Nearly a half-century ago, on Sept. 4, 1957, one of the most anticipated new car unveilings took place at more than 1,100 U.S. dealers. After nine years of planning and market research, and following a carefully orchestrated publicity campaign, potential buyers flocked to showrooms to seeMotor Co.'s all-new Edsel. Offered in four series, Ranger, Pacer, Corsair and top-of-the-line Citation, the car had distinctive, if controversial, styling and such features as the TeleTouch automatic transmission operated by push-buttons in the middle of the steering wheel. However, just as it is introduced, an economic recession hits cars in the medium price range especially hard, and Edsel never achieves its objectives. It is quietly dropped in December 1959. Although conventional wisdom blames Edsel's failure on over-reliance on market research and the economic down-turn, conspiracy theorists say Robert S. McNamara, who had been head of Ford Div. and later president, feared Edsel would steal sales volume from Ford Div. He worked against the car from the start, they say, and ultimately presided over its death before leaving to become President John F. Kennedy's Secretary of Defense.
Buick Div. also this month previewed all-new '58s that reintroduced the Limited series after a 17-year hiatus. The already lengthy proportions of the '58 models were stretched another 8 ins. at the rear, giving the Limited an overall length of 227.1 ins. Among the most garish of GM's bloated '58 models, the Limited is chromeladen. When shown a sketch of proposed '58 Buicks, GM styling head Harley J. Earl reportedly told his designer to add 100 lbs. of chrome. A revised rendering is said to have elicited the retort, "I thought I told you 100 lbs. - that's only 80. Put on some more."