Posted on June 3rd, 2010 4 comments
It’s a sad day for retro-lovin’ swingers. One of our all time best-beloved, the MERCURY, is being shut down.
Sure, Mercs of the past 20 years are kind of junk-like, with maybe the exception of the Marquis if you like that “I’m floating down the highway on my living room sofa” feel. But the old-school Mercs are second to none, baby.
The Mercury was introduced in 1938 (for the ’39 model year) as line-up that could slip in between cheap, dependable Fords and luxed-up Lincolns. A beautiful car, the 1939 Mercury was the perfect blend of styling, power, and price to fit the mid-money market.
Mercury stayed ahead of tech and styling through the ’40s, ’50s & ’60s. 1949 & ’50 Mercs became favorites of hot-rodders and customizers because of their low, sleek look. Late ’50s models stood out from the crowd with unique styling which still managed to incorporate trends of the day like tail fins and wrap-around windshield. The 1960s saw the rise of the muscle car, and Mercury kept up speed with the Marauder and Cougar. And of course no one can forget the “Baby Lincoln”, the Marquis of the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Then everything went to hell in a handbag. The ’70s brought on tighter government restrictions on safety and emissions, gas prices went through the roof, and the American car suffered. Mercs like many other brands became boated and under-powered. The introduction of cheap, ugly little sub-compacts with irritatingly slow four-cylinders just made things worse. Prices went up, quality went down, and soon Mercurys were no longer in the mid-price niche, but were being overlapped by tricked-out Fords and low-end Lincolns.
When you think about it, it’s amazing Mercury wasn’t phased out years ago like the Corvair or Rambler. If Ford had stuck to the plan…Good, strong, economic and dependable yet fun-to-drive cars for the Ford line; more interesting, more powerful and unique cars for the Mercury line; and high-luxury, top performance cars for the Lincoln line, there would be no reason to let the Mercury brand go daisies up.
Henry Ford is spinning in his grave. RIP, Mercury.
-Tiki Chris reporting from the garage behind the Tiki Bar.
PS: I’ve been around a few Mercs over the years. My grandfather had a 1965 Turnpike Cruiser with the roll-down back window, and a ’73 Grand Marquis that rode like a sofa. My old man had a couple over the years, including a ’92 Grand Marquis. I had the honor of owning a 1968 Mercury Park Lane Convertible with a kickin’ 390 that could shut down almost anything on the road. McGarret drove a ’68 Park Lane in Hawaii Five-O, and of course James Dean drove a ’49 Merc in Rebel Without a Cause. Mercs have a long, great history. And I’m pretty sure Alan Jackson will never start singing “Crazy ’bout a Subaru” or something like that.