(first posted 9/30/2013) This Mercury Monarch shares a platform and much of its body with the iconic Ford Granada- Iconic in a funky seventies style way, rather than in an establishing a new mark of excellence way.
Regardless of your opinion of the neoclassic automotive styling so prevalent in the seventies, you’ll probably agree there were a few platforms that wore this throw- back styling with panache. I believe this car carries that panache, and may represent the peak of the neoclassic movement (Monte Carlo and Grand Prix fans will certainly disagree, but so be it). Between the tall grill and single headlights designed to recall cars of the classic era, and sharp body line creases harking back to custom coach work, this Mercury includes all the elements of the neoclassic look.
Despite this, I find this coupe’s size, proportions, and overall look quite pleasant. While it cannot blend into the modern street scene, it feels no need to apologize for its era specific style It wears its look with pride, confident that well-tailored sheet-metal can impress even four decades later. Fortunately, today’s coupe did not over accessorize, leaving vinyl top and two tone paint options back at the factory.
A look at the rear three quarter view really emphasizes this styling. Ford advertised this platform as their “right sized” car (and made embarrassing comparisons to Mercedes in their Granada advertising), which led to a wheelbase that wore this look with comfort. While this view also emphasizes the inefficient packaging of the two door body style, in the seventies the coupe was king, and when American manufacturers hit the ball out of the park, they chose the two door as their bat.
A close look at the fender tells us this is a Monarch Ghia, one step up in the Granada/Monarch hierarchy. Checking online, the Ghia package only added a few critical features, but helped the neighbors differentiate those shopping strictly for price from those looking for a little bit more in their automobile.
My interior shots for this car did not come out, but I found this nice shot of a Monarch interior. While it suffers from the typical 1970s era hula-hoop steering wheel, the dash board provided a considerable step up from the Falcon/Maverick roots underpinning the Monarch. I know this dash lacks sporting pretensions- It lacks a tachometer or even basic engine gauges, but that wasn’t the Monarch’s mission. Like Monarch’s exterior, this driver’s space harks back to a previous era- A simpler, but more luxurious interior.
This head on shot does remind me of one of my pet peeves- Neoclassic looks should NOT use square headlights. I understand Detroit wanted to use the latest technology as soon as possible, but dammit, if the styling hearkens back to 1930, the car should have ROUND headlights. Shouldn’t stylists have the opportunity to use all the tools in their kit, rather than single mindedly pursuing the latest fad?
At least Ford used single squares on the Granada and Monarch, rather than stacking dual headlight units. These single squares balance the grille opening, and don’t needlessly call attention to themselves, but I still prefer the look of the original Monarch.
Speaking of styling fads, along with square headlights, the Monarch styling refresh also added a separator bar to the existing opera windows to create “twindows” on the cheap. Twindows (dual opera windows) appeared on Ford’s Monte Carlo fighter, the Gran Torino Elite, so the stylists slathered this fad on the Monarch’s B-pillar as well. I’m not a huge fan, but since the windows maintain the original glass silhouette, the separator bar provides a minor distraction, rather than a major faux pas.
In my opinion, this rear view shows the only negative design flaw of the Monarch. Unlike the base Granada, which provided a simple, clean expanse of sheet metal between the tail lights, every Monarch came with this tacky, plastic fill panel. I see no purpose for this escutcheon, and it adds a busy look to an attractive tail.
This close-up shot does show a Monarch Miracle! Once these cars were three or four years old, I recall these fuel doors hanging open on most Monarchs. For this door to survive thirty five or more years of fueling and not failing is almost inconceivable.
So that’s my take on this “right sized” Mercury. As I recall, Granada/Monarch sales started out strong, but quickly dropped as consumers moved away from neoclassic styling, and embraced the build quality and reliability available on the more rational cars available in the early eighties. But as a child of the seventies, these cars are more than just a clownish interpretation of the Mercedes Benz. They are the style of my youth, a statement in sheet metal, and one of the last automotive platforms that placed style so far ahead of substance.