2012 Chicago: 1954 Mercury XM-800 Concept Still Working Auto Show Circuit

Yes, Mercury may be dead and buried, but that didn’t stop a Mercury concept car from appearing at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show. We discovered the 1954 Mercury Monterrey XM-800 tucked in a distant corner of McCormack Place’s south hall.

Unlike the 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra R that graces Ford’s stand, this car doesn’t really have a historic connection to the Chicago show. The XM-800 debuted at the 1954 Detroit show, where Lincoln-Mercury officials touted the car as a potential production car (that line is still used by PR reps today). Mechanically, the XM was rather conventional, but its form was something completely different. Stylist John Najir’s team created a low-slung fiberglass body with covered wheel wells, a forward-raked front fascia, wrap-around windshield glass, and a grille integrated into the front bumper.

Legend has it that the XM-800 could have evolved into the 1956 full-size Mercury, but public response forced Ford to reconsider the idea (interestingly, several cues did wind up on the 1956 Lincoln). Ford used the car for promotional work for a few years, but ultimately donated it to the University of Michigan in 1956, where it served as a test bed for the school’s automotive engineering program. The University of Michigan disposed of the XM-800 in 1960, and it subsequently passed through a string of owners, including legendary concept car collector Joe Bortz.

The XM-800 popped up on eBay in 2008, albeit in a worn, neglected shape. A new owner promptly began restoring the car, and returned it to its original state in time for RM Auctions’ 2010 Scottsdale auction, where it was sold for a sizable $429,000.

We’re happy to see the XM-800 in its original splendor, and returned to its original task: entertaining visitors at a major auto show.

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