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Tom Terrell Edsel Inc. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Today’s feature contains a few photos taken for an advertisement in the Ann Arbor News highlighting Tom Terrell Edsel Inc. employees and their experience in the automobile business. The Ann Arbor Library states that the ad was published on September 2, 1957, two days before the Edsel was introduced to the public on “E-Day,” September 4, 1957. The dealership was located at 314 South 4th Ave in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Like most Edsel dealerships, which only were in business for a short time, further information about the dealership has not been found other than the following sad news about the owner Tom Terrell. He lived in Detroit, and according to his obituary in the Ann Arbor News dated December 13, 1957, “he left the automobile business last month and his son-in-law H.C. McElroy also of Detroit assumed operations of the car agency. Terrell, who was 57 years old, was found dead in his home and the medical examiners ruled the death a suicide.

Please share with us what you find of interest in these photos courtesy of the Ann Arbor District Library.

32 responses to “Tom Terrell Edsel Inc. Ann Arbor, Michigan

  1. They are saying the public unveiling of the Edsel was 12/4/57? Uh, no. t least not in my state. It was mid-September! And why did Mr. Torrell kill himself? The Edsel was too new then to have gotten the axe. Makes a person wonder…

  2. That’s indeed a sad story about Tom Terrell

    In Item 2 of 2 that would be a ’56 Olds 88 or Super 88 Holiday Sedan (the rear window appears to wrap around unlike on other models) and I’ll guess that’s a ’56 Chevy rear bumper peeking in from the lower left corner (visible when enlarged).

    Seen parked on the right an Edsel Pacer hardtop, a ’55 Hudson or Nash Rambler Club Coupe and a ’55 Packard Clipper…its distinctive two-piece “upper and lower-panel” side trim is just barely evident.

  3. Can’t even imagine how heated the discussion became in the design studios when the subject of the vertical grill came up. Up until the Edsel postwar cars all subscribed to a side to side horizontal grill, except—drum roll please—except for the Packard Request. True, the Request was a one off styling exercise, but its origins were hatched in mail to the Packard company requesting another car featuring the traditional Packard grill from the 1930s. Hence the name. At least that’s the story often told. Assuming that narrative to be true, I’ve often wondered if the Request inspired the Edsel design team to give us the grill they eventually did. My buddy Eddie M bought a used 58 in the mid 60s some time.

    • Roy Brown, chief stylist on the E-Car project was given the mandate to make the new car recognizable from blocks away. Since the prevailing design trend was toward low, wide, horizontal grilles, he decided a vertical central grille would deliver the recognition demanded. Rob Jones, who had come from Packard, was assigned to the E-Car team, had explored classic-inspired radiator-style grilles while with Packard. Note the number of Exner’s Chrysler Ghia show cars with a similar theme. As the expression goes, the idea was in the air at the time.

  4. Sounds like someone maybe put all their beans( or borrowed beans) into the Edsel, maybe even made some promises he couldn’t keep. I can’t imagine even after only a few months, the Edsel would have caused the suicide. Something sure fishy there.

    • Howard–I tried a search online for his Obit, but no luck. Only services you have to pay to see, and I don’t do those, so his death remains a mystery.

      • Its not “Fishy” as Howard Arbiture stated earlier nor is it a “mystery”

        As I reported after reading his obit at the Ann Arbor District Library:

        “He lived in Detroit, and according to his obituary in the Ann Arbor News dated December 13, 1957, “he left the automobile business last month and his son-in-law H.C. McElroy also of Detroit assumed operations of the car agency. Terrell, who was 57 years old, was found dead in his home and the medical examiners ruled the death a suicide.

    • Howard, although it’s 60 years ago, your comments are a bit insensitive…this is a man’s life we’re about talking here.

  5. If the ad was published two days before “E-Day” it would seem the photos were taken at least three days prior to “E-Day”. Doesn’t it seem odd they would park an Edsel on the street (last photo) that long before the public was supposed to see them?

  6. This is so cool!! Me and Edsel are nearly twins, separated by just a couple of days, and a couple of states too!

    Thankfully M&D decided to keep me around a little longer, though they did have a toy horse collar around my neck for the first couple of years…

    • Because it’s a great story. Some of the most talented men and women came together to accomplish a logical well defined goal. People gave it everything they had, made the right decisions….and still utterly failed.

      • I’m not so sure about making the right decisions. Prior to introduction there were several years of hype about how the Edsel would be an all-new car but except for the unique grille design the 1958 Edsels were obviously just re-skinned 1957 Fords and Mercurys with 1956 Plymouth transmission push buttons. Very disappointing.

  7. When the Edsel was introduced in Springfield Ma. the dealership painted the whole repair shop up in green and placed the cars “hidden” in there before the introduction date.
    The show room was empty.
    They than left the back over head garage doors open and people “just happened” to stroll in.

  8. A suicide just over three months after the official introduction of the car? While certainly an ignominious beginning to a car that later became known as one of the industry’s greatest failures? I would think there must have been some other underlying cause for the action. Whether health, or other financial or even romantic issues, it is unlikely that the Edsel’s future failure would have been the cause so early. While the car was a flop sales-wise, and Ford never recouped anything near what they had spent on development, many of the dealers were able to switch to other cars, whether they be Fords? Often not, because the Edsel dealers were sometimes in competition with other local Ford dealers. Or often not, because of other new options such as Volkswagen or the emerging Japanese cars. Even if the Edsel dealer was the local Ford dealer in a new separate location (I believe I once read that was a requirement that the Edsel dealership be apart from the “Ford” dealership?), the dealer often found the newly vacated facility a perfect opportunity to expand into the foreign car market.
    I just had a thought? It could be quite ironic that the newly emptied facilities could have been some major stepping stones to the US manufacturers losing their supremacy to the then growing foreign car market? Hundreds of suddenly empty automobile dealership buildings turning to foreign cars could have sped that up quite a bit.

    Regardless, the family apparently chose to not divulge the reasons in the obituary. Most likely a proper decision.

    And, for whatever it is worth. I have known quite a few people over the years that have owned enjoyed, and loved their Edsels! In fact, more than a few have had several of them. The Edsels have quite of a hierarchy within their ranks. It seems most Edsel sales since the ’60s are in the quest to rise up through the ranks to more desirable models, options, or trim. Lesser models are sold to gain cash or space for the better model. Usually resulting in an even lesser model to make room for that one somewhere else. However, among the Edsel crowd, even the lowest of the low in decent shape is loved and appreciated.

  9. The Edsel is far too complex a subject to be discussed in a few sentences. Read “Disaster in Dearborn” by Thomas Bonsall to get a full picture of the Edsel story.

  10. Reminds me of Jim Harrell Pontiac of Tampa.He made a whole hog ,bet -the-farm investment in RVs
    Then the Arab Oil Embargo happened.

  11. “he left the automobile business last month and his son-in-law H.C. McElroy also of Detroit assumed operations of the car agency.” It would be interesting to run this by John McElroy in Detroit to see if H.C. McElroy was a family relative, in which case John might know more about the Terrell story. John McElroy is without a doubt one of the best automotive journalists around. His “Autoline After-Hours” and “Autoline Daily” programs are consistently excellent.

  12. The building is now a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and a parking lot next door was likely used for Edsels. It is now parking for USPS employees as the post office/Federal Building is across the street. I parked in that lot when I was a Letter Carrier.

  13. While it is a sensitive subject, I would suggest he may have gotten the wrath from the Ford Execs by introducing a vehicle locally 2 days prior to FMC’s National launch.

    It would seem he left the dealership within 30 days from the picture and passed within 30 days after that. Consider a large investment in a stand alone dealership and then being on the wrong side of Henry.


    • I think you are adding 1+1 and possibly coming up with three.

      -Any proof that he was reprimanded by Ford HQ?
      -If so any proof that that reprimand caused him to leave the dealership?
      -Any proof that either of those two events…IF THEY DID OCCUR…caused his suicide?

      I’ve read that the Edsel was off to a bad start, isn’t it just as possible that his death was caused by his realization that his investment was in danger, of not already lost?

      Or his suicide could have been caused by any one of a number of causes. Perhaps He retired after receiving a bad medical diagnostic and took his life…it’s happened before and is about as likely as HFII, driving the man to his death.

      He was a dealer of a new marque, would Ford really treat a valuable franchisee that badly over a minor error? (remember that the car was hardly a secret, certainly media packets had been released).

      It seems to me they’d want to keep them happy to help make the brand a success.

      Yes, what you propose could have happened, but absent any proof, I hate to see a firm (or person) defamed.
      I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories, I’ve seen too many where people make a leap of logic believing just because something is possible, that it actually happened.

  14. In Canada, Ford dealers lost their Monarch line (Mercury variant for the Canadian market) and gained the Edsel line in its place for 1958. In’59 with the demise of the Merc-based two ‘upper’ Edsels, they got Monarch back, but kept the two Ford-based versions. 1960 was a sad story as only a few “Pontiac-ish Edsels were sold. Though the convertible and two-door hardtop were actually quite stylish, especially in profile ans read three-quarter views. I never came across an Edsel only store, but the dealership patterns were distinct from U S practice, by being multi-line structured.

  15. The problem may have been finances. A Car dealer franchise was forced to bear many of the expenses themselves, such as new signs, brochures, advertising etc. The car manufacturers pinched their pennies, I’m sure Ford Motor Co required all new Edsel dealers to redecorate their dealerships and purchase the required Edsel signage. My dad franchised a major oil company gas station in the ’50’s and the company “required” he put up lots of signs, and buy brocheres and maps from them, and of course he had to pay for them, plus givd them a % of the gas he sold. Mr. McElroy may have been in a financial bind before the Edsel was even introduced! And of course many dealers were ruined after the first dismal sales year! And these were some of the most successful former Ford and Mercury dealers, chosen for their sales successes. An unfortunate turn of events!

  16. My father managed Owensboro Lincoln Mercury for the Holder Ford Co. Holders had an Edsel Dealership in a separate building. But not for long. As Edsel failed in Owensboro the cars were brought to the LM dealership for sale and the Edsel building was leased to the new Volkswagen dealer.

  17. I well remember, as a seven year old seeing the Edsel for the first time at the Tunbridge World’s Fair in Tunbridge , Vt.,
    which is always in early September, it was exciting, and that was 1957. Almost as exciting as seeing the Joey Chitwood Hell Drivers , and my father giving me a few bucks to ride the go karts while he and his buddy went to the”girlie” show! ‍♂️

  18. To Mr. John B. My initial comment “I suggest he may have”. You are correct, I have no proof of any of it. I do not doubt, however, that it is very possible introducing a new vehicle as a dealer in Ann Arbor 2 days before a National launch down the road in Dearborn, may not have gone well. Did not intend to be out of bounds as to Mr. Terrell’s unfortunate demise

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