While shooting classics at a museum would seem like shooting fish in a barrel, the reality is a little different. The cars are posed so close together that it’s hard to get a variety of angles, and then you have to deal with the light or lack thereof. So I was very surprised to see this gem parked at the end of a row where I could get more than one good shot off.
The first thing that strikes me was the great similarity of the Cruiser to the Packard Predictor–the exact same roofline, down to the retracting rear window, which would become a Mercury hallmark during the sixties.
The only real difference was the electric razor grille of the Messenger of the Gods as compared to the Packard’s front end, which was eerily predictive of the Edsel’s . I often wonder what the reception to the Predictor would have been if S-P had somehow come up with the funds to put it into production, given the belly flop that the Edsel had with the same theme. As Louie B. Mayer supposedly said, “All predictions are difficult, especially those about the future.”
And it was the “Big M,” as it had shed the dressed-up-Ford image that Mercury had previously, and would once again come to embrace before suffering death as a Ford Crown Victoria with a different grill that only seemed to appeal those who could have bought a Turnpike Cruiser when they were new cars sitting on the lot at ‘Ford’ Groves in Cape Girardeau. Indeed, my only experience with a Mercury was a 1989 Tracer, a down-under Ford Laser with the ‘hockey sticks’ emblem substituted for the blue oval, and a fancy pants interior with little lights on the door that light up when the door opened (those Brougham-aholics can inform us of the correct term.) But it did light the way to the future with the newly legal dual headlights, at least in some jurisdictions. There’s a reason Ford and the ‘Big M’ had those brows on 1957, even if they had to use a tacked piece on the fender, reminiscent of what Studebaker did for the next model year. You could get your Cruiser with single lights as well, as this Monarch demonstrates.
The pizza-slice taillights also did last until 1959, and of course its retracting rear window was resurrected in the Breezeway.
My final thought: of all the 1957 brands that the folks in Dearborn imagined the ‘Big M’ going up against in 1957, all of them seemed to point to the end of one trend, and not the beginning of another. Only Virgil Exner’s (there he is again) finned missiles seemed close to predicting the much cleaner look of the Sixties, and even he seemed to have gone the wrong track by the time 1960 came around, giving us such memorable exercises as the 1961 line. Maybe the folks behind the Turnpike Cruiser don’t seem like such fools after all. Now, where did I put that slice of pepperoni pie?