Mercury’s everlasting identity crisis has been discussed on these hallowed pages ad nauseum. In what were perhaps the halcyon years of the American auto industry, namely the immediate postwar era to about 1975, Mercury’s most murky moments probably centered around the 1961-1962 model years, when every model was a gingerbready Ford. By 1970, Mercury had drifted slightly back toward Lincoln with its gothic front ends and imposing bulk. Both were attractive, if someone uncommon, options that someone liked enough to buy over a brand new Ford. Let’s look into that.
In 1962, if Joe Average wanted a racy Mercury convertible, s/he was really getting a Ford Galaxie, because in 1961, Mercury “realigned” its lineup (again?) to Ford’s. For several years prior to this, most Mercury models were more like Lincolns, even using versions of the MEL V8 (like the weird 383: who knew?). Ford’s old 312 was even a mainstay (as a base engine) in Mercury’s lineup through 1960; Ford abandoned it after 1957.
When Mercury became the luxury Ford in 1961, dealers got a whole different car to sell. For example, Monterey Customs (like this convertible) came with a standard 292, and all optional engines were based on the Ford FE block rather than the MEL. In fact, all of the engine options, right up to the 406, mirrored Ford’s. Mercury’s whole lineup was in lock step with Ford’s in 1962; compact (Comet), intermediate (Meteor), and full-sized (Monterey) were all represented.
According to the front fender badging, this example, with its bucket seats and console, is not the “sporty” S-55, which was Mercury-speak for the Galaxie 500XL. S-55 trim differed somewhat from the Custom’s. Either way, red on red is a striking color choice for this uncommon Mercury.
In an attempt to differentiate the Mercury from the Ford, stylists included jet-age touches like these “afterburner” taillights, which had obviously been done before (I’m looking at you, ’59 Cadillac). Ford styling was, however, often derivative (like the ’65 Galaxie, although to be fair, everybody was copying Pontiac at that time). An interesting tidbit is that the Monterey was the only big Mercury model until 1964, when the Montclair and Park Lane were reintroduced after being dropped in 1961.
To accentuate the apparent change for change’s sake mentality, compare the rear view of the Monterey with the Galaxie below.
Now look back at a ’62 Mercury that I’m including for no reason at all other than to use another picture of a Monterey convertible I have lying around.
It would be tough to argue that the Mercury’s posterior is the cleaner of the two. Though both are rocket-inspired, the Monterey’s taillights seem like afterthoughts compared to the Galaxie’s. As much as I like the featured Monterey, I think I would hesitate to call it a truly successful design. Let’s put it this way, if I had the money for a red Ford convertible in 1962, I wouldn’t be buying the Mercury.
And I wouldn’t have been in the minority. The Galaxie Sunliners of 1962 outsold the Monterey Custom Convertible at a rate of roughly 12 to one. That’s a pretty convincing trouncing that could be a result of myriad factors: looks, price, dealer proximity… The fact remains: one is far more likely to see a 1962 Galaxie convertible than a 1962 Monterey convertible at a car show or on the road today.
The Ford/Mercury comparison is, however, getting me a little off-track. Therefore, let’s get hypothetical. Let’s say the original owner of this Monterey is a dyed-in-the-wool Mercury booster, residing in a southern, rust-free locale. S/he keeps this Monterey for eight years before deciding to trade it in on a new Mercury. What might said fastidious original owner find on the lot in 1970?
It certainly would be a lot bigger and more Lincoln-like. In 1965, although it stayed on a Ford-based platform, Mercury made a conscious effort to veer toward the Continental side of the corporate lineup. Brochures mentioned the Continental overtly, in the same breath as the new Mercury. By 1970, one could be forgiven for thinking that this Marquis convertible WAS a Lincoln. It was bigger, heavier, and (probably) more powerful than the ’62, with its 429 under the hood.
Of course, by 1970, our hypothetical convertible-loving owner would have a hard time even finding a Mercury convertible, as under 2,000 of them were sold under both the Monterey and Marquis nameplates. Our featured Marquis was the most popular, at roughly 1,200 sold. The console and floor-shift were gone, replaced by a bag of Better Made potato chips. As I creep into middle age, I can understand the plight of our hypothetical owner, eating potato chips and needing a little more room behind the wheel, but I digress.
The Marquis’ rear end is more brougham than jet, aligning itself nicely with the ’70s sociological paradigm. It certainly seems wider. Unfortunately, this may have been Mr. or Mrs. Joe Average’s last Mercury convertible, as all convertibles, as we know, went into a period of hibernation by the mid-1970s. Therefore, if said owner traded for a new car every eight years, what would 1978 have brought? Another Mercury? Something else? Let’s end with that question of the day.