1959 Edsel Corsair Convertible

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Offer Price: $126,500 US

Specifications: 225bhp, 332 cu. in. overhead valve V8 engine, two-barrel carburetor, Mile-O-Matic two-speed automatic transmission, coil spring front and leaf spring rear suspension, four-wheel self-adjusting drum brakes. Wheelbase: 120"

In the early 1950s, when plans were set in motion by Ford’s future Chairman, Ernest Breech, for the creation of the Edsel, the economy was strong and growing. The motoring public seemed to have an unquenchable thirst for fully equipped, high-powered, chrome-laden cars. It was the goal of the Ford Motor Company to satisfy that thirst on “E-Day” -September 4, 1957 when they introduced the Edsel.

With high expectations, and as a result of the largest and longest advance marketing campaign ever to be undertaken for the launch of an automobile, the public flocked to dealerships for the Edsel’s introduction. However, few would go home with a set of Edsel keys as many were disappointed with the look and high price of the new brand. The large, expensive Edsel that was planned to be all things to all people suddenly stood for excess, not progress.

It did not help that the economy was struck by recession and a spike in gas prices that led consumers toward the purchase of fuel-efficient compact cars. Sales reflected the public’s disappointment and production was halted in 1959, with Ford writing off its $400 million investment in the brand, making the 1960 model year the last, and leaving the Edsel to become one of the most famous failures in the history of the automobile.

Robert McNamara, who went on to become the Secretary of Defense for President John F. Kennedy, had been brought in by Henry Ford II as one of the “whiz kids” who would help turn around the fortunes of Ford after the war. He disliked the idea of separate divisions within the company, and having already been successful in cancelling the Continental program, turned his cost containment skills towards the Edsel. In 1959, the separate wheelbase and body used in 1958 was eliminated in favor of sharing the Ford platform and inner body structure. While the sharing of platforms has become a common practice in today’s automotive industry, it was quite innovative for the times.

This past fall marked the 50th anniversary of the Edsel’s introduction. The passage of time, its unique design and interesting history, coupled with a short production run, have made the Edsel highly collectible and there remains to this day many Edsel enthusiasts and car clubs dedicated to its preservation

The 1959 Edsel Corsair Convertible offered here, one of only 1,343 produced, has a fascinating history. The car was shipped straight from the Louisville, KY assembly plant to Moscow to be displayed as part of the American National Exhibition, which opened July 25, 1959 and ran for a six-week period.

The exhibition’s stated purpose was “to increase understanding in the Soviet Union of the American people, the land in which we live, and the broad range of American life including American science, technology and culture”

According to Gayle Warnock in his two books, The Edsel Affair and The Rest of The Edsel Affair, “Comrade V.K. Solyvief of the Soviet Trade Group tried to buy this ‘red’ Edsel convertible on display at the American National Exhibition in Moscow in July 1959. Roy Forrest, a public relations man who managed Ford’s exhibit said ‘nyet’ and in retaliation, Comrade Solyvief refused Forrest a visa to return home. A well placed bribe finally shook loose the visa.”

When the Corsair was first sent to Moscow it was fitted with a kilometer speedometer and a box of spare parts and accessories were placed in the trunk of the car. Today the car is still fitted with the metric speedometer and the box remains in the trunk containing many of these parts. A number of important documents remain with the car, including a copy of the original telex from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Ernest Breech, requesting the participation of the Ford Motor Company in the Moscow Exhibition.

It is believed that some time after the Exhibition, the car eventually ended up in a German museum, which later went broke. Following that, it was sold at auction to a US soldier who brought it back to America after his discharge. He later sold the Edsel to a Florida dealer, who placed an ad in Hemmings that caught the eye of the highly respected Ford collector, Jerry ‘Cappy’ Capizzi.

Cappy had no idea that it was the Moscow car when he purchased the Edsel. The first time he drove the car he looked down at the speedometer and realized there was no possible way he was traveling at 100 miles an hour. In reality, he was traveling at 60 miles per hour, which is equal to 100 kilometers per hour. Perplexed, he decided to inspect the car and it was then that he found the boxes in the trunk with the Moscow documentation and gained some insight into why his car was fitted with a metric speedometer. The entire story was revealed through Cappy’s correspondence with Ford’s historical archives.

Today, the condition of the Edsel is quite impressive. The Corsair is by all standards a concours quality vehicle, the recipient of a no expense spared, frame-off restoration. The exterior is finished in the factory correct color of President Red with a Snow White side panel insert; there is a correct black convertible top and the interior shows beautifully in matching red and black. The convertible is impressively equipped with windshield washers featuring a rare Edsel scripted washer bag, power seating, power brakes, factory air conditioning, dual spotlights, power top and a continental kit.

The Corsair has been shown at a great many events, winning some very impressive awards in that time, including several Best of Show awards and AACA National 1st Place Senior and Junior awards.

AWARDS

Best of Show 1993 EOC National Convention

Best of Show 1993 IEC National Convention

1st Place Senior & Best of Show 1994 EOC & IEC Grand National Meet

1st Place Junior 1997 AACA Central Division; National Fall Meet

1st Place Senior 1997 AACA Eastern Division National Fall Meet

1st Place Grand National 1998 AACA Grand National Meet 1st Place & Best of Show 1998 The Edsel Club National Meet

1st Place Senior Grand National & Preservation Award 1999 AACA Grand National Meet

Preservation Award 1999 AACA Western Spring Meet

Participation 2004 Orphan Car Show

Display 2004 The Edsel Club Meet