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The 20th century saw the rise of the automotive industry. The titans you know today — like Ford and Dodge — started in the first decade and have been around ever since.
Other automakers had high ambitions but weren’t so lucky. For example, look at the Ford Mercury. There are some Mercuries on the road today, but Ford stopped production in 2010.
So, what happened to Mercury?
Start at the beginning by taking a hot tub time machine back to 1938. The U.S. was in the last stages of the Great Depression and tensions were bubbling with another world war breaking out a year later. In the auto industry, Edsel Ford was the president of the Ford Motor Company. Edsel was the only child of Henry Ford, the man who developed the American automobile as we know it.
At the time, Ford’s luxury division was Lincoln, which Henry Leland founded back in 1917. Edsel wanted to expand the blue oval’s presence in the automobile industry. There wasn’t much middle ground between Ford and Lincoln until Mercury came along in November 1938. Ford needed to compete with Chrysler and General Motors (GM) divisions like Buick and Oldsmobile, leading to the first Mercury lineup in the late 1930s.
Edsel selected the name Mercury because of the Roman god, also known as Hermes. In mythology, Mercury — Hermes in Greek — was the winged messenger. Ford chose Mercury because he was the god of dependability, speed, eloquence and other qualities.
In 1939, Mercury unveiled its first model — the Mercury 8. The name derives from its V-8 engine and 95 horsepower under the hood. The horses might not seem like much compared to the 12,000 horsepower in the Lucid Air.
Still, but it was a nice touch for the time. Unfortunately, Mercury quickly ran into the beginning of World War II, so Ford switched production to wartime machinery. After the war, Ford combined Lincoln into one division.
Mercury on the Silver Screen
In the 20th century, the Ford Mercury got its time in the spotlight by appearing in various movies. The 1949 Mercury Coupe has made numerous appearances on the silver screen, including some timeless classics. In 1955, “Rebel Without a Cause” debuted in cinemas and iconic actor James Dean sat behind the wheel of a 1949 Mercury Series 9CM. You can see the two-door Mercury Sedan from the movie at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.
In Pixar’s “Cars” movies, you can see a Mercury through the Sheriff. This character is a 1949 Mercury 8 police cruiser. The Sheriff appears in all three films and “Mater’s Tall Tales.” Other famous movies with these early Ford Mercury models include “Speed Racer,” “Goodfellas” and “Happy Gilmore.” The Mercury’s cinematic universe might not be as famous as the DeLorean’s, but it’s nice to see recognition with iconic actors like James Dean.
Ford Mercury Support Wanes
As the 20th century progressed, Mercury became more popular. The division hit its peak by selling nearly 600,000 vehicles in 1978. However, it started to go downhill quickly. In the next two decades, Ford had to make decisions surrounding the Mercury because its presence in the market declined. In 1999, Ford decided to stop selling the Mercury in Canada.
In the early 2000s, Ford supported the Mercury brand despite its fall from grace. In 2009, Mercury only sold 93,000 units worldwide — a 74% decrease from its sales performance in 2000. By 2010, Mercury’s vehicle market share had fallen under 1%, prompting Ford to make changes. During the Great Recession, the automaker eliminated Mercury to focus exclusively on Ford and Lincoln.
Remembering the Classic Ford Mercury Models
In 2011, Mercury produced its final vehicle when the Grand Marquis rolled out of the factory. You may only see a few Mercuries on the road, but the division has some models worth reflecting on. For example, look at the classic Mercury Cougar.
In 1967, Mercury unveiled the Cougar, one of its most popular cars. The 1967 Cougar became a pony car, rivaling the Dodge Challenger, Chevy Camaro and other famous vehicles. It was good enough to earn Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award because of its luxurious interior and a maximum horsepower of 390.
Ford Mercury: A Slow Rise and Quick Fall
Mercury is a defunct manufacturer, but its legacy still exists on the road today. You can still find classic Mercury models for sale online. Edsel Ford’s Mercury legacy had a slow rise in its first 40 years, partly disturbed by the second World War. The 1950s through the 1970s saw Mercury’s peak until a rapid fall from grace in the early to mid-2000s.
Have you ever driven a Mercury?