Everybody Loves a Road Trip

Our new 15-inch wheels gave us new options for rolling stock. We love the wide whites on our big American cruiser.
It took some work, but the new fan moves a lot more air than the original piece.
We installed the new wheels and tires the hard way.
The Edsel very nearly made the cut for our cross-country trip, but wiser heads prevailed.

With a new battery and a few days of testing under its belt, the Edsel seemed like it was ready to go. Sure, it was still scarily unsorted, but we felt prepared to drive it—that is, until the night before our trip.

After we got our Tiger ready for the New England 1000 rally, we eagerly went to work on our Edsel wagon to prepare it for a 6000-mile family road trip around America. The Edsel had been plagued by an overheating issue early on, but we mostly solved that problem by increasing the cooling fan size and also moving it behind the radiator (puller) instead of in front of it (pusher).

While we have long known the benefits of a puller-style fan, we didn’t have the space for this type of arrangement in the Edsel. You may wonder how we could possibly not have space in something as huge as an Edsel, but with our oversized Griffin radiator plus a compressor and pulleys for aftermarket air conditioning, there was only about an inch and a half of space left for a puller fan.

We found most powerful thin fan we could on Summit’s website and ordered it. It promised 4500 cfm of cooling power and only took up a couple of inches of space.

We then cut the radiator support, moved the radiator forward, and trimmed the shroud on the new fan. Voila! We had lots of cooling power and enough clearance to fit everything. Unfortunately, our monster fan drew 50 amps, so we had to wire in relays and a thermostatic switch. This electric draw then pointed out that our original battery was getting both too old and too weak to contend with these new demands. A new battery solved the problem.

Meanwhile, we decided that bigger tires and wheels were a good idea for such a long trip. The Edsel came equipped with 14x5.5-inch wheels. We had switched to disc brakes, and the clearance was so tight on the original wheels that we literally had to grind the brake calipers a bit—something we were loathe to do—to clear the wheels. We also had a bit of a problem with bottoming out, as we had chosen a 205/70R14 tire size that proved to be only 26 inches in diameter. At the Carlisle swap meet, we found some 15x6-inch Ford steel wheels that we mated with 205/75R15 wide-whitewall tires from our friends at Universal Tire. After installing this wheel-and-tire package, our clearance issues disappeared.

After that, our only problem was that our original Edsel hubcaps were designed for 14-inch wheels, not our new 15 inchers. Fortunately, Edsel also made some smaller dog dish-style hubcaps that would fit the 15-inch wheels. We found a set from a local Edsel collector at Carlisle, and after adding some cool trim rings we were in business. Alignment genius Geoff Thompson at Andre’s Automotive Repair found us some more castor, which did a lot to kept the old beast from wandering.

We were actually impressed with how well and how fast the wagon went down the road. While we drove from a test run to the Hot Rod Power Tour kickoff party, a speeding ticket for doing 77 in a 55 mph zone convinced us that we might really have something here. It also convinced us that we needed to fix the dash lights that had just gone out.

With a new battery and a few days of testing under its belt, the Edsel seemed like it was ready to go. Sure, it was still scarily unsorted, but we felt prepared to drive it—that is, until the night before our trip. A nearly new exhaust manifold gasket decided to pack it in that evening, and a mysterious stumble developed.

We installed a spare exhaust manifold gasket on the hot engine at midnight, and some more tuning resulted in a successful test drive. Unfortunately, half an hour after embarking on our big trip the next day, the stumble returned and the air conditioning proved very inadequate for the 100-degree weather. (We now suspect that a fuel pressure issue caused the problem.)

In the interest of sanity and marital bliss (or at least avoiding a trip to divorce court), we made a quick decision to switch to a more modern vehicle and continue the trip. An obligation to be the featured speaker at the MG 2011 convention sealed the deal, so we turned around and replaced the Edsel with our Honda Ridgeline and restarted our journey.

We want to extend a special thanks to everyone who helped us on this seemingly futile but still kind-of-fun thrash. Thanks to Rennie Bryant, Matt Smith, Crandall Sizemore, Jere Dotten, Tom Suddard, Geoff Thompson, Gary Hunter and a host of other characters that made this possible. Also thanks to my wife, Margie, who remained a steadfast participant in this scheme despite knowing full well that it would most likely be a disaster.

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