Devotees sweet on Ford lemon

February 07, 2000|By Bob Suter | Bob Suter,newsday

In the minds of many Americans of a certain age, it remains the original lemon, a miscreation of zealous corporate schemers who thought they could dictate what consumers would want.

To some collectors, however, it's a cherished possession evoking a time when reality didn't always meet expectations. Forty years ago, Ford ceased production of the Edsel, the car that was supposed to carry the company to new heights in the 1960s.

In an era that saw its share of bizarre auto styles, the 1958 Edsel set a new standard. Its vertical-scoop grille, which was supposed to suggest the future, had many folks thinking instead of a horse collar.

Heavy-handed marketing coupled with average performance and an above-average number of assembly-related flaws made the Edsel a public relations nightmare, not to mention a dismal sales failure. Barely into its third year of production, Ford elected to cut its losses and cease production.

Bob Ellsworth wasn't around then. The Edsel caught his imagination when, as a young boy in 1974, he saw a picture of a 1960 model. Fifteen years later, he bought one, becoming part of a loyal following of people with an affection for a slightly misshapen piece of the American dream.

In August, he launched the Edsel Pages (www.edsel.com), where owners can find parts, advice and whatever else they need to keep their Edsels going. (According to the site, five Edsels have been saved from the scrap heap by the Edsel Pages.) Here they can show off their prized possessions and commune with other Edsel fans.

Owners will find a number of service features, including manuals, and Ellsworth is working on an online registry. For Edsel novices, the site provides the car's history, including a bio of the lesser-known Ford whose name it bears.

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