First time I saw an Edsel was a black and white photograph in a magazine called Old Car Trader that a friend brought back from a business trip to the USA. The car was for sale in southern Florida, but people who should know told me not to buy from that area. The weather is warm and sunny, but humidity is high.
A few weeks later a similar car was offered in a German magazine, not too far away from my home. So I decided to have a close look at the unusual car.
The owner was a car dealer, but the Edsel was stored in a barn nearby. I was shocked when the doors opened: there were two covered cars, one too small, one much bigger than I expected.
The car looked quite good inside, the paint had scratches and didn't shine anymore, signs of an accident on the left front. Looked like an easy restoration. Then the owner tried to start the engine. After a few minutes it started, and I was impressed by the sound, never heard such a full V8 sound before. A short test drive, and I signed the contract.
Remember that old US cars are much larger than what is sold in Europe today. So I was glad to find a suitable garage. A few weeks later I brought the Edsel to it's new home. The dealer had promised to repair the tiny hole in the radiator, but he just poured some additive into the cooling water. On the first coffee break on the highway the pressure in the cooling system increased after the car was parked, and cooling water began leaking through the hole. After the engine had cooled down and the pressure was gone, the hole could be fixed with the tools and a 2 component glue I had put in the trunk of my other car before the trip.
Half the way home I switched on the light. The outside lights worked, but the instrument panel was not illuminated. Later I found the reason: someone had removed the small bulbs. I didn't understand how anybody could be so stupid to remove such cheap bulbs that can hardly be reached with hands of normal size.
There were no more surprises during the rest of the journey. The disaster struck next day.
I had some questions about getting a license plate for that car, so I wanted to stop over at the TÜV (the guys who do the regular safety inspections) on my way to a professional garage. When I arrived in the parking lot, the brakes didn't respond, the pedal fell down to the floor. Then I pushed the parking brake, but it didn't work, too. The car was rolling slowly, but I didn't want to put the transmission at risk by switching to Park. So I turned of the engine, and the car was stopped by some bushes without damage.
The car had to be put on a transporter to get it to the garage. There it stayed for month until I managed to get a new master cylinder. That was my first really old car, a rare and foreign model, and I didn't even have an idea where to get spare parts. Without the friendly support of the garage owner and his mechanic I probably would have given up the car.
The car was cleaned, repaired and painted in it's original colors. When driving first time in warm weather the engine soon made a ticking noise that got stronger and stronger. There was fresh oil in the engine, but the previous filling must have been used for many years. After the valve covers were removed, a thick crust of something like tar became visible.
New valve lifters, gaskets etc. were ordered, than the cylinder heads were given to a specialized company for overhaul. The mechanic was intelligent enough to put the heads aside for some days until the routine work was done and he could fully concentrate on this job.
After the engine was fixed, the Teletouch transmission didn't work when the car was stopped with a hot engine. A few minutes later the problem was gone. So it took weeks to find the cause of the problem: the control circuit on the electric shift motor. When I disassembled the damned thing, I expected to find some kind of mechanical computer, but it was a simple rotary switch. After the contacts were cleaned, the problem was gone.
A few years later another serious problem appeared: the car slowed down after the first stop in the morning, then came to a standstill and didn't move in any gear. After a few minutes the problem was gone. After this appeared again when engine and transmission were cold, I ordered an overhaul kit, then drove the car to a specialized mechanic who was familiar with modern American transmission. With the help of a copy of the transmission service manual he managed the job perfectly. Now the transmission runs like new.
After two years the car was back on the road again. A few more problems appeared, but nothing serious. When driving uphill on a steep mountain road, the engine became so hot that some of the ignition cables touched the engine. The car was parked for more than 30 minutes with the hood open before we could start working. A corvette owner had a spare cable, and two or three of the other cables could be fixed with self adhesive plastic tape.
On the way back I found out why cars with automatic transmission have those extra large brake pedals. The narrow and winding road required very slow speed, so the brakes had to be used all the way downhill. There was no place to stop without blocking the road, and when we finally reached the bottom of the valley, I had both feet on the pedal and pressed myself into the seat to make the car stop at the entrance to the main road. The brakes then recovered soon when driving on flat roads.
A few years later the owner of the white and brown Edsel moved to Spain and tried so sell some of his cars. At that time my modern car was stored in a second garage. I asked the owner about the size of the car, then I checked the size of this garage: less than 1 inch longer than the car, but that should do. So I bought my second Edsel. This one was running fine at first, but later the ignition system didn't work properly. New contacts failed after a few hundred miles, perhaps because the distributor assembly was worn too much. It was replaced, and the contacts were replaced by a maintenance free electronic system.
Driving an Edsel is fun. Both cars are almost of the same age, but driving is very different. The 58 Corsair fascinates by it's impressive engine that has so much torque that the car usually starts in second gear.
The 59 Corsair with the smaller engine and 2 speed automatic transmission accelerates faster. It feels more like a modern car and is easier to handle in dense city traffic, but it doesn't have the impressive sound of the E475 engine.