The winds of change brought to fruition some pretty nifty ideas in the gimmick-driven Detroit of the Fifties and Sixties, including the 1963-1968 Mercury Breezeways.
A case in point was the retractable rear window found on certain full-sized 1963-1968 Mercurys. Cars equipped with the feature were known as Breezeways, and it not only provided a novel method of improving interior comfort but -- through 1966 -- also inspired a degree of styling distinction.
Mercury started the 1963 model year with eight Breezeway offerings
and it added a ninth at mid-season. See more pictures of Mercury cars.
The idea of moving fresh air from the cowl vent through the back window
was a good one in the days before air conditioning. Some cars in the
Twenties and Thirties had roll-down rear windows. Then the concept
faded, likely because fastback styling, so popular in the late
Thirties and Forties, did not lend itself to rear windows that rolled
out of the way.
However, the general shift toward “three-box” notchback body styling in America beginning in the late Forties opened up new opportunities for experiments with rear-window ventilation and reverse-slant backlights.
In 1953, Packard unveiled the Balboa-X show car. A hardtop coupe based on the luxurious Caribbean convertible, the Balboa-X featured a roof on which the trailing edge formed a kind of canopy over the backlight, which was slightly tilted so that the top of the window reached further back than did the base.
In a June 1996 Collectible Automobile®
interview, William F. Mitchell, president of the Mitchell-Bentley
Corporation, fabricators of the Balboa-X, said the backlight was
intended to be retractable, and that when Packard decided not to adopt
the feature, his company sold the rights to Ford.
When Nash was designing its 1956 Rambler compact, it considered a reverse-slant backlight with a retractable center section. At least one functional prototype was built.
The first evidence of a reverse-slant backlight in Ford advanced design may be Alex Tremulis’ Wind Brake Car of the mid Fifties. The idea behind this 3/8-scale model was that a deck panel would pop up, performing the same braking function as spoilers in race cars today.
Tremulis also came up with the Scorpion, another reverse-backlight dream creation. There was also the D-524 (later known as the Beldone) dating back to 1954. This was a fully operational spaceship on wheels done by Gil Spear and others. It had Ford’s first reverse backlight with a roll-down rear window.
Then came the Diplomat, a full-size fiberglass Lincoln advanced-design “pushmobile” with a reverse backlight and all kinds of hints of the 1958 Continental. It hung around the styling studios for years and inspired LaGalaxie, a 1958 show car.
Designed by L. David Ash with help from Bud Kaufman, LaGalaxie never ran; it just glowed from within and blinked at show crowds. The reverse backlight was one of its eeriest features.
Then along came Buzz Grisinger, who already had a distinguished auto design background before joining Ford in 1955. Grisinger’s first project as executive stylist in the Mercury Preproduction Studio was a design that came to be known as the “Blue Job.”
This exercise never got further than a full-size fiberglass mock-up with no interior, but it had a beautiful backlight as part of a proposed retractable top. Grisinger went on to create L’Avion, a conceptual small Mercury with a rear treatment that included a radical backlight with an extreme overhang.
Meanwhile, another Mercury concept brought years of dreaming out from backstage and into the spotlight. This was the XM-Turnpike Cruiser, one of Ford’s all-time great show cars. It had its origins in a 1954 proposal from John Najjar. He and Elwood Engel developed the design into a full-size, completely operational car with enough styling and mechanical innovations to fill an aerospace museum.
One of its features was a canopied backlight with a retractable center section -- though the Cruiser’s wraparound rear window did not have a reverse slant.
The XM-Turnpike Cruiser was created after the design theme for the 1957 Mercury was determined, but the show car appeared first -- in 1956 -- to tease the public with a glimpse of the styling and features it could soon expect to find in showrooms.
That lineup of ’57s would include a
new top-of-the-line series called the Turnpike Cruiser offered in
two-door hardtop, four-door hardtop, and convertible versions.
The hardtop roof featured rear pillars that narrowed toward their bases and a visored effect over the backlight. As on the show car, the center section of the forward-canted rear window retracted, providing what Mercury called “Breezeway Ventilation.”
Easily the most expensive ’57 Mercs with starting prices in the $3,700-$4,100 range, the gadget-bedecked Cruisers attracted just 16,891 orders. For 1958, the convertible was dropped and the hardtops were folded into the Montclair series -- which allowed for price cuts -- but demand slumped to 6407 cars. With that, the Turnpike Cruiser rode off into the sunset.
Curiously, as the “Breezeway” concept was dying at Mercury, it was finding new life at Lincoln, where an imposing new line was issued for 1958. Styled under Najjar’s direction, the cars featured a roof with rear pillars much like those found on the Turnpike Cruiser.
In an attempt to keep the Continental name alive, the suave -- and expensive -- Mark II hardtop coupe of 1956-57 was discarded for a Mark III in four body styles based on the new Lincolns. For a touch of exclusivity, Continentals were given retractable reverse-slant backlights in place of the fixed wraparound glass on the Lincolns.
“We had to simplify the tooling ...one roof panel had to serve for the Continental and Lincoln,” said Najjar. “But how could we make them different? That’s how we hit on the slanted backlight for the Continental.” Even the Mark III convertible top mimicked the shape of the hardtop roof, and its glass rear window powered down when the top was stowed.
Facelifted Continentals used the same roof/backlight styling through 1960. When the next year brought in a smaller, more elegant Lincoln Continental with a conventional rear window, the Breezeway roof seemed ready to join the roll of discarded Fifties styling novelties. Within a few years, though, it would stage a comeback with the marque where it was born.
Quite frankly, the full-size Mercury needed a boost in the early Sixties. In a 1992 interview, Grisinger, who took over the Mercury Production Studio in 1958 and became Lincoln-Mercury Division chief stylist in 1962, explained Mercury’s identity crisis this way:
were the dark ages. Our [car and truck group vice president] in the
late Fifties was Robert McNamara, and he was a money man. When the
Edsel failed so utterly, McNamara thought that the Mercury problem of
high production cost and disappointing sales could be resolved by
maximizing interchangeability with Ford. We went to one Mercury body
off the Ford to compete from 1961 through 1964.”
After four model years with distinct bodyshells and some unique engineering, Mercurys reverted to being obvious stylistic and mechanical derivatives of concurrent Fords in 1961-62. From 155,000 full-sized Mercurys in 1960, production fell off to 107,009 for 1962.
Mercury attained a production record of 341,366 cars for the ’62 model year, but about 69 percent of them were compact Comets and midsized Meteors, smaller cars with smaller profit margins. Things had to change for the big Mercs, and they did.
Read about the 1963 Mercury Breezeway in the next section.
For more information on cars, see:
1963 Mercury Breezeway
The 1963 Mercury may have had its origins in Elwood Engel's Attaché, which was a 1961 Lincoln design proposal. When company chiefs realized how good this design was, they designated it for the '64 Ford and transferred the intended Ford design to the '63 Mercury.
A return to a concave grille and six round tail-lights (as in '61) were part of the bargain, but bodysides got flatter than they had been for the previous two years. Bright strip moldings highlighted the upper body, from the tips of the front fenders to the tiny outwardly canted tailfins. The topper -- quite literally -- was the return of the Breezeway roof for all full-sized sedans and hardtops.
The 1963 Mercury Breezeway had a
The configuration for these new Breezeways copied the 1958-60 Lincoln Continentals in that it used a reverse-slant backlight with a wide power-retracting center section. Also like the Lincolns, the base of each roof pillar was spruced up with a decorative ribbed panel terminating in a short chrome spear that trailed out onto the deck. A thick bright molding framed the rear window.
The revival of the Breezeway was a product planning scheme to further separate Mercury from Ford when they still had the same inner-body panels and chassis frames. Ford's full-sized cars continued to use a Thunderbird-like roof with wide forward-leaning sail panels.
The basic Monterey series featured two- and four-door sedans and hardtops. Dressier Monterey Custom Breezeways offered a pick of four-door sedan, two-door hardtop, or four-door hardtop. The sporty S-55 -- decked out with a bucket-seats-and-console interior -- started the year with just one Breezeway, a two-door hardtop, but added a four-door companion later in the model year.
"The window has three primary advantages, all equally valuable as far as we're concerned," Motor Trend pointed out in a test of a Monterey Custom sedan for its March 1963 issue. "There is, of course, more head room for rear seat passengers than with the window sloped in the regular manner. The window's roof overhang provides a generous sunshade for the rear seat. ... Finally, the window opens, operated by a dash control, and is very handy as a ventilation aid."
MT recommended opening one or both of the dash-controlled cowl vents and lowering the backlight only partway because, "We did find that to open the rear window all the way at highway speeds was to invite swirling, uncomfortable drafts."
Car Life was similarly impressed with the S-55 hardtop coupe it tried. "About the styling of the current Mercurys, we can only say that the 'notch-back' rear window provides the best ventilation and rearward visibility we've yet found on a '63 car," it said, but added, "It does make the rear-end appear abnormally long."
While Ford engine choices began with a six and included smaller- displacement V-8s, Mercs now came with nothing less than a 390-cid V-8. The base version of this engine with a two-barrel carburetor, exclusive to Mercury, was rated at 250 bhp; with it, Motor Trend reported a 0-60-mph time of 11.3 seconds and a quarter-mile pass in 18.5 seconds.
Standard in the S-55 (and optional in others) was a four-barrel job good for 300 bhp. Fitted with mechanical lifters, this same engine cranked out 330 horses in an available "Police Special."
Additionally, there were two 406-cid engines at 385 and 405 bhp. Then at midyear came the 427, which eventually replaced the 406. With a single four-barrel carb, the 427 made 410 bhp. The dual-quad variant raised output to 425 horsepower and blitzed the quarter mile in 15.1 seconds in Car Life's test.
Early in '63, Ford and Mercury added a second two-door hardtop to their big-car lineups, a shared "slantback" design Ford called the Sports Hardtop and Mercury dubbed the Marauder. Ford Galaxie 500 and 500/XL buyers flocked to this lower, leaner look, but patrons of the Monterey Custom and S-55 showed a slight preference for the Breezeway over the Marauder.
Total Mercury output fell by about 35,000 cars, but the full-sizers weren't to blame: Model-year assemblies rose to 121,048 units, 76 percent of them Breezeways.
Keep reading to learn about the 1964 Mercury Breezeway.
For more information on cars, see:
1964 Mercury Breezeway
The 1964 Mercury Breezeway marked the company's 25th anniversary with a reshuffled roster of full-sized cars.
A pair of nameplates last used in 1960 -- Montclair and Park Lane -- were revived, the former replacing the Monterey Custom and the latter on a new top-line series. The S-55 was dropped, but its bucket seats and floor console were continued as Park Lane options.
Tweaks to the 1964 Mercury Breezeway included pointed
front fenders, a convex grille and ovoid taillights.
The number of Breezeway models now came to eight, a decline of one. All three series listed a four-door sedan and two-door hardtop, but now the only Breezeway four-door hardtop was found in the Park Lane range. Monterey continued to host the sole Breezeway two-door sedan. Meanwhile, the Marauder count shot up to six with each series offering both a two-door model and a new four-door version.
Obvious external tweaks included pointed front fenders and a convex grille in front, plus ovoid taillights. Breezeway roof-pillar trim was slightly reshaped, too. The lineup of 390- and 427-cid V-8s was continued, though a 266-bhp 390 was added as standard for Montereys and Montclairs ordered with the optional Multi-Drive Merc-O-Matic transmission.
With the expanded line of Marauders catching the eye of an increasing number of Mercury shoppers, Breezeway orders tapered off substantially. However, considering that total big Mercury production fell to 110,342, Breezeways still accounted for a fraction more than half of all the ’64s built.
At the time, the Breezeway had some unique variants in Canada. The first was a budget series that undercut the 1963 Monterey. Known as the Mercury 400, it was available only as a two- or four-door sedan. Among its cost-cutting measures was an undivided fixed-position backlight. (Also, the retractable rear window was an option for Canadian base Montereys, a departure from their U.S. counterparts.)
The 400 and Canadian Monterey also used Ford’s 223-cid six -- it was standard in the 400, optional in the Monterey -- and 352-cube V-8.
These cars paved the way for the return of the Meteor in 1964. Starting in 1946, Lincoln-Mercury dealers in the Dominion filled out their offerings with a line of retrimmed Fords that were marketed as Meteors from 1949 to 1961.
Then, with an intermediate by the same name destined for showrooms on both sides of the border for ’62, the full-sized jobs were deemed expendable. However, when the midsize car fizzled after just two model years, Ford of Canada was quick to reapply the well-known name to big cars.
This time they featured Mercury bodies with Ford instrument panels. Base and Custom series both had two- and four-door sedans and station wagons; the Custom also listed a two-door hardtop and convertible. All sedans and the hardtop were Breezeways for which the retractable window was optional. Standard power came from the 138-bhp six, with a two-barrel 352 and the four-barrel 390 as V-8 options.
The Meteors replaced the Monterey in Canada, where the Montclair, Park Lane, and Colony Park wagon continued to fly the Mercury flag -- though the Breezeway two-door hardtop was absent from the Park Lane roster.
Learn about the 1965 Mercury Breezeway in the next section.
For more information on cars, see:
1965 Mercury Breezeway
The year 1965 meant a major change for the full-size Mercury as well as a new chapter in the Breezeway story.
The changes for the 1965 Mercury Breezeway started with a new chassis, based on a ’65 Ford perimeter frame with four-coil suspension for a quieter, more comfortable ride. On all but wagons, wheelbase increased by three inches (to 123) and overall length was up by almost as much. Inner bodies were shared with Ford, but the big Mercury looked no more like a Ford than Cleopatra looked like Mary Poppins.
The 1965 Mercury Breezeway featured
new Lincoln-inspired styling.
Grisinger and company drew up Mercs that were claimed to be “in the Lincoln Continental tradition.” Ramrod-straight front-fender edges, vertical taillights, a horizontal-bar grille with a protruding center section, and a “power bulge” hood made these cars look more Lincoln-like than any Mercury in years. Only engine choices seemed to stand pat, with the exception of limited availability of the 410-bhp “Super Marauder” 427.
Against this backdrop, the Breezeway style was restricted to four-door sedans, one for each series. The trailing edge of the C-pillars adopted a notched look down near the base, and the bright trim was reduced to a narrower band that sat a little higher up than it had before.
Perhaps predictably, total Breezeway production fell to 46,828, even though big-car output swelled to 181,699 units and overall Mercury production came to a record 346,751 in a boom year for the industry.
Pricing might have played a role, too. In the past, when a Breezeway and a Marauder of similar configuration were in the same series, both cars had the same starting price.
In ’65, the Monterey Breezeway sedan was teamed with a new conventionally styled four-door, but the Breezeway’s base price of $2,904 was $65 higher than its mate’s tab. The cheaper car outsold the costlier one, 23,363 to 19,569. The effect was repeated throughout the remainder of the Breezeway’s life.
For 1966, the Breezeway lineup was reduced to two four-door sedans, a $2,917 Monterey and a $3,389 Park Lane. Overall demand for full-sized Mercurys fell off by only about five percent, but with 22,870 built, orders for Breezeways were less than half what they’d been in 1965.
Find out about the 1966-1967 Mercury Breezeway in our next section.
For more information on cars, see:
1966-1967 Mercury Breezeway
At first glance, 1966 Mercurys appeared to be virtual twins of the '65s. A closer look revealed a new hood, fenders, grille and ornamentation. Other changes could be found in the engine bay, where the base 390 V-8 was muscled up to 265 bhp with the standard three-speed transmission and 275 bhp for use with the optional four-speed manual or automatic.
The 1967 Mercury Breezeway underwent profound changes.
The four-barrel 390 was replaced by a new 410-cid V-8. Standard on Park Lanes and optional on the others, the 330-bhp mill was exclusive to Mercury. At the top, the 427 was dropped in favor of a 428-cube V-8 that developed 345 bhp. Ford's new C6 automatic transmission was available with the 410 and 428. Standard equipment now included a raft of government-imposed safety features.
Profound change came to the 1967 Breezeways. Gone were the reverse-slant backlight and the massive roof pillars. In profile, these new Breezeways looked like most every other four-door sedan on the market with C-pillars that slanted forward from their bases. The rear glass wasn't flush with the end of the pillars, but was inset slightly, retaining a hint of the visor effect. The full window now lowered, albeit only two inches.
The new Mercurys were the latest in Detroit to imitate Pontiac's highly successful "coke bottle" school of styling with a flowing fenderline that gently rose at midbody, then tapered off toward the rear of the car. At least the Lincoln look persisted up front, where the prominent center grille with corresponding hood bulge returned after having been abandoned for '66.
Engines were basically carryovers, though the base 390 was up to 270 bhp with any transmission, and a high-compression 390 "P" with 281 bhp became a midyear option for cars with the Select-Shift automatic.
Montclair returned to the Breezeway fold for '67, but like the Monterey Breezeway, it sold alongside a fixed-backlight four-door sedan that was $63 cheaper. Park Lane four-door sedans still came only as Breezeways, but a new Brougham subseries doubled the number of Park Lane sedan offerings.
All Park Lanes now came with Merc-O-Matic automatic transmission and power front-disc brakes, but Broughams added a plusher interior and more sound insulation.
Total Mercury production bolted to nearly 355,000 for the model year -- invigorated by the new Cougar "ponycar" -- but little of that record was due to Breezeways. Only 17,549 were built.
Keep reading to learn about the 1968 Mercury Breezeway.
For more information on cars, see:
1968 Mercury Breezeway
The most notable changes to the 1968 Mercury Breezeway were in the form of added safety and emissions-control equipment. A horizontal-bar grille replaced the segmented ’67 design, and the 410-cube V-8 was axed in favor of a 315-bhp four-barrel 390 V-8. (Also, the two-barrel 390 and 428 engines both saw cuts of five bhp.)
The last cars to use the Breezeway window were the
1968 Mercury four-door sedans.
The Brougham was changed to an option package for any Park Lane hardtop or sedan. Similarly, the Breezeway was reduced to a $58.35 option that found its way onto only 5,874 Monterey and Montclair sedans, and perhaps some Park Lanes. When all-new full-sized cars appeared for 1969, Mercury shut the window on the Breezeway.
Aside from its unique styling (at least from 1963 to ’66), the Breezeway really set Mercury apart from the competition. It was a great idea in the days before air conditioning became commonplace.
However, the growing public acceptance of air conditioning and the development of improved ventilation systems dimmed the Breezeway’s luster, especially when it cost more than comparable fixed-window models. Still, the feature had its fans to the end, as Popular Mechanics showed when it published an owners’ evaluation of full-sized Mercs in its July 1968 issue.
“The slanted-in back window was wonderful for fresh air,” said a Texas rancher. “Would like the tilted-inward, full opening Breezeway I had on my ’64,” wrote an engineer from New York. But the winds of change had blown, and they weren’t going in the Breezeway’s direction.
Check out our final section for 1963-1968 Mercury Breezeway models, prices, and production.
For more information on cars, see:
1963-1968 Mercury Breezeway Models, Prices, ProductionWhen the 1963 Mercury models came out, the company portrayed its new Breezeway hardtops and sedans as a breath of fresh air, both functionally and stylistically. Take a look at the specifications for all 1963-1968 Mercury Breezeways in the section below.
The last of the reverse-slant Breezeways
were the 1966 Mercury Breezeway models.
1963 Mercury Breezeway Monterey
Total Monterey Breezeway: 28,388
1963 Mercury Breezeway Monterey Custom
|S-55 Hardtop Coupe||3,894||$3,650||3,863|
|S-55 Hardtop Sedan||3,984||$3,715||1,203|
Total 1963 Mercury Breezeway: 92,293
1964 Mercury Breezeway Monterey
Total Monterey Breezeway: 27,092
1964 Mercury Breezeway Montclair
Total Montclair Breezeway Montclair: 17,849
1964 Mercury Breezeway Park Lane
Total Park Lane Breezeway: 10,418
Total 1964 Mercury Breezeway: 55,359
1965 Mercury Breezeway Monterey
1965 Mercury Breezeway Montclair
1965 Mercury Breezeway Park Lane
Total 1965 Mercury Breezeway: 46,828
1966 Mercury Breezeway Monterey
1966 Mercury Breezeway Park Lane
Total 1966 Mercury Breezeway: 22,870
1967 Mercury Breezeway Monterey
1967 Mercury Breezeway Montclair
1967 Mercury Breezeway Park Lane
|Brougham 4-door Sedan
Total Park Lane Breezeway: 7,488
Total 1967 Mercury Breezeway: 17,549
1968 Mercury Breezeway Monterey
1968 Mercury Breezeway Montclair
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