Updated: Nov 7, 2020
Every now and then the car companies of the United States produce an automobile that just isn’t suitable for the sport of drag racing. And every now and then someone sees through everything unsuitable that a particular car has to offer. Then with a little hard work and imagination a standout racecar is born. Such is the case with Jeff Henry, and his 1959 Edsel.
The two door 1959 Ford Edsel that Jeff Henry drag races in stick shift competition was built by Henry and his father Dave Henry. The build took just over the course of thirteen weeks in 2018 to complete. The exterior of the car exhibits what appears to be the original factory color.
Henry, who resides in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, is a machinist at Craft Performance which is also located in the Arkansas town of Arkadelphia. Henry machined and assembled a 406 cubic inch F.E. engine to serve as the power plant for the Ford Edsel. Not only does the engine look and sound like a drag race engine, upon site and sound but it performs as such on the race track. The Ford Edsel weighs 4,020 pounds with Jeff Henry behind the wheel. And covers the eighth mile race course on average at 7.50 seconds at around 91 miles an hour.
“We were looking for a car to build for the stick shift class, and this car came along and originated out of the state of California. We found it resting in a junk yard in the Pine Bluff, Arkansas area. It is a bit unusual for this model of car to be used for drag racing, much less in a shifter class,” said Henry. “The transmission that I picked for the car is a Ford Top Loader four speed that is built with Liberty racing transmission parts. This combination works almost flawlessly and adds to the consistency needed to be competitive in the stick shift division.”
If one takes a peek under the rear of the car, you will naturally find a Ford nine inch rear differential delivering the power of the engine and transmission to the rear tires. The rear end is supported by two axels built by Mark Williams, and features a 5.83 ring and pinion.
The rear suspension that rest under the Henry built Edsel is still the original leaf spring set up that Ford Motor Company supplied when the vehicle was driven from the dealership upon original purchase. A pair of old style slapper bars are attached to the rear springs to add some assistance for traction when the car leaves on the starting line.
“As you can see we did our best not to deviate from the originality of the car, which was part of the plan. He wanted to keep this thing looking as close to stock as possible. We didn’t want to just cut this car up to make a racecar. But to make a racecar out of what Ford had produced.”
“Also you will notice that we did not disrupt the interior of the car with a roll cage. It’s not that I’m not safety oriented when it comes to racing. We just wanted a natural look in the interior of the car. So I decided to keep the mile an hour of the car down since we are bracket racing anyway.”
The old Edsel has certainly found its calling on the drag strips in Arkansas, and has quickly become a fan favorite. As Paul Dixon said, “I love coming to the races and watching all the cars. But it’s refreshing when someone brings out a car that you don’t usually see on the track. Especially when it looks good and performs well on the track, as Jeff Henry has done with the Edsel.”
“It really makes you feel good as your pulling through the pits and everyone is looking at the car, said Henry. “As well as when they gather around and take pictures and ask questions. There are a lot of different cars that we could have built. But I think we settled on the perfect one.”