Automotive designer Larry Erickson recently explained certain cars receptiveness to creative expression. A Volkswagen Beetle and a 32 Ford dont look anything like each other but they have a certain honesty and willingness to be hot-rodded, he observes. On the other hand, The willingness for an Edsel to be hot-rodded is fairly low, he says, a reference to the cars polarizing image. It always wants to be an Edsel.

I’m inclined to tell him about Bud Wolfe’s car because he’s done what many deemed highly improbable if not impossible: he made something cool from an Edsel without overwriting its, uh … Edselness.

Of course Bud cheated: he used the least Edsel of them all, the third-year model that most people didn’t even know existed. Ford’s designers threw in the towel that year and accidentally created a rather handsome Edsel. But it was too late: a short history of indifferent quality control, oblique styling, overlapping market segment, and a recession conspired to kill the brand. All told, Ford built only 2,846 ’60 Edsels before 1959 even ended.

Despite what its profile suggests, Buds car started not as one of the 76 convertibles but as one of the 777 two-door sedans. Mike Walter at Rainier Rod & Custom in Graham, Washington, initiated the build by sawing off the cars top.

It was the first step down a slippery slope of increasingly difficult modifications, most of which he performed. For example, removing the top made the sedan windshield appear to bolt upright so he took a little bit out of its height and leaned it back 15 degrees. “I wanted to keep the stainless trim,” Bud says, “so Mike had to cut, trim, and weld the corner pieces to fit the laid-back windshield.”

Removing the top underscored the package tray’s length so Walter shortened it by shoving the tulip panel forward and filling the gap that opened between it and the trunk with steel sheet. He then made a tonneau-like package tray from the leading edge of a Jet-Bird-era Thunderbird package tray and steel sheet that he shaped to fit the Edsel’s body. Finally he created the trim between the tray and tulip panel from bits of the Edsel trim and ’60 Buick rear-window trim that Mike Aukland donated to the cause.

Even though we were building a roadster I wanted side windows, Bud notes. Walter bent stainless channel around a form to make the front frames and cut down Starliner window frames for the rears. We were remiss for not photographing them; the windows create a distinctive wraparound effect.

Devoid of its roof the car flopped about so Walter fortified the frame with an X-member, gusseted the door posts to the floor pan, and used convertible body mounts. He retained the stock rear axle but hung it on a RideTech bolt-on four-link with ShockWave air-over dampers. Walter raised the tunnel for driveshaft clearance.

The Granada front knuckles offered disc brakes and a slight reduction in ride height. The remainder of the altitude adjustment came from ShockWave air-over dampers. Bud kept the 10-inch Ford front discs but updated the rear drums to 11-inch Wilwood rotors and dual-piston calipers.

Wolfe accentuated the wheel tuck with fender skirts. Walter removed their gaskets, extended them at the lower rear to match the body line, and flush-mounted them to the body. He shaved the bumper bolt heads and relocated the rear 2 inches closer to the body.

The grille is, believe it or not, stock; however, the taillights are custom jobs. Bud had them CNC-machined from aluminum to inset the stock lenses an inch. Walter shaved all badges and handles and relocated the fuel filler to inside the trunk.

The 410 Machine company in Buckley, Washington, freshened the ’70 vintage Ford 429. It wears a number of Blue Thunder Auto items, including a dual-quad manifold, Cobra-style rocker covers, and accessory-drive system. John Bolen and Eric Armstrong prepped and tuned the Barry Grant 525-cfm Road Demon carburetors.

When I chose the 429 I didnt now what to expect with the conversion, Bud says. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to buy over-the-counter motor mounts and ready-made headers for application from Stan Johnson at Ford Power Train Applications in Puyallup. Performance Coatings in Auburn, Washington coated those Tri-Y headers, the Flowmaster mufflers, and the 2-1/2-inch exhaust that Walter built. The pipes flank a C6 gearbox built by Canyon Transmission, also in Puyallup.

Walter formed a center console in the likeness of the grille openings. Its lift-off top conceals an American Autowire harness and the suspension’s pneumatic lines. Billet Specialties courtesy lights cut into its sides illuminate the rear footwells. Walter also welded shut the glovebox door, ashtray, and radio opening.

Bud forewent the stock gauge cluster for Classic Instruments All American Nickel gauges. The audio system consists of a Custom Auto Sound Secretaudio head unit and four drivers: one pair mounted in the dash and another concealed in the rear side panels.

The car bears two slightly different DuPont colors: Pistachio, an 06 Toyota color, and a custom hue blended by Walter. He applied both hues and Tacomas Jr. Nelson pinstriped the few details.

It goes without saying that not many people recognize Bud Wolfe’s car for what it is. “It got called everything from a Canadian Mercury to a Pontiac,” he says. And he didn’t even have to resort to radical changes to trick ’em, either; despite the extensive modifications, the car still resembles a ’60 Edsel.

But who knows what a ’60 Edsel looks like anyway? And who would’ve guessed it could’ve looked so good?