Built on Olsmobile running gear by engineer Norman Timbs, the Edwards America was envisioned by Sterling Edwards as an American alternative to Italian sports cars like the Cisitalia and Ferrari. It borrowed much of its design from the egg-crate Ferraris designed by Vignale but was slightly larger in every dimension. It beat the Ford Thunderbird by several years, but only very few cars were made, as little as five or six, and they were all custom made for their first owner.
Gooding on the Edwards
While at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, San Francisco Industrialist, Sterling Edwards found himself face to face with a Cisitalia sports car. From then on, Edwards became obsessed with the “fine roadability and sheer beauty of European sports cars.” Not content with simply purchasing one of the many European sports cars available, Edwards was of the opinion that a suitable competitor could be built in California and could be individually tailored to his needs and tastes.
After hiring Norman Timbs to design and engineer his car, Edwards enlisted legendary racecar builders, Lujie Lesovsky, Phil Remington and Emil Diedt in Culver City to construct the initial prototype. The first Edwards Specials competed at many of the prominent California road races and one received Best of Show at the inaugural Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
After finding success with his sports cars, Edwards set out to build a limited run of “production cars.” They proved to be the forerunners to the Edwards personal luxury car – a stylish two-door of reasonable proportion motorized by the finest engines the US had to offer.
Initially based on a strengthened Henry J chassis, the Edwards America was powered by a variety of large American V-8 engines. The styling of the fiberglass body was Italian in theme (ie. eggcrate grille, clean lines and upswept rear fenders), the interior was finished in leather, deluxe Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels were fitted and the car was aimed at an upscale clientele.
Edwards Engineering’s modest facility could hardly cope with the construction methods and logistics of building a production luxury car and expenses skyrocketed. When introduced, Edwards had planned to sell his cars for a hefty $6,800 but, by the time they became available, $8,000 was needed to buy a car and, even at that price, the cost of construction was not covered.
he first Edwards America prototype was numbered 194-1 and was destined to be a convertible from the outset. All told, only five Americas were completed in period, and of those, only two were genuine Convertibles.
At their 2010 Amelia Island Auction, Gooding and Company sold the first prototype Edwards convertible for $110,000 USD. It was described as:
The only American constructed on the 100” wheelbase Henry J chassis, this prototype was also the only example to have been fitted from new with Oldsmobiles 324 cubic inch Rocket V-8 engine which had made quite a name for itself in NASCAR racing.
The completed prototype debuted in Fall 1953 and received a great deal of positive press from the motor magazines of the day. Road & Track went so far as to say that, “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.”
Former Edwards Engineering employee, Bob Whitmer, is said to have recorded this car from new and an extensive file regarding its history is offered with the sale. The owner reports that this impressive file includes documentation, a complete parts list and correspondence between the various Edwards America owners, including the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles. This rare and important American sports car was treated to a thorough restoration some years ago, and it still presents beautifully in its blue over tan color combination.
At the 2007 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, then owner, Neil Huffman displayed the car in a class devoted to Fiberglass-bodied American specialty cars and received an award for his unique treasure. It has also graced the pages of Collectible Automobile and Automobile Quarterly, strong testaments to its lasting influence and historical importance. Not only is it an exciting show piece, this car has successfully completed the Colorado Grand, an exclusive rally that accepts only the finest pre-1961 sporting cars.
Edwards Americas, though few in number, have left a lasting impression and serve as a reminder of a less complicated era when one resolute individual could fulfill his dream of creating his very own sports car. This prototype’s remarkable appearance, exciting performance and unique history make its availability a singular opportunity not to be missed.