After a disastrous launch in 1958, (the fact is, it wasn’t that bad of a launch, second only new car line to DeSoto in 1929) Ford reduced the line up by two dropping the Citation and Pacer models. However 1,200 new dealerships were created in a very competitive declining market. Not the same market when conceived in 1955. All around poor planing and marketing with a car that that failed to capture the car buyer imagination. It wasn’t a bad car, it was the wrong car at the wrong time.
The car’s poor mechanical reputation was because of the confusion on the assembly line. It didn’t have a dedicated factory.
The legacy? It soiled the great name of Henry’s only son. Edsel is now a corporate synonym for failure.
My opinion is if the dealer had managed to hold on for another year thing would be completely different. The 1960 models looked great and the Edsel Comet was ready in 1961. That car alone would have saved and expanded the dealerships. However, to car buyers it was too much of a gamble and only 2,800 were built. 116,000 total over the three year run. Ford’s loss, $350 million, in today’s dollars $2.8 billion.
Innovations that Edsel brought to the market place would last well in to the 80’s.
Norman was part-owner and general manager of the Oakland factory in which Billy Durant was making his Chevrolets in 1920. Norm took the factory over in 1931 to make his de Vaux-Hall . The company lasted a little over a year before filing for bankruptcy. Norm was a respected car promoter, so he wasn’t out of work for long. He became the Willys, California distributor, and they went into receivership a year later.
He was again looking for a project, and it didn’t take long to find one. He bought the body dies and stamped inventory for the 810/812 Cord for $45,000.00 with the dream of building another de Vaux. He had a meeting with Joe Graham in hopes of a partnership deal. He got turned down. Hupmobile was up next, and they liked it so much that they made him General Manager. Hupmobile made 35 rear wheel drive prototypes after John Tjaarda was hired to design the changes (he was paid $50 for his design) to the now-called Hupmobile Junior. It made its debut at the Detroit Auto show and got 6,000 orders (sounds familiar… it’s not known whether they were customers who missed out on the Cord.)
Both Hupmobile and Graham were financially weak, with Graham the stronger. With no money left, Hupmobile Juniors’ production stopped at 35.
Now Graham’s 1938 sales are under 5,000, only a third of the 1937 production, and Graham is desperate. The “Shark Nose Sedan”, his latest award-winning futuristic design, is not being accepted by car buyers. The factory has time to build cars for Hupmobile for pennies over cost, as long as Graham can produce their own cars from the same dies.
Hupmobile takes delivery of 350 Graham-built Juniors, now called Skylarks, and closes their doors to selling cars.
Hupmobile gone. It’s 1940.
Arguably, the finest cars made in the first half of the 20th century came out of the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg plant in Auburn, Indiana under the ownership of Errett Lobban Cord. He also owned Lycoming Engines. The project started in 1931 as the baby Duesenberg, then got off track. Financing was made available, and the baby Deusie was back on track by 1935. However, Mr. Cord wanted a special car to carry his name – the baby Deusie – and he had a man on staff who could design it. This man was styling genius Gordon Beuhrig.One problem was that for a successful launch, he would have to have it ready in 4 months for the New York show – 100 examples ready for admission. The deadline was met, but not all in completed form. It was received as the most beautiful car of the show, and 6,000 orders poured in. They were only able to make 3,000 of them before the Auburn Automobile Company filed for bankruptcy on December 11, 1937. The assets went to auction. Pity – you could have bought one for $2,100!Franklin stopped production in 1934, and Stutz in 1935.
If Stutz, Franklin and Duesenberg can do it, then why don’t we? Supercharge the Graham. Graham’s supercharger was conceived by Assistant Chief Engineer F.F. Kishline, who just happened to be a close friend of Fred Schwitzer of Schwitzer-Cummins.
Between them, they created a more reliable, lower- speed blower that gave the Graham a 40% horse power boost, allowing excellent mid-range acceleration, smoother engine operation and fuel economy. It also helped sales increase to 16,000 and then 19,000 in 1936 (of which one third were supercharged), but that was not enough to make Graham profitable.