The 1951 Mercury wagon was the automaker's most expensive model that year, going for more than $2500.

1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954 Mercury Cars

Mercury added a couple of new models to its lineup for 1950: a stripped price-leader coupe ($1875) and the interesting Monterey.

The latter was a spiffy limited edition with upgraded interior and a top covered in canvas or vinyl. At around $2150, it cost some $160 more than the standard coupe, but it wasn't the costliest 1950-51 Merc: The wagon was over $400 more. Monterey's purpose, as with the Ford Crestliner and Lincoln Lido/Capri of those years, was to stand in for the pillarless "hardtop-convertibles" being offered by GM and Chrysler rivals.

Hardtops arrived in force for 1952, when Ford Motor Com­pany was the only Big Three maker with all-new styling. Mercury got a pair of hardtops: a Sport Coupe and a more-deluxe Monterey version (sans covered roof). Monterey also offered a convertible and a four-door sedan (now minus the "suicide" doors). Following an industry trend, wagons were all-steel four-doors with simulated wood trim. Base-trim two- and four-door sedans completed the lineup.

Bodyshells were again shared with Ford, though Mercury retained a three-inch longer wheelbase, all of it ahead of the cowl. Also shared with Ford was tight, clean styling, though the resemblance with that year's equally new Lincoln didn't hurt. Higher compression boosted the flathead V-8 to 125 bhp on unchanged displacement. The Korean war limited 1952 production throughout Detroit, so Mercury built only 172,087 cars to finish eighth in the annual race.

Mercury bowed its first formal two-series line for 1953: the Custom series offered a hardtop and two- and four-door sedans, while the Monterey line listed a convertible, hardtop, wagon, or four-door sedan. Retained from '52 was a trendy dashboard with big aircraft-type levers flanking a large half-moon gauge cluster.

Business picked up with the end of Korean war restrictions, and Mercury moved nearly 305,000 cars, though it once again ran eighth. Prices ranged from $2000 for the Custom two-door to nearly $2600 for the Monterey wagon.

A significant engineering change for 1954 was Mercury's first overhead-valve V-8, a bigger version of the new "Y-Block" design featured on that year's Ford. Though little larger than Mercury's previous L-head at 256 cid, the ohv had modern short-stroke dimensions, a five-main-bearing crankshaft, and much more horsepower -- 61 with the standard four-barrel carburetor. With a low 3.90 rear axle and standard transmission, the V-8 made any '54 Merc quick off the line. Equally note­worthy was a ball-joint front suspension, another development shared with Ford.

Styling improved for '54 via wraparound taillights and a clean but more-aggressive grille with larger bullet guards. Joining previous models was a new top-line hardtop, the Monterey Sun Valley (a name that must have amused Californians), which is more famous now than it was then. An outgrowth of Dearborn's experiments with plastic-topped cars (as was Ford's similar '54 Skyliner), the Sun Valley was nice in theory: the airiness of a convertible combined with closed-car comfort and practicality.

In practice, though, it was something else. Though the Plexiglas front half-roof was tinted and a snap-in shade was provided for hot weather, customers complained the interior heated up like a sauna. Sales were unimpressive: just 9761 of the '54s and a mere 1787 for the follow-up 1955 Montclair version.

At about 260,000 units in all, 1954 wasn't Mercury's greatest sales year, but hopes were high for '55. With colorful new styling on the basic 1952-54 shell, Mercury's first wheelbase increase since 1941 -- to 119 inches except on wagons, which remained at 118 -- and a more-potent V-8, the '55s couldn't miss. They didn't: Model-year production was a record 329,000-plus.

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