Right Car, Wrong Time examines the failure of Ford’s Edsel Division, introduced in the late 1950s, and why the car’s infamy does no justice to its ambitious inception. While exploring potential thesis topics I found myself fascinated with product failures, more specifically what compels a company to spend so much on something that could go so wrong. The Edsel clearly stood out as both a “failure” and a fascinating design. My thesis argues that the Edsel was a victim of bad timing moreso than a deficiency of product. The car will forever be unfairly labeled as a “lemon” but it was as mediocre as any other family sedan at the time. The Edsel’s controversial vertical grille—introduced at a time when nearly all cars had a horizontal grille—received the most ridicule of all, but not until after the car was declared a financial failure.
My research included reading numerous books by Edsel authorities like former Director of Public Relations C. Gayle Warnock and automotive historian Thomas Bonsall. I consulted with Kim Bravo, Automobile Reference librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia, for access to countless sales brochures, advertisements, company documents and press photography. The Garden State chapter of the Edsel Owner’s Club brought me in contact with Matt Dorschug, an Edsel owner generous enough to allow Jon Bulava to photograph his gorgeous 1957 press car. I am truly indebted to everyone who supported this project.