The Little Engines That Could, Part 5: Mercury Died By A Thousand Cuts; Here Are Six Of Them


(first posted 10/21/2016)    Welcome to Part 5 of this venture in examining relatively small displacement engines in various trucks and passenger cars.  One commonality of the passenger cars scrutinized so far has been the low take rate for these engines with a nod to how engines with around 50% or more displacement were also optionally available.  This theme continues with the 1961 and 1962 Mercury full-size cars.


During the late 1950s, when Ford was aiming for a GM-esque five brand structure, Mercury had often been the recipient of its own unique body shell.  Mercury had also taken a slight hike upmarket to better make room for Edsel being placed between it and Ford in the brand hierarchy.  While the 1959 Mercury seen here had its own unique wheelbase at 126 inches (128 inches for Park Lane), other than some family resemblances, there isn’t a tremendous degree of interchangeability with a 1959 Ford.


After the implosion of Edsel, Ford had taken a shellacking and they needed to fill the hole that was left.  Ford’s economic situation, along with paltry sales of the entire Mercury line, was such a unique Mercury body shell was no longer justifiable.


1961 Mercury


1961 Ford

When 1961 rolled around, the full-sized Mercury was little more than a regular 1961 Ford gussied with a bit of visual gingerbread.  While the Mercury retained a unique wheelbase for some degree of exclusivity, at 120 inches it was only one inch longer than the Ford.


The various ads boastfully touted Mercury was now priced in the midst of the low-priced field, with comparisons to both Chevrolet and Plymouth.  While a wonderful way to slaughter brand prestige, the powers-that-be at Ford Motor Company didn’t see fit to end things there.


In 1961, for the first time in Mercury history, one could get a six-cylinder engine in a full-sized Mercury.


This was the same 135 gross horsepower, 223 cubic inch (3.7 liter) six-banger found under the hood of any common Ford.

Incidentally, the braggadocio by Mercury about their new, low price was entirely accurate.  The base price of a 1961 Monterey 600 two-door sedan was $3 cheaper than the base price of a Galaxie two-door sedan that year.


However, to be fair, 1961 was the last year for the full-sized Fairlane at Ford, a trim level one step below the Galaxie.


The existence of a six-cylinder full-sized Mercury continued for 1962.  This was the last time such availability existed and a mere 17% of Mercury Montereys were so equipped.  This engine was almost as unpopular as a manual transmission (10% take rate) that year; undoubtedly a fair number of these were mated up in the same car.


Mercury died by a thousand cuts.  While its brand equity arguably rebounded some for 1963 when the 390 cubic inch (6.4 liter) V8 became standard across the board, instead of simply optional as in 1961 and 1962, the use of the 223 was certainly six of those ultimately fatal cuts.