This 1949 Mercury convertible shows the "inverted bathtub" styling that debuted that year.

Mercury After World War II

Mercury's prewar lineup also carried over into 1946 with a single exception: The business coupe was replaced by the novel Sportsman convertible. Comparable to the like-named Ford model, Mercury's Sportsman was adorned with maple or yellow birch framing with mahogany inserts.

The wood was structural, not merely decorative. This created a problem at the rear, where standard fenders wouldn't fit. Both Sportsmans thus used 1941 sedan delivery fenders and wood shaped to suit. The solid-wood framing was beautifully mitred and finished with multiple coats of varnish. But with only 205 sold, the Mercury Sportsman was dropped after '46. The likely reason for the low sales was high price: $2209, some $200 more than Ford's version, which did better business and continued into 1948.

Ford's most-important 1947 corporate development was the organization of the Lincoln-Mercury Division. Henry II decided that the two makes could be more competitive as an auto­no­mous operation a la the various General Motors units. That year's Mercurys used more of the raw materials that had been scarce during wartime: mainly aluminum (for pistons and hood ornament) and chrome (interior hardware and grille frame).

Belt moldings now ended just ahead of the cowl. Postwar inflation boosted prices an average of $450, lifting the range to $1450-$2200. Production of the '47 models didn't begin until February of that year, so Mercury's output was about the same as its 1946 tally.

Except for serial numbers and deletion of the two-door sedan, the '48s were unchanged. They were sold from November 1947 through mid-April 1948, when the '49s appeared. As a result, model-year production ended at only about 50,250.

The '49 Mercurys bowed with flush-fender "inverted bathtub" styling like that of the 1948-49 Packards and Hudsons. Mercury's new look stemmed from sporadic wartime work by Dearborn designers. Wheelbase was unchanged, but bodyshells were shared with a new standard Lincoln line instead of Ford, the result of a last-minute change in postwar plans.

Styling was good: massive, yet clean and streamlined. The grille looked something like the '48 affair, but was lower and wider. A single bright molding ran full-length at midflank. As before, a single series offered four body styles: coupe, four-door Sport Sedan (with "suicide" rear-hinged back doors), convertible, and a new two-door wagon with less structural wood than the superseded four-door style.

Like '49 Fords, Mercurys were treated to a new chassis with fully independent front suspension, weight-saving Hotchkiss drive (replacing torque-tube), and a live axle on parallel longitudinal leaf springs, ousting at last old Henry's cherished single transverse leaf.

Resuming its power lead over Ford, Mercury got a stroked V-8 with 255.4 cid, dual downdraft Holley carburetors and 110 bhp to become a genuine 100-mph performer for the first time. Also introduced was an automatic-overdrive option priced at $97, teamed with a 4.27:1 rear axle instead of the standard 3.90:1.

The 1949 Mercury was an attractive buy with its Lincoln-like looks, lower prices ($1979-$2716), and a V-8 more-potent than Ford's (necessary to offset some 100 extra pounds in curb weight). Buyers responded by taking over 301,000 of the '49s -- more than three times the volume of Mercury's previous best year and good for sixth in the industry, another all-time high.

Despite few major changes, sales continued strong for the next two seasons: close to 294,000 for 1950 and a record-setting 310,000-plus for '51, when Mercury again claimed sixth. The 1950 models gained a hood-front chrome molding bearing the Mercury name; the '51s combined this with a large semicircular crest and also sported more-prominent grille bars, larger parking lights (swept back to the front wheel wells), and longer rear fenders with rounded corners and vertical trailing edges.

Horsepower rose a nominal two for '51, when a significant new option arrived in Merc-O-Matic Drive. This was, of course, the new three-speed fully automatic transmission developed with the Warner Gear Division of Borg-Warner (and also offered for '51 by Ford as Ford-O-Matic).

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