The Edsel Turns 50!

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Ford Edsel, long considered the premier example of over-hyped commercial failure. New Coke has nothing on the Edsel!

The Washington Post has a fantastic article about Ford’s belly flop:

Fifty years ago today, Don Mazzella skipped out of school to see the hot new car that everybody was talking about, the hot new car that almost nobody had actually seen.

Ford Motor Co. had proclaimed it “E-Day,” and Mazzella and two buddies sneaked out of East Side High School in Newark, N.J., and hiked 13 blocks to Foley Ford so they could cast their gaze upon the much-ballyhooed new car that had been kept secret from the American public until its release that day.

It was called the Edsel.

“The line was around the block,” recalls Mazzella, now 66 and an executive in a New Jersey consulting firm. “People were coming from all over to see this car. You couldn’t see it from the street. The only way you could see it was to walk into the showroom and look behind a curtain.”

Mazzella and his truant friends waited their turn, thrilled to be there. “Back then for teenagers, cars were the be-all and end-all,” he explains. They’d read countless articles about the Edsel and seen countless ads that touted it as the car of the future. But they hadn’t seen the car. Ford kept it secret, building excitement by coyly withholding it from sight, like a strip-tease dancer.

Finally, Mazzella and his friends reached the showroom. Finally, they were permitted to peek behind the curtain. They saw a cream-colored car with a strange oval grille that looked like a big chrome O.

“We looked at it and said, ‘ What?’ ” Mazzella recalls. “It was just a blah car. I remember my friend Joe Grandi, who later became a Newark cop — he had a gruff voice, and he said, ‘ This is what we waited all this time for?’ We all felt betrayed.”

The Edsel lost about $2 billion in adjusted dollars, and now the name has become synonymous with over-hyped products that fail to deliver. Happy Birthday, Edsel!

The Flop Heard Round the World [Washington Post via boingboing]
(Photo:Edsel.com)

Comments

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  1. mantari says:

    New Coke may not, but what about Diet Caffeine Free Crystal Pepsi?

  2. thepounder says:

    Well sure, a flop back then… but I wish I had one in my driveway now.

    You could probably fetch one at a Barrett-Jackson auction on the cheap, as car collector’s generally “go with the flow” and price accordingly… which is to say a Hemi ‘Cuda will go for upwards of $100k and an Edsel in similar condition wouldn’t be near half that cost. (I can’t find hard data at the moment but I do recall watching the last auction on TV and some of the prices were utterly ridiculous, while others seemed way too low for the quality of the cars on the block.)

  3. Meg Marco says:

    @mantari: If you skipped school to sneak a peek at Diet Caffeine Free Crystal Pepsi, I salute you.

  4. theblackdog says:

    @meghannmarco: Pepsi gave my cub scout troop a tour of one of their bottling plants and gave us some free Crystal Pepsi.

    Not quite skipping school, but still, what a joke that was. I don’t even remember what the point was of being there.

  5. tinky XIII says:

    I must ahev a thing for failure, then. I’d kill to have an Edsel, trick it out, paint it black. Not to mention I used to love Crystal Pepsi. I’ve yet to purchase an N-Gage, though…

  6. tinky XIII says:

    @tinkyXIII: I also can’t spell, it seems.

  7. CumaeanSibyl says:

    For anyone interested, Edsels are selling on eBay for less than the “average cost of a new car.” Highest price on there is $14K.

  8. Tonguetied says:

    My understanding is that the Edsel was actually a fairly well performing car with a number of advanced features. It just was made out by the advertisers that it walked (drove?) on water and couldn’t live up to the hype. People who actually bought the car tended to like it.

  9. @Tonguetied: Makes you think: Looks matter
    more then abilities…hence why the Nokia N95, though it’s more
    powerful, will be slayed by the iPhone.

  10. appleface says:

    I remember buying a crystal pepsi on my way home from school. The stuff gave me a headache – I never bought it again. Naturally I was sad to see it go.

    I know this has nothing to do with the Edsel, but for some reason remembering the Crystal Pepsi thing made me think about Oreo Big Stuf. I loved those things… if the fine editors at Consumerist ever have some time to kill, maybe one of you could look into that??? Now I’m sad, stupid reminiscing.

  11. Chris81 says:

    Maybe my bad taste in cars is starting to rival my bad taste in women, but as far as giant 50s cars go I think this one looks pretty cool. I even like the weird grille on the front.

  12. Murph1908 says:

    @Tonguetied:
    Sounds like Fable.

  13. Joafu says:

    @Murph1908:
    Ah, good old Fable- great game unless you followed the development news and got really excited for it before it launched.

  14. edgarj455 says:

    I was in high school back then.A classmate’s dad bought one,We referred to it, as a Mercury sucking a lemon