Rumblings, May 1972

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• Longenvity.— We would not like to take bets on how long a car which is correctly serviced and carefully driven can he made to run. In general, the edge seems to go all too often from mass-produced vehicles after about 10,000 miles and the quality jobs go much the same way after some 40,00C miles. Advertisers of pre-war cars seem to think a big mileage on the odometer enhances their value but we have never been able to fathom this and some of the loudly proclaimed elapsed distances seem to us detrimental to a sale and cause us to smile.

From Canada comes news of a 1957 Chevrolet Belair which had been driven for 432,107.7 (we like the 0.7) miles at the time when it got into the papers, without accident, by its owner, a hardware salesman. This gentleman used to trade his cars in every three years, until he thought about the huge profits car manufacturers make. So, taking delivery of a new six-cylinder, four-door Chevrolet in January 1957, he was determined to make it last for at least 500,000 miles. He had the car serviced by an independent garage, greased every 1,000 miles, and he and they kept a careful mileage check.

In a mileage during which he would normally have had five cars and be on his sixth, this light blue Belair has its original engine, transmission and paint job but has had fresh seat covers every three years. It is said to still be free of rattles and squeaks and to have an inaudible engine. Fuel consumption has been some 21,200 gallons, or 25 m.p.g., some 145 gallons of oil and 60 tyres (no punctures) have been consumed. The owner of this long-lived Chevrolet, which seems to endorse Stanley Sedgwick’s belief in American cars as well as Bentleys, says the secret has been to buy the best-selling model of a medium-price range, seek a quality make, find a conscientious mechanic who is a good diagnostician and stick to him, never skip or skimp a service schedule and “use commonsense for the first 250,000 miles”.

Would it work with European cars?

• THE EDSEL.— A reader is puzzled by the reference to the Ford Edsel as “The jinx car that nearly bust Ford”. There could well be other readers who have not heard of the Edsel, so we will elucidate. It arises from a feature in the Bedfordshire Times about one of these cars, said to he the only one in England, bought by its present owner, a scrap dealer, in 1967. At the time the only other one here was the Duke Of Bedford’s, which is why the scrap-dealer sometimes got an unexpected Police escort through Bedford!

His Edsel has only got 13,000 miles on it and he has been able to obtain what spares were needed front America. Undecided whether or not to sell it, it is nice to learn that the owner would like it to stay in England and does not value it at a ridiculous price, if he disposes of it he may go for it Rover.

The Edsel, named after Henry Ford’s second son, lost out on its flambouyant styling. It also had push-buttons on the steering wheel for changing gear and in its most powerful form, is the V8 6.7-litre Edsel Citation, described 345 b.h.p. Its frontal styling has been likened to a lavatory seat, a man sticking a lemon or a sex symbol, but Pontiac copied it pretty closely in 1968/69. The Edsel was designed because J. F. Keith wanted a car in the price range between the Mercury and the Lincoln. The Ford Thunderbird, intended merely to compete with the Chevrolet Corvette, had become the most successful car of 1954.

Perhaps Ford became too confident. The E-car was launched for 1958, with a projected sales figure of 200,000 minimum in the first year. Twenty-six months later less than hall that number had been sold, admittedly in a period of recession. The Edsel cost Ford a bomb—estimates range from 20-million dollars up to third-of-a-billion. Say between £12-million and £14-Million. It was discontinued in November 1949. Ford recovered, although Reith soon left them. Today no tears are spilt over the Edsel fiasco and Ford, especially Ford of Britain, are on top and forging ahead.

This is just a scrap of history, because Motor Sport readers are unlikely to crave Edsels. But in America there are Edsel Clubs and more than 43,000 were in use there up to two years or so ago.