Edsel Bryant Ford was born on November 6th of 1893 and passed away a short 49 years later due to cancer. He was the son of the legendary Henry Ford who had formed the Ford Motor Company Empire. Edsel was groomed to follow in the family business. In 1915 he became secretary of Ford and later became president of the company.
Henry and Edsel differed in many ways. Edsel was an artist and connoisseur. Henry did not favor a Ford with custom coachwork, but Edsel would. Edsel showed a strong interest in automotive styling and even took art lessons for most of his life.
In 1922 he purchased the Lincoln Motor Company and was named president. In 1931 he formed Ford's fist design department and worked closely with many coachbuilders, Brewster in particular, to provide custom bodies for Lincoln and Ford chassis.
Prior to Edsel's involvement in the Ford Motor Company, the designs were plain, efficient, and lacked any major frills. They were functional and conservative but lacked the allure of many other cars on the roadway.
Edsel appointed 24-year old Eugene T. 'Bob' Gregorie to head the small styling group. His resume was not that extensive at this point in history; he had worked with Harley Earl at General Motors in the Art and Colour studio and was an accomplished sketch artist who could transform an idea into reality. In 1931 Gregorie had worked as a draftsman at Lincoln.
One of the earliest Gregorie designs to be fitted on a Ford chassis was a European inspired custom boat tail speedster that was built atop a 1932 Ford chassis. A few years later, a second, more dynamic design was created. Several sketches were created and eventually a 1/25th scale model was created. The design was tested in a wind tunnel in Ford Aviation's Air Frame Building.
The chassis for the car was a stock 1934 frame that was lowered six inches in the rear by having the frame rails pass under the rear axle. the front was lowered by using new fabricated suspension parts. Additional modifications to the frame including moving the front axle forward ten inches.
The body was constructed from aluminum, given a tapered-tail, had seating for two, and was doorless (cut-down) and topless. The front had a vee-shaped grille that was as bold as it was dynamic. There were modified Ford Tri-motor aircraft 'wheel pants' that served as cycle fenders with the front that turned with the wheels. Stock Ford wire wheels were used but converted to custom wheel discs. The entire package was covered in a Pearl Essence Gunmetal Dark shade with a gray leather interior. Mounted in the long engine bay was a Ford Model 40 V8 engine with straight exhausts that ran through a section of the tubular frame and exited at the rear. The entire package weighed 2400 pounds.
It was a very aerodynamic, clean, stylish, and smooth design. It had lots of detail that could be noticed upon further inspection. The canted louvers were in the precise angle of the grille and the rakish windscreens. The faired-in headlights, lack of hood ornamentation, a fully enclosed radiator without a cap, no running boards, and lack of brightwork most certainly added to its seductive appeal.
When Edsel was not using the car, he stored it in an unheated shed on his Fair Lane estate. During the winter of 1939-1940, the engine block cracked due to the extreme temperatures. A new 1940 Mercury V8 engine was installed. In modern times, the Mercury engine was replaced with a stock 1940 Ford flathead engine with dual carburetors and dual exhausts.
One of the flaws of this cars original design was that the sheet metal partially blocks the flow of air to the radiator, resulting in overheating. Gregorie created a 1/10th scale model of a design he felt would solve the problem. The changes were approved and the upper grille on the car was shortened. A new horizontal lower grille with matching bars was fabricated. On either side was flanked by large headlights.
After Edsel's untimely death, this car along with five others were sold. The new owner had the Speedster shipped to Los Angeles and put into storage. A short time later, an ad in Road & Track advertised the sale of this custom Ford. The car did not sell. Another ad appeared in an issue of Auto Sport Review but again failed to sell. The $2500 price tag was rather steep for the time.
The car went back into storage where it would remain until 1957. It was brought back to Georgia and offered for sale on the Garrard Import used car lot in Pensacola, Florida. Early in 1958 the car was sold to John Pallasch for $603. At this point in history, the car was painted red to match its red leather. Pallasch was later shipped out for Vietnam on an extended tour and did not return until the late 1960s. The car was put into storage where it remained for nearly four decades.
Bill Warner is the founder of the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. In 1999 he was searching for the Edsel Speedster for a special display at the concours. After some searching, Warner found the owner of the car. Upon contacting the owner, he found the owner willing to sell. So Bill immediately drove to Deland, Florida to inspect the car. It was in a garage and was showing many signs of a long life. It was mostly complete except for its custom wheel discs. Its odometer read a mere 19,000 miles.
Warner and his team rebuilt the Mercury V8 engine, touched up the body paint, repainted the fenders, and had aluminum wheel discs replicated.
In 2008 this very rare automobile was brought to the Automobiles of Amelia presented by RM Auctions. It has had only a few owners during its lifetime, with the last time it was offered for sale being over 40 years ago. The Mercury flathead V8 engine displaces 239 cubic-inches and produces around 120 horsepower. There is a three-speed manual gearbox and four-wheel mechanical brakes. The wheel base measures 122-inches. This car was one of the highlights of the auction. As the gavel fell for the third and final time, the car had found a new owner, and one that was willing to part with $1.76 million to own this marvelous legendary automobile.Also photographed at :