Car Show Classic: 1966 Mercury Colony Park – The Finest This Side Of The Lincoln Continental?

IMG_0275

1966 sales literature proudly proclaimed the Mercury Colony Park as “The finest this side of the Lincoln Continental”, and 1968 even claimed “If Lincoln Continental made a wagon, this would be it”. Yet in spite of what Mercury’s marketing wanted you to believe, this was sadly never the case.

IMG_0277

In reality, the Colony Park was never much of a “Lincoln Continental” wagon, with levels of luxury nowhere near Ford Motor Company’s iconic flagship. As a matter of fact, the Colony Park was barely a step above the near identical Ford Country Squire to even be called a “luxury Country Squire”, with trim, comfort and convince features more or less the same.

1966 Mercury Full Size-24-25

Sharing their chassis and greenhouse with the full-size Ford wagons, the fourth generation (1965-1968) Colony Parks and Commuters featured mostly unique lower sheetmetal. With formal-looking straight-edged and upright sheetmetal, externally, the Colony Park was did indeed have a higher resemblance to a Lincoln, but that was pretty much where similarities with the luxury car ended. What’s more is that despite Mercury’s theoretically higher position than Ford, with two alike vehicles and Ford’s far higher sales volume, it was the Country Squire that gained all the fame and prestige as FordMoCo’s premier station wagon.

b_fordcountrysquire(1961 Country Squire)

Furthermore, the Country Squire’s ability to transcend its brand’s hierarchal position is noteworthy in itself. Over the course of history, there have been very few vehicles with such the broad socioeconomic appeal of the Country Squire during this period. Despite the Ford brand’s lack of snob appeal, a Country Squire would not have looked anymore out of place parked in the gated courtyard of a sprawling Hampton estate than it would parked by the curb in a middle-class tract home neighborhood. On this note, Ford’s own Thunderbird also achieved this transcendence, passing Mercury to bridge the gap between Ford and Lincoln, but that’s a story for another day.

Betty_Draper_station_wagons

The Colony Park was by no means completely invisible, with 1966 sales coming in at just under 19,000 units. This number was about three times that of Mercury’s base Commuter wagon, suggesting that well-heeled buyers (such as Mad Men‘s Betty Draper, who drove a ’62 Colony Park) did indeed see Mercury as a maker of prestigious station wagons. Of course, 1966 Country Squire sales were more than three times that of the Colony Park. It should also be noted (likely as a coincidence, but still interesting) that Berry Draper began driving a new higher-status Country Squire only after she became wealthier via inheritance and her second marriage in later seasons.

mercury-colony-park-1966-2

Why the Colony Park wasn’t made more luxurious and Lincoln-like in amenities still remains somewhat a mystery. On the one hand, making a truly luxurious wagon seems like an untapped market that Ford could’ve explored at the time. Think of it as the precursor to the true luxury SUV. Yet then again, family cars have always put a strong sense of practicality over any luxury, and durable, easy-to-clean vinyl seats and lack of any electrical gizmos, breakable by kids in the back, were probably significant needs for many buyers. Additionally, the Country Squire already had a prestigious enough image, and Ford was likely satisfied with the number of them it was selling during this time. Any additional Colony Park sales purely bonus.

IMG_0283

In any event, as Mercury’s premier station wagon, the Colony Park was graced with the requisite vinyl Di-Noc woodgrain siding. 1965-1966 models retained the unique blade-like shape of woodgrain from second and third generation Colony Parks. Beginning with the 1967 facelift, woodgrain would somewhat excessively cover the entire sides of the car, down to the rocker panels. This very original car’s Di-Noc has essentially disintegrated after 49 years, but luckily the lighter-toned surrounds preserve the look.

IMG_0287

1966 Colony Parks featured a 390 cubic inch (6.4 liter) V8 making 265 horsepower (275 when coupled with the optional Merc-O-Matic automatic transmission) and 410 pound-feet of torque as their standard power plant, while a 410 cubic inch (6.7L) V8 was optional, pouring out 330 horsepower and 444 pound-feet of torque. A 3-speed manual was the standard transmission, but for a large family car, the optional Merc-O-Matic automatic transmission was likely the more common.

IMG_0281

As was expected, the frame, suspension, and tires of these large Mercurys’ “compliance-tuned-chassis” were all aimed at producing a soft, comfortable ride. Promotional material used words like “restful” and “refined” to describe the Colony Park’s ride. This car is pretty light on the options, but does feature the available all-vinyl interior. Power windows, power door locks, power front bench seat, air conditioning, Stereo Sonic tape player, and rear speakers were among other available options. Riding on a 119-inch wheelbase, these Colony Parks were over 216 inches long and nearly 80 inches wide; by all means a very large car even by today’s standards. This of course translated to a cavernous interior, with over 62 inches of front and rear hip room, and a healthy 91.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seats folded flat.

IMG_0280

At the rear, prominent tail fins remained from the previous year, but for 1966 they were now graced with attractive three-sided taillights. Also new for 1966 models was Mercury’s “Dual Action” tailgate, which could either fold down or swing out to be opened. This feature was retained on all full-size Ford wagons through the bodystyle’s demise in 1991. It would also be copied by Chrysler and GM, for their full-size wagons, both for the 1969 model year.

IMG_0279

I don’t know whether or not this car sold, but whichever the case, I can only hope that its current owner will soon address the rust issues and any other threatening maladies. The otherwise original state of the car is refreshing to see, but it would be a shame to see this beautiful wagon – Lincoln-like or not – succumb to the rust and corrosion.

Related Reading:

1965 Ford Country Sedan

1966 Mercury Monterey convertible

1968 Mercury Colony Park

1968 Ford Ranch Wagon