Curbside Classic: 1969 Mercury Montego MX Convertible – End of the Road

When I spotted this Montego convertible parked by the beach at Half Moon Bay, I had the thought that doesn’t come to me very often: Have I ever seen one of these before? Given that I was sixteen when this car was new, I undoubtedly did, but wouldn’t have paid it much attention at the time. But in more recent decades, when I began to appreciate all the older cars still on the road, including once-invisible ones like a Montego, I can say fairly certainly: No.

Well, there’s a pretty good reason for that. All of 1,725 Montego convertibles were built in 1969. As a logical consequence, this was the last year for the ragtop. And how many of them are still around? So yes, I was pretty happy with this find.

Unfortunately, I’m not quite as happy with some of these shots, as the sun was low on our morning walk on the beach, and not exactly helpful from some angles. Its front end is a bit too generic Ford of the times, looking like both an LTD/Galaxie as well as the German Taunus TC. The extended fender blades seem to be asking for a hug.

This was a not a happy time for Mercury in general and the Montego (née Comet) in particular. GM’s rather radical 1968 A Body coupes, which had their own distinct body shell and shorter wheelbase than the sedans, made these look rather outdated. Unlike the GM coupes and convertibles, these looked like a somewhat smaller big car. That’s what mid-sized cars had started out to be, but that convention was quickly being turned on its head. GM’s coupes were almost the opposite: more like a Mustang for grown ups. Similar proportions and distinct flair, and not just a 9/10th Monterey. GM’s mid sized coupes would come to dominate the sales charts; the Montego would struggle along until it finally played the same game, morphing into the Cougar in 1974.

And as to its color of this fine specimen, well, it appears to not be original.

Here’s the 1969 Mercury color chart.

Maybe someone will identify it, but it works well enough for me, although it doesn’t really say 1970, a year when bold pastels were popular. The rear flanks are definitely channeling a bit of that old Continental magic that Mercury was always trying appropriate.

The result is as I mentioned above: if you didn’t know better, from a bit of distance you’d think it was a full-sized car. Of course, 209″ of length and a 117″ wheelbase aren’t exactly petite. Along with its 209.9″ long ’70-’71 successor, these Montegos would be the biggest ever built on the “Falcon platform” in the US.

The restyle for 1970 and 1971, the last ones on this platform, brought a bold new front end with a decided “Bunkie Beak”, with hidden headlights available on the MX, as well as new curvaceous styling and roofline. But no convertible version.

Meanwhile the 1970-1971 Torino still offered a ragtop, although I’d pretty much forgotten about that, and said so at the time when this car was written up here. But that very low take rate of the ’69 Montego convertible sent a pretty clear message. Convertibles sales were in terminal decline at the time anyway, so it was hardly surprising.

The spoked wheels are aftermarket, and the 351 badge tells us what’s under the hood. It doesn’t tell us whether it’s the 250 or 290 hp (gross) version. Both were optional along with the  302 (220 hp). The 155 hp 250 six was technically standard, but unless someone specially ordered it, I very much doubt any found their way into a convertible. A 320 hp 390 was also available. The potent 335 hp 428 Cobra Jet was not available on sedans, wagons and the convertible.

The interior looks original except for some black tape on the seats and the inevitable fuzzy dice. I suspect the wood steering wheel is aftermarket too, as I couldn’t find it in the brochure. The dash shows the influence of the 1967 Cougar.

The convertible wasn’t the only mid-sized model that was having its last outing in 1969. Oddly enough, there was also still a Comet coupe available, appropriately dubbed “the one-model car series”. Good luck finding one of those, although with 14,104 built, the odds theoretically are better than the Montego convertible. Realistically not, as convertibles always had a much higher survival rate than other body styles. Who would have wanted to keep a ’69 Comet for the long haul? Or for more than the length of the loan?

This Montego sure looked fine sitting there with the Santa Cruz Mountains wearing a fuzzy fog hat in the background, and the Pacific in the foreground.

Some very dear old friends of ours live in a house facing the beach just off to the left of this image, and go to Hawaii every winter for a month or two, and offer it to us to house-sit. Stephanie has her mom come out from Iowa to escape the winter there, and her sister lives close by, so it becomes something of a Squires family reunion. I’d have stayed longer, but I’m slammed here in Eugene, but will go back down for a week or so.

The view from the upstairs bedroom wall of glass is superb, although it was not calm like when this picture was taken another year. The breakers were boiling furiously as there had been a series of storms hitting the coast. There’s a several mile-long beach walk-bike path that’s not visible right at the inland edge of the sand, as well as some superb hiking in the mountains nearby.

I have digressed here, but I’m afraid this car doesn’t exactly stimulate a lot of verbiage from me. It’s hardly controversial, and like the beach, it just asks to be appreciated for what it is.