Mercury's Wings Clipped
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.
1970: After the German-built Capri went on sale at Lincoln-Mercury dealers, it quickly became the second-best-selling import after the VW Beetle.
1971: Mercury dealers were more than a little confused when tapped by the Ford Motor Company to sell the exotic DeTomaso Pantera sports cars imported from Italy.
1975: The Grand Marquis nameplate was introduced and quickly became the most popular and enduring Mercury. More than 2.7-million have been sold during the past 35 years. At the bottom of the lineup, the Bobcat was born as a slightly gussied up Pinto.
1978: Dealers sold more than 580,000 Mercury's at the peak of the brand's success.
1979: After a short lapse, the successful Capri nameplate was moved to a Mustang platform.
1980: Cougar sales dropped by 50-percent in one year. Ignoring Mercury, Ford Motor Company product planners turned their attention to keeping Lincoln alive.
1985: Some Lincoln-Mercury dealers signed up to sell the German-made Merkur XR4Ti powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. In 1988, the Scorpio four-door hatchback with V-6 power was added. Two years later. the experiment was deemed a failure and imports ceased. The conservative Sable sedan, a Taurus alternative, was more successful.
1991: For its third act, the Capri nameplate was revived for an Australian-built front-drive 2+2 roadster.
1993: The Mercury Villager minivan shared most of its vital parts with Nissan's Quest.
1996: The new V-8-powered, 4-wheel drive Mountaineer SUV was a major Mercury success.
1999: Ford's illustrious Premier Automotive Group was formed to include Mercury and several other upscale brands. A headquarters was established in California and an alleged $17-billion was spent nurturing this venture. Only four years later, the organization was dismantled, Lincoln-Mercury was moved back to Dearborn and the other premium nameplates were sold off.
2003: The venerable Marauder badge was dusted off and 11,052 hot four-door sedans were manufactured during a two-year run, all motivated by a 302-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 engine.
2009: Severely wounded by the recession, Mercury sales dropped below 100,000 units for the first time since 1946. The number of Lincoln-Mercury dealers fell from 357 to 292 outlets.
2010: On June 2, Ford bosses announced the end of Mercury and a renewed commitment to Lincoln's prosperity.