Last September, this Monterey caught my shutter in the salvage yard because it’s almost certainly the first one I’d seen in the flesh. This is unsurprising, since I was born five years after its inception and I grew up in a GM town. Therefore, less traditionally desirable Fords and Chryslers from the 1970s were nothing more than pictures in automotive anthologies for my formative psyche.
Even if I had grown up in Dearborn itself, however, it would have been unlikely that I would have seen a ’72 Monterey Custom Hardtop. After all, early 70s Ford products didn’t benefit from rustproofing in nearly any sense of the word, so Michigan made a quick meal of their rot-prone sheetmetal. Therefore, they mainly suffered the same destiny as the feature car.
Another explanation for the Monterey’s relative rarity is the simple fact that few purchased them in the first place. According to my Standard Catalog of Ford 1903-1998, only 5,910 were ever produced in this bodystyle and trim level, which is too bad.
Image courtesy of collectorcarads.com
As far as 1970s Fords go (and I think their styling was the worst of the Big Three in the 1970s), the Monterey was sharp in an elephantine sort of way. The roof had a chopped, custom (ha ha) appearance that out-Lincolned Lincoln. The kick-up from the rear of the door into the quarter-window added interest to what could have been a fairly rectilinear affair. In all, I think this is a much better effort than concurrent full-sized Fords.
I didn’t check under the hood, but the Monterey Custom came standard with a 400 two-barrel, with optional 429 and 460. All three were smoggers; even the 460 pumped out a wheezy 224 horsepower (partly thanks to retarded cam timing for emissions, if I’m not mistaken). Par for the course in ’72.
Unsurprisingly, the best selling full-sized Mercury in ’72 was the top-of-the-line Marquis Brougham, a harbinger of what was to come as the ’70s elapsed. Mercury moved over 20,000 hardtop versions, even though they cost roughly $1000 more than a comparable Monterey Custom.
Therefore, the Custom is an uncommon sight today. Few have collected them, and most have long ago been cleared from the salvage yards of America. This one was temporarily spared, offering us a colorful ’70s blast from the past on a gloomy Monday.
I can see why these sold in such small numbers. The 72 LTD, even though it was essentially the same as the 71, was a much better looking car. As was the Marquis Brougham, particularly with its more luxo-looking hidden headlights. And this was stuck inbetween. I don’t think these were unattractive but if I was buying today, it’d be the LTD.
That’s your opinion. As the biased family owner of a 1971 LTD Brougham for 30 years, I always thought that they screwed up both front and rear in 1972 (and 1973+, forget it, they lost the Bunkie-beak). I still have a set of 1971 taillights that I’m going to mount on a board and light up with some 7W night light bulbs and hang in the garage.
Unless you had to have the Mercury styling, there was no compelling reason to order a Mercury over the LTD, as you could get essentially the identical options on a loaded LTD (ie power split bench front seat, heated rear window, intermittent wipers, etc).
In my 1980s junkyarding days, I robbed a bunch of part off of Mercury cars for our LTD (all of said options above that my dad did not order for some reason). I remember thinking that the Mercury was exactly the same as our LTD, with slightly different body trim and dash layout.
I too would definitely have a 71 LTD over a 72; I was comparing what Aaron’s car was up against in its model year. I’m not across Mercury so much and after doing some gogglesearching I can see that Fomoco updated very little in 72 across their fullsize cars. Probably in anticipation of bigger changes in 73, but I’m surprised how little things changed between 71 and 72, particularly at the front end.
this is the first thing that comes to my mind upon seeing this
I’ve been looking for one of these Allstate airbag ads for years! Where did you find it?
I believe it is from a National Geographic magazine.
Thank you for the compliments i have no idea how old this post is but the brown 72 Mercury Monterey at the top is my car im the second owner to this car it still has only 80,000 original miles. it is all original and has no problems and we have added duel exhaust to it about a year ago and its running like a CHAMP!!!! 🙂 Im also selling this beauty im located on the northside of Jacksonville FL. If anybody is interested please contact me (904)309-3894 also looking to trade.
Not, a bad looking car… For a 70’s Ford, and yes, the Fords were blah and slab-sided from 1970-78.
The pic of the dark brown Monterey, reminds me of my 1975 Lincoln Town Coupe… It was some sort of 70’s tan-gold with a padded landau roof.
Amen. Thanks, Aaron… For giving this once, “Apple of Someone’s Eye” a little attention, it hasn’t gotten in years. Like they say, … Every car has a story. 😉
I agree that 1970s Ford products were usually the worst-looking compared to their GM and Mopar competitors. For whatever reason, they just came off as choppy and un-integrated looking, like they were styled using cut-and-paste.
I have never been a fan of the 71-72 Monterey, particularly in two door form. The shape has never worked for me. The side wiew of the brown car shows why: a more exaggerated attempt at a Coke – bottle shape I have never seen. The 4 door comes off better, and the additional gingerbread on the Marquis helps too. Some cars just don’t look good without some extra makeup.
I will argue that in general, Ford led the trend back away from the swooping look that GM started in 1965. Everything that this car did wrong, the 71-72 LTD 2 door did right, popularizing the squared-off look again.
Count me as a fan of the 4 door JP,it works a whole lot better
Not only does this body look better as a four-door sedan (and even as a wagon), but it’s one of the few cars that really needs fender skirts to look “right.”
It kind of looks like one of those made up cars you see in insurance ads. The new 1972 FoMoCo ThunderGalaxiNental Brougham Deluxe Victoria Hardtop.
Totally. It’s uncanny how the featured car looks almost exactly spec’d out like the one in the first ad.
Having said that, I kind of like the exaggerated lines of the brown coupe!
I think it could be interesting to mention the Canadian Meteor, a Montery with a Ford interior.
And this one is a 1971 model but with the all-black paint, I think Steve McGarrett will like it. 😉 https://www.flickr.com/photos/39311243@N05/5072744569/
I’d venture to say that Meteors were more popular in Canada on a per-capita basis than Montereys were in the US.
I would agree with you Roger as Meteors seemed to be everywhere where I grew up.
To me the Meteor of 71-72 was slightly better looking than the equivalent Ford model. I have seen some surviving 71 or 72 Meteors in my part of the country. In rather good condition too.
Wow, really liking that black 2 door, it looks like an “update” of the “James Dean” era Mercury coupes.
As others have said, Mercury was pushing the small (er) Lincoln idea full-bore in the early 70s and the plain Montereys (2 door and 4 door) just didn’t convey that idea as well as the Marquis did.
I actually like the gold coupe with the unhidden headlights.
not sure I’d be brave enough to reverse it onto those rocks though.
Big, mid-priced cars in the cheaper models/trim levels always come off like this Monterey Custom: bland, generally lacking appeal, neither fish-nor-fowl. The frontal styling was the strongest, the rest looking like a Marquis shorn of its upmarket trim. Recalling the type of folks who drove cars like this, they bought because the perceived the Mercury as a better quality car, but shied away from the pretense of the Lincoln-esque Grand Marquis as a bit too showy. Odd market segment.
A perfect example of the “big on the outside, small on the inside” American cars of the seventies. These were wallowing, underpowered whales, although offerings from GM and Chrysler were little better. Two door versions looked especially huge, with those enormous rear fenders. The four doors looked much better.
Dad had a ’75 Ltd Landau 2 dr. which I hated. It had that odd, funny little window between the front door and back window. When I asked him why he got the 2 door (he had always bought 4 doors previously), he said “for the looks”. Go figure.
I’ve always thought that mini-window was the best feature of the late 70’s LTD 2-door!
If you ordered the 429, there was nothing underpowered about it.
Wallowing, yes, but that could be fixed with fatter springs, sway bars, and wheels/tires.
I would think the 429 take rate was pretty low. Most had the 2 bbl 400 and the base Monterey the 351. Basically slugs.
I would think the average middle age guy who bought these could care less about aftermarket springs, sway bars, wheels, etc.
I’ve long liked the ’71 -’72 Mercury in Marquis hardtop trim. As JPC noted, this body works better with more gingerbread. The Monterey would have worked much better if the rear wheel cut out were an inch or so lower without the optional fender skirts, and if it had the chrome wheel lip mouldings that were very popular at the time.
This era Mercury helped set in a trend among full-size cars where buyers bought the loaded high end models or shopped for smaller cars. In 1965, the base Mercury Monterey outsold the higher trims that included Montclair, Parklane and S-55 combined. By ’72, the Monterey was dying fast and was easily outsold by the Marquis and Marquis Brougham. The Monterey name was cancelled after 1974 in favor of a base model Marquis that was a slow seller compared to the upmarket Marquis Brougham and Grand Marquis.
Gee Dave, you and I normally think so much alike, I can’t understand how you like the 2 door version so well. 🙂 Maybe part of my problem is that my elementary school principal bought a 71 Marquis 2 door in a singularly unattractive (to me, at least) light cream color with dark brown top and interior. She was not all that pleasant of a person, and seeing her car in the parking lot by the playground did not promote warm and fuzzy feelings.
There may be some cognitive dissonance there. I thought you were a Ford man in general and a fan of the Lincoln of this era that shared a lot styling cues with the Marquis. I’m with you that Ford’s packaging of brown with various shades of yellow in this era was unattractive – even back then.
My elementary school principal was a serial four door hardtop Skylark buyer. It always seemed like the perfect principal’s car, just a bit upscale over most of the teacher’s cars, but perfectly sensible. Quite the opposite of your experience, she was literally a neighborhood legend for her leadership of the school and surrounding neighborhood. She opened the school in the early ’60s and stayed until her retirement in the mid ’70s. She was so popular that a neighborhood park near the school was officially named after her.
Your elementary principal sounds like mine. She was well-loved by many generations of students at that school and well known for her advocating for the schools in the community. A few years after she retired, the school ceased to be a traditional elementary school and was recast as a school catering to students who were new in the country and had limited English skills to help them learn the language and assimilate, and at this transition, they renamed the school after the former principal.
She did not drive Mercuries or Buicks though…no, she had a lovely burgundy Series III XJ6. (Her husband was a doctor.)
Our principal’s husband was a high school ag teacher. They never had children of their own, so she in particular took in her school families as her own. We learned years later that his ag interest came from his family owning land in western Nebraska and they were worth quite a bit of money, but always lived modestly.
I knew she was living until recently at quite an advanced age. So, I Googled her name and it turns out she passed last year at age 97.
I see in the fine print of the brochure that the 460 was available with AC only. I guess they had a few extra engines intended for Lincolns that already had the compressor bolted on.
Yes, the 224 HP was wheezy, and yes, the camshaft was physically retarded relative to the sprocket, but they still had some sweet torque.
On a related note, back in high school, there was a kid who claimed that his father had a new ’76 Mercury wagon with dual-4 barrel carbs. He was theservice manager at the Lincoln-Mercury dealer dealer in town. I just shrugged it off as BS from a squirrel.
However, it turns out he really did have. He ordered the manifold and carbs and installed them himself, ostensibly to help tow his boat! I never thought to ask if that was the only mod, but looking back, unless he changed that retarded cam, bumped the compression and opened up the exhaust, he wasted his money. That extra carb would have done almost nothing in the low-end torque department, and would have done nothing at higher engine speeds unless it rev and breathe. I don’t even know whether it was a factory Ford part, it could have been an Edelbrock or something.
Surprised how unrusty this land yacht is I really am. Figured the fenders, door bottoms, quarter panels, and trunk lid edge would be much less visable. Could it be the frame rusted out before the body?
It’s like it’s for someone who likes the styling of a big, fuselage Chrysler, but has to have a Ford product.
These big mercs seemed kind of cool when Steve McGarrett hot-rodded around Honolulu on Hawaii five -o in his government -issue. It wasn’t lost on me that Dano drove a step down Ford Ltd.
Yes. I prefer McGarrett’s ’68 Park Lane to the 74 Marquis he drove in later seasons as the latter just looked too bulky.
We have to be careful when we look upon a big car like this. They didn’t ride, handle, brake or steer like anything on the road today. Most people have no idea just how disinterested these vehicles have with the road. So driving them loses their fun rather quickly if fun to you is on par with how today’s cars interact with you.
That said, the quality of these cars don’t begin to compare with today’s vehicles either. It is rather amazing how many fixes on these cars involves rubber hammers, duct tape, Bondo and luck. Reliability isn’t a strong suit either.
These whales are best when cruising upon a featureless expressway empty of other cars. They float in a straight line unlike many of today’s rides. Their lounge sofa seats indulge. They are wonderfully W-I-D-E. They are more like mini RVs than cars.
Keeping one of these on the road is a commitment.
The last time Ford tried to differentiate Mercury from Ford, starting with spending 250 million on the 69 and the “by Lincoln-Mercury” program. After 73 it was all over,
Never made any sense to me: 250,000,000 was what they spent launching the Edsel [don’t know what that amount would have been in late 60s dollars]. And lasted about the same amount of time.
Aside from the Sable [which shared no body panels with the Taurus, but looked the same at first glance], Capri and odd ball final Cougar, everything from Mercury was a Ford clone with a waterfall grille tacked on.
Shameful waste of talent and resources.
Very interesting car that I don’t ever remember seeing one of either–in central NC it wasn’t rust or brand loyalty, just the poor sales probably meant that very few were ever sold there in the first place and most of them were off the road by the time I was a kid in the 80’s.
I do like the Marquis much better as well; the hidden lamps are a much better look than the exposed quads, which look sort of like they’re peering out of a cavern between the long fender tips and the prominent grille! And that high rear wheel opening does work much better skirted.
Just to clarify….these cars were huge on the outside….and huge on the inside as well. 4-abreast seating was possible (for teenagers, at least), and (especially on the 2-door) a trunk that was gigantic and deep, unlike GMs and Chryslers..due to the gas tank being above the rear axle instead of under the trunk floor. Mine was identical to the first two pics, except that it was a Meteor Rideau 500…
Did you know- the 71 and 72 Montereys had a completely different dash (not just trim and woodgrain) than the same era Marquis?
Why would Ford spend that kind of tooling money for a mold on such a low volume model?
Others are better versed in this era of FoMoCo history, but I have always wondered if the bolstering of Mercury with lots of unique pieces was a product of Bunkie Knudsen’s brief tenure at Ford. With his GM background, Bunkie would have probably put a lot of stock into the need to compete with a distinct product in the medium price market.
I wish I would have taken a picture of the interior on this one…I think these had a handsome dashboard.
Reminds me of a junked ’72 Marquis I encountered at Ecology Auto Wrecking last summer.
I always liked the 1971-72 Monterey’s a lot and don’t understand why they weren’t a huge seller, I thought they looked just as nice and classy as the luxurious Marquis although without the hidden headlamps, I prefer the 1971 grille and powertrain on these cars, I’ve only seen probably one or two early 70’s Monterey’s in my lifetime.
These cars did set the tempo for a successful run of full-size Mercurys from the later ’70s and into the late 1980s. Mercury seemed near death at times in the early ’60s and found some mojo in 1965 that led to success within the brand for versions of the Cougar as well as strong sales of loaded full-size cars. That success didn’t take long after the ’71-’72; the ’75 through ’78 versions of the Marquis were everywhere and the Cougar XR-7 coupe hit its stride. Things got bumpy again through 1982, and got much better in 1983 and stayed fairly strong through the ’80s.
Everyone talks about the Cougar, but the Marquis may be the ultimate Mercury success story of all time. Starting with the 1969 model, the Marquis set itself apart as a legitimate step up from an LTD. The Marquis version of the 71-72 Merc was a car that was pretty impressive in the showroom. In fact, I always thought the sedan version of these was a more attractive car than the 1973-78 version, which was much more successful in sales. But the poor Monterey remained stuck in Mercury-Purgatory of the early 1960s.
I think the introduction of the Cougar as well as the tv ads who do the promotion of Mercury models from the Comet, Montego, Cougar, Marquis (and later Bobcat, Monarch, Zephyr, Capri) with the tagline “sign of the cat” with a big cougar roaring on the top of the Mercury-Lincoln sign until the early 1980s.
The Monterey was completely overshadowed by the Marquis of these years, which actually did sell in respectable numbers (particularly for a Mercury). The Marquis was a decent alternative to the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight, and the posh Colony Park wagons were the equal of the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser. Both the Marquis and Colony Park were definite steps up from their Ford counterparts.
With the success of the Lincolns (particularly the Marks III and IV), the Mercury Marquis, the Cougar and the “sexy European” Capri, the early 1970s were good years for Lincoln-Mercury.
The Mercury design was definitely centered around the fender skirts – without them, the design is weird looking. With them there is a seamlessness that makes them look like Lincolns.
My parents had a new ’72 Monterey Custom 4 door. Dad never liked the way it handled. It still looked pretty good when they bought a new ’88 Grand Marquis, but dad junked it because the frame was starting to rust.
I used to work for a Mercury Meteor Lincoln from 70-74 and we sold hundreds of them but haven’t seen one in years now.