An Entertaining & Informative Vintage Automobile Internet Magazine

Four Fun Friday Kodachrome Car Photographs Volume 180

Today’s lead photo of five Edsel’s was taken at the Ford Proving Grounds located in Michigan. A press release with photos of 1957 Fords and Mercury’s posted earlier follows below describing the facility and another 1167-foot-high hill with 17 and 29 percent grades at the test track. View another airborne 1957 Ford here:

“The most rugged kind of automotive testing facilities, from the steepest hills and roughest roads to the fastest speedway, make up Ford Motor Companies new 3800 acre Michigan Proving Ground near Romeo, north of Detroit. Driving conditions are beyond anything encountered by the ordinary motorist.”

As is the usual practice in this series, we ask our readers to tell us the year, make, and model of all of these vehicles along with anything else you find of interest in the photos. You can look back at all the earlier parts of this series here. The images are via This Was Americar.

  • This photo looks just like some of the scenes in the 1990 film “Goodfellas” staring actor Ray Liotta.

  • Noted racing driver Dave McDonald’s tow car and Corvette racer. McDonald and Eddie Sachs died as a result of a crash and a huge gasoline fireball that stopped the 1964 Indianapolis 500.

  • Luxurious chaise lounge at a summer camp.

57 responses to “Four Fun Friday Kodachrome Car Photographs Volume 180

      • Edsel had 3 strikes against it.
        1. Unpopular styling
        2. FoMoCo requirement that their dealers set up separate dealership.
        3. Economic recession in 1958

        • Jay, I agree with you on #2 and #3. As to styling, I feel it’s no worse than any 1958 GM design. Before signing the franchise agreement each dealer saw a mock-up of the new car. To a man (no women at that time) they were enthusiastic about the design.

          #2 – With the requirement of exclusives the dealers did not have a regular customer service base to carry them through an economic downturn. In a dealership profits have never come from new car sales. Profits come from service.

          #3 – With the Eisenhower recession of 1958 car sales were about 1/2 of 1957. If the economy had been strong the dealers might have been able to build a service base, but the timing was the big problem.

      • There were a number of Edsels out west. I never heard of any big problems with any of them. A good friend of mine has a ’59 Ranger, which was the family car from when it was new until the mid-60s. Over 100K miles until it was retired, and another 50K as a collector car. Very few problems. The only things that have been done was a re-upholstry, a re-spray and a Petronix ignition.

      • I’ve talked to people who know more than I do about this, and I think there were two factors at work. The first was that both Ford and Chrysler had a hard time keeping their various divisions distinct. By the late fifties, DeSoto sales were dropping, so DeSoto introduced the cheaper Firesweep. It sold well, but they soon found it was cannibalizing sales from Dodge. There just wasn’t enough to distinguish DeSoto from Dodge at one end and Chrysler at the other. And I understand Mercury tended to vacillate between being a heavily-optioned Ford and a stripped-down Lincoln.

        The Edsel was promised to be a revolutionary new car, and some of the early proposed prototypes were more distinct. But by the time the powers that be at Ford got through with it, it was a fairly conventional car that didn’t really distinguish itself from Mercury — the most distinctive thing about it was the horse collar. And in ’59, Ford took the Firesweep approach to boost sales, lowering the cost and eventually cannibalizing sales from Mercury. This is why Edsel ended in 1960 and DeSoto was dropped in 1961.

        It’s to GM’s credit that they kept their five divisions distinct, especially in the early sixties, with distinctions that went beyond styling and down to the drivetrain. There was no other American car on the road like the Corvair. The rope drive/transaxel drivetrain was, I believe, unique to Pontiac, as was the Iron Duke motor and the OCH six. The turbocharged Jetfire was unique to Oldsmobile. And even when the divisions shared components, I believe they were treated differently enough to give a distinct feel. A Riviera didn’t handle like a Toronado.

        So if the Edsel had been a genuinely innovative car, it would have survived. But because it was conventional — not bad, just conventional — it couldn’t find a unique market.

        Now if Ford had offered the cammer engine in the Edsel, or if Chrysler had put the turbine in DeSoto, both divisions might have lived another day.

        • Also, it’s been noted that Edsel’s sales goal was to match a specific % of Pontiac sales in it’s first year. I don’t remember the number, but they actually did it. The problem, as noted above, was overall sales were down a ton, especially in the mid-priced brands.

          The renaissance for those who survived, would involve both going down-market as in the 1961 Chrysler Newport – essentially the Chrysler DeSoto, and down-size, with compacts and intermediates taking a growing share of sales throughout the 60’s and 70’s.

      • #1: the recession that hit in the fall of `57 hurt everyone, and #2: Edsel was aimed at the upper medium priced segment, which unfortunately had taken a hit before the Edsel was even introduced. Add the horse-collar grill, and you have the Titanic on 4 wheels…..blub, blub, blub…

  1. Regarding the 1958 Edsel proving grounds image, it appears that someone had a brush with the guardrail. Even more telling is the condition of the concrete road surface they performed their testing on. Today this is the typical poor road condition across of most of southeast Michigan so it looks like Ford was really forward thinking.

    • Bob,

      Top Photo: I had to look twice at the Edsel on the left in middle row. What was a reflection of the windshield on the hood looked like a rusty hood at first. From the skid-marks, I’d guess that overpass doubles for parking-brake testing or hill skids in the winter. Is the fact that some of the Edsels have bumper guards, and some don’t, how you tell the difference between models?

      Second photo: In case you’re wondering that’s a swamp cooler (cools by evaporation) not an a/c unit on the roof of the house. Very popular in desert locales. I think they’re cheaper to operate than a/c. (Lady looks like Della Street in the old Perry Mason show and he looks like he can’t believe his luck). Great Ford Fairlane convertible, not one of the hardtop convertibles because you can see the top cover and the trunk isn’t tall enough.

      Third photo: Anyone else notice that there are only GM cars in the picture? (Even down to the Chevy “OK Used Cars” sign in the picture.

      In the bottom pic: What the heck is that laying on the hood of the 57 Chevy at right? Looks like the hindquarters of a moose wrapped in saran wrap. Interesting camp bed the fella in the middle has worked out for himself using camp stools and chairs. Necessity is TRULY the mother of invention.

      Kodachrome Fridays: My favorite “Old Motors” day of the week! Thanks Dave.

        • Jummuh,

          You “icked” my “wow” because you’re right about the Packard. However, I looked carefully at the picture when the first comment mentioned the Renault.

          I didn’t see it then and I still don’t see the Renault. Directly in front of the Chevy wagon towing the race car I see a 55 or 56 Pontiac. The blu-ish car behind that sure looks like a GM roofline to me and has whitewalls which I don’t think a Renault of that vintage would have. If that’s not what was tagged as a Renault, I yield to other’s superior knowledge (and eyesight).

  2. In the second photo of the ‘lovely young couple’ with their `58 Sunliner, yes–the guy looks alot like Ray Liotta, and she looks like a young Connie Francis! LOL In the third image, with the trailered Corvette being towed by the Nomad, sneaking across the intersection from the far right is a (gasp!) gray Renault Dauphine!

  3. 1st pic, going the other way, looks like some test driver decided see what kind of stripe that new MEL engine could do. 2nd pic, IDK, in what looks like Cal. everybody wanted to be Bobby Darrin and Annette Funicello. 3rd pic, kind of creepy. Don’t want to lose the Corvette. Ford C series straight truck across the street. Last, it was a loooong trip to get up north, dad did all the driving, in the 50’s it took twice as long as today. Now it’s mom’s turn to shine.

    • Hi Howard. So typical of my family’s campsites in the past. Substitute the old Ford for a ’57 Olds 4-door hardtop and it would be as if we were in the middle of Glacier Park, or Yellowstone. My dad always took a nap (usually in the car) after getting to the campground and Mom would be at the Coleman stove building up a pot of chili, or a pot of gray sludge (oatmeal) for breakfast.

  4. The McDonald photo must have been in about 1963, before he switched to Cobras via Shelby. What year is that white Chevy on the left (my memory fails me).

    • OK, the Chevy is 1959, and McDonald raced this Corvette in ’62 then switched in ’63. So I’m guessing the photo was shot in ’62.

  5. I’ve seen the Edsel photo and the 58 Ford Lineup photo on the same hill. And, comparing it to the photo of the airborne 57 Ford, I think the Edsel photo is from the Dearborn proving grounds. You can still see the hill today (with weeds growing through the concrete) across from the Ford visitor center in Dearborn. Compare the concrete here with the smooth macadam in the airborne photo.

  6. Hopefully, the young-ish (I bet they’re younger than they look, in old photos and films, everybody looked older than they were) are on vacation in Florida…note the swamp cooler atop the bungalow…and not hanging around their suburb looking like that!

    • Probably not Florida, the swamp cooler really only works in areas of low humidity, such as the desert southwest. If you live in the humidity belt (essentially anywhere east of the Mississippi River and for another several hundred miles west) you really need A/C to be comfortable in hot weather. Removing moisture from the air makes it easier to cool. I grew up in the Ohio River valley before the days of widespread air conditioning and summers were brutal; I can remember taking a shower and then not being able to dry off as you would begin sweating as soon as you got out of the shower.

  7. “I worked so hard catching those brookies for dinner I’ve got a splitting headache. You’ll have to clean ’em and cook ’em so we can eat tonight…………..”

    • I think so too. The ’52 and ’53 were identical except for the grill. The ’53 grill wrapped around the front fender. The chrome is visible just above the table.

  8. Re Edsel pics: I could be mistaken but were dual headlights only allowed beginning in 1958? If so, these would be ’58 models. Any Edsel experts want to expound and expand on this?

  9. I went with my father and older brother to see the 1964 Indy 500 on closed circuit TV at the CNE grounds in Toronto. Pretty much a full house as I remember. Halibrand magnesium wheels contributed to the intensity of the frontstretch fire as I recall. Different times.

  10. Based on the light colored sticker on the license plate of the trailer the Corvette is on, and other info found online, this photo is from 1962. Note the Ford Thunderbird hood scoop on the ‘Vette, an extra tires on top of the station wagon, and the OK Used Cars sign in the same photo.

    From the Jalopy Journal comes the following info about the Corvette.

    “This car was the collaborative creation of Dave MacDonald, Jim Simpson and Max Balchowsky and dubbed the Corvette Special. They used a mold of Jim Simpson’s stock ’62 Vette and manufactured a two-piece 1/16 inch figerglass [sic] shell to place over one of Max’s custom built tube frame. The finished product was over 1000 lbs lighter, 17″ shorter, 5″ narrower and 4″ smaller in height than a stock Corvette … it was a work of art.”

    “They molded the entire headlight assembly into the fiberglass shell for additional weight savings and all in the car weighed just 1750lbs – 1,200lbs lighter than a stock Vette!”

    Dave McDonald is in the blue suit and Jim Simpson is the other person in the photo. The picture was taken at Paramount Chevrolet in Downey, California where Simpson was the sales manager. The word “Paramount” can be seen in script writing on the left front fender of the car. In June 1962 the car was sold to Pat Mathis and shipped to Hawaii. Apparently it was last seen in Hawaii in 1969.

    • At Dave MacDonald’s website, the occasion of the photograph above is described as the farewell to 00 on the day of its actual way to Hawaii.
      I grew up a few years behind and a few miles away from MacDonald. I went to the University of California at Riverside just down the road from the raceway, starting in 1959.
      I spent many days before and after classes hanging out in the pits when there were no crowds. Very few of the drivers objected to discussing their cars and careers with this young student. Dave MacDonald was one of the friendliest.
      Boy, that was a long time ago.

    • Even with the radically lightened Corvette, that rig still has got some serious tongue weight. It appears to be an unsprung trailer as well, which was pretty much SOP back then as everyone figured the race car you were putting on the trailer was sprung. Looks like Dave is headin’ out on “sticker tires.”

  11. The sad thing is; Edsel Ford was a genuine good man, smart, and far thinking. He was exactly the kind of person who should have had a car named after him. It irks me no end when his name is demeaned by a car that didn’t live up to his level of integrity, patriotism, styling intuition, and appreciation of advanced engineering.

  12. I had an army buddy that was a test driver for Ford after we got out in 1973. A few years later we went to Michigan to visit him and his family. On Sunday he took us to the proving grounds and signed out a van and took us over the track. What a thrill it was! I think the Edsel was doomed from the start, wrong car at the wrong time. We had a neighbor that traded in his 55 Packard on a new Edsel in 58, had nothing but trouble with it so he traded it in on a new 60 DeSoto, then they went under in 61. Poor guy couldn’t catch a break. He finally got rid of the DeSoto and drove nothing but Chevrolets from then on !
    The guy with the 58 Ford convert had the world by the tail as my dad always said, a good looking girl and what must be a pretty new Ford as I don’t see any rust on it yet.

    I really like the 57 Nomad in the third picture and the red and white 55 Oldsmobile was always a favorite of mine too. I remember what a sensation those 59 Chevys like the white Impala like the one in the upper left of the picture caused when they first came out, they looked like a radical custom car to me and my car crazy buddies.

    The campers in the last picture must have been hard core , we done a lot of camping when I was growing up but a Buick station wagon and a Serro-Scotty camper were a lot more comfortable than these poor souls had to deal with.

  13. The Corvette’s trailer caught my eye. The wheels appear to be very far back onder the frame; with a conventional front-engined car it may have been very tongue-heavy. If the car indeed had a special weight disribution as a result of its tubular chassis, it was probably specially made for the car; otherwise it would have been a disaster to tow. Very nostalgic photo!

  14. That car was doomed starting with its name: Edsel. Sounds like Elsie.Like the cow.As in frumpy and dowdy.Like old Aunt Agatha or Gertrude.

    Even the Ford family knew this because they didn’t want the new car to be named after Edsel Ford.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *