Named after the Roman god known for his speed and fashionable winged sandals, this particular car brand is the brain child of Ford Motor Company that was looking for a car brand to fill the gap between Ford and Lincoln as far as price went. These cars would also be stylish and elegant but would be cheaper and more economical.
The name Mercury actually seems to be of good augury, considering that the main line of activity of the Roman god Mercury was commerce. So you could say that in giving this name to the brand, Ford was trying to appease the gods and make it big in the car business.
The first design, of course made by Ford’s development department, was the Mercury Eight or the Super Ford, which had a 95hp engine and a design that was hailed as being the most aerodynamic of its time. This was the first car which was first designed using a clay model. From 1930 when it was first launched and up until 1938, production already reached 17,000 units.
This radical increase in production was the result of an unexpected rise in demand, so much so in fact, that by 1940, Ford was struggling to keep up. Figures reached the 155,000 mark. But pretty soon things were going to come to a screeching halt due to WWII, during 1942 and 1945.
In 1946, production resumed but with a slightly modified version of the 1942 model Eight. By 1950, there were 1 million Mercurys rolling on the roads. It was now time to push things forward from an innovative point of view, and this is why Mercury launched its first automatic transmission, the Merc-O-Matic on all its models starting with 1951. Cars also underwent a few stylish changes, like “frenched” headlamps with sheet metal surround or behind grille, airfoil bumpers, jet scoop hoods and instrument gauges aviation style.
During the mid 50s, Mercury cars were just about the wickedest things on the road, and a testament of that is the fact that a customized Mercury was featured in the movie “Rebel Without a Cause” starring James Dean. Towards the end of the decade, Mercury also entered the racetrack circuit.
1960 would see the introduction of two new models: the Comet and the Meteor. Whereas the Comet was a stylish compact, the Meteor was a somewhat smaller car, an indication of the fact that America was downsizing. The Comet showed its mettle on the Daytona Speedway Track where it showed remarkable stamina as a fleet of Mercury cars ran for 100,000 at an average speed of 105 mph. As the 60s drew to an end, a new model was added to the lineup, the Cougar, which joined the Mercury family in 1967.
When the oil crisis of the 70s hit, Mercury responded by introducing smaller, European-made cars, the Mercury Capri and the Bobcat. But that doesn’t mean that older models weren’t selling anymore. On the contrary, a redesigned Cougar XR-7 caused sales to go through the roof. Sales figures for Mercury continued to climb well into the 80s.
It was during the 80s that Mercury tried to capture a wider section of the market and came out with new models, the Lynx and the Grand Marquis. But the car that stands out in this decade is the 1986 Mercury Sable. It had a very low drag coefficient which made it fuel efficient.
Mercury’s expansion continued all through the 90s. This time it would be a minivan that would be added to the fleet, Mercury Villager, soon to be followed in 1997 by the SUV Mountaineer which managed to attract a more younger market.
With the dawn of the new century, Mercury sought to improve on performance but also on fuel efficiency and emissions. Also, in an effort to unify the brand, all cars began to share certain design features as the front grille and the updated badge lettering. New models from this period include the Milan and Mariner.
Recently though sales began to show lower number and many people wondered about the future of the brand. Ford was quick to dismiss any rumors that it would burry Mercury and in 2008 announced that it would be making the company part of its small car strategy.