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How Mercury Cars Work

1955, 1956, 1957 Mercury Cars

Phaeton versions were available for the 1956 Mercury Monterey and Montclair. See more pictures of Mercury cars.

Topping the '55 Mercury fleet was the new Montclair line: four-door sedan, hardtop, convertible, and Sun Valley. All wore a slim contrast-color panel outlined in bright metal beneath the side windows.

A step below were the Monterey sedan, hardtop, and wagon, followed by the Custom series with the same body styles plus a two-door sedan. Common to all were Mercury's first wrapped windshield, an evolutionary form of the '54 grille, hooded headlamps, and eye-catching surface ornamentation.


A Y-block V-8 swelled to 292 cid was offered in two forms: 188 bhp for Custom and Monterey and 198 bhp for Montclair. The higher output version was also available as an option for lesser models with the optional Merc-O-Matic.

Four-door Phaeton hardtops arrived for 1956's "Big M" line, which represented an ambitious expansion into somewhat uncharted territory. To stay competitive in the face of rising prices, Mercury fielded a cut-rate group of Medalist two- and four-door hardtops and sedans at the bottom end of the medium­-price ladder.

But inflation made these "low-price" Mercs more expensive than 1955 Customs ($2250-$2460) -- and not that much cheaper than the better-trimmed '56 Customs ($2350-$2800). Dealers pushed hard with two-door sedans, but Medalist sales came to only 45,812 in all. Custom, Monterey, and Montclair all beat the price-leader by more than 2-to-1. With that, Medalist was duly dropped, only to resurface for '58, when it interfered in a price bracket that should have been reserved exclusively for the new Edsel.

Mercury's '56 styling was a good update of its '55 look. All models save Medalists wore jazzy Z-shaped side moldings that delineated the contrast color area with optional two-toning (the area below was generally matched to the roof).

Monterey and Montclair added Phaeton hardtop sedans at mid-season, replacements for their low-roof pillared Sport Sedans held over from mid-1955. Mercury also offered a second convertible for the first time, a Custom. The Y-block was enlarged again, this time to 312 cid, good for 210 bhp that could be tuned to 235; the latter was standard for Monterey and Montclair.

Though 1956 was a "breather" for the industry as a whole, Mercury was an exception with some 328,000 sales, slightly off its '55 pace. An encouraging sign was the premium Montclair, which proved almost as popular as it had in frantic '55. The midline Monterey was still the big breadwinner, though. The '57s were all-new, trumpeted as "a dramatic expression of dream car design." They were previewed in 1956 by the XM-Turnpike Cruiser show car, which also had direct showroom counterparts in new top-line Turnpike Cruiser two- and four-door hardtops.

The Turnpike Cruiser had glitz and gimmicks galore: "skylight dual curve windshield," drop-down reverse-slant rear window, and dual air intakes over the A-posts housing little horizontal antennae. If that wasn't enough, there was optional "Seat-O-Matic," which automatically powered the front seat to one of 49 possible positions at the twist of two dials.

Mercury also joined Chrysler in offering pushbutton automatic transmission controls, another "space-age" Cruiser standard. Arriving late in the season was a Convertible Cruiser, honoring Mercury's selection as the 1957 Indy 500 pace car, and supplied with replica regalia decals. Yet for all their gadgets -- and likely because of them -- the Cruisers failed miserably. They were not just expensive -- $3760-$3850 for the hardtops, $4100 for the ragtop -- they were too far out, even for the dawning space age.

Significantly, the '57s had their own bodyshells on a new 122-inch-wheelbase chassis -- the first time Mercurys were neither "senior Fords" nor "junior Lincolns." Like that year's all-new Ford, this was done partly to prepare for the '58 Edsel line that borrowed some from both makes.

Monterey and Montclair were bereft of station wagons, which were split off as a separate series with six models. Offered, from the top, were a woody-look Colony Park, a four-door nine-seater; metal-sided two- and four-door Voyagers; and three Commuters with the various seat and door combinations. All had pillarless-hardtop rooflines, the new rage in Big Three wagons.

Styling matched the "Big M's" more-expansive '57 dimensions, looking square, heavy, and contrived. Up front, a massive dual-oblong bumper nestled beneath a slim concave grille of vertical bars. Headlights were quads where legal, regular duals otherwise. Long scallops, typically contrast-colored, carried the beltline from midbody through the upper rear fenders to huge pie-slice taillamps.

Weight was up, but so was horse­power. A 255-bhp 312 was newly standard except on Cruisers, which carried a 290-bhp, 368-cid Lincoln V-8 that was optional elsewhere.

The 1957 Mercurys did fairly well, but less so than the '56s. Volume dropped to about 286,000 and the make's production rank fell from seventh to eighth -- not encouraging for an all-new design in a fairly strong sales year.

For more information on Mercury models, see:

  • Mercury New Car Reviews and Prices
  • Mercury Used Car Reviews and Prices