This Might Seem Weird
No, I didn’t actually have an affair with an Edsel. The Edsel was an automobile, even though it was taken off the market because its radiator grill resembled female genitalia. That was the rumor.
This was an interesting if somewhat bizarre way of looking at cars. Since time immemorial, automobiles have been associated with sex. Back in the 1920s, the Tin Lizzy, Henry Ford’s first creation off the assembling line, set the standard for all the romantic hijinks that followed. Booze and sex and automobiles just about defined the culture of the young, whichever decade you pick. The older generation looked down on all this sinning and chose respectability. Their automobiles were sedate Buicks or Chryslers, or a similar model from one of the other manufacturers.
A Car Is A Sex Symbol
If that’s the case, I ask this question: Why was the Edsel so reprehensible, so disgusting, then? Was it the older generation that complained? I’m not sure how it came about, but the Edsel was taken off the market.
Why? Well, I guess the symbolism was too obvious. The idea that cars are sexy, in a general way, is easy to take in, but when the symbolism becomes so specific that buyers gasp at their first sight of a metallic vagina plastered to the front of a car, I guess it triggers some strange reactions.
Personally, I was never aware of the controversy until years afterwards. Maybe that’s because in 1960 (thereabouts), I was only 15. Now, that makes me an old man, but there’s nothing wrong with my memory. The Edsel was the best, sexiest (not because of its radiator grill) car I ever “borrowed.”
I have to explain that I started driving early, long before I had my official license, and no, I didn’t live in a rural are, where kids start even earlier.
Now, when I say I “borrowed” cars, I was not a thief. And I never borrowed a from anyone I didn’t know. Although the people whose cars I had taken for a spin never suspected me, I never damaged the cars. I think that as rather praiseworthy. These owners included my dad, a traveling theater group, a movie studio, my dad (different car), a film production company my dad was working for – I think that’s it. (I never could figure out how I got away with this – every time!)
The Edsel was the most powerful, the most garish,
the most insanely tricked-out car, with push-buttons in the center of the steering wheel, a feature that for some reason I really fell in love with. But the thing I really fell in love with was the raw power of the Edsel.
These are the specifications for one engine option:
E-400 V-8 ENGINE
Displacement 361 Cubic Inches
Horsepower 303 @ 4600 r.p.m.
Torque 400 @ 2800 r.p.m.
Maximum Compression Ratio 10.5:1
My Life With Cars
I was promiscuous when it came to cars – I’d drive anything. As long as the keys were in the ignition and the car belonged to somebody I knew, I couldn’t resist. I don’t know if this had anything to do with my ADHD, but when you think about it, that’s quite possible. I was always one for risk. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t climb mountains or jump from airplanes. I borrowed cars, yes, but I also owned a few of my own. Every one of my purchases ended up the same, in the scrap yard. Except one, which was repossessed.
It didn’t begin well. I answered an ad. Someone was selling a 1957 Mercedes Benz, the little four-cylinder model. I liked the idea of a Benz. My father had passed on a rather unfortunate gene to me, the love of expensive things without being able to afford them.
He was a fun dad, I learned a lot from him. Once in a while he’d lose his temper. But that’s another story.
I fell in love with the car as soon as I saw it.
There was only one problem. The seller wanted me to sign an affidavit that in case anything happened to the car after it left his possession, he wouldn’t be liable for any damages.
Oh, is that all? Well, with love blinding me, I said, “Sure,” though I did have a sinking feeling, I just didn’t want to admit that. It was to be this dysfunctional attitude handed down to me by my father, that drove me on to greater and greater foolishness, in my life with cars.
It wasn’t long before the problem with the car revealed itself – in a rather dangerous and sinister fashion, I might add. After a few short drives around town, the next time I stepped on the brake, nothing happened. He’d sold me a car with a faulty brake line! Luckily I had a friend who fixed that. And from then on, for about six months the car was mine. It drove great on the highway, around turns it stuck to the pavement like glue. I couldn’t believe how incredibly well designed this machine was.
I especially loved the Mercedes hood ornament. Driving along an empty two-lane blacktop, at 70 mph – I never took it further than that – with that beautiful ornament right there in front of me, like a guide.
I don’t remember what happened to my Mercedes Benz. Something happened, because I didn’t have it anymore. My memory is vague on this.
Yes, that was my next car. I don’t remember how I got hold of it, I think someone was giving it away. A strange car, that. Made in England for the Hudson-Nash company for export to North America, it was a miniaturized version of the larger family of standard Hudson-Nash designs.
I can’t remember much about what happened to this car, either, unfortunately. I was promiscuous and once the affair was over, I moved on.
Now, I used to get this question all the time. What the heck is a Borgward?
Well, for anyone who’s interested in its history, you can Google it. My experience with the car was, well, tied up with a relationship I wasn’t too crazy about.
So though I drove the car to the north country, over gravel roads, even sleeping in it on the road, I couldn’t wait to get rid of it as soon as this relationship ended.
Then I bought a Volkswagen Beetle. This was a fun car, so long as it lasted. I was driving north with my new wife, when the battery was destroyed by fire. On another trip, the front tire blew and I almost lost the car – and me and my wife.
I’ll have more to say about my automobile adventures in my next post in this category, Other Stuff.
To Be Continued
Born in Tel Aviv, Israel (when it was still Palestine, a British protectorate. I was 1 year old when we moved to England, where I grew up. At age 12, we left for Canada and I’ve lived here ever since.