The 1950’s were the golden age of the American automobile: GM, Ford and Chrysler were topping the market, but smaller manufacturers like Hudson, Packard and Studebaker were developing as strong contenders.
While hardly the worst car ever, Ford’s 1957 Edsel was widely condemned.
The car’s over-the-top advance hype, questionable ornamentation – the new-fangled radiator grille (pictured at right) was variously compared to a cattle yoke, a toilet seat and a vagina -, excessive gadgetry (including a “teletouch” transmission and a speedometer that glowed red when the car exceeded a pre-set speed limit) and just plain bad luck (it was released in the middle of the recession of 1957) ultimately set the car up for failure.
The fact that many of the early models seemed to experience endless technical difficulties didn’t help improve its reputation and, in the minds of the American public, “Edsel” quickly became synonymous with “lemon”.
Ford tried again in 1958 with a slightly modified design and an understated advertising campaign, but they still wound up losing $250 million dollars on the car, which was finally discontinued in 1959.