Mercury's missing star power

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News
So what happened to Mercury?

There's rumblings that its demise is expected.

Well, Mercury's problem is simple: It lacks star power. It does not have one model that draws buyers to the showroom.

Decades ago things were different.

Back in 1986 I worked for a daily newspaper in Rockford, Ill. One of my colleagues purchased a dark blue Mercury Sable sedan about three months after its introduction. He was lucky to find the car -- production was not prepared for the strong consumer demand. Many dealers didn't have a car to display.

Sable's styling turned heads, especially that wide, illuminated bar, positioned between the headlights that lit up when the headlights were on. It was located where a grille would be expected.

One day he's driving the Sable nearly at dusk on a rural portion of U.S. Route 20, two-lane highway, just east of Rockford. An Illinois State Police sedan passes him in the opposite direction, then suddenly makes a U-turn, lights flashing, and now is in hot pursuit of the blue Sable.

My friend quickly pulls over to the shoulder and stops: "What's the problem?"

"I want to see your car," the trooper says with a level of excitement that probably would be used for nabbing some crook on the FBI's Top 10 List.

"I heard so much about the Sable, seen pictures," the trooper continues. "Put on the headlights. I want to see that light bar light up. So cool."

And there, on the side of the road, for several minutes, I'm told, an Illinois state trooper stood, looking at what must have been the car of his dreams, a blue1986 Mercury, a Mercury Sable.

So cool.

That was then.