Ford’s Allowance Certificate to Edsel Owners

It was a lesson the Auto Industry never should have forgotten.  “It’s very expensive to build cars people don’t want to buy”.  But there’s a big distinction between this Ford failure and this present mess we see at GM, The Edsel was Ford’s mess, and they cleaned it up without the help of U.S. the tax payers.

There’s valuable lessons to be learned from the Edsel, we spawn a new generation of consumers every 20 years, and each generation sees itself born of a new age and discounts the critical lessons of the past. It’s as if the human mind has some initial programing you need find your way around to discover the realities that lie at your feet, if only you look!


What does a Company do when they’re buiding cars no one wants? well in the case of the Edsel, Ford managed it all internally, and part of their efforts were to give buyers and incentive to stay loyal to Ford. Following is an allowance certificate and letter dated March 17, 1960. I had just turned 12 years old.




This (Government subsidy free) Certificate above was issued through a small town dealer who was also a Oldsmobile Dealer at the time if I recall correctly.  The Olds of the day had a good following, and those who owned them >knew< they had purchased a car ‘a cut above’ the Chevrolet. In the day, it was a two-minute walk between dealers.

I can’t imagine what the Ford Dealer was thinking at the time. I’m sure he thought he had been loyal to Ford Motor Company and now they betray him by selling the Edsel Franchise to his competition just down the street allowing that Dealer to offer his customers a choice between a GM or a Ford made product.  There was so much hype over the Edsel Brand, a whole new exciting line of cars, and don’t miss the once in a lifetime opportunity to buy a Franchise.

There’s a lot on the net to research, including the songs about how wonderful it was to be the wife of an Edsel dealer, yes, Ford seemed to know even back then that women were part of important decision making in households, and normally any man that had more than two cents at the time was married. This does suggest Ford Execs were consulting their marketing arm for advice, and many blame the down turn in the economy for the failure..


The Certificate idea may not have had the intention of betraying the Edsel dealer but in this case and other cases it did.  Here Ford is offering Robert’s customer a rather significant amount of money at the time to buy their next car at the Scarff Ford Dealer just down the Street.  Having some sense of what Ford was up to,  he may have prudently mistaken who the sale of Edsels were made to. What would you have done?

Following are a collection of blunders, ending with the Edsel. 

But there’s the ultimate ugly contest, our Edsel did well, but there’s so much more competition that you may have EVER imagined on the scale of ugly, but not likely on the scale of cost per ugly car made indexed for inflation. Thanks to new generations of consumers who don’t yet understand the dangers of allowing people in politics to manage the car business, we will eventually replace the use of the term ‘Edsel’ as the colossal mistake of our time in the car business. I still believe GM has a top contender in the Volt, as this should still be an R&D project according to marketing data about people who want to buy a car hybrid car.  It may become known as the largest mistake in the car business, but those in Washinton DC will wear the blame.  So few will care till their cupboard is bare, or they own something they can’t have repaired.  

Poor Edsel, what did he do to deserve his name on such a car? There’s a wiki page that likley gives us a best ideal of reality, and the actual sales of the Edsel,  63,110 Edsels  sold the first year how does this compare to the Chev Volt?

I’m pretty sure my next car will be a Ford, I’ll post what happens when I attempt to turn this non expiring certificate into cash.



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8 Responses to Ford’s Allowance Certificate to Edsel Owners

  1. mike p. says:

    Hi George.
    How much was an edsel new?
    i had a feeling you were a troublemaker, buying a car at twelve pretty much proves that. Curious what you used to block up the pedals?

  2. George B. says:

    By this age, I had finally figured out how to shift the constant mesh transmission in a truck, and could even catch the last shift to low on the steepest grade without grinding. No doubt, I likely knew less about the internals of equipment than many farm kids of the day. I had moved away from my Mentor Clark Williamson who could fix or repair anything. I never drove an Edsel 🙂 The cost? I bet google will tell you, they came in 90 colors, and many body styles, all ugly and unwanted..

  3. mike p. says:

    Hi George,
    You got me on the constant mesh, i’m a day late and a dollar short.
    Of course i could google the cost, but what fun would that be? i come here for the conversation and learning, google don’t give me that, so i’ve got to ask stupid questions sometimes.
    I used to be a huge vw fan, i always thought it was rather neat if a car born of the epitome of what is wrong with politics really helped lead the way in resolving humanities issues. Vw’s got it right when it comes to diesel, if you ask me, but they are losing the overall picture of the peoples car. As far as alternatives, anything electric is for fools and the city, and both of those should follow the lead of the dodo. Electric cars are a kiss disaster.
    Edsel reading is pretty good. That certificate wouldn’t have happened to have been for a convertible? It seems that for what ford was at once trying to give away is fairly collectible currently.

  4. George B. says:

    VW fan you say? I guess one could say I tolerated them, I owned 28 of them with titles, and no idea how many in piles of parts. air cooled VWs were fun and easy to work on, neglect a few things like valve adjustment or lubing the front end, and you paid the price.. otherwise, pretty much bullet proof.

    VW has suffered in Quality, they were forced out of the air cooled car, emissions, expense, mileage, too many things for an engineer to prioritize, and the water cooled engine just has too many advantages. The TDI? It would be easy to find myself an owner, especially if i didn’t have to pee in a tank.

    Back to the Edsel, wouldn’t the blogger over at the Huffington wet her pants to see the same numbers of Volts sold, as the Edsel? She’d be saying it was the greatest sucess ever! If we adjust the numbers for population, it’s truly mind numbing that Chevrolet missed the mark by so much! Only a realist would care to note, and there’s probably no one that bloggs a the Huffington post that know the difference between an BTU and an IOU, or doesn’t live in their parents basement. I doubt they could afford the Prius… a far better value, and you’ll be able to find parts..

    The Edsel.. a convertible? Never saw it:-)

  5. michael perri says:

    So your a veedub fan? I had a 69 bus that sucked up four years of my life. The best part of that experience was the guy that bought it from me. Awesome guy. Worth the trouble.

    “Only a realist would care to note, and there’s probably no one that bloggs a the Huffington post that know the difference between an BTU and an IOU, or doesn’t live in their parents basement.”

    Please! a BTU is a sandwich and an IOU is a definition of intelligence. You owe me twenty bucks!

    So are you saying you feel there really is a rational future for the electic car?


    • George B. says:

      I had two buses, a 66 camper with 356 engine and a 1956 with 1500cc single port, I’d love ot have either one back.

    • George B. says:

      “So are you saying you feel there really is a rational future for the eclectic car?”

      If we allow reality to guide us in the answer, yes! We know for a fact that there is a lot of stop and go in our daily commutes, and stopping is an opportunity to store energy, and return it to the system.

      The key to understanding the EV and what it should be today, is to understand the Politician. Laugh if you want, but I’m dead serious, and I think I can offer valid examples. the politician has one primary goal, and that is to get re-elected, and we distort all of science by allowing the Career politician to exist.

      At present, it is the collective mind at Toyota we need watch. The prius is exactly the car it needs to be, and it was built according to those who wanted to buy a hybrid.

      The Pure EV will be a contender to hybrids when it can be recharged in about 10 minutes or less, and when it has acceptable range. Than range issue is a bit cloudy, as Politicians get a lot of input from the Huffington Mind Set, they hear of an EV rolling along on a table flat part of California in idea weather and see that as proof that the EV is ready for Production. Others are cocksure that power density of batteries will increase identical to the mind boggling increase in storage density of computer memories.

      What ever the case, there are people who threaten our career politicians to back these efforts or else.

      In Reality, North America is full of areas hostile to the present EV. Areas where it is too hot, or too cold, areas with a lot of hills. In parts of the Midwest, people travel great distances, and in order to get there in a reasonable amount of time, they exceed the speed limit as a rule. This really cuts into the EVs range. Another example? Keeping the windshield free of ice and snow can take a large amount of energy from the battery, high pressure tires some EVs use…. In many areas of the US, we have snow on the roads a good portion of the year, this increases rolling resistance, and some of these high pressure tires are downright dangerous in the ice and snow. It is difficult for the average person to sort out the realities. The first areas of deployment will be the cities, and this could change their shopping habits or where they go for recreation. Some will see this as a boon, as it will keep them closer to the hell holes they live in, a sporting goods shop in the country might see it as a bust.
      The key to assuring that EVs are built at the appropriate time is to set term limits for politicians. To arrest subsidies and allow the market to make assessments of real people and their real needs.

      One thing that’s hard to find is a Huffington Post Blogger with money enough to buy a car, yet alone the expensive Volt that they push as if it were their duty.
      One more add.. once we do get an EV that has reasonable range and acceptable recharge time, the real fun begins, and that is the reality that our grid is NOT what the Huffington bloggers say it is.
      Example, they believe the grid capacity is wasted at night, some think a big gas turbine or hydro turbine is like a constant.
      If we gave them the problem of traveling to the sun and not burning up, they’d simply suggest we go at night.

      The reality of the grid will be alarmingly clear once the EV is popular enough to strain parts of the grid, it will happen in the neighborhood where we have a cold snap and that peg pole transformer is over whelmed by two or more households coping with the cold, and attempting to recharge EVs. But we can imagine the problems all along the grid, and especially small towns like Holly, Colorado where every problem seems to lay in wait to bite you in the ass. Just how many EVs could you power in Holly before you overwhelm their marginal connection to the grid, and what would happen if they attempted to bring on their backup facility with EVs plugged in?

      The Huffington answer of course.. “we just rebuild the grid by printing more money, so easy, all you need is paper and ink!”


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