Curbside Classic: 1957 Mercury Montclair – Reaching For The Stars Only To Hit A Moon

With it being such a dry, sunny day it seemed appropriate to pull the old Mercury up to the curb so you could get a better look at her before we go for a joy ride around town.

There is so much eye candy here.  We all know – even if darn few will admit it – there are only two things in the automotive kingdom better than a 1950s era Mercury; those two things would be a 1960s Mercury and a 1970s Mercury (except the 1979 Marquis but we won’t talk about that).  So climb in and we’ll fire up the old Y-block to take a look at this third best automobile of all time.

There will be quite of few of us on this trip, but the old Mercury has a lot of room for spreading out.  If you don’t want to be too near the padded dash, or simply don’t like the front seat…

You will certainly enjoy the roominess and ambiance of the backseat.  Either will work well for our trip as this old Montclair has a lot of glass making visibility nearly as unencumbered as walking around naked.  But there won’t be any naked people allowed on our tour as those seats are black and it’s unseasonably warm out today.

Lincoln Y block

Before we get started on this voyage, there are a few basic things to remember.  Just like the driver gets to choose the station on our monaural AM radio, the term Y-block is being used interchangeably.  The standard engine in a 1957 Mercury was the 312 cubic inch Ford Y-block.  The optional engine, the engine we suspect is throbbing away just in front of us, was a Lincoln Y-block of 368 cubes.

If you have a Mercury, opting for an engine with 415 ft-lbs of torque at your beck and call is a natural.  Anything less is simply inferior and undesirable.

Ford Y Block

The base 312 isn’t exactly a limp noodle as it is rated at a remarkable 255 gross horsepower.  The 368 is still preferable as this is a 1957 model, built at a time when more of a good thing was a good thing.

There are fundamental differences between the Lincoln and Ford Y-blocks, one of which is the Lincoln Y-block was introduced in 1952, a year prior to the Ford Y-block.  The bore spacing of the Lincoln engine is 117.6 mm with a deck height of 277.9 mm, which is taller than the Ford engine.

Lincoln’s Y-block would be the basis for heavy-duty truck engines for a brief time in the 1950s.  The very first Ford engine with a displacement of 302 cubic inches was derived from the Lincoln Y-block and used in trucks.  This predates the Windsor based 302 by well over a decade.  We won’t discuss the formidable but unrelated Coyote family based 302 that came along in the 2010s.

Any mention of the Chevrolet 302 would only confuse matters.

Another rule to remember is even by Mercury’s superior and unparalleled standards, the 1957 model is special.  How so?  Take a look at the fabulous front of our winged messenger chariot.

Now gaze longingly at the front of the mid-range 1957 Mercury Montclair as found in the brochures.  See any distinct differences – other than the pink paint?  1957 was a time of transition for automobile manufacturers due to some states relaxing standards on the number of headlights a car could have.  It’s a confusing thing, but suffice it to say the transition completed itself and four headlight Mercurys came about later in the model year meaning just under one-third of 1957 Mercurys had four eyeballs.

When you get back home from our ride, here’s some trivia in which you can amaze your friends and neighbors and maybe even let you hook-up with some hottie….the Montclair name on the two light models is toward the front and top of the front fender.  On the four light models, the Montclair name is behind the front wheel.

See how this helps make our mid-level Montclair special?

There is a fly in the ointment to this phenomenally awesome Mercury as there is a chrome laden appendage on the four-eye models that would be shamelessly plagiarized by Studebaker in 1958.  See that chrome bezel at the front of the fender?  Mercury had to do something to cover the expander required for the quad headlights.

So while Studebaker would later do the very same thing, Mercury exercised infinitely more finesse as only they could do.  But saying they did a good job is still like saying someone’s parasitic limb has nice muscle tone.

Finesse wasn’t the only thing Mercury exercised in 1957; independence was the biggest muscle Mercury developed that year.  For the first time, Mercury had it’s very own all new body shell so it was no longer a Ford on steroids or an anorexic Lincoln.  Some called it heavy and contrived looking; one report talks about the front bumper weighing 678 pounds.  That bumper and the rest of this 3,900 pound car was purposeful.  It wasn’t all hat and no cattle.

Ford was moving the Mercury upmarket to make way for the Edsel in 1958.  Higher trimmed Edsels would utilize the Mercury body shell during its inaugural year, so Mercury was obviously thinking ahead.

Upmarket was definitely a trajectory reflected in how most Mercurys were built at that time, what with Ford thinking Mercury should sit between Edsel and Lincoln in their burgeoning hierarchy.

So Ford had a brain-cramp when aiming for the sky.  It happens.

When you climb in, and it’s really obvious for those of you sitting up front, you likely noticed this particular Montclair is a shiftless car.  In 1956, most Mercurys were equally shiftless with just under 90% of them being built with an automatic transmission.  For 1957 the number of shiftless Mercurys jumped to over 96% with just over one out of every 100 having a stick with overdrive.

A 368 powered Montclair with a three-speed and overdrive would be a fun car.  It would also be as rare as toes on a horse.

In case you forgot, we are in southern Wyoming.  With a bunch of us packed in here, it can get a trifle warm and that leads to our next rule.  If you get hot, roll down the window; there is none of that sissified conditioned air in this Mercury.  No sir, air just wasn’t a thing as the number of 1957 Mercurys with air conditioning was comparable to the number built with a stick and overdrive.

If you’re hot, just roll down the window.  It won’t get hot inside until we get stopped in traffic and with this being Wyoming, well, that won’t be a problem.

Sure a person could get air, but….

Mercury put more emphasis on their Thermo-Matic carburetor – with dual air intakes!!!  With a Thermo-Matic carburetor and a Merc-O-Matic transmission, could life get any better?  Probably not.

The only way this Mercury could be any better is if it’s name was emblazoned in gold down the side.  Oh wait; it is.

Despite the sheerly awesome amount of euphoric Mercury utopia we are experiencing, everything at Mercury wasn’t all bobby socks and poodle skirts.  Sales dropped for 1957 despite what was a distinctly new car.  The market rather showed its backside to our desirable Mercury.

But that makes no difference now.  We’re hitting the starter with the goal of opening the secondaries on our Thermo-Matic.  You can’t just stand here at the curb.

Found February 2018 in Laramie, Wyoming, by Jim Klein