Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: 1989 Mercury Colony Park Woody Wagon – This Barge Is Too Long For Amsterdam’s Parking Spaces

I’m going to continue to open Corey Behrens’ Christmas packages at the Cohort, one day at a time, this being the third. It’s another American, but unlike the Pacer, this Mercury Colony Park wagon is clearly too long for Amsterdam’s parking spaces. But I’m sure the locals will give it the grace it deserves. It’s a woody, and almost as scenic as the wood boat tied up at the canal in front of it.

Here’s another shot, that shows off its long old-growth wood planking as well as the traditional Amsterdam houses on the other side of the canal. I’ve only been in Amsterdam once, in 1969, when our family went to Austria for an extended summer vacation. Our charter plane’s destination was Amsterdam, so we took a day to explore it.

We arrived midday, after a very short night on the plane. Since we couldn’t yet check into the hotel, my father led us to a taxi stand, and at the head of it stood what had to be a quite new W115 200D, since they were only introduced a year earlier. Then he did one of the most uncharacteristic things ever: he had me get in the front seat, while he hopped in the back with my mom and two little brothers. It was so out of character, I still feel the mixture of confusion, appreciation and pride, sliding into the big front passenger seat. And I can still see the driver deftly rowing the gears to make the most of the 55 hp diesel.

My father had the driver take us on a scenic tour, of which I remember mostly the cars, as it was my first immersion back into the very different world of European cars.

Like most big European cities at the time, the streets were dominated (and often clogged) with cars, a result of the explosion of personal income and purchasing power in the 1960s. Bicyclists and pedestrians were not happy, and there.

In 1972, this led to a growing protest movement, led by mothers and children too. The result was a major re-think of priorities, and over the following decades, cars have increasingly been pushed to the margins in Amsterdam.

Now many streets are closed to cars, and those that ore open have narrow lanes and restrictions. Bikes and pedestrians once again predominate.

After the grand tour, our driver deposited us at a little hotel facing a canal, but it certainly wasn’t a HoJo. And despite my jet lag, I quickly abandoned my family for an extend walk along the canals, taking in the cars as well as the boats tied up and of course the distinctive houses.

And I do remember seeing one or two big American cars too, like this Pontiac in the background of this still from a documentary about the children’s protests against cars. As we’ve often pointed out here on these pages, the Netherlands had a much higher percentage of American cars than most other European cars. Going back a ways, some American cars were even assembled locally, from CKD kits. It’s because there was no domestic car industry, except for DAF starting in the 1960s, and that was the case for certain other European countries that had no domestic brands either. Loyalty to American cars lingered much longer, and in the Netherlands, they’re still more common than average, but as our correspondent Johannes Dutch has shown, the new ones are more likely to be pickups. But then that’s the case in the US too.

And if you’re wondering how I came up with the model year of this Colony Park, I decided to Google “Netherlands license plate lookup”. Sure enough; easy peasy. And the result even had a fine picture of this car, in almost the same parking spot. And still hanging its big boxy arse into the sidewalk.