Thursday, December 1, 2016

It’s an Edsel!

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

In the back of my mind, I knew that Edsel was a very rare make of car, so when I was doing research for our trips and saw a picture of an old Edsel dealership sign, I knew we had to try and find it.

The first Edsel models were introduced on September 4, 1957 for the model year 1958. The last model year was 1960 when only 2,846 cars were produced. Ford announced the end of the Edsel program on November 19, 1959. In total, only 118,287 Edsels were built. The company lost $350 million, and the Edsel became best known for being a marketing disaster.

Our first opportunity to look for the sign came in 2013 on a trip to Ohio. This was the same trip where I was overly ambitious in planning our stops driving to Ohio. When we look at the collection of photos, it is spectacular, but knowing that I practically wore poor Joann out on the first day of our trip, I know better than to plan that many stops on our travels to and from our chosen photography state. (Or at least I try to keep it lighter. I can’t say I’m always successful, but in my defense, sometimes I say we’ll get a couple of things in town, and Joann is the one who wants to look up more things.)

It was the morning of day 2 when we finally hit the town where I thought the Edsel sign was located. The problem is, even if it really was in town, I had no idea in what part of town. We found the downtown and started there. No luck. We went down my list of other locations around town, driving east and west, and north and south down the major roads. Still, no luck. We photographed other things as we stumbled on them.

Whenever Joann got out of the car to photograph something else, she asked anyone on the street if they knew of the sign. No one did.

We ended up back downtown, and Joann was just saying that she thought it was getting too late and that we had to leave without it, when a man mowing lawn across the street from where we were parked turned off his mower. She said she would ask him and if he didn’t know, we’d have to leave town without it.

But he thought he knew! He gave Joann directions, telling her that he apologized if he was sending us on a wild goose chase. But, he was right! We had been one block over from it, driving north on a one way street. Luckily, after Joann took photos of both sides of the sign, we could leave and continue on our way. (And only about three hours behind schedule.)

Now the problem was, we didn’t have an Edsel car to include in the story about finding the sign. Every time we saw old cars, Joann checked for an Edsel. Considering that they were only made for 3 model years, they are very rare and we never found one.

Then, just this fall, as we were driving around Sauk County, Wisconsin, Joann suddenly pulled over. I was looking down at the map, so I hadn’t even seen a photo opportunity. As she got out of the car to get her camera equipment, I asked what I had missed, and she said there was an old blue car, and she was running back to photograph it.

After a few minutes, she came back to the car and excitedly said “Guess what kind of car that was!” I said, “I have no idea,” since I hadn’t even seen a car at all, to which she replied “It’s an Edsel!”

Hopefully, this will be one of those things where, now that we’ve seen one, we’ll see more of them. (One can hope!)

Happy Shunpiking!



  1. Great story, thank you! Wonder how many people named Edsel are wandering around. Blessings - John

    1. John, I didn't think about that. Maybe you could research it and let us know. Haha!

  2. Great story, Ruth and great photos, Joann! Vern has told me in the past about his fond memories of the '58 Edsel that his parents had when he was a kid. He said it looked a lot like the one Joann photographed but a much lighter blue. He remembers their first trip to Los Angeles in the early 60's when he rode to California with his parents and two of his siblings on Route 66 (including the Will Rogers Turnpike) in their Edsel (they went to visit his brother, Swede, who was living in Los Angeles). He said it was quite a trip. They ran into snow at Flagstaff, AZ and were required to buy chains for the tires before they could leave town. Just a few miles west of town, the snow was gone and the chains had to come off. Then, they had car trouble in Needles, CA - the water pump. Of course, it was a Sunday so they had to stay the night until they could get the car fixed on Monday. Unfortunately, his family doesn't have any pictures of the car. So your story brought back his fond memories of that car and the memories of that trip with his family.

    1. Phyllis, thanks for the story about Vern's childhood experiences in an Edsel. What nice memories and on Route 66, no less! Often when I photograph an old car, I forget to see if the logos or nameplates are still on there and when I get back to the car, Ruth says, "Could you tell what kind of car it was?" and then I have to run back and look. In this case, when I saw the car, I pulled over and told Ruth that it was a really neat-looking car, maybe from the 50's or 60's. After taking a few photos of the entire car, I started walking back and then realized I hadn't looked to see what kind it was. When I got back to the car, my mouth dropped open when I realized it was an Edsel (a car we'd been trying to find for three years. And I almost missed those details, which we needed to go along with the Edsel dealership sign. I believe this was divine intervention!

  3. Wow! Good thing you remembered to go back and look! I bet you'll always remember to look or get a photo of the make/model/emblem from now on when photographing old cars!

  4. Love the story and the sister relationship you have with each other. :)

    1. Thanks, Stephanie! I feel very blessed to have four wonderful sisters that I can share my photography and memories with.