This particular 1957 Mercury Monterey Convertible was easily one of the prettiest of the 5,033 cars built that year, but all of them received a chilly response at first.

Closest to the sun of any planet in our solar system, Mercury is used to feeling the heat. In 1957, at Ford's Mercury division, more than a few executives were sweating it out while their all-new, space-age design met with a frosty reception by earthlings.

The look really was all-new -- 1957 marked the first year that Mercury could claim a body exclusively its own. From the big chrome "M" hunkered down between the bumper and the front grille to the V-shaped taillights out back, the style may not have been letter-perfect, but it was distinctive and clearly not Ford -- or Lincoln -- derived.

Mercury fielded four series for 1957. The entry-level Monterey shared the showroom floor with the mid-line Montclair and the flashy Turnpike Cruiser. Station wagons made up the balance of the menu.

Monterey and Montclair were tough to tell apart at a glance: the principal clues being chrome headlight bezels, minor trim tweaks, and standard Merc-O-Matic transmission on the intermediate Montclair. Both cars shared the standard 255-bhp "Safety Surge" 312-cid V-8, and options on either line included the 368-cid/290-bhp Turnpike Cruiser engine.

A Monterey convertible like this featured car had a list price of $3,005 -- $425 less than a Montclair ragtop and $1,098 less than a droptop Turnpike Cruiser. In 1957, Mercury learned the hard way that exclusive does not necessarily mean popular.

The all-new cars lured only enough buyers to net the company eighth place in the sales race. There it would remain through 1958 -- when the recession-ravaged economy would treat all autos cruelly, particularly mid-priced models like Mercury and its new cousin, the Edsel.

This fine example belongs to Glenn and Barbara Patch. The Desert Tan and Classic White Mere was restored by Bob Schmidt's Classic Heaven in Tempe, Arizona.

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