The 1962-1963 Mercury S-55s were great accomplishments for Mercury as it ventured into the sporty car category.
Right from its birth in 1939, Ford Motor Company's "in-between" car established a performance reputation to match its name. Mercury maintained that image into the early 1950s with speedy, good-handling cars that competed well in events like the famed Mexican Road Race -- but also the Mobilgas Economy Runs.
The make then lost its way for a few years, blowing up into costly, begadgeted "Big M" cruisers that moved well enough on straights but didn't like curves at all. Aggravated by 1958's flash recession, Mercury finished the decade with model-year production below 150,000, less than half its 300,000-unit record of 1955.
But Mercury would revert to saner cars in the 1960s while reasserting its performance image. First came a sensible compact, the Comet, based on Ford's new-for-1960 Falcon, followed by trimmer, simpler, and cheaper 1961 "standards" based on the contemporary full-size Ford.
Production returned to the 300,000 level, helped by an improving market that was showing strong interest in sporty cars like Chevrolet's bucket-seat Corvair Monza and Impala SS.
Having tested the sporty-car waters with the 1961 Comet S-22, Mercury jumped in with both feet for 1962. The S-22 returned along with a similar S-33 edition of the new mid-size Meteor, a clone of Ford's Fairlane. But the pride of the sports department was a pair of big bucket-seat Mercurys called S-55.
More properly, we should call it the Monterey Custom S-55, as the new convertible and hardtop coupe were officially sub-models in Mercury's upper-level 1962 big-car line. They were also "half-year" models, arriving simultaneously with the Ford Galaxie 500XLs they essentially duplicated.
Though still on Ford's 1960 full-size platform, the 1962 Monterey, Monterey Custom, and Station Wagon lines wore a slightly busier version of Mercury's 1961 big-car styling. Overall, they probably came off better then than they do now, but "forgettable" is about the worst you could say of them.
The 1962 Mercury S-55s were far more memorable. Where 1962 Montereys came with a lowly 223-cubic-inch six and Customs a 170-horsepower 292 V-8, S-55s packed a brawny 390 "Marauder" V-8, new the previous season, with two-barrel carb and 300 horses. An optional four-barrel carb boosted that to 330.
Learn more about the 1962 Mercury S-55 and its contemporaries and see what changes were made to the 1963 Mercury S-55 on the next page.