Car Lot Capsule: 2004 Mercury Monterey – Whadda Ya Mean, It’s A Van?!

I feel sorry for Mercury. For years they were a Ford in a tuxedo, and even on the rare occasion when they got a unique body (1957-60), it tanked so badly they went right on back to being a slightly spiffier Ford LTD, Torino, or Mustang. But things really spiraled downward during the last ten years of Mercury’s life on Earth.

Like this! Take a storied name–Monterey, slap on a satin silver grille, extra trim, and a few additional gadgets onto a Windstar, and here ya go! While it wasn’t a bad idea for L-M dealers to have a minivan, the Monterey was a noticeably shallow and cheap way to replace the Nissan Quest-based Villager.

I will say one thing. The changes made, as thin as they were, did look reasonably nice. The satin-finish vertical bar grille, fog lights and waterfall Mercury emblem did make it look a bit more special than the Windstar, but how many people actually bought them?

It was introduced at the 2003 Chicago Auto Show and became available in the fall of that year. Powered by a 4.2L V6 unavailable on sister Windstar, and using the name of a one-proud full-size Mercury, it was a cheap way to keep a minivan in the line. But while the recently-departed Villager had a unique selling point, a loaded-up Windstar was not really much different from one of these Mercs, save a few trim bits and the exclusive V6.

I think the Monterey was meant to compete with the Chrysler Town & Country, but while the top-trim Mopar minivan sold pretty well, the Monterey didn’t. Maybe that was just because of the Mercury clientele, who tended to be more interested in Sables and Grand Marquises, not a kid-hauler. But you could get leather, middle-row bucket seats and all sorts of other goodies on these. It was a nice van for the time, but most people shrugged off not just the Monterey but also the Windstar, and headed for their local Mopar emporium instead.

Also, by the mid 2000s, the Honda and Toyota minivans were rapidly increasing their presence as well, as they had become much more conventional than their very JDM-oriented offerings available on these shores in the ’80s. Net result being, the Monterey never really took off, and was discontinued after the 2006 model year, with approximately 32K sold during that time.

This article had a rapid gestation, for I took these photos just today around lunchtime. The lot had some other interesting vehicles, such as a 1995 Riviera, 46,000-mile 1988 Celebrity and a Lincoln LS V8, but I wanted to share this one first, to let you know there really was a Mercury Monterey made after the 1970s!