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Stacey Vanek-Smith: In an effort to get their balance sheets back in the black, U.S. automakers have been scrapping some under-performing models. Among them, the Mercury. Ford has announced it will stop production of that model later this year.
Contributor Hank Rosenfeld has this ode to the car that helped define him.
Hank Rosenfeld: My mom drove a Mercury and so did my dad, and my sister, and our next-door neighbor in Detroit, Mr. Krause. In fact, every day it seemed he was out in front of his house hosing down that 1963 Monterey.
The first Mercury was designed by Henry Ford’s son, Edsel, in 1939. Fancier than a Ford, but actually with the same body as a Ford, Mercurys were for the expanding American middle-class market. The biggest seller was the Grand Marquis, which was more like a “Junior-Lincoln.”
Back then, Mercury was branded “The Big M”, with models like the Montego, the Montclair, the Meteor. And it was the sponsor, of the “Ed Sullivan Show.”
Back when we dreamed big in this country, I learned to drive in my mom’s Lincoln-Mercury Colony Park station wagon with the fake-wood paneling, and the third seat in the back facing backwards. Instead of watching the back facing backwards. Instead of watching the world go by, you could feel yourself pulling away from it. 1978 was Mercury’s biggest year; it sold nearly 600,000 cars. The heyday — when Farrah Fawcett did their TV commercials. Now Farrah Fawcett’s gone. And so is this:
I’ll never forget my Cougar — 1973 with the flip-up headlights hidden in the grill. I get into that bucket seat and I’m gone… But sales last year for Mercurys: 92,299. The total market share was less than 1 percent. Yeah, Mercury is just too retrograde.
Growing up in Detroit, you pay attention to these things.
They’re part of who you are. Well, who we were anyway.
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