Vintage vehicles, Automotive history and stories from motoring's past. 

1959 Edsel - a Thanksgiving turkey resurrected

You wonder years later how a car like this 1959 Edsel Ranger makes it half a century to sit here and be unique and special at a car show. The Edsel brand made its debut the previous year as competition to names like Buick and Chrysler at a time when Detroit was booming. Until 1958 at which point a fairly significant recession hit. The boom went kaboom and nowhere was this felt than at an Edsel dealer. 

The stories of the Edsel brand are long and many so I won’t go into too much detail about the fabulous flop that this marque stood for. Pity that it was also the name of the company’s founder’s son emblazoned on these cars so proudly and which has subsequently become synonymous with business failure. Good thing the ol’ dad wasn’t around to see this although I wonder if someone spinning that fast in their grave counts as renewable energy? Perhaps Edsel was the first truly green car brand. 

The first year it’s understandable when the excitement of a new nameplate at a time when any new car was already existing sweeps people into the showroom and slick sales folk talk people out of their wallets and into something new. Surprisingly, despite the brand’s reputation as a flop the second year was a better one for Edsel so this 1959 Ranger isn’t as unusual as I had thought. 

Sales of this Ranger, which are the base model for the Edsel brand, were almost double their 1958 counterparts although a major company like Ford selling only 7,778 of anything and having that represent almost a doubling of sales shows why 1960 was the curtain call year for Edsel. 

While the Edsel line was certainly distinctive to the buyer, which was part of its demise, underneath it was simply another arrangement of Ford Motor Company parts so restoring and keeping one of these isn’t as difficult a task as some might think. If you can find one. 

That is, unless you find one with the unique-to-Edsel teletouch gear selector in the hub of the steering wheel. Even when new these were trouble and adding 50 years to a bag of troublesome electronics doesn’t do anything to make things better. That was a one-year option so it wouldn’t have appeared on this Ranger ever. However the owner of this car went a step further toward making this a reliable car installing a modern Ford engine under the hood giving the car truly distinctive styling and modern reliability. 

For anyone new to the field of collectible cars, this car represents the epitome of the term “resto-mod.” If you’re ambling down the street and see this car roll by you might be safe to assume that it’s 100% original. In fact, owner Bill Cruz has a car that could easily pass as all original until you open the hood and spot those modern mechanicals motivating this machine. 

As someone who appreciates vintage cars whether they’re full restorations or elaborate modifications or resto-mods like this one I appreciate them even more when they have an engine by the original manufacturer, such as this Edsel with a Ford engine. Yes, I absolutely understand the appeal of the modern Chevrolet engine but ol’ Henry can only spin so much in his grave and his son’s name on this flop is fast enough. Don’t need an engine from the competition in there to make it worse. Thank you for the Ford engine. 

Almost without fail the car looks the part of a collectible original with the sole point of distinction being the air conditioner hanging beneath the instrument panel and the modern audio system. 

For many, many collectors this is the perfect situation - a unique car with a long history and a special story wrapping something so reliable that it could easily be used as a daily driver. That’s what resto-modding is all about. 

And I’m happy I got to lay eyes on a special car like this. While I certainly appreciate all vintage cars, a vintage car like this that stands out with its horse collar grille is one of my favorite treats at any car show. And while some might call it a turkey, I say just give them the bird.

1 Comment

Tony Barthel

Tony Barthel has been writing articles and blogs since 1996 with reviews of new cars, stories about old cars and the people who love them and finding the best car shows around for the Curbside car show calendar. He is also author of a book on event planning and public speaker on business and tourism marketing plus a YouTube creator of travel videos. Tony loves RVing and is the co-publisher of the StressLess Camping blog.