Curbside Classic: 1969 Mercury Montego – Another Mercury Moment

(first posted 1/24/2012)    I really was rather excited to find this Montego at Bi-Mart the other day; I can’t even remember the last time I saw one of this vintage. And just in the condition that I like them too. Wow! I should have rushed right home and harnessed that enthusiasm to write a thrilling Curbside Classic. Now here it is a few days later, and I’m having another Mercury Moment™. Somebody please pass me an Adderall.

I suppose if it had been a Cyclone Spoiler II Cale Yarborough edition, with the NASCAR-friendly long nose, but in the same semi-beater condition as the Montego coupe I found, I wouldn’t be having this MM (of a different kind). But now I’m MMing about a car that I didn’t find, and obviously never will.  Not a good sign.

Racing; that will get the blood flowing. Here’s Cale in his 1968 Cyclone, before it got its nose augmentation. He won the Daytona that year, averaging 143.25 mph. It was the last year for the legendary 427 engine.

By 1969, the year of the funny cars, his long-nose Cyclone #21 had the new 429 Boss engine. Big, thumping, bellowing hairy engines; yes, that’s starting to work. Ironically, neither the 427 or the 429 were actually available in 1969 Montegos or Cyclones. Oh well…but the Cobra Jet 428 was, rated at an insurance-friendly 335 hp.

No such thing hiding behind the rather dull grille here. Probably the 302; maybe a 351. If it had the 250 inch six, no one would have bothered to keep it this long. At least in 1969, the small block eights still ran decently.

The Montego arrived in the almost-identical looking version for 1968, along with its corporate sibling/styling buddy Ford Torino; basically a Montego with an even duller front and rear end. Imagine that. On second thought, don’t bother. The Torino front grille can only be described as generic at best.

I suspect very strongly that Ford brass had something of an “aha” moment when they saw the all-new mid-sized coupes GM worked up for 1968. More likely they shit their pants. Yes, the fastback Torino and Cyclone had a bit of dramatic flair, but GM’s strategy was much better: one dynamic coupe for everyone, instead of having to make that painful choice. Anyway, a rather generic flat fastback alone does not make a well-designed and dynamic-looking car. Look at the sides of these two coupes, or just their wheel wells alone. No wonder the Montego coupe induces a powerful Mercury Moment™, oxymoronic as that may be.

Mercury vainly fought back the GM Olds-Buick-Pontiac coupe assault with a restyled 1970 Montego, featuring a front end that was one of the more pathetic/memorable acts of those memorable times. Ford styling, which had its golden days in the T-Bird roof era, was now crumpling under the GM assault. Somehow, they found a sort of reprieve/salvation of sorts in their Bulgemobile coupes of the latter part of the decade, but no one will ever accuse Ford of one truly fine piece of design during the Great Brougham Epoch.

You see; it’s working! I’m actually worked up by a Mercury; disgust can be a very effective motivator. Turns out there are two kinds of Mercury Moments™.

Hey, I like that taillight. Looks like it might have fallen of a Continental some years earlier. Oh, right: Lincoln – Mercury. Must remind folks that there’s a genuine connection between the Montego and a Conti. Otherwise, why bother at all?

Now if this were a 1969 Comet, the sheer rarity of it might have me in a better mood. Never seen one. Sort of like what Ford did with the 1970½ Falcon, Mercury kept the Comet name (barely) alive, by reserving one low-end model (coupe only) for it to carry that once popular name. The sin of name debasement never ends…

But despair not; there is a silver lining in the Montego; inside. Its dash is relatively clean, having been inspired by the 1967 Cougar’s dash, which of course was inspired by Jaguar dashes of yore. Hey; beats the weird multi-tunnel dash that the Torino had. I know; there’s some of you out there that are going to tell me how much you like that.

Some of you younger readers may not be able to conjure that bold and daring dash to mind, so here’s a picture of it. I especially loved that fake stitching around each of those tunnels. Ok; I admit it’s different. Memorable even. Never mind; that alone makes it brilliant. No one will ever accuse the Montego of having anything memorable, so the Torino dash it is. Another MM.

I need to quit before I have another MM attack; one can only take so many at a time. If I’ve offended anyone, my apologies. It’s been too dark here for too long. I know; that’s the problem: it was a rare sunny day when I shot it; no wonder I was excited. I guess I should have waited for another sunny day to write it up.