(first posted 11/28/2016) The history of the automobile is riddled with fascinating anecdotes involving spectacular failures in addition to the successes of popular folklore. Mercury’s story is more often sad than happy, but all of Ford Motor Company in the late-1950s seemed to be guided by a runaway diesel engine of expansion, exploding magnificently by 1961, when a more sober way of thinking prevailed and a vestigial brand was shed. Was the 1957 Mercury, however, led by the notoriously jukebox-like Turnpike Cruiser, really all that bad? Judging by this Monterey, I’d say history has been too unkind to these extroverts, which were really no more garish than their competition.
So that I’m not accused of editorial license, I’ll admit that this Monterey isn’t akin to Helen of Troy, but neither is it a Medusa of granite proportions. General Motors in 1957 certainly couldn’t deflect all criticism from the armchair stylist, with ample chrome and stainless trim adorning its mid-priced models, and extra truckloads on the docks just waiting for 1958 to arrive. And while the 1957 Fords were fresh and attractive, the Monterey, with its busy anterior and posterior, seemed to steal too many motifs from late-career Harley Earl (or vice-versa). It’s certainly a product of its time.
For the first time in 1957, the Mercury received its own body, one it would eventually share with Edsel, and this was a plan that would only last until 1961, when Mercury reverted to the Ford body with dubious results. In the first year of this body not-sharing plan, Mercury managed to sell almost 300,000 cars, which sounds convincing until one considers that Oldsmobile sold closer to 400,000. When Edsel arrived and sliced this pie even thinner, it becomes clear why Mercury always seemed to be the missing destroyer in your childhood game of “Battleship,” and why Edsel never stood a chance.
Although Mercury used all new bodies in 1957, it borrowed its engines from Ford’s other divisions. The standard engine in the Monterey was Ford’s short-lived 312, offering 255 (paper?) horsepower in the Mercury compared to 245 in the Ford. The “Turnpike Cruiser” engine option was the Lincoln 368, in its last year of availability before the introduction of the MEL (Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln) 383 and 430.
Mercury rated the 368 at 290 horsepower, although a rare option rocked dual-quads for a quoted 335. Shown above, it was dubbed the “M335” and looked suitably businesslike under the hood of a ’57 Monterey.
In fact, Barrett-Jackson sold this M-335 equipped Monterey at its Scottsdale auction in 2015 for an impressive $44,000. If you don’t like the feature Monterey with its four-headlight grille and whitewall tires, this Mercury with a NASCAR vibe might sway your opinion.
The hood, however, was not up on our feature Monterey, although nothing about it betrays the fact that it would be the recipient of the optional engine. Notice the lack of a gear selector on the column; the 1957 Mercury used a “keyboard control” for its Merc-O-Matic, anticipating the undoubtedly less reliable “Teletouch” system in the 1958 Edsel’s steering wheel hub. In the late 1950’s, the Mercury wore a Sputnik-like instrument panel that was perhaps the most dazzling part of the whole car. The hooded speedometer and bi-level dashpad fascinate me; it’s one of my favorite dashboards of the 1950s.
In comparison, the rear end is somewhat tame, only a wisp of a tailfin protruding from its flanks. Those flanks, however, seem styled by a stray thumb in the clay model. Combined with the sculptured roof, package tray, and trunk, the roof trim and side coves create a busy bit of discord that is certainly in the eye of the beholder. I like it, but it’s understandable why some avoided the Mercury dealership in 1957.
If the Motor Trend of 1959, however, is to be believed, the 1957 Monterey hardtop was one of the most popular used car options of the year, so maybe time vindicated it. After all, 1959 was arguably the high-point of questionable automotive taste, rendering this ’57 a conservative option for those in search of a lightly used mid-priced car. In comparison, examine the ’57 Pontiac parked next to the Monterey, and ask yourself if its side trim is any more graceful or understated.
The 1950s were not, of course, all about good taste, and a modern collector may very well like his/her plaything to be styled like an alien object. In a year of the “Forward Look,” a new Ford, and the now-iconic ’57 Chevy; it’s easy to see why a Mercury sighting is rare, but as with all things in life, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and this clean Monterey is one of which I’m fond.
There was a four door Mercury from 57 in my home town in mettalic blue it certainly stood out from the rest of the cars on the street a US import from new it had a chain driven RHD conversion, the owners also had a 100E Thames van and a dead 28 Republic truck, they had eclectic tastes in vehicles.
‘The 1950s were not, of course, all about good taste…’
What’s really interesting about this statement is that while the US automobile was increasingly dagmarfied and googieplexed, the concurrent mid-century trends in graphic design, industrial design and architecture – as typified by Paul Rand, Charles and Ray Eames, and Eero Saarinen (ok not American but his best work was) respectively – defined a glorious peak in good taste.
And that’s before we even touch on Frank, Ella and Miles. Go figure.
Yeah, I was just listening to “In the Wee Small Hours” last night, and I’ve been priced right out of Eames chairs. Oh well.
The theory of the time was that the American auto industry’s designers were effectively sequestered in Detroit, far from the centers of international-style midcentury modernism, and things would be different if they were in, say, New York.
Granted, the GM Tech Center campus and it’s appearance kind of counters that argument…and transportation and communications tech wasn’t THAT bad, I’m sure people read design magazines and not just car ones and the senior guys certainly traveled.
I think the design teams were sequestered from each other also. How else do you explain the 1958 Oldsmobile? It is clear the designers doing the front end never met the designers doing the back end as the car looks like it was cobbled from 2 others.
Thank God they WERE in Detroit. Otherwise, based in New York, we might have been more prone to seeing cars such as the 1957 Aurora.
Amen to that!
In 1955. GM put out a book called “Styling: The Look of Things” that focused on design overall & featured a lot of mid century design masterpieces.
I think the designers at GM, and across the US automakers, were pretty well versed in contemporary design, but there was a “Populuxe” (to use Thomas Hines’ term) desire to add glamour and futuristic/aviation & rocket-inspired themes to car design, that was reflected to a lesser degree across the design world.
I’m thinking that midcentury modernism found expression in the 1961 Lincoln then. GM (and Ford and Mopar) fifties styling seemed to resonate with the public taste in a way midcentury modern might not have. We the people (with the money) know what we want, and it’s not always what the art and design ‘leaders’ like.
Imagine if thirties cars reflected Picasso’s works – maybe not!
Bhought that car in 1957 down town cinn ohio donald burwickdonald
Great car, I’m one of the few who like 50s Mercs.
I actually prefer the ones people perhaps like even less, ’58s and ’59s. I’ve got a few on file…maybe it’s time!
Go for it – it’s always worthwhile to see the more obscure makes and models, despite the hate.
Mercury essentially decided to make the automotive equivalent to a Wurlitzer jukebox. Despite the brash garishness of the concept – or maybe because of it – I appreciate the sentiment.
Sure beats the hell out of today’s copy-of-a-copy jellybean trend.
Why not? – I enjoy seeing a 1957 Hash from time to time at a car show, just to see the looks of wonder and befuddlement on the diehards who attend Nash/Hudson/Rambler/AMC shows. They STILL were better, and LOOKED better than Packardbakers. 🙂
When I was 11 these were 10 year old used cars and they looked freaky and sinister to me, like the 57 DeSotos.
Compared to my parent’s year old 66 Montclair and the then current 67 Mercury, they were worlds away and prehistoric.
And they sold for something like $200 or less back then. Assuming they were in good enough shape to keep running. And assuming you were wiling to be seen in one. Those cars dated VERY badly into the mid-60’s.
Oh, for a time machine.
But it didn’t take long for 50s nostalgia to take hold. By the mid-70s, retro 50s was a thing and driving a cool not-wrecked 50s car was not shameful.
Yes, but for some reason, nobody bothered to save hardly any of these late-1950s cars, but myriads of tri-five chevys were saved.
Even back in the 1980s, I remember coming across some of these late-50s cars (which I had never seen before) rotting away in country junkyards and marveling at them.
“Those cars dated very badly into the mid-60’s …”
Boy they sure did and Mercury wasn’t the only one. The garish, space-age, late ’50’s models of practically every car bore little resemblance to its 1962 counterpart. The square steering wheels, redline speedometers, fins, tri-tone paint, continental tire trunks and dual antennas were mostly gone by 1962, replaced by more elegant, restrained designs. It took Chrysler a bit longer, but it too had quite conservative styling by 1965.
I like the single headlight version better than the dual quads, as they simplify an overdone front end somewhat. If my memory holds, both versions were available in ’57 based on which model you bought, or, what state you lived in (more than a couple of states hadn’t changed their motor vehicle codes in time for the ’57 introduction). Chrysler also had this problem, which is why Plymouth and Dodge had the ‘fake duals’ headlight setup, and DeSoto, Chrysler and Imperial came in either single or dual headlamps.
The dual headlights on the 57 Merc were a year ahead of Studebaker in using side pods to graft them into the fenders. It’s hard to decide which treatment was more awkward. Mercury’s pods were better integrated with the loud trim all over the car, but the way Mercury had to lower the quad lights to fit under the eyebrows was not as clean as Studebaker’s way. Neither was a clear win.
What irritates me is, Ford managed to make the change from the 1957 7″ single headlamps to the 1958’s dual 5″ headlamp setup, without changing the front fender lid over the headlamps. If only Mercury had made theirs a bit wider in 1957, in anticipation of the inevitable, the front end – at least – wouldn’t have looked so awkward.
I still need a few nips of Jack Daniel’s to look at the rear end of the ’57 thru ’59 Mercs for more than a few seconds.
Didn’t the industry initially endorse Federal safety standards since preemption meant they’d never have to push model legislation through 50 state legislatures again?
Yeah, but then you miss the symbolic dual jet engine headlamps with the tiny chrome center pylon that were required by law (apparently).
The single-headlight treatment seems out of balance to the massive bumper, to my eye. Until this article I didn’t know Merc had one in 57.
I have always found these to be very handsome cars from the side. It is the front and rear ends where things go badly. FoMoCo seemed to be all about the rectangle in the late 50s. In their basic shape, these were quite conservative.
These have always been exotics to me, as they were mostly gone by the time I began really paying attention.
And let’s not forget the most famous 57 Mercury.
Second most famous 1957 Mercury (or maybe the first, and definitely viewed by more people then and since) was driven by Broderick Crawford in the syndicated TV series, “Highway Patrol.” Early on, the California Highway Patrol provided real CHP cars, 1954 Oldsmobiles and most famously 1955 Buicks, of a special low-line body/Roadmaster engine configuration not sold to the public, on whose white doors the producers placed generic door badges…though for the very alert, a couple of scenes with real CHP markings sneaked by. By 1957, having fallen into disfavor with the CHP, the show used manufacturer-supplied “patrol” cars (“civilian” and “crooks'” cars were all manufacturer-supplied or rentals, or rarely, the actors’ or production crew’s own cars). 1957 had Dodges and Mercurys. Crawford the star drove the Mercury; his “subordinates” mostly Dodges. Real 1957 CHP cars were Dodges and Pontiacs.
What a wonderful 1950s carspotting activity that show is! Many episodes can be viewed on YouTube.
I’ve been watching that show lately, too, and in ’57 they used a Buick Special in addition to the Dodge and Mercury.
Apparently, the CHP was upset that many of their premises weren’t realistic enough; it couldn’t have helped that Broderick Crawford apparently had a suspended license (drunk driving) during much of the series.
The 57 Mercury, for better or worse, steals little from GM. It’s established that Ford was looking to stake out its own design territory in the Fifties, beginning with show cars like the Mystere and the XM Turnpike Cruiser.
Ford (and Chrysler’s) styling between ’57 and ’60 showed a huge push (last gasp?) attempt to shut down GM on it’s own terms and take leadership in the industry. Both efforts failure ensured GM’s lead for another 10-15 years, before they threw it away.
I wouldn’t call the efforts of Ford and Chrysler to unseat GM from its position of styling leadership a complete failure. The 1959-60 GM cars were basically GM’s versions of the 1957 Mopars. GM was helped in its effort to regain styling leadership by Chrysler’s styling implosion after 1959.
The most enduring styling feature of the era was introduced by Ford – the roofline used on the 1958 Thunderbird. It quickly spread to the 1959 Ford Galaxie, and, by 1963, was seen on everything from Cadillacs to Ramblers.
The 1959 Ford Galaxie doesn’t get a lot of love around these parts, but, I’d say that, from a basic styling standpoint, domestic cars of 1962-64 showed a closer kinship to the Galaxie as opposed to it 1959 Chevrolet and Plymouth competition.
A close look at this 1957-58 Mercury shows the donor for the 59 Ford that sold so well. For reasons that escape me, Ford ditched both of its 1957-58 bodies (short wheelbase Custom and Custom 300 and lwb Fairlane and Fairlane 500) after a 2 year run. This Mercury seems to have served as the basis for the 59 Ford, while the Mercury in 59-60 got either a new body or a very, very heavy facelift.
If I recall correctly, the 1959 Mercury had an all-new body. It would make sense for Ford to use the 1957 Mercury body for its 1959 cars.
Ford most likely ditched the two-wheelbase approach used for 1957 and 1958 for two big reasons.
One, Robert McNamara probably wanted to rationalize everything around one basic standard Ford, both for cost reasons and to satisfy his desire for simplicity.
Two, the upcoming 1960 Falcon would render the cheaper Fords on the shorter wheelbase superfluous.
They’re not the same body – you can see the difference in the lower rear door. I believe the ’59-60 body was a heavy re-work of the ’57-58 body.
Ford had the curious habit of making its different model lines look like they shared bodies when they didn’t – the ’52 Ford, Mercury and Lincoln are a great example. They had all the expense of separate engineering and tooling, with none of the distinctiveness.
There was a famous in-house presentation of GM’s body interchangeability in the early 50s by Mecury bthat MacNamara and the Whiz Kids shut down because they – and only they – were responsible for product planning. Yeesh.
52–56 Ford and Mercury share inner body panels and many outer body panels.
I’ll go on record to say that I actually admire these, with all their whiz-bang gimmicks and gizmos.
That being said I find the 1959 front end a considerable improvement, the 57 reminds me of a middle aged flight attendant with too much makeup and huge false eyelashes. The single headlight blackwall car above is better, but needs a normal bumper. I wonder if a 59 one would fit?
I spotted this impeccable ’56 Monterey in Santa Fe, NM last week.
I have only ever seen one of these in the street; it was 1968 or 69 and some older kid in high school had gotten one from somewhere. It was on a Saturday night and I was out running with a pack of older street-racer kids; perhaps beer was involved. The Mercury kid showed up in this enormous old two-tone Monterey and the shock value was as if he’d showed up with a steam locomotive huffing coal smoke and ready to race the Roadrunners, Chevelles, and Camaros.
When it came time for him to run, the beast wouldn’t start and so up went the hood; we all crowded around to watch the ‘experts’ dive in to fix it. Somebody half crawled across the fender to pull the air cleaner which exposed a single four-barrel carb as big as a ham. Then the owner cranked the engine and pumped the accelerator shooting the biggest stream of gas I’ve ever seen outside a gas pump from the carb; splattering all the way up to the radiator (seemingly 40 feet or so). Seriously, that stream of gas looked exactly like
a cow pissing on a flat rocka water fountain. Fortunately the problem was apparently no spark and the thing never started, thereby avoiding a bonfire/carfire of epic proportions. It was still there the next morning when I drove past with my parents on the way to church.
Now, I was used to big cars; they were a part of the times – one nextdoor neighbor had owned a 62 Imperial, and another drove his daughter (and sometimes lucky me and other kids) around in his 64 Continental convertible. Fuselage Furys were a dime a dozen in town, but nothing ever struck me as so, so Wurlitzer theater pipe-organ huge, gaudy, and over the top as that damn Mercury with that giant ‘M’ in the grill and its 40 acre interior.
Yeah, it left an impression
The first car I remember my dad owning was a black 1957 Mercury Colony Park. This would be around the turn of the 1960s. I recall that the car had dual headlights instead of quad.
My father bought a 57 Colony Park @ Albrook AFB’s lemon lot in the winter of 1966. It came with a small boat/trailer combo for free. The boat/trailer went away. My mother drove the wagon for three years and when we left for the states we gave it to our gardener. I loved that car!
There was a term for these Mercurys back in the day that is no longer politically correct. In fact, it is offensive. However, it reflected the prevalent attitude toward the styling of these beasts, many of which were outfitted with curb feelers as soon as they hit the streets.
If I didn’t know better this thing could be evidence of alien visitation
Second most famous 1957 Mercury (or maybe the first, and definitely viewed by more people then and since than the Indy pace car) was driven by Broderick Crawford in the syndicated TV series, “Highway Patrol.” Early on, the California Highway Patrol provided real CHP cars, 1954 Oldsmobiles and most famously 1955 Buicks of a special low-line body/Roadmaster engine configuration not sold to the public, on whose white doors the producers placed generic door badges…though for the very alert, a couple of scenes with real CHP markings sneaked by. By 1957, having fallen into disfavor with the CHP, the show used manufacturer-supplied “patrol” cars (“civilian” and “crooks’” cars were all manufacturer-supplied or rentals, or rarely, the actors’ or production crew’s own cars). 1957 had Dodges and Mercurys. Crawford the star drove the Mercury; his “subordinates” mostly Dodges. Real 1957 CHP cars were Dodges and Pontiacs.
What a wonderful 1950s carspotting activity that show is! Many episodes can be viewed on YouTube.
Screen capture of “Highway Patrol” 1957 Mercury with a “civilian” 1957 Mercury in front of it. Note the civilian California orange/black license plate on the “patrol” car.
So much flash coming from the manufacturers in the Fifties turned a lot of buyers away from midpriced, and even luxury cars. My father was one of them. A successful independent businessman, he worked his way up from a motorcycle to an Essex, then a used Auburn. Later in the Thirties he owned a new Pontiac, and a Studebaker Commander saw him through the war. When new cars again became available, he joined in the exuberance with an Olds and a Cadillac. But in the fall of ’57, he went too far and bought one of those battlewagon Lincolns. I think the car was troublesome, and that, combined with the sheer wretched excess of the beast, made him stop and think. He turned the big Lincoln in on a new ’58 Ford, with the Mileage Maker six and three on the tree. A few years later, he got a simple Chevy Bel Air. And so it went for the rest of his life, good but simple wheels that got the job done. I think a lot of Americans had the same epiphany, that they were being played by hacks and chrome merchants.
These Mercurys are rare birds, even at car shows. They were plagued by poor build quality. Popular Mechanics surveyed 1957 Mercury owners for its “Owners Report series, and the car garnered the highest overall “poor” rating of any car ever surveyed.
Interestingly, many of the owners surveyed thought that the styling was subdued compare to the roly-poly, heavily chromed GM medium-price cars and Virgil Exner’s finned Mopars. That was a big reason for them purchasing a Mercury.
These Mercurys were the brainchild of Francis Reith, one of the Whiz Kids, and their failure in the marketplace derailed his career at Ford. He later died of a gunshot wound in 1960. Officially, it was accidental (he had been cleaning a shot gun and it discharged), but some believe that he was despondent over being blamed for this Mercury’s failure.
It didn’t help that Ford, in anticipation of the Edsel’s debut, repositioned the Mercury into a higher price slot, as compared to previous Mercury models. Mercury had been viewed as the “blue-collar Buick” in the early 1950s. These Mercurys tried to be an actual Buick, in terms of price, and it didn’t work.
I like the looks of the 1957 Mercury
Was the Breezeway Package available on the 1957’s?
I think that was only available on the high-end Turnpike Cruiser. Even on these, the glass did not slant backwards like those of the 63-66 models. Although the back glass was more vertical than normal models, it was still slanted forward, requiring it to move to the rear when retracting. I would bet that the retracting window ate up a fair amount of trunk room in these. The lesser Mercuries had to make do with a normal rear window.
It is sort of amazing the jump that Ford and Chrysler had on GM in styling in 1957. This Mercury really epitomizes the longer, lower, and wider architecture that lasted until the demise of its big brother – the 1979 Lincoln Continental.
Lacking Mopar’s wild fins, this car is a fairly conservative entry for 1957. The only nit I have to pick with it is its headlights. Both the Ford and Mercury brands were headlight challenged in 1957, arguably the Lincoln got it right, previewing a rounder version of the 1965 Ford’s stacked headlights.
Considering Mercury had a pretty successful year in ’57 with its investment in making it a proper mid-price car, it’s unfortunate that the Edsel came along in ’58 and helped break the momentum. Mercury full-size sales were a disaster by 1961 when the Edsel was gone.
Back in the day, and still more now, I thought that Ford, Mercury and Lincoln got off to a good start stylewise in 1953, and perfected it in ’54 – cleaned up the look and (in Ford’s case) modernized the engineering. Fords just got prettier through 1957, but the other two, not so much.
I think the mainstream view doesn’t necessarily agree that Ford had any kind of “jump” on GM 1955-57, given that I don’t know of any cult formed around “Tri-Fifties” Fords … and the rest of GM’s cars in that period in my eyes have an elegance that they (and most of Detroit) waddled away from in 1958.
The jump I referred to above was more the underlying architecture of longer, lower and wider – which persisted for the next 20 years in large cars. Forgetting about the fins and wild trims, Ford and Chrysler introduced the reigning architecture of the full-size car a full two years before GM did – and the original plans for GM’s 1959 large cars were scrapped in an effort to follow Ford and Chrysler more closely.
GM felt it had to do this, the full-size Ford outselling the Chevy in ’57 had to be quite a shock for GM at the time. Mercury and the Mopar brands had a good year in ’57, while Buick was starting to lose its mid fifties magic. Ford and Chrysler ended up inspiring a palace coup at GM, Harley Earl was out and Bill Mitchell was in.
Modern nostalgia for the tri-five Chevys doesn’t negate the impact of the direction that Ford and Chrysler swung the market in 1957.
Keep in mind that the reputation of the tri-fives was earned in the Sixties. If anything, the ’57 Chevy was considered a disappointment alongside the competition when it was new. Ford outselling it (the first time since 1936) drove the point home.
Correct. The ’57 Chevy was the best USED car of its day. Especially in contrast with prematurely rusty ’57 Fords and poorly-built AND prematurely rusty ’57 Plymouths, people forgot rather quickly how “aged” the Chevy looked by comparison on the 1957 showroom floor.
Those tailfins became more and more beautiful with age…
I love the 57-59 Mercuries. My Grandma bought a ’58 Montclair 4 Dr Hardtop with the 430, new. Same Yellow and White two tone as the 57 Indy car shown above with a Beige interior. She was fond of saying it could pass anything on the road except a gas station. It became my moms car in ’67 when the Merc was replaced with a new Buick Wildcat coupe.
I really liked that car when I was a kid and owning one is on my bucket list.
This Mercury isn’t too bad looking and certainly better than the ’58 Edsel. It must have been interesting living back in the day when cars like this were “old” in just a year or two. Styles changed so fast that I don’t think any self-respecting surbanite would be caught dead driving one of these in 1960 or 1961, it would have been considered so out of date. Compare that to today when you see lots of 12-15 yr old cars on the road that blend right in.
Sorry, that was supposed to be “surburbanite” me bad!
Yes, I started kindergarten in the fall of 1964 and could tell the “new cars” from the “old cars” in our carpool. We had a new car (64 Cutlass) and a couple of other families did too (65 Galaxie 500 and 64 Stude Avanti). The old cars included the 60 Chevy wagon, the 60 Stude Lark and the 58 Ford Custom 300. The last two were “second cars” owned by the owners of the new Ford and Stude which were apparently for the moms to drive. Which is opposite of my adult experience.
1958 to 1963 had to have been the fastest 5 years in the history of the auto business. Although 1953-58 may have equaled them, as I think about it.
The motivation for Mercury’s exuberant 1957-’59 styling cycle was the push by Ford management to develop a broader, more aggressive middle-priced strategy along with the Edsel, for both to ‘break-through’ from the crowd. Credit for the styling was at least partly taken by Holden Koto who had been in various industry styling positions since the mid-1930’s. The transitions from convex to concave surfacing of the rear quarters gave them the distinction sought to stand out from its contemporaries.
Personally, I liked those over-the-top Mercurys right from the time I became aware of them as a kid in the early 1960’s. We had a dowdy black ’60 Ford at the time, I wanted something with more style to ride in….but my father didn’t agree so we never got one. I still recall a black and white ’57 Montclair four door hardtop with matching interior and power goodies I was smitten with.
The 1957 Ford was such a nice looking design compared to the Mercurys and Lincolns of that year. Love this piece and your take on the Merc, yes it is fun to look at now.
Someone should have been told to lift the pen and stop drawing IMO! I suppose it is a good example of how over-the-top things got, but I wouldn’t own one.
I saw this car at a car wash place on Dandenong Rd in inner Melbourne a couple of years ago – might be a ’58 Mercury? Looks similar to the ’57 other than the bumper.
That’s a ’59 Imperial, John. Cross-pollination? 🙂
“Someone should have been told to lift the pen and stop drawing IMO! I ”
Johnh875, that’s funny. LOL
“Lift your pen Joe. C’mon, QUIT!!”
On a minor note, Mercs of this era had an odd-ball (for Ford) 5×5 wheel bolt pattern.
Typically that was a “Big GM” pattern.
Apparently 5×4.5 was big enough for a “big” Retractable, Ranch Wagon, Ranchero… but not a Merc?
Somewhere at home, I have a pic of almost an exact duplicate of the first car pictured, same colors, too. It was the first car I remember being in. My dad bought it for my mother on her birthday in Jan ’57. I was about 6 months old. My mom hated it from day one. It stuck around until 1960, when both my parent’s cars were replaced. Dad went from an Olds, I don’t know what model, but it was an ugly dark mustard and white. It wasn’t around long at all. My mom’s Merc was replaced with a black ’60 Chrysler New Yorker. It was loaded up with every option, and had a 413 that my dad had, as he usually did, “hopped up” by some guy he knew. The most extreme of these “hop ups” was an engine swap into his new ’68 Imperial with a built 440. It had unending problems with the A/C, but it was very quick and had that slightly choppy tugboat idle that I love to this day. I did a burnout in it when I was 13, laying down about 40 feet of rubber in front of our house when I was moving cars around one day.
Can someone help de code a patent plate for a 57 Merc Monterey? I have been searching the internet for three days and I cant find a reliable source that will break down this info.
Serial – # 57SL23789M
Style – BAE57A
Body Spec. – 246-757A-17M-315
My dad found a 1957 Mercury Montclair, all white 4 door hard top, gold trim beautiful car on a used car lot in 1965. Must have been a special order because it had the 368 cu in, 290 hp, 405 lbs of torque engine, 3 speed Merc-O-Matic push button tranny, posit-traction rear end, fog lamps and left side outside rear view mirror / spot light combination.
And he turned this car over to a lead-footed 16 year old. This thing was a beast. But only got 10 mpg, maybe. Drag raced it all over Kansas City, beat most on the road. And got a ticket from the Kansas Highway Patrol for 126 mph in an 80 mph speed limit. Engine finally ended up running with two oil burning spark plugs necessary. Check the gas, fill the oil.
That opening photo is just amazing.
Okay, these cars are overstyled. But there is an overall coherence lacking in some other cars of the period. Even if the upper rear fender suggests someone welded a length of spouting in place. 🙂
I remember seeing these in an old National Geographic in school as a kid. I think we were supposed to read the articles and learn something. I read the car ads and learned something else!
Following up on johnh875’s comment from six years ago, about lifting the pen. In my first design engineering job, pre-CAD, the practice of draftsmen (yes, they were all men at first) adding embellishments to drawings, beyond what was needed for industry and company standards, was known as “Cadillac-ing”. This was in the context of the drawing itself, not the actual design, but certainly the term reflected Cadillac’s cultural status (good and bad) in the US back then. And perhaps Mercury made a more awkward verb.
Saw a roadworn example (registration said it was a 58) in Brooklyn last year
this image was meant to go with that comment
My favorite late 1950s car is the 1958 Mercury – a bit more refinement and a lot less weirdness. Has the best dash, in my opinion.
Eventually, what Ford did by 1960 was turn the automobile into a rectangle and that was the look for the next 15 years for most auto designs.
With the Mercury, by 1958, you can begin to see some squaring up of the front and rear designs. It is most pronounced by the 1959 Mercury. The 1958 Edsel is an even better example. Headlights were dropped into a horizontal grille from their upper fender perches, and without the hideous fins, the Ford products show a sqaring up of the rear designs as well.
So, I like these cars. Not the 1957 Mercury’s “turbine” headlight bezels, but by 1958, you can see a future design language coming through. It only makes sense that the 1961 Continental is right around the corner.
I still love these “Big M” models.
The turqouise and white car in the pics is a twin to the car my dad bought my mom soon after I was born in July of ’56. We have a pic of the back end of it someplace. My dad had another Mercury car, what I don’t know, but it was a coral and white ’56. (Cousin was the main dealer in town, he would soon go to Pontiac), and the then new Lincoln and Merc dealer went out to the then new “Auto Row”, and it’s still there, but is now a MB/Audi dealer, the Merc/Lincoln place used to be something else back in the mid 70’s, but I can’t remember what. I remember seeing the Pantera in the Merc/Lincoln place after we got out of a movie. It’s the only car I was ever interested in at a Lincoln Mercury dealership.
Mom and dad’s Mercuries were soon gone, both had endless problems. Mom went back to her Mopars, and dad went to the first of his Olds cars, bought from his high school buddy who had bought the Olds dealership in Bowling Green, OH, Bob Schneider. We bought a LOT of cars from them over the next 16 or so years. My parents didn’t keep any cars too long, and the 3 T-Birds my dad had were all just garbage on wheels. Once he got the Toronado in 1966, he had Olds and Caddies till the end, with the Imperial from ’68 to ’69. Mom went Caddy in 1964 for two years, and then us two kids, and her had Cutlasses from 1968, until 1979, when my sister bought her last one, the worst of them all. The Colonade cars turned me away from Olds and everything GM made except the Camaro and Firebird, until I got into trucks about 1977.