The origins of Mercury are fraught with drama. If it had been up to Henry Ford, there would never have been a Mercury or Lincoln, only the Ford -- and it would have gone back to Model T basics in 1949. Yet, during the Forties Ford fielded only one medium-priced car to compete with the likes of Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Dodge, DeSoto, Hudson, Nash, and upper-level Studebakers.

1942 Mercury Club convertible
The 1942 Mercury Club convertible featured whatwould
 become recognized as unique Mercury characteristics on a
  Ford body. See more pictures of Mercury cars.

Such was the pathetic lack of sound product planning at Ford Motor Company in the Thirties and early Forties. This backward and baffling "Fordonomics" produced only one car between Ford and Zephyr, the Mercury: pure Ford under the trim, but disavowing its heritage completely.

1947 Mercury Monarch
The 1947 Mercury Monarch displayed sleek styling,
which was compared to an airplane.

This isn't to say that the 1941-1948 Mercury wasn't a great car. It was the greatest flathead Ford ever built, all dolled-up in a Sunday suit. But it was still pure Ford, just as sure as President Harry Truman's promise that "the buck stops here."

From its very inception in 1937, Henry Ford denied that the Mercury even existed. His only contribution to the marque was in finally allowing Edsel go ahead with it. The reason for the car was obvious enough: to put something into the gnawing $500 gap between the Ford DeLuxe and the Lincoln-Zephyr.

The original 1939 Mercury debuted on November 5,1938, and shared Ford's antiquated transverse-spring suspension. However, the first Mercury frame wasn't quite the same as a Ford's because it was made more rigid and carried a four-inch-longer wheel-base.

The engine was pure Ford flathead V-8, bored out from 221 cubic inches to 239.4 to develop an additional 10 horsepower. However, the body was unique, sharing no panels with Ford, although design-wise the two were clearly related. Also unique to Mercury was the narrow B-pillared Club Coupe, arguably the forerunner of the hardtop body style.

While Edsel wanted to tie Mercury closely to Ford, design head E.T. "Bob" Gregorie and others in Ford styling wanted to set it apart. The Indians ultimately won out over the chief, at least for the first two model years.

On the next page, find out how the Mercury evolved in 1941.

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