Edwards 1953

 


An entirely new approach in Fiberglas body design is seen in Sterling Edwards' convertible. The trim body strongly European in flavor is mounted on a modified Henry J chassis; engine is Olds 88.


Many stock parts are used in trim.

Edwards and Remington pursued their vision of a series of sports cars powered by large-displacement V-8's with short-wheelbase chassis and elegant fiberglass bodies. A further reworking of the original R-26 wooden buck led to a tighter, more refined line for the new car. By moving the plaster around the wooden buck, wheelbases of varying lengths could be accommodated. The initial design called for a 107-inch chassis, although the first car was built on the 100-inch Henry J platform.

The prototype chassis became known as 194-1(194 represented an accounting number) and would be called the "Edwards-America" to reinforce its national origin. The first Edwards-America was to be a convertible, built on pure speculation. It was powered by Oldsmobile's 324-cubic-inch Rocket V-8-which had been introduced in 1949 and had made quite a name for itself on the NASCAR circuit from 1949 to 1951 - and it utilized Olds' Hydra-Matic transmission, as well. Once again, costs were controlled with ready-made components: Ford windshield and side windows, Studebaker headlight rims, Ford grille bars and Dodge convertible top components. Each America would have its own parts list, with a description of over-the-counter components used in its construction.

Building an all-fiberglass skin presented new challenges in each section of the body since Edwards envisioned the America as a well-finished luxury automobile, not merely a rough-hewn sports car. Articulating the grille opening and parts that went under the bumpers proved as demanding as building multi-piece doors. To construct the latter, a boxed, built up door section was bonded by its integral flange to the thin outer skin with C-clamps while resin was applied. Edwards has since admitted that they had no idea of how well the assembly would hold up after years of banging and slamming.

This prototype appeared publicly in the fall of 1953 and was warmly received. In its December issue, Road and Track listed the America in the company of such robust sports cars as a Siata V-8 and a Maserati ASGS. The following month's issue featured a more in-depth appraisal: "Appearance wise, the Edwards compares to the very best of Italian imports. Certainly anyone not familiar with its origin would assume it to be an Italian custom creation." The article predicted that production would soon be under way at the South San Francisco plant.

With the first car successfully completed, limited production had indeed begun. Starting with the second car, Edwards adopted a 1950-52 Ford/Mercury station wagon chassis because of its heavy-duty boxed rails and stronger crossmembers. Although originally configured with a 118-inch wheelbase, the chassis was cut down to 107 inches for the America, the extra space being added to the body behind the rear wheel well. Already rugged, this chassis was further stiffened with 1/4-inch plates on either side of the frame, along with new four-inch crossmembers and steel plate covering the frame rails and the center X member. The firewall was also constructed of steel to carry the loads of the suspended pedals and provide additional rigidity to the cowl area. All of the Edwards-Americas, whether Coupé or convertible, were originally constructed as open cars with the top assembly attached to the steel substructure behind the rear seats. The second Edwards-America, built as a hardtop Coupé, utilized the folding top's tubular steel bows and arms to create a fixed substructure for the solid fiberglass root panel.

A 205-bhp Lincoln V-S replaced the Olds Rocket in this second car, although GM's Hydramatic transmission was retained. Leather upholstery and headliner, electric windows, Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels and whitewall tires provided the owner with a hand-built European-style luxury car at the modest price of $6769 F.O.B. South San Francisco. Painted a two-tone green and white, the car was taken on a cross-country promotional tour with Edwards' friends, George and Clarissa Dyer. En route, the Dyers stopped in Detroit to give William Clay Ford a chance to view the Lincoln powered car more than a year before the introduction of the Thunderbird. Returning to San Francisco on a southern route, the Dyers picked up the first official order for an Edwards-America from a customer in La Jolla.

With the second Edwards-America completed, the "Roadster Boys" Chuck Tatum and Joe Conlon, the fabricators who worked with Remington, used the same jigs for body components and placed them directly on the chassis. Scaling down bumpers and other trim items to insure a tight and custom fit required many hours of patient, hands-on refinement to make each car correct. Doing it right the first time became the goal of this small and dedicated work force, who were not above consulting an outside specialist when necessary. At one point in production, for example, a cabinet finisher with fiberglass experience was called in to assist with proper use of the jigs to align the door pillars and the cowl, permitting the doors to close properly.

Chassis number three was the second and final convertible constructed. Its Cadillac ohv power plant was the personal choice of its buyer, Archibald D. McLaren of La Jolla. Chassis number four reverted to Coupé form, again with a Lincoln engine It was specially configured for its new owner, Robert Watt Miller of San Francisco, whose large stature dictated that Jaguar seats be install for greater comfort and easier access.

Chassis number five also a Coupé was constructed as Edwards' personal car using a Cadillac V 8.