Lemongrove: Forest of Edsels (Gone)
When the Edsel debuted in 1957, most people thought it was ugly. Not Hugh Lesley. He wanted one from the first moment he laid eyes on its horsecollar grill and horizontal tail fins. But, being a farmer from Pennsylvania, he couldn't afford it.
Then the Edsel bombed. No one bought them. What was bad for the Ford Motor Company was good for Hugh Lesley. In 1959 Ford stopped making Edsels and Lesley grabbed his first one -- a convertible -- for the ridiculously low price of $750. He hasn't stopped since.
Lesley now owns 172 of the world's least-favorite car.
After he wore out that convertible, he began picking up more Edsels at similar bargain prices: hardtops, wagons, more convertibles. Dealers would unload Edsels to Lesley from their back lots. Farmers sold Edsels to Lesley out of their barns. Suburban dads jettisoned them from their garages. Lesley used his mechanical skills to rebuild some and salvage parts from the others. All the while a mantra kept repeating in his head: "They're not gonna make 'em anymore, they're not gonna make 'em anymore -- buy them all!" pushing him on and on.
The years passed and were good to Hugh Lesley. He now lives in a large, well-appointed A-frame farm house. One side is all glass, giving Lesley a commanding view of his beloved collection, which are packed beneath the trees like an otherworldly fungus. His prize examples stand grill-to-taillight inside a massive shed that provides protection from the elements.
Though the teal and pink exteriors of many Lesley Edsels are slowly succumbing to rust, Lesley himself is as spry as he was in '57. "They keep me young," he says, jauntily bouncing from car to car, pointing out a hood detail here, a pushbutton transmission there. And though Lesley concedes that the heyday of Edsel bargains has passed, he still keeps an eye out for that familiar, hideous, horsecollar grill. "I'm obsessed," he says, smiling. "If I see an Edsel and it's not too badly gone, I've gotta have it."
Note: A gentlemen in Beulah, ND -- Leroy Walker -- is reported to own 210 Edsels at last count.
May 2006: Lemongrove is reported closed, the property sold, and the cars in the process of being removed. Visitors are no longer welcome.