Automotive History: Shockingly Low Volume Production Cars – The Mercury Edition

(Originally published 25 May 2017)

Welcome to the Mercury Edition of this ongoing series exploring low volume production cars.

As usual, we are looking at those models built between 1946 and 1995 having production volumes of less than 1,000.  Similar to Ford, Mercury reports sales by body – there is no breaking it down by engine like Chevrolet.

In a fashion that perhaps mimics the peaks and valleys of Mercury itself, many years are not represented while there are multiple occasions of several models appearing during one, single model year.

This list is perhaps one of the most varied so far, so let’s take a look.

1946 Sportsman convertible

Production:  205

The Sportsman encountered the same challenges realized by the other wood-bodied cars we’ve seen throughout this series.  The cost of $2,209 was nearly $500 higher than the steel-bodied Mercury convertible that was also available, so its audience was automatically truncated.

Wood was either maple or yellow birch with mahogany inserts.  With the wood structural members of the car, fitting standard rear fenders was problematic.  The rear fenders used on the Sportsman were 1941 Ford sedan delivery fenders.

Also, due to parts shortages and production issues, the 1946 Mercury wasn’t introduced until February 6, 1946.  While the 1946 model was extended until December 31, the audience for a wood-bodied convertible in a car-starved market simply wasn’t there.

1947 two-door sedan

Production:  34  

Not unlike Mercury during much of its existence, this one is hard to explain.  Using three different resources, all agree there were a mere 34 two-door sedans sold, down from 13,108 the year before.

Naturally, there isn’t a picture of one in the 1947 Mercury brochure, so here’s the 1946 version.

Where these sources don’t agree is on passenger capacity; one says it was a six-passenger, another says five, and a third is noncommittal.  All agree its base price of $1,592 was the lowest of any Mercury that year and higher than any Ford, save wagons and convertibles.

What is interesting, and somewhat damning of this body style, is Mercury sold 34 bare chassis the following year, in 1948.

1958: Montclair convertible

Production:  844

As we are about to discover, 1958 was a really craptastic year for the Mercury brand as sales were roughly 40% of 1957’s.  Part of the blame can be directed toward the new Edsel, a car introduced as Mercury was moved upmarket.

The Montclair was second highest in the Mercury pecking order, with Medalist and Monterey beneath it and Park Lane above it.  The Montclair was powered by a standard 383 cubic inch (6.3 liter) V8.

1958 Park Lane convertible

Production:  853

Intended as competition to the Buick Roadmaster, the Park Lane did differentiate itself from the rest of the Mercury line by having a 125″ wheelbase, a three inch increase over the others.

At $4,118 it was $350 more expensive than the next cheapest Mercury and $600 more than the Montclair convertible seen above.  Yet the extra money did buy more than just a stretched wheelbase as it also brought forth the 430 cubic inch (7.0 liter) Lincoln V8 as motivation.

1958 Voyager two-door wagon

Production:  566

All the Mercury wagons were based on the Montclair.  Part of the reason for the low sales volume was this wagon was a two-door, one of two available, combined with the lack of success for the model year.  There was also some dilution as Mercury was fielding eight wagons: the two-door Voyager and Commuter, the four-door Commuter in six- and nine-passenger versions, the Colony Park, and the four-door Voyager.

Incidentally, an entire one percent of all Mercurys came equipped with a three-speed and overdrive in 1958.

1961 Commuter wagon, nine passenger

Production:  6

While 1958 had been crummy, it was a different form of crummy for 1961.  The only real sunshine in Mercury showrooms was the compact Comet that was streaking out the door at a brisker pace than any of the full-size cars.

Perhaps the nine passenger Commuter is an anomaly; the six passenger version sold nearly 9,000 copies.  Like the rest of the full-size Mercury line in 1961 and 1962, one could find a 223 cubic inch (3.7 liter) straight-six under the hood of a Mercury Commuter wagon.  These were the only two years in which three-fourths of a traditionally configured Mercury engine could be found under the hood.

1962 Comet shown

1963 Comet two-door wagon 

Production:  623 (two-door base); 272 (Custom)

Comets were selling quite briskly for 1963, but these two weren’t.  At $300 more than their respective four-door counterparts, the extra price for diminished access likely didn’t sit well with prospective buyers.  Also, two-door wagons were rapidly declining in popularity; after 1965 no two-door wagons were manufactured by Ford Motor Company (at least in North America) until the Pinto.

There was no Comet two-door wagon offered for 1964.

1966 S-55 convertible

Production:  669

With the advent of the Mustang, GTO, and other mid-sized sporty cars, any pretense of sportiness was evaporating from the full-sized cars.  This was also a year after Ford introduced the LTD, the car that is credited for starting the Great Brougham Epoch.

For all intents and purposes, the S-55 was singing a nice song but in the wrong key.  Coupe sales of the S-55 were over 2,900 but convertibles had never been as popular.

1967 Comet Cyclone convertible

Production:  431 (convertible coupe); 378 (GT convertible coupe)

Sharing the 116″ wheelbase of the Fairline 500 XL, the Comet Cyclone was minimally more than a badge job.  As usual, buyers flocked to the Ford as the Fairlane GT convertible was $230 less than a Cyclone GT convertible, although this differential was a mere $47 in non-GT trim.

Simply put, Ford outsold Mercury by considerable margins and the Mercury convertible had sales volumes of one-eighth to one-tenth that of the Comet Cyclone hardtops.

1967 Monterey S-55

Production:  570 (fastback coupe); 145 (convertible)

Consider this an extension of the 1966 S-55 seen above.  For 1968, the S-55 would be a trim level on the Monterey and it would retire after that year.

1968 Cyclone GT hardtop

Production:  334

This boils down to a matter of body style preference.  The Cyclone GT pictured is the fastback, which sold 6,100 each in GT and non-GT trim.

The Cyclone GT hardtop has the non-fastback body of this 1969 Montego but having the wheels, tape stripes, and other adornment seen in the previous picture.  The non-GT hardtop coupe almost earned an inclusion here, selling 1,034 units.

Finding one of these now would be quite a treat.

1970 Monterey convertible

Production:  581

Convertibles were simply not popular by 1970, especially full-sized convertibles.  The higher trimmed 1970 Marquis only sold 1,233 examples.

To illustrate the generally weak sales of all convertibles, the highly popular Cougar sold only 2,300 convertibles for 1970 from a total production of around 72,000.

1970 Marquis six-passenger wagon

Production:  959

Sitting in a middle spot between the base level Monterey wagons and the top-tier Colony Park (seen here with faux wood siding), the yellow Marquis very much reflects how it sat in the background.

The nine-passenger Marquis wagon sold an additional 500 copies, but the Colony Park sold 19,000 examples between six- and nine-passenger versions.  With there being a price premium of less than $100 to step up to the Colony Park from the Marquis, a far shorter step than moving from a Monterey to a Marquis, these sales numbers aren’t overly surprising.

However, without the Di-Noc, the Marquis does present a much cleaner appearance.

1971 Cyclone fastback coupe 

Production:  444

Insurance premiums were skyrocketing on anything considered sporty.  In turn, a person could obtain the same 351 (5.8 liter) V8 found in the Cyclone in a Montego while saving themselves a tidy amount in the process.

It should also be noted the 1971 Cyclone Spoiler, seen here in red, sold even fewer examples, at 353.

1974 Marquis hardtop sedan 

Production:  784

While the picture is of a higher trimmed Marquis Brougham, it’s the four-door hardtop body that was sought for a picture.

The Arab Oil Embargo did these big Mercurys no favors, particularly as these came equipped with the buttery smooth 460 cubic inch (7.5 liter) V8.  The four-door hardtop body style was simply losing ground; in the Marquis series the four-door sedan outsold the four-door hardtop by a nearly a factor of nine.  On the Marquis Brougham, as shown, the four-door sedan outsold the hardtop by a factor of six.

However, the lack of a center door post in the four-door hardtop worked out well if putting actors in the car for a television series.

There is still more to come in this series, so stay tuned.