Vats of printer's ink have been spilled, as everyone knows, over the intensity of the Ford Motor Company's efforts to find a suitable name and style for the car it is introducing this week. Suffice it to say that the car is named after Edsel Bryant Ford, son of Henry I and father of Henry II, and that while it has a decided family resemblance to the Mercury, it is distinguished by a bold, vertically positioned chrome design in the center of the grille.
The very expensive question now is what the public will think of the Edsel. Ford has spent $250 million just getting it to the store—the first complete line from any of the Big Three since Ford introduced the Mercury in 1938. All in all, there are 18 Edsel models in four series, ranging downward in price from Citation to Corsair to Pacer to Ranger. The suggested retail price spread will be roughly $2,500 to $3,500, blanketing most of the Buick-Olds-mobile-Pontiac and De Soto-Dodge opposition in the medium-price field and the flossier "low-price" models.
The other day I drove three Edsel models at Ford's Dearborn proving ground and found them swift, smooth and stable. As anticipated there was nothing radical beneath the hoods. The big new Edsel engines have a world of power, in keeping with Detroit's devotion to high horsepower ratings. Citation and Corsair models have a 345-hp., 410-cu.-in. V-8, while Rangers and Pacers have a 303-hp, 361-cu. in. V-8. Both engines have a four-barrel carburetor and 10.5-to-1 compression ratio. As those specifications suggest, the Edsel is an extremely quick machine. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds is claimed for the fastest big-engine models and 9.4 seconds for the smaller cars—figures that would do credit to some highly developed sports cars.
An industry first for the Edsel is the location of push-button automatic transmission controls on the hub of the typically Ford dished steering wheel. This is a commendably convenient arrangement. Power windows, brakes and seats are available, naturally, and so is a device which red-lights the speedometer when a predetermined speed set by the driver has been exceeded. Another useful feature, standard on all models, is a self-adjusting brake system. The distance between linings and drums may be maintained within factory-determined tolerances for the life of the linings by an occasional application of the brakes in reverse. In frame and suspension the Edsel stays with current Ford practices—box-section frame, independent ball-joint front suspension with coil springs and integral shock absorbers, and leaf springs in the rear.
Ford's quarter-of-a-billion-dollar bet is down, and now the Edsel's destiny is in the hands of the public.