Roy Brown Jr., designer of Edsel, dies

March 5, 2013 at 7:49 AM
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DETROIT, March 5 (UPI) -- The man who designed and clung to the Ford Edsel, Roy Brown Jr., the creator of an iconic failure, has died, his family said.

Brown was 96 and living in a hospice. He died of pneumonia and was a victim of Parkinson's disease, his wife said.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday Brown drove a Ford Edsel for much of his life. When people asked if they could buy his car -- which bombed when it was launched -- Brown would ask, "Where were you in 1958?" the year it hit showrooms with a thud.

The car proved to be out of sync with American tastes. It was made at the end of a period of conspicuous consumption, so what was supposed to be showy became garish. It was given a few not-so-endearing nicknames at the time, as the vertical grill in front vaguely resembled a toilet, the Post said.

"It's almost grotesque," said industry analyst Maryann Keller, who noted "hundreds of pounds of unnecessary weight in bumpers."

Brown, who was in charge of the Edsel's design, went on to help Ford create the Consul and the Cortina, two reasonably successful models sold in Europe. He also contributed to the creation of the Thunderbird and Econoline vans.

But he was known for the one that flopped. Like the original New York Mets baseball team, the Edsel became synonymous with failure.

Ford lost $250 million with the Edsel, a considerable sum in 1958. There were 118,000 produced before it was scratched from Ford's production schedule in 1960. The plan had been to build 200,000.

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