Dealer Recollections

By R. Lee Parks, April 26, 2003

My dad was an L-M dealer in Gastonia, NC (Piedmont Motors) since 1947.  These are recollections he has told me about selling Edsels.

As directed by Ford, Edsels were originally to be sold autonomously as much as possible.  In Gastonia, they were initially sold either the Plymouth or Dodge dealer.  But, after the formation of the M-E-L Division, he was pretty much forced to take on the Edsel.  I still have his "M-E-L Sales Council" lapel pin.  Being that I was only about 4 to 6 years old at the time I can just barely remember Edsels on his showroom floor.

1958 was, of course, a terrible year for cars and my dad still grimaces at its mention.  The 58 Mercs didn't sell well, much because the 57s flunked many of their "dream car" gadgetries.  We had a 58 Merc 4-door hardtop where the back doors popped open when a turn was taken too sharply.  Lack of a B-pillar caused the long body to flex.  The 58 Lincolns were other-worldly.  My dad would not even drive a 58-60 Lincoln as a demonstrator.  He drove our 57 Lincoln until 1962!  Anyway, Gastonia was largely a textile worker town and the Edsels were just too expensive for most.

We did take a 59 Green-White Edsel 9-passenger Villager wagon to Miami, FL on a vacation.  I remember sitting backwards in the rear seat and waving to truck drivers with my sister, and the imaginary line between us.  No seat belts, of course.

My dad received 2 1960 models before they were closed out.  A man from Kings Mountain, NC called him on the phone one day asking if he had any of the new Edsels.  The man said to hold them, he would buy them both.  He showed up the next day, paid cash for the 2 cars, and that was the end of Edsel for my dad.  He did have some used ones over the years, but that was about it.

I did have a 1960 convertible promo, but as a 5 year old, it unfortunately didn't last long.  It was grey as I remember.  Other than that, I do have the Nov. 19, 1956 promotional brochure announcing the Edsel name to prospective dealers.  I also have the filmstrip tin for the 1960 Edsel but alas the filmstrip got mixed up with one for a 1954 Lincoln.  Dad had a special filmstrip projector with combination record player.  The film always came with a record that was a sales training tool.

Sadly, my dad's dealership burned down in 1970 destroying any other Edsel leftovers that might have been.  I may have some old letterhead somewhere.  By that time my dad was selling Toyota and the fire was a crossroads at which he left L-M behind.  In hindsight, it was his best business move.

One thing that Ford did was to buy back all the Edsel parts once the car was discontinued.  The parts had to be new in unopened boxes, so Dad sent most of the parts back to Ford and received a reimbursement.  If that was the case I guess that NOS parts are particularly hard to come by.

Thanks for the opportunity to tell my little Edsel tale.

Best Regards
R. Lee Parks