The photo showed both of them sitting on the hood of a '58 Edsel. Thomas Bonsall's excellent book, "Disaster in Dearborn", chronicles the Edsel story very well and Bonsall even mentions going to Ralph May's Edsel Dealership in Kent, OH on "E-Day" with his Dad. I believe that a Hogle owned Ravenna's Studebaker dealership until mid'62 from looking at dealer contract cards in the SNM once, so it appears the family went from selling Edsels to Studebakers!

                      About George Will--his mother was from my sleepy hometown of Greenville, Pennsylvania. A little braggin' perhaps, but for a town that wasn't a suburb of anything, Bill Mitchell of GM Styling fame was from there, the inventor of the parachute was from there, and when I was a teenager, the parents of John Dean (of Watergate fame) lived there (John used to visit) as did the parents of David Soul the actor. Rumor was that Soul would go to the Lutheran Church with his parents when in town, and word would get around so that attendance was twice normal then! BTW, their name was really "Solberg".

                      Bill Pressler
                      Kent, OH
                      '63 Lark Daytona Skytop R1
                      Bill Pressler
                      Kent, OH
                      (formerly Greenville, PA)
                      Currently owned: 1966 Cruiser, Timberline Turquoise, 26K miles
                      Formerly owned: 1963 Lark Daytona Skytop R1, Ermine White
                      1964 Daytona Hardtop, Strato Blue
                      1966 Daytona Sports Sedan, Niagara Blue Mist
                      All are in Australia now

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I know this is OT but can't help but chime in. Question. What was Edsel calling card for getting people in the show room, the first couple of opening weeks?
                        I'll let a few guess get posted, then I'll finish the story.

                        Ebon...


                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I know this is OT but can't help but chime in. Question. What was Edsel calling card for getting people in the show room, the first couple of opening weeks?
                          I'll let a few guess get posted, then I'll finish the story.

                          Ebon...


                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Yes, more than any other person, bean counter (and vanilla beans at that, he was so bland) Robert McNamara skewered the Edsel. It was too far along to pull the plug on it when he arrived, but he did everything he could to tank the marque. [}]

                            Suggestions of "creative accounting" working against the Edsel on McNamara's watch would certainly be open to further conjecture. (Perhaps our resident accountant Bill Pressler could suggest possible techniques...or if there are other accountants on the forum who were responsible for hammering Studebaker's Automotive Division in 1965 and 1966. Come to think of it, would they identify themselves to this group? I think not...)

                            Robert McNamara's idea of a luxury car was a 1960 Falcon with carpeting, an automatic transmission, and a push-button radio. He'd likely have a stroke at the obscene opulence marketed in a 1961 Studebaker Lark Cruiser. []

                            Speaking of strokes: Among his other strokes of genius was McNamara's insistence that the 1961 Mercury again share a body with the full-size Ford, much to Mercury's disadvantage...I mean, as a dealer, how would you like to be selling a gussied-up 1961 Ford known as a Mercury against a 1961 Olds Super 88 or razor-sharp 1961 Pontiac Bonneville? Neither would I.

                            Did Mercury ever recover from that bean-counter-induced silliness? Hmmm....

                            Another related bit of trivia: I recently read that when the [u]1960</u> Edsel was introduced, there were exactly (and only) three stand-alone, exclusively Edsel dealers left in the organization. I wonder if all three had been remaining stand-alone Packard dealers when the 1958 Packards were introduced? [:0] BP
                            We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

                            Ayn Rand:
                            "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

                            G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Yes, more than any other person, bean counter (and vanilla beans at that, he was so bland) Robert McNamara skewered the Edsel. It was too far along to pull the plug on it when he arrived, but he did everything he could to tank the marque. [}]

                              Suggestions of "creative accounting" working against the Edsel on McNamara's watch would certainly be open to further conjecture. (Perhaps our resident accountant Bill Pressler could suggest possible techniques...or if there are other accountants on the forum who were responsible for hammering Studebaker's Automotive Division in 1965 and 1966. Come to think of it, would they identify themselves to this group? I think not...)

                              Robert McNamara's idea of a luxury car was a 1960 Falcon with carpeting, an automatic transmission, and a push-button radio. He'd likely have a stroke at the obscene opulence marketed in a 1961 Studebaker Lark Cruiser. []

                              Speaking of strokes: Among his other strokes of genius was McNamara's insistence that the 1961 Mercury again share a body with the full-size Ford, much to Mercury's disadvantage...I mean, as a dealer, how would you like to be selling a gussied-up 1961 Ford known as a Mercury against a 1961 Olds Super 88 or razor-sharp 1961 Pontiac Bonneville? Neither would I.

                              Did Mercury ever recover from that bean-counter-induced silliness? Hmmm....

                              Another related bit of trivia: I recently read that when the [u]1960</u> Edsel was introduced, there were exactly (and only) three stand-alone, exclusively Edsel dealers left in the organization. I wonder if all three had been remaining stand-alone Packard dealers when the 1958 Packards were introduced? [:0] BP
                              We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

                              Ayn Rand:
                              "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

                              G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

                              Comment

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