Hank Davis, 63, owner of Hank’s Garage, an auto shop and used car dealership in Bucyrus, Ohio, on his Edsels, as told to A.J. Baime.
My wife, Debbie, and I have been married for 44 years, and we have been collecting vintage cars and memorabilia all that time. We have probably owned over 200 vintage cars. We collect anything having to do with automobiles: vintage signs, gas pumps, gas station soda machines. One of the things that drew me to the Edsel was this: When you show up at a car show with a Corvette or a Mustang, there are always dozens of others there. When you show up at a car show with 400 cars and you are in an Edsel, yours is probably the only one there.
The story of the Edsel is one of the most interesting stories in all of car history.
Ford Motor Co.
built the Edsel to bridge the gap between the base Ford and the luxury Lincoln and Mercury, just like
had the Buick and Oldsmobile between Chevrolet and Cadillac. The Edsel was its own brand, and when it rolled out on Sept. 4, 1957, 18 different models were available—the Edsel Ranger, the Pacer, the Corsair, the Citation, etc. [Ford declared the launch date “E-Day,” and marketed the car with an hour-long TV special starring Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Bob Hope.]
Photos: A Unique Collection
Hank Davis shows off his fleet of Edsels.
Hank Davis and his wife, Debbie, have been collecting cars and memorabilia for about as long as they have been married—44 years.
Dustin Franz For The Wall Street Journal
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The vehicle was named for
son Edsel, who died in the early 1940s. When it came out, the country was in an unexpected recession. Nobody was buying anything, let alone cars. There were some quality-control issues, and when the press got a look at the unique grille, they had some fun with it. The Edsel was called an “Oldsmobile sucking a lemon,” “a toilet seat,” and some other names not as nice as those.
It added up to a perfect storm. Only about 120,000 Edsels were built over three model years. It was not only considered the biggest flop in automotive history, but in all of American business history. For years, if you had a bad washer and dryer, or anything, you called it an Edsel.
Over the years, however, a cult following grew up around the Edsel, and it became a collector car. About 12 years ago, I bought one—a 1959 Edsel Ranger two-door hardtop—with the idea of cleaning it up and selling it. But after driving it for a couple days and taking it to a car show, I said to my wife, “I think we’re going to keep this car.” That’s how it started.
Today we have 14 Edsels—13 we keep indoors, all of them running, and one outside buried in snow. The most rare is a 1958 Edsel Roundup two-door station wagon. The year 1958 was the only of the three model years that this one was built—963 of them, according to my records. To my knowledge, ours is the only one in existence that still runs with its original paint, original interior and original spark plugs. All the hoses are original except one. The car had its original tires, but we took those off for safety reasons. The vehicle has 52,000 miles, and while it runs and drives, I do not drive it around because I am afraid of it getting damaged.
In our garage, my wife and I have all kinds of cars. But the 1958 Edsel Roundup is the vehicle that is closest to my heart.
Write to A.J. Baime at [email protected]
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