With the implementation and heated criticism of the government sponsored CARS program (if you don't know what this is about you MUST be living under a rock...or in Alaska), the word "clunker" has been tossed around in public discourse more than ever. So who or what determines if a vehicle is indeed a clunker? According to a report I saw on TV a while back, some reporter noted that the car most traded-in under the "Cash for Clunkers" movement is the Ford Explorer. While the Ford Explorer isn't exactly a Honda or a Beamer, my dad owns one and it's not that bad (almost 200K miles, and still runs well enough for an extended road trip). But as history has shown, Ford has done worse...enter the Ford Edsel - perhaps the most maligned and notoriously famous clunker ever made.
So why has the Ford Edsel from the 1950's been typecast as the epitome of clunkerdom? Devotees (yes, there are a few of those) steadfastly proclaim that there was nothing actually "wrong" mechanically or aesthetically about the Edsel, but that the car was the victim of a recession that hit America around the late 50's and that the media put it down when it wasn't exactly the car of the future that many had been led to expect it to be. Regardless, the car flopped in a monumental fashion, costing Ford at least $300 million dollars in roughly 3 years and in turn stereotyped the Edsel as the biggest joke in automotive history.
This little video is an interesting overview of the Edsel, and it includes old commercials pimping it to be the hippest car of the time and commentary on why it never came to be the car Ford tried to present. Highlights? At the very beginning we have some over-intellectualized douchebag declaring that part of the reason the Edsel flopped is because the center of the car's grill resembled female genitalia (I'm not making this s**t up), and at the 3:00 mark we take a visit to a would-be "Edsel Graveyard" in Pennsylvania where some farm dude keeps a row of broken down Edsels covered with leaves and dirt. What a fitting tribute.