April 1, 2005

Thunderbird entered the ranks of passenger cars in 1958 with new styling and a back seat. as a result, sales jumped from 21,380 to nearly 38,000. Today, the two-seater 'Birds are the most highly coveted Fords of the '50s. The four-seater Thunderbirds are nowhere near as popular, but have a loyal following. Convertibles feature a soft top that folds into the trunk. Inside, there's an instrument panel layout reminiscent of an aircraft cockpit. Bucket seats are separated by a console. The '58-'60 Thunderbird is a very special series, with a claim to being the world's first "personal" car.

Another popular Ford of the fabulous '50s is the ill-fated '58-'60 Edsel. Edsel became the name of a new Ford Motor Company division that was to become a dealer network, but it just didn't turn out that way. The Edsel was conceived for a market that ultimately did not exist. Within the line were four series: Ranger, Pacer, Corsair, and Citation. Each was offered in a range of body styles: convertibles, two-door hardtops, four-door sedans, and station wagons.

As nearly everyone knows, the Edsel was a huge marketing flop, with production tipping the scales around 63,000 for 1958, 45,000 for 1959, and 3,000 for 1960. The radical horse collar grille motif might have been the car's worst feature when they were new. Today, it's pure nostalgia, along with the Edsel's other unique features (e.g., Teletouch Drive and the rotating drum speedometer). The Edsel was futuristic in many ways, yet few people came to the party.

For decades, Edsels were throwaway cars no one wanted, but from the outset, people collected them. one Ford aficionado told us, "Long-time, die-hard Edsel collectors don't have just one Edsel, their entire yard will be filled with them, as if they didn't save them, no one else would. Edsel buffs will restore a six-cylinder, four-door hardtop, which costs as much to do as a more expensive convertible or two-door hardtop."

The most collectible Edsel is the '58, which has the genuine look everyone associates with this carline. The horse collar grille remained for 1959, which kept the Edsel identifiable. In 1960, with the Ford/Mercury/Lincoln redesign, the Edsel looked more like a Pontiac than an Edsel. It remains the rarest Edsel out there.

As the '60s dawned, a new feeling swept Detroit. Baby boomers who rode around in Mom and Pop station wagons would soon be wanting new, exciting cars of their own. Fins and chrome would be out. Ponycars with svelte new bodies, sans fins and gobs of chrome, would be in.

Today, those same baby boomers who wanted ponycars at 18 are having a nostalgia fit over the cars of the '50s, boosting the popularity of these finned cars. Cars of the '50s are hot. They are very amenable to restomodding. Style-wise, there's nothing quite like them in the world.