Junkyard Classic: 1965 Mercury Park Lane – The Interrogation

Note:  After reading the recent CC on a 1974 Mercury Marquis, my daughter, Eileen, had an abundance of questions.  She and I have had car conversations before.  Soon thereafter Editor Jim Klein sent me pictures of this Park Lane he found in a salvage yard in Colorado.  Perhaps showing Eileen the light will also illuminate a few others to the awesomeness of the winged messenger.  

She observed having progressed from “Spawn” to her real name.  JES 

ECS: What in the world is so fascinating to you about these Mercurys?

JES:  That’s such a wonderful question with a rather simple answer, an answer one might even call elegant.  Elegant as in this Mercury – well, in its prime, anyway.

Think of the American car brands that were available in 1965.

Three of the five General Motors brands were named after somebody, as was Ford, Dodge, and Chrysler.  A fourth GM nameplate was a derivative of Oakland, a brand named for its home county in Michigan.  Cadillac was named for the long dead French explorer who founded Detroit.

Lincoln was created by Cadillac founder Henry Leland in 1917, naming it after an assassinated president.  Can you envision Elon Musk creating a new brand called Kennedy?  No, me neither.

Like Pontiac, AMC was a derivative stemming from the merger of Hudson and Nash, with both having been named after somebody.  Imperial was a spin-off from Chrysler, sometimes having had a Chrysler nameplate.

Studebaker was practically dead; Checker was a specialty vehicle.

This makes Mercury unique.  It was created to fill a void, ultimately having a long tenure in North America.  Its existence was based upon a concept, and its name reflected as much; it was not named after a person or place.

In all fairness Plymouth was the closest to this concept as it too was created to fill a market void.  However, Plymouth had a name shared with binder twine and with a rock used by aggrieved Englishmen who relocated themselves to North America in 1620.

Due to its genesis alone, Mercury was unlike the others and I like unique concepts.  That was Mercury – in its heyday, at least.

ECS:  So, nothing to do with your addiction to 70’s funk-a-lishious tv theme songs?  Some of those were certainly “unique concepts.” 

JES:  No, but it is a nice perk.  Remember, Mercury goes back to 1939.  This Mercury was aimed for those who came of age during the Big Band era and still enjoyed such things.  Funk-a-lishious was for the 1974 to 1978 models.

Think theme song from Shaft.

ECS: I still say that song sounds better on a large group of ukuleles.

JES:  Can you imagine how relaxing it would be to listen to Glen Miller on an aftermarket hi-fi while cruising around town in this Mercury?  As you once said, it would be as refreshing as a cucumber salad with pieces of watermelon with a root beer on a warm summer day.

ECS: Not an exact quote, but close enough.

ECS:  This particular specimen is a rather pretty blue with dramatic accents of a rusty tone.  Any color preferences?

JES:  It’s called Peacock.  Decoding the VIN plate reveals the interior had been decorated in turquoise.

I prefer dark colors on cars.  It adds a degree of sophistication and intrigue.  Lighter colors give off an entirely different vibe.  Remember, of the two new cars I’ve purchased in my life one was black and the other was gray.  You could say I have a sophisticated intrigue or I have an intriguing degree of sophistication.  Yes, I know that last statement could be interpreted two different ways.

ECS:  My answer to that is a third option, which I will not distress our readers with.  Yet.  I figured it was safe to say white would not be your top preference, but I still had to ask.

You seem to be able to come up with an analogy for every conceivable aspect of these vehicles.  For those of us who aren’t mega super fans like you are, please explain.

JES:  When your mother and I found out you were on the way, everyone congratulated her.  Profusely.  While I was standing there.  Nobody congratulated me.  They ignored me. This went on for weeks.  Everyone seemed to have forgotten you were a cooperative effort.

I take that back.  Your late Great-Aunt Sally, one of your grandfather’s older sisters, congratulated me.  So I’ve always liked Sally.  She didn’t overlook the obvious.

It’s like Mercury.  People tend to overlook it.  Ford had respectable success during the 1960s and the 1970s were, well, the 1970s.  It was not a good decade for many car companies.  But the success Ford had was due in part to the products offered by Mercury.  Perhaps they weren’t necessarily the most popular, the most revolutionary, or even the most original.  But Ford used Mercury to tap into more success than would have happened without the nameplate.  Ford sold as many of these Park Lanes in 1965 as they did nine passenger Country Squire wagons.

People tend to forget that.

Mercury was simply the ideal vehicle in many regards.  Can you imagine Jack Lord driving around Honolulu in, oh, say, a green AMC Ambassador?  No, me neither.  It was not menacing enough.  That was a part made for a Mercury.

ECS:  You do realize your little analogy brinks on being too much information for some of us?  Me included.  (My apologies to the readers who are in the same boat as me.)  And about your tropical television allusion, I frankly would be unlikely to notice if what’s-his-name were to start driving around in something different, unless, of course, it was kinda weird.

JES:  Define “weird”.  As in color?  Or something that just would not fit, like his driving a corroded Studebaker?  Inquiring minds want to know.

ECS:  The Magic School Bus or Speed Racer’s car.  Better?  

What is your favorite feature of this individual car?

JES:  I think both of those would have presented copyright issues.  Besides, Speed Racer would have messed up Jack’s hair.

This Park Lane is absolute proof positive Mercury was a styling trendsetter.  Like many instances in life, people don’t want to acknowledge the true leaders.  It upsets their apple cart.

Case in point:  The tail lights.  This was in 1965.  Cadillac aped this theme in 1967, going full divide for 1970 – you cannot tell me Bill Mitchell never saw a 1965 Mercury.

Then again, maybe the executives at GM were so cloistered they never did.  Perhaps some aggrieved GM stylist pulled a fast-one on Mitchell who recognized the absolute freaking genius involved and green-lighted it.

No doubt some nattering nabob of negativism will say “wait, wait, Cadillac had the vertical tail lights first!  Mercury was aping Cadillac!”.  Sure, Cadillac had vertical tail lights but the basic treatment of the 1965 Mercury was aped by Cadillac beginning in 1967.  Cadillac had jumped on the Mercury bandwagon.

Two other features I like about this Mercury; this particular Park Lane, which was the top model at Mercury for 1965, had a four-barrel 390 under the hood, rated at 300 gross horsepower.  There’s a lot to love with a 390, primarily torque, torque, and more torque.

Also the frontal design and profile of the Mercury are a perfect combination of Lincoln and Ford.  This Mercury delicately, yet definitely, split the line that existed between Ford and Lincoln.  Mercury hit its stride with the full-size cars in 1965 and kept it until 1978.  Then things went all to hell.

Incidentally, this particular Park Lane was built in St. Louis on January 22.  This was two days after Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in for a full-term as President.

ECS:  Uh…okay.  I’ll take your word for it.

What is – if it’s even possible – something you DON’T like about it?

JES:  Let me get back with you about that.

ECS:  How did I not see that one coming?

In your opinion, what is its most striking feature?

JES:  It does have one striking feature and it’s not a good one, so maybe this also answers your previous question.  And, no, it’s not where something has struck the side of the car.

That Breezeway top is definitely a striking feature – and not exactly to my liking.  It makes the profile of the roof look all cattywompas.  The regular sedans looked much better; more poised and ready to pounce on the slow-pokes littering the highways.

However, you may be interested to know this.  Where I finished out my prison sentence college at the University of Missouri-Rolla (pronounced Rah-luh; the founder was from North Carolina and named it after Raleigh but legend has it he had a speech impediment) there was a guy who had a bigger Mercury fixation than do I.

He had a shop along Old US 66 on the west end of town.  At one point he had nearly 20 old Breezeway Mercurys like this one parked beside and behind his shop.  They disappeared at some point after I left in 1995.  In an absolute irony I was recently through there and the local Ford dealer has relocated to that property.

ECS:  Out of all the Mercurys in existence, what model would you want to own?

JES:  Only one?  That’s a toughie.  I really like the 1968 Park Lane.  But only one?  How about a 1974 Marquis in a dark blue – I don’t care if that was an original color or not.  Red would work also.  It would have to have a 460; I don’t care to have that puny little 400.  If I’m getting a Mercury, I want the biggest honking engine available.  Anything less would be all hat and no cattle.

ECS:  Gee, how shocking.

Would you let anyone else drive it?

JES:  Maybe you.  Maybe your mother.  I’d let you change the oil every season.  You need to learn how to do that.

ECS:  Thanks.  Thanks a lot.  I’m utterly astounded at your undying generosity.  (insert eye-roll)

You are constantly singing the praises of Mercury at every last excuse you find, and there seems to be a lot of them.  Is there any chance there’s actually something you find fault with regarding your cherished Mercurys?

JES:  Why yes there is.  Life presents one’s self with many and various opportunities.  Success is realized by how well these opportunities are utilized.  Ford was characteristically spastic in intelligently exercising the opportunities presented to Mercury.  We all know how that ultimately ended.

Plus it’s genetic.  Your great-grandfather’s younger brother was a serial Mercury owner after Edsel went kaput.  He had purchased two Edsels brand new.

ECS:  Well, I already know I didn’t get THAT gene.

JES:  Yes, sadly, your mother’s DNA diluted that out of your system.

ECS:  And I’m just fine with that one.  

Is it possible there’s someone else out there with more Mercury poisoning than you?

JES:  Yes, but he’s likely dead.