Mercury's Wings Clipped

Don Sherman

Proof that the car market is overloaded with excess brands and a confusing of miasma models, the Ford Motor Company has terminated Mercury's long run. Production will end later this year for the four remaining models-Grand Marquis, Mariner, Milan, and Mountaineer. Approximately 1700 dealers currently offering the brand will move on to other endeavors such as Lincoln sales. The hop, skip, and jump through Mercury's history that follows is our fond farewell to the car named after the messenger to the gods.

1937: Against his near-senile father's intuitions, Edsel Ford identified an opportunity for a new brand positioned between mainstream Fords and upscale Lincolns. The hope was to raise the competitive game against GM's thriving Buick, LaSalle, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac nameplates.

1938: The first Mercury 8s arrived (for the 1939 model year) powered by slightly uprated Ford flathead V-8 delivering 95 versus the standard 90 horsepower. Four body styles were offered and prices started at $916, approximately $230 more than the comparable Ford. Advertising stressed fuel economy but customers were more often drawn to the new Mercury's excellent acceleration and speed.

1942: By the time production ceased during World War II, the Mercury range had prospered to include six body styles.

1945: To move Mercury's image up and away from Ford, a new Lincoln-Mercury division was created.

1948: Fresh post-war styling arrived early in the year for 1949 models. Basic body shells were shared with Lincolns and the squished top combined with a beautifully sculpted lower body was a major hit.

1955: After James Dean drove a '49 Merc in Rebel Without a Cause, the sleek 1949-51 models became a favorite for hot rodders and customizers.

1958: The Lincoln-Mercury Division was expanded to include Edsel, the ill-conceived brand that survived only three model years.

1960: The first six-cylinder Mercury was the Comet, an inexpensive but slightly upscale compact sedan that shared Ford Falcon underpinnings.

1964: Quickly changing stripes, the Comet Cyclone was Mercury's first muscle car with up to 271 horsepower from a 289 cubic inch V-8.

1966: The new Mercury Cougar, a Mustang spin-off, earned Motor Trend's Car of the Year award.

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