July 29, 2014 in City

Doug Clark: ‘Wheels 4 Meals’ shows Etzel’s Edsel has heart

By The Spokesman-Review
Tyler Tjomsland photoBuy this photo

Eric Etzel poses with his 1958 Edsel on Monday at Underhill Park in Spokane.
(Full-size photo)

Q – What do you call a two-time loser?

A – A guy driving an Edsel with a Nixon sticker on the bumper.

Eric Etzel spent a good bit of his youth trying to figure out why his father, Nat, thought the two-liner above was so funny that he told it over and over and over to just about everyone he met.

Born in 1960, Etzel was naturally too young to know anything about presidential politics.

Nor could he have known that the Ford Edsel was a flop of epic proportions. (Not to mention that it was considered by some to be one of the homeliest cars in automotive history.)

It took until well into his teen years for Etzel to finally appreciate what the Old Man was cracking wise about.

Even then he didn’t find much worth laughing at, but it did have an impact.

Maybe it was the sheer repetition of hearing the word Edsel. But the older Etzel got, the more he wanted one.

Granted, having “Etzel” for a last name probably helped shape the man’s classic car desires, too.

But for whatever reasons, the Spokane Realtor decided to scratch that itch one day back in 1998.

He paid an Oregon resident $2,500 and became the proud owner of a 1958 Edsel Ranger, a jet-black hardtop with four doors and at least an acre of gleaming chrome.

Etzel named his car Eddie.

Eddie the Edsel.

“I thought it was pretty dang cool,” said Etzel.

But that’s just part of the story about this man and his quirky machine.

On Aug. 6, Etzel will fulfill another personal goal when he and Eddie play host to their first car show, “Wheels 4 Meals.”

Here’s all you need to know.

The event will take place at Tony’s Steer Inn, 3547 N. Market St., from 4-8 p.m.

Though free for the viewing public, it will cost $20 to enter your car, truck or motorcycle. Each entrant “will receive a swag bag and a dash plaque as well as a 10 percent discount on food, beer and wine,” said Etzel.

Spokane has a caravan of summertime car shows. Everybody knows that.

But Etzel grabbed my attention when he told me about what he was really up to.

All proceeds from his show will go to the area’s two Meals on Wheels programs, which collectively serve almost 30,000 meals a month to the elderly and other homebound people.

Etzel should be commended for wanting to help such a worthwhile cause.

I’m hoping his car show turns out to be a packed showcase for great-looking rides.

I’m even thinking about entering my 1967 Vista Guzzler station wagon, which has been mothballed ever since I impaled one of my front tires with a nail that was only slightly smaller than a railroad spike.

But no matter how many entries he attracts, Etzel’s show would be worth attending just to gawk at Eddie.

On Monday he drove it to Underhill Park, where I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Maybe the Edsel was too much for the sensibilities of people in the late 1950s.

The Edsel, after all, lasted just three years – 1958-1960.

It was a bomb. A disaster.

Just the word “Edsel” became a punch line meaning failure.

But today?

To me it looks plain cool. The car is broad and muscular and loaded with a lot of lovable, oddball touches.

Take the push button “Teletouch” transmission.

The designers arranged the buttons in a circle that was set in the center of the steering wheel.

Which could be quite dangerous. Say you’re cruising down the road and suddenly have to go for the horn.


You could slap yourself into reverse.

Apparently Eddie the Edsel’s Teletouch is more of a telepathic transmission since it “shifts into drive whenever it wants to,” said Etzel.

Such are the joys of old car ownership.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman- Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.

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