1958 Edsel Bermuda: Lost In The Triangle

Note: Today’s post is by none other than Tony LaHood, who, like me, wrote for a certain site that shall not be named, and exited stage left after having one too many irritating interactions with Captain Cranky Pants. So he has graciously given me the green light to re-publish his stuff right here on Riverside Green. Let’s all give him a hand. -TK

The same word can conjure up different images for different people. Take ‘Bermuda’, for example. A sun worshiper immediately thinks of pink-sand beaches and tropical paradise. To clothiers and white-belt wearing geezers, Bermuda means a pair of shorts. Farmers have visions of big Bermuda onions. And for Car Guys like us, the name recalls the one-year-only, top-of-the-line station wagon from that most unfortunate of of nameplates, Edsel.

Aaron Severson, of Ate Up With Motor, has covered the Edsel story far better than I could here, so I shall offer only a brief precis for the uninitiated: (Mis) conceived as a Dodge-, DeSoto-, Olds- and Buick-fighter by the Dearborn powers that be, the poor Edsel never stood a chance. Mostly what it did was cannibalize sales from Mercury at the upper end of the model range, and Ford at the lower. The brand was was so unloved that even Ford President Robert McNamara confided to an associate at its introduction that the machinery to phase it out was already running! Talk about no respect.

Since there were no dedicated Edsel plants, they were built alongside both Fords (for the Ford-based Pacer and Ranger) and Mercurys (Citation and Corsair), causing the assembler to have to interrupt his routine, and sometimes to forget to install some parts. The Edsel also suffered from parts that wouldn’t fit together correctly. Hampered with controversial styling, a dreadful name and dubious features like different-just-to-be-different Teletouch drive, the Edsel was indeed euthanized in its third model year, living it out as a Ford whose disguise was thinner than 99-cent store gravy. The inaugural 1958 model is the one most people think of when the marque is mentioned–that’s the one with the free-standing horse-collar grille, officially known as the “impact ring”, and boomerang taillights, and of which our splendidly restored feature car is an example.

1958 Edsel

I shot this wagon at the Vintage Travel Trailer Show during Palm Springs’ annual Modernism Week. This particular example is a nine-passenger version, making it the rarest of 1958 Edsel wagons; only 779 were produced, of which maybe a dozen survive. Like all 1958 Edsel wagons, it shares its body with the Ford wagons, including its 116-inch wheelbase, and measures 205.4 inches in length.

1958 Edsel

This particular example has the one-year-only Teletouch push-button automatic transmission (cool feature: a series of planetary gears in the steering column keeps the buttons stationary as the wheel turns) mated to the E400 5.9-liter V8 and Edsel-exclusive floating-drum speedometer (it glows when a preset speed limit is reached). Our featured Bermuda also sports the optional ($27.70) spinner wheel covers and back-up lights (an $8.50 option).

1958 Edsel

The Bermuda was a 1958-only model; the following year, the Villager took over as Edsel’s lone wagon offering. While unappreciated in its day, the Bermuda is a sought-after collector car today as one of the rarest models of a rare brand. And besides, you’ve just gotta love those tail lamps…

15 Replies to “1958 Edsel Bermuda: Lost In The Triangle”

  1. Avatarstingray65

    Longer, lower, wider is certainly emphasized in the brochure illustrations, but then you see pictures of the actual car and it looks a bit frumpy. On the other hand those interior combinations were certainly far ahead of the frumpy color interiors that are the rule in recent times.

    Reply
  2. AvatarJohn C.

    Welcome Imperialist/Tony and thanks Tom for corralling another of the great curbsiders. It is interesting how quickly all the big three went full force for the impact ring like styling details in 58-59. You think of the relative conservatism of the 53-54 models being traded in. In the 80s, the big three often kept selling some vestige of their 70s offering for older or at least more traditional buyers, The older models often had a resurgence of sales.

    I wonder if Edsel could have had more of a sales impact if it has gone with more of a conservative early fifties look. It would have definitely offered something different with less cannibalization. Of course it was a different time then when the older folks usually had less money than their adult children, so would be no help in the noble goal of higher transaction prices. Surely a big part of Edsel’s business plan.

    Reply
  3. AvatarJohn Marks

    Ironically enough, the demise of the Edsel paved the way for the success of the Mustang. When the Mustang caught on, there was available plant capacity to meet the demand. That plant capacity had come close to being mothballed… . But it had not been, and so Ford could crank out Mustangs at the same time it continued to make larger cars that cost more and so had larger per-unit profits.

    Whereas, in order to make more Camaros, Chevrolet would have had to slow down production of its bread-and-butter sedans. I think that the first-generation Camaro was a lovely styling job that should have sold better than it did. But there were not that many on dealer lots.

    The Edsel is a fascinating study in corporate group-think, and also corporate ass-kissing. I don’t think that that specific drama would have played out the same way at any other US car company, because they were real corporations (for better or worse) and not thinly-disguised family fiefdoms.

    A final point of irony: Henry Ford was an insane anti-semite (and also, most likely functionally illiterate–he had people read things to him) and Henry Ford put his money where his mouth was, by Kickstarting Hitler. But the name Edsel?

    Hebrew.

    jm

    Reply
    • AvatarCarmine

      Sorry but you have some wrong info as to Camaro production, there is no indication that what you are saying happened, neither full size sales nor Camaro sales suffered because of any “assembly issues”. Plus Chevrolet operated many other plants where it made “bread and butter” cars that didn’t have F-body production in them. GM had lots of plants back then.

      1967-1969 Camaros were made in Norwood OH and Van Nuys CA, both assembled a mix of models, as lots of factories did and still do. The Firebird was also made at these plants in addition to the Lordstown OH plant. The first gen Camaro averaged about 220,000-240,000 units through its first generation, plus another 80,000-100,000 a year for Firebirds, so they weren’t exactly hard to find.

      Not to mention that Chevrolet remained comfortably ahead of Ford in car production in 1967-1968-1969 only slipping to 2nd in 1970.

      Reply
    • AvatarTyGuy

      John… You off base on bunch of your statements… Idled Edsel plants did not build the Mustang.. The Camaro was not production constrained.. Finally Henry Ford did not “kickstart” Hitler. Ford commissioned and wrote (actually ghostwrote as he was not very literate) rabidly anti-Semitic articles and books in the 20’s. The Nazi rep met with Ford in 1924 during peak Ford antisemitism he refused to support them. In 1927 Ford did an about face, disavowed all those previous writings, claiming it was all underlings who did it without his knowledge. He spent the rest of his life trying to make up for it by being extremely generous to Jewish causes.
      Ford certainly never supported Hitler or Nazi’s despite some despicable shared views.

      Reply
    • AvatarJohn C.

      Mr. Marks creates quite a picture of someone extremely challenged yet with some sort of autism that allowed him to come up with the moving assembly line while all the geniuses across town not figuring it out until it was demonstrated to them China style. Must have been quite a struggle for him to succeed. No wonder Mine Kampf hit home for him when chanted in the background. I wonder how the goose steppers around Ford felt about importing all those less than master racers from the Levant and the Deep South to Dearborn to work on the line. Double agent maybe?

      Reply
      • AvatarTyGuy

        Henry Ford was certainly contradictory, while using the Dearborn Independent to spread hateful vitriol about Jews, he also bragged about employing 4000 Jews. He had a Rabbi neighbor who he considered a good friend and couldn’t understand why he was angry with him at the time. While Ford was mentioned in Mein Kampf it very unlikely Ford read (aside from the fact he couldn’t read well) or was influenced by it. It came out in 1925 but it’s first English translation was started till 1931..

        Reply
        • AvatarJohn C.

          Thanks for actually providing evidence instead of just throwing a wild accusation out there. When someone is so rich in achievement as Henry Ford there is always the tendency to throw allegations that denigrate the achievements. When few can list anything close to Ford’s achievements, it is natural to cast aside allegations as spurious mouth offs.

          Reply
          • AvatarTyGuy

            Thanks. While in no way do I intend to defend Ford’s anti semitism, its important to get the facts right. The previous poster chose conflate events and paraphrase history to reach his desired conclusion. As for your other point, we need to at judge people holistically. Henry Ford’s great accomplishments are not erased by his bad actions, especially as he attempted to make some amends. Today in the time of me-too and SJW’s I fear that concept is lost.

    • Avatarrambo furum

      I looked this up and keep seeing that Edsel is an Anglo or Germanic name. I’d be curious to see any support for this assertion.

      Reply
      • AvatarTyGuy

        According to google it is an English name derived from the German name Etzel who represented Attila the Hun in medieval German lore. Henry Ford’s father was Irish. There isn’t much to read into Henry choosing that name. English names are mostly derived from Germanic, Flemish and Celtic names. As the medieval invaders and local populace respectively.

        Reply
    • AvatarCarmine

      It was one of those weird Edsel “gimmicks” , the first year Edsels are really interesting, go around one once and try to find all the styling elements that are related to the front grille, there are like 20 little touches and emblems that are in the shape of the front grille.

      Reply
  4. Avatarsgeffe

    I presume the “site that shall not be named” rhymes with “Burb-Side ‘Vlasics’,” the one about people who sit under the retractable awnings in the back of their ranch houses and eat pickles for lunch? 😂

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.