“It’s almost grotesque,” commented automotive industry analyst Maryanne Keller in describing the Edsel, a car who’s design included scalloped sides and flashy tailighlights, as well as a vertical grille that (at the release in 1957) drew comparisons to a “toilet seat, and an Oldsmobile sucking lemons,”among other grosser comments. Yet, designer Roy Brown, Jr remained stubbornly proud of his design right up to the end.
Brown, a veteran automotive designer in the mid-50’s was put in charge of overseeing the creation of a new car that was meant to be “more sophisticated than the standard Ford, less expensive than the Mercury, and so distinctive that it could be recognized from a block away,” he said. Yet, what he ended up with was a car recognized for more than half a century as one of the worst failures in auto history.
Ford had invested over $250 million in the venture according to Automotive News, which noted that the original design was altered because of its expense and after engineers warned that it could interfere with ventilation. The company had hoped to sell about 200,000 of the cars, priced between $2,300-$3,800. But in the end only 118,000 were sold by the time production ended in 1960. It was also reported that Ford lost more than $300,000 a day during the three years the cars were on the market.
“I cried in my beer for two days,” remarked Brown, who attributed the failure “to bad timing.”
Following the car’s debacle, Ford transferred Brown to their office in England, where be became chief designer of the Consul and the compact Cortina (the best selling car in Britain during the 1970’s).
It should also be noted, that by the time Roy Brown, Jr. passed away from pneumonia and Parkinson’s disease at the age of 96 on February 24, 2013, his biggest failure had, in fact, become a car that generated deep nostalgia among car enthusiasts today, who long (to a degree) for a bygone era of American motoring.