Mercury underwent frequent model and name changes in the 1960s, but the Monterey, shown here as a 1967 in S-55 trim, spanned the decade.

The 1960s: More Mercury Models, Fewer Buyers

Mercury offered three V-8s for 1960, all with lower compression for the sake of economy (such as it was). The 312 was cut to 205 bhp for Monterey and Commuter, the 383 returned as a single 280-bhp option, and a 310-bhp Lincoln 430 was standard elsewhere. Production rose slightly to some 155,000.

The "Big M" shrunk noticeably in both size and price for 1961. In fact, it was again a "deluxe Ford," though on an inch-longer, 120-inch wheelbase. This was done in the interest of production economies as well as fuel economy, and the resulting cars were indeed lighter, thriftier, and more maneuverable.

Of course, this also ended four years of unique Mercury chassis and bodyshells, reflecting the collapse of Dearborn's grand mid-'50s "divisionalization" scheme, a stab at a GM-style five-make structure that had spawned separate Edsel, Continental, Lincoln, and Mercury Divisions. Dismal sales since '57 had rendered a separate Mercury platform unacceptably expensive, hence this return to the make's original concept.

Beginning with the 1960 Comet, Mercury followed the growing industry trend of adding models in new sizes, with name changes sometimes confusing buyers. The latter was perhaps symbolic of the make's mixed fortunes in the '60s.

Still, Comet and Monterey spanned the entire decade. A new name was Meteor, long the brand of a Canadian-made Mercury derivative, which appeared on two quite different U.S. Mercurys.

The first arrived at the low end of the 1961 full-size line: two- and four-door sedans and hardtops in "600" and nicer "800" trim, offered at vastly reduced prices beginning at $2535. In effect, they filled the gap left by Edsel's demise the previous year.

Monterey resumed as the premium Mercury, listing a four-door sedan and hardtop, a two-door hardtop, and a convertible. The separate Station Wagon series reverted to conventional pillared four-doors: six- and nine-passenger Commuters and Colony Parks.

Styling was even more conservative than in 1960. The grille remained concave and fins vestigial, but flanks were rounded and '50s gimmicks were mere memories. Meteors carried a standard 223-cid Ford six with 135 bhp; the optional V-8, included on Montereys, was a 175-bhp 292. Across-the-board options comprised a 220-bhp 352 and new big-block 390s with 300 or 330 bhp.

Although Meteor actually outsold Monterey, sales were not spectacular. Accordingly, the line was replaced for '62 by a "Monterey 6," and the name moved to Mercury's version of the new intermediate Ford Fairlane.

The Meteor's styling was busier than the Fairlane's and model names were different, but bodies were shared. So were powertrains, including Ford's fine new small-block V-8 with 221 cid and 145 bhp or 260 cid and 164 bhp. Custom denoted the upmarket midsize Meteors, S-33 the sportier bucket-seaters -- a two-door sedan for '62, a hardtop coupe for '63. Wagons -- woody-look Country Cruiser and plain-sided Villagers (a name transferred from the Edsel line) -- joined hardtops as 1963 additions. For all that, this Meteor didn't sell nearly as well as the Fairlane, and Mercury dropped it for 1964 in favor of an extensively upgraded Comet.

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