The Edsel, so it seems, is much like the Lay’s potato chip. You can’t have just one.
At least, that’s the impression I got earlier this summer when I spent the day with the local Edsel owner’s group at its 26th annual summer get-together, held (as always) at the home of Mike and Cathy Brogan in South Wales.
The Brogans currently own four Edsels (a number always subject to change) in various stages of restoration—not to mention a treasure-trove of parts and a full set of official Edsel mechanic’s tools, which is proudly displayed on the wall of their barn. Some of the many folks in attendance, both owners and non-owners like me, considered the Brogans’ black-and-red 1958 Pacer convertible the star of the gathering. And, as with a few other of the 18 cars brought to the outing, it had a backstory.
Some of you might recognize it: The ride, with its turquoise-and-white interior, stood out downtown at this year’s Motorama. Turns out that this very car is one of ten 1958 Pacer convertibles that were special-ordered by a group of Edsel engineers (out of a total of only 1,876 produced), all painted black and red and all equipped with a three-speed manual transmission. This one is the only of the 10 featuring that wildly colorful interior.
And that’s just part of the story. Brogan got the car from the father of now-fellow Edsel Club member Jim Turner, who had bought it as a basket-case project car years earlier after finding it in a Buffalo garage where it had sat for 25 years—so long that a tree had grown in the way and had to be cut down in order to haul it out.
There’s more turquoise and white tucked inside Brogan’s barn, too: an “under-construction” Edsel Pacer 4-door hardtop, which belongs to Dan Crossman of Bath. He’s a multi-decade-long Edsel owner, and this car is the proof. It’s not only his first Edsel, it’s the first car he ever bought—at age 15 back in 1972. Dan’s now a multi-Edsel owner and the administrator of a very entertaining Facebook group called The EDSEL Purist.
Mike Brogan isn’t the only Edsel Guy in his neighborhood. Right next door (or as close as country-living allows) is fellow club member Kevin Rawson, current owner of five Edsels. Brogan and Rawson make the yearly trek down to the collectors’ paradise known as Ford Weekend at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where they search out parts (and people) for future projects. They like to talk about one trip in particular where they were asking a guy in a booth about a part, which it turns out he didn’t have. But, he told them, “There’s a couple of guys up near Buffalo with a ton of Edsel parts. You should try them.”
The two guys, of course, were Brogan and Rawson—and this has happened more than once.
Alden’s Jim Turner, currently the group’s youngest member at 46, owns three Edsels, one of them being the white-and-turquoise 1958 Citation four-door hardtop.
Purchased in Dansville in 2013 by Turner’s late father, this is one of 24 identical Edsels that Ford sent down to the Southern Governors’ Convention held on Sea Island, Georgia, in September 1957 before the Edsel officially went on sale. Those cars were for the use of the governors during the conference, and afterward they were all given the chance to purchase their car at cost. No records exist as to which car was in the hands of which governor, but it’s thought that this is the only one still in existence.
Sometimes you find the Edsel, and sometimes the Edsel finds you. Or so it seems with Elma resident Tom Pirrung. Fascinated with Edsels as a young lad, in grammar school Pirrung belonged to two different Edsel clubs. It had to be destiny that drove him to buy one of his current rides, a 1958 Edsel Corsair. The Edsel Division of the Ford Motor Company was sending its “first build” cars down the line to check for any pre-production glitches in April 1957, when Pirrung was born. Talk about timing.
Another couple of Elma residents, Mike Ternullo and Collette Yaroski, are the owners of a fender-skirted 1958 Citation four-door hardtop, which they bought in 2009. And it too has company—two other Edsels are in the family, one that’s a driver and another that “needs everything,” according to Ternullo. Striking a now-familiar note, Ternullo walked off laughing while telling me “I can’t own just one!” His history with the marque goes back to 1980 when he purchased his first Edsel, a 1958 Pacer four-door hardtop.
Mansfield, Pennsylvania, resident Jeff Kennedy, however, can own just one—at least for now. Not currently a member of the group, Kennedy nonetheless was invited to the gathering after meeting Brogan and Rawson at the Carlisle Ford weekend. In need of many odds and ends for his newly acquired 1959 Ranger, at one point during the day
Dan Crossman gave him the rear bumper he’d been searching for high and low.
Yes, gave. The Edsel Guys, as I learned from Jim Turner, “exist to help each other. There’s no competition here, and we’ve all been there at some point.” I had to leave the party before Kennedy headed back to the Keystone State, but my money’s on him somehow ending up with another car before long.
One guy who already has enlarged his stable of Edsels is West Seneca’s Joseph Galvin, who currently owns four Edsels, three of which were parked at the event—including a rarely seen 1960 Ranger four-door sedan. (Galvin graciously let me drive it to the event; my first time behind the wheel of an Edsel!)
Just days before, Galvin had completed the purchase of a striking yellow-and-gold 1959 Corsair four-door sedan, which he found in Albuquerque and had shipped to Brogan’s garage in time for the get-together. Three of his four cars are this body style.
“Some guys don’t like four-doors, but I do,” he said. And it’s probably a smart move if you’re building a collection, because two-door models seem to command a higher price, Edsel or not. He also mentioned always liking the orphan makes—cars from automakers no longer in business—and his collection, as well as some of the other Edsel Guys’, reflect this sentiment.
So what did I take away from my day of total Edsel immersion? A fondness for the cars, especially after driving one from Buffalo down to the Southtowns. They’re big, heavy cars with a ride quality not often seen in today’s offerings.
And I came to better understand the passion of the Edsel Guys. They’ve devoted a huge chunk of their lives—not to mention their wallets—to the hobby (nay, livelihood almost) of collecting everything Edsel, from signage, parts and tools to whole cars, parts of cars, friends and even neighbors. Oh, and maybe best of all—collecting Edsel memories.
Related read: The 'everyman' car collector
Story topics: Community