Flipping a flop: Re-creating an Edsel

This “50th Anniversary Edsel Citation” sedan was
skillfully handcrafted by Florida resident Robert
Cerame, whose father had been a dealer for the
ill-fated Ford brand 50 years ago.

On Nov. 19, 1959, Ford Motor Co. announced that the Edsel brand of automobile was to be discontinued. Almost immediately, a dedicated group of people began to collect and immortalize the much-maligned brand, considered by many as the biggest flop in the auto industry.

Over the course of three model years, 1958-1960, a total of 110,847 Edsels came off the production lines in the United States, with another 7,440 produced in Canada. There were no more new Edsels after that, until Robert Cerame, a Florida-based car collector whose father had been an Edsel dealer, decided to get creative.

“Between the fall of 1957 to the fall of 1959 — this was the era of the Edsel,” Cerame told Old Cars Weekly. “If the Edsel had survived, now is the time in history when they would probably be building a 50th anniversary model. I really doubted that Ford Motor Company was going to recognize that milestone, so I decided to do one myself.”

Cerame stared with a 2008 Ford Crown Victoria sedan and completely disassembled all the body panels to begin his custom-job of the century — at least the half-century. For the front of the car, he fabricated a new fascia that would accept the Edsel’s trademark “horse collar” grille, appropriately called the “impact ring” by those in the division. He then handcrafted some original 1958 grilles to fit between the center rings and outboard-mounted headlights.

Carrying the design theme of the original 1958 Edsel,
Cerame’s 50th anniversary edition had custom-built
tail lamps, a deck lid nameplate, series script and
embossed bumper.

“The grille is the real thrill for Edsel owners, and that was one touch I had to add,” Cerame said. “It is pretty amazing how the dimensions of the original fit in with my fabricated front end.”

An extensive re-working of the rear was also undertaken. The rear bumper was reformed and had the letters “E-D-S-E-L” impressed into it, mounted below the custom-crafted tail lamps that were reshaped in the style of the gull-wing design used on the first Edsels in 1958. To finish off the styling touches, he created a nameplate to mount on the deck lid between the tail lamps — again reminiscent of the original design — then added a custom-crafted “Citation” script to denote the top-shelf models from its initial model year.

Cerame added “E-D-S-E-L” block letters to the rear quarter panels, just as Edsel would have done, and also installed a custom vinyl top embroidered with a 50th Anniversary logo and a special logo to the center of the chrome-plated wheelcovers. Even the interior received the Edsel treatment with the addition of a custom gauge package and special steering wheel center emblem.

“I would have loved to have devised a push-button Teletouch shifting mechanism,” Cerame confided. “But the cost of development and re-work was astronomical, so I left the column shifter, which was available in the 1958 models.”

Premiering this year at several Edsel shows, Cerame’s car has won rave reviews everywhere it goes. He says a number of people have seen the car and asked where they can get one. That’s a question Cerame is pondering.

“Several people have approached me about building them a copy,” Cerame said. “My biggest hurdle will be finding enough of the original parts I used on the project, in particular original grilles and lettering, and having enough time to complete the job. Maybe if I get enough orders, I can start my own production line.”

While the last Ford-built Edsel rolled off the Louisville, Ky., assembly plant on Nov. 20, 1959, the day after Ford Motor Co. announced it would discontinue Edsel, the vision of Robert Cerame continues and is helping keep the name alive.

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