In 1956, having trouble coming up with a good name on its own, Ford Motor Company asked its ad agency, Foote, Cone & Belding (FC&B), to come up with some possibilities for its new, very special project. Codenamed “E-Car” (“E” for “Experimental”), this project wasn’t just another automobile for Ford. It was in fact the first car to be introduced by the company since 1938 when the Mercury made its debut, this twenty-year stretch more than enough time to give engineers and designers plenty to think about how to build the perfect automobile for the American consumer of the 1950s. As well, the E-Car would be not just a single model but four different series comprising a total of eighteen cars- essentially a new, entire automobile company. For many Americans, the Edsel would be the first really new car they had a chance to buy after the war, its introduction an important event in the history of automobiles.
FC&B, which had just been awarded the large account, not surprisingly went all out for its new assignment, including asking employees in its Chicago, New York, and London offices to come up with possible names for the automobile. The employee who came up with the winning name would win an E-Car, such a prize no doubt explaining the volume of entries the agency received. No less than 18,000 names poured in, six thousand of which were presented to Ford for consideration in alphabetical order in beautifully bound books, complete with each name’s word associations. Not knowing what to do with such a large list, Ford’s market research director, David Wallace, asked a research company in Ann Arbor to find out which ones the public liked best, and add any others that seemed to resonate with consumers. Four names—Corsair, Citation, Pacer, and Ranger—topped the list, but Wallace and a colleague working on the project, Bob Young, were unsatisfied. Nothing less than a special name for the special car would be acceptable.