As Mercury works to establish a design identity, it likely will review its design heritage. Michael Lamm, co-author and publisher of A Century of Automotive Style, chose seven designs he considers Mercurys most significant. Heres what he had to say.
Mercury's greatest hits
The first Mercury the 1939 model was extremely well wrought. It shared a strong family resemblance with the 1939 Ford but looked more substantial and luxurious. Its barrel-shaped taillamps lent interest to the rear. The rainbow-shaped speedometer inspired similar treatments a decade later at Cadillac and Chrysler.
The 1939-40 Mercury coupe was especially handsome, with its shallow roof and chrome window surrounds like the 1938 Cadillac 60-Special.
The 1949 Mercury was intended to become the 1949 Ford. But as a Ford, it turned out to be too heavy and expensive, so the design ended up as the 1949 Mercury. As such, it shared the small Lincolns body shell.
Bathtub Mercurys soon became the car worlds iconic lead sleds, thanks to customizers such as Sam and George Barris, who chopped, channeled and dechromed them to great effect.
When the 1952 Mercury (see photo, Page 1D) first came out, its front-end styling shocked a lot of people. It had a combined grille and bumper. Nothing like this had ever been done before. The designer behind the idea was Gene Bordinat, who followed George Walker as Ford Motor Co.s design director. The 1952 Mercury shared that years Ford body but, thanks to Bordinat and Walker, looked different.
No one can accuse the 1957 Turnpike Cruiser (see photo, Page 4D) of representing good design. But its a significant car nonetheless because, along with the 1958 Buick, 58 Oldsmobile and 59 Cadillac, it epitomized the more-is-better school of ornamentation. As the late Strother MacMinn a legendary instructor at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. used to say (but in another context), You could walk around the car and be entertained the whole trip.
Mercury designers had a hard act to follow with the 1967 Cougar (see photo, Page 1D). It shared just about everything with the hugely successful Mustang, yet Mercurys stylists had to create a unique, upmarket look.
The designers deserve a lot of credit for making this Cougar a standout.
No one could mistake the 1970 Mercury Cyclone, with its bold grille. The protruding gun sight grille was the brainchild of Larry Shinoda, a designer on the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette who, in 1968, came to Ford from General Motors with Bunkie Knudsen (former head of Pontiac and Chevrolet divisions). Insurance companies hated this grille.
The Knudsen nose named for the new Ford president looked great. But it fell victim to even the slightest ding. At Ford, the Knudsen nose outlasted Bunkie by only a year and helped convince the federal government to mandate 5-mph bumpers.
Although the 1986 Mercury Sable arrived alongside the revolutionary Ford Taurus, it had several unique touches.
The most visible was the headlight bar, which defined the Sable in front view for two generations.
Another was a roofline borrowed from the German Merkur and Scorpio. The Scorpio, in fact, helped encourage Fords entire aero look of the mid-1980s. It took great corporate fortitude to leave the boxy body format of the previous 15 years.
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