We here at Curbside are the world’s arbiters of good taste and appropriateness. So whenever a car like this Mercury (or other car from this era) is shown sporting such gewgaws as “continental” kits, add-on fender skirts, and other such puerile frippery, the outrage in the comment section reaches epic proportions. (And I agree with the commenters, just so you know which side I’m on.) So just to cleanse everyone’s palates, I now present to you this 1957 Mercury Monterey Phaeton Coupé for sale on eBay, which is very close to being in the same state as when it was sold new, albeit with 64 years of wear.
If you travel to Thief River Falls, Minnesota, sitting in a field, you will find this.
It is claimed that the paint is original, but I can’t tell if it’s “Flo-Toned” with Rosewood or Desert Tan over Classic White. Or maybe it’s Persimmon? The colors always look darker than they really are in these paint charts:
It’s interesting that even if they were offered as factory options, the skirts and continental kits are almost never shown in the magazine ad and brochure illustrations. What does that tell you?
Ahhh, there’s that pure, unadulterated rear end design. As a matter of fact, I have discovered in the course of doing research for this post no fewer than FOUR different rear bumper variations, as shown below:
#1: What this car has. Plain inserts.
#2: Grilled inserts with black openings.
#3: Grilled inserts with red reflectors.
#4: Finer grille with black openings–special NASCAR version?
And of course, Mercury offered TWO different front ends in ’57, depending on whether you were really in tune with the latest avant-garde and ordered “Quadra-Beam” headlights or not. (This car has the standard single headlights.)
No skirts here–always loved that graceful “airfoil” rear wheel cutout shape. I think we can find replacement wheelcovers.
This is the kind of detail you don’t see in car pictures: there’s an aerodynamic-looking “scoop” in the roof, because this is a “dream car of the future.” Word has it that when you hit the brakes hard when it’s raining, collected water spills down the windshield! But “dream cars” don’t get driven in the rain, do they?
Let’s open the door and look inside . . .
Door panel upholstery looks a little plain, however this is a bottom-of-the-line Monterey.
This dash is cool. No fuzzy dice even–I’m shocked! There are little tricks for making that cracked steering wheel look fresh and new. It’s hard to find the black vinyl instrument panel safety pad in that good a condition.
Scope out the engine–that flexible hose attached to the air cleaner is for the “Thermo-Matic” carburetor. Finding this setup still intact is rare.
A thermostatically controlled flap moved up or down to allow warm or cool air to enter the carburetor, depending on outside temperature. Was Mercury the first car to have this feature?
It does my heart good knowing that there’s this unrestored, nearly all-original Monterey coupé out there. Because we all know the same sad story, don’t we? That most of these ended up as crusher meat or demolition derby fodder, as in the 1974 movie Herbie Rides Again.
So here’s what you should do: buy this car, keep it original. Protect her from the meatballs out there who would do unspeakable things to her. And the world will be a much better place because of it!
Had I the power, Continental kits would be banned. Serial offenders would be sentenced to drive Morris Marinas.
This is just the way I like them, original and unmolested. The Old Man had a ’57 Monarch briefly in 1959, but could never get it started in the depth of a northern Quebec Winter, so it was swapped out for a ’57 Pontiac Pathfinder Deluxe.
This is the first time I have ever paid attention to the rear trim on these cars. All of those trim variations makes me wonder if they were model-specific, or a stand-alone upgrade on any model, or a popular dealer accessory. The Ford Motor company was truly out of control in 1957. This basic model makes the rear look like another car sitting atop a 64 Thunderbird.
On the paint, I’m betting on Persimmon. It appears that Persimmon was a Mercury-only color in 1955-57, and was featured heavily in their advertising in those years.
I have to say that I have always liked the basic shape of these cars, but it was in the details where the design went off the rails, so this base-level Monterey is about as clean as one of these gets.
I was going to stop but then I started wondering about engines. I was assuming an MEL V8 (383?) but remembered those didn’t come until the next year. The choice was between a Ford 312 and a 368 that was presumably a Lincoln Y block.
My money’s on Persimmon, as well. The body specs on the door tag end in 29, which is the paint code for Persimmon.
I think that the stripper version of the ’57 more closely resembles the ’56 XM Turnpike Cruiser concept car. Stylist John Najjar who did the concept did not like the ’57 Merc and complained that they added too much “gorp” to his original. Younger viewers need to understand that during this era car styling was like jazz music, with artists striving to top the last one. Sometimes you reach too far, but that’s what’s so great about the era.
My first car was a 1957 Mercury, a Monterey convertible. Black with the white “spear” on the quarter. No skirts, no connie kit but it did have the quad headlights. Same door panels and dash as this car but tri-tone seats in black/white and red! Strong running 312 with the push button trans, it was a dream to drive, just had to watch out for anything in the road, it was so low it was always hitting rocks and such on the floorpans. Awesome car, wish I still had it! But I was a stupid kid of course and sold it so I could buy a Chevelle with a 350/turbo 400 in it. Of course I wish I still had the Chevelle too!
Nice essay! Thanks. I always admired the 1957 Mercs for their different appearance. The upscale Turnpike Cruisers has unusual trim treatment around the crank handles for the windows (or power window switches if you were so inclined). The BIG M.
Is that door card with the “molded in” armrest and door pull original? I thought that design came along many years (decades?) later. Not to mention that the reference in the ad to dead relatives seems rather odd for the conservative fifties. Reincarnation, or zombies? Either way, it caught my eye. Nice find, and I like the color scheme.
I am honored to be considered one of the world’s arbiters of good taste and appropriateness and therefore will endeavour to eschew purile frippery.
Grilled openings with black inserts, or red reflectors?! Decisions, decisions!! Actually, I think either of the two would be better than the plain ones or the “NASCAR” ones! 🙂
The 1957 Mercury is a car that I disliked when new, for its overornamented, gimmicky styling. But I have come to appreciate it as its own “character.”
Looking at the #3 rear end pic, it looks like someone recycled that bumper and tail light treatment for the second generation Cougar
I spoke with a friend who has the original FoMoCo parts book, and he says it appears the red reflective rear bumper inserts were a factory accessory available at extra cost on all 1957 Mercury models, but were standard equipment on vehicles sold in other countries, likely referring to Europe and the UK requirements due to regular nights of dense fog.
He said the flat inserts shown on this car were standard on the base-line Monterey, and the inserts with the egg-crate ribs were on the Montclair versions.
Thanks. That all makes sense.
I always preferred the 1958 Mercury. It is a much cleaner design.
The 1957 not only had a busy front end with air scoops for headlight bezels, it also had two odd convex piece of grille that made no sense.
Agreed. The 58 Mercury was one of the few times it was better looking than the Ford of that year.
It is easy to think of the 57-58 Mercury as the same basic car, but the underpinnings were almost all new in 58 with the FMX Cruise-O-Matic (Multi-Drive in Mercury) transmissions and the bigger new MEL engines.
Some of the variations of the 1957-58 Mercurys rival or exceed the excesses of the more iconic ’59 Cadillac. In their defence however I have to offer the perspective of a 7-or-8 year old of the time, whose eye level was not far above the line of those rear fenders. The wealth of bizarrely intricate, novel, eye-grabbing detail everywhere you looked was the mesmerizing 1950’s equivalent of the latest video game graphics or super-hero movie set design.
Neat to see a well preserved example of a rarely seen car. But what a hot mess styling-wise, as was most late ’50s Detroit iron that went ape sh#t trying to capture the jet/space age zeitgeist. Though, it does seem to be ahead of its time in one respect in previewing Ford’s full size cars some 15 years hence…
As I mentioned in the Turnpike Cruiser CC, while continental kits, in general, look like hell on whatever they’re tacked onto, those huge rear bumpers on the ’57-’58 Mercurys seem like they were designed for the things.
Were these Mercury’s on the same platform as the 57 Ford Fairlane? I think the simplicity of the Ford was beautiful. I think what Ford did to the car in 58 was positively criminal. It seams like every manufacturer throw ever piece of chrome an ornamentation on the 58’s. And that was a horrible year for sales. Coincidence? To me, these Mercurys fit somewhere between the 57 Ford and the 58 Ford in styling.
Closely related. The ’57 Fords and Mercurys all used the same basic frame design and suspension. And aspects of their bodies were similar/shared, others not. The big difference was that the Mercury body widened on the outside from the cowl back, and it had a wider track rear axle. But to the best of my knowledge, this was mostly superficial, meaning the extra width was added to the outside, to make it look bigger. But I suspect it may well not have been wider on the inside.
The Edsel used both the Ford and Mercury bodies, for their lower and upper trim versions. But they both had the same front end clip, except that the senior Edsels had a bit added to the fender so that it would match up to the wider “shoulders” at the front door.
They’re all highly related. Which makes sense: Ford couldn’t afford to develop two different platforms for these full size cars.
Found your column on the 57 Mercs. Kinda surprised anyone remembered them. Posted my vignette about my demo derby victory with a TC. I think I paid $100 for it.
In 1972 I prepared a red and white 57 Turnpike Cruiser and drove it in a demo derby, and won. The TC was by far the best demo car of it’s time.
Ah, the insanity of youth. It was a fun evening though. My car still ran after my victory. Unfortunately, it could no longer pass safety inspection.