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Unloved Mercurys: Ten Cars that Misaligned the Brand

      Now that Ford has made official what many had been predicting (hoping for?), the discontinuation of the Mercury brand demands some reflection on what went wrong.  Ford launched Mercury in 1939 in order to bridge the gap between Ford and the Lincoln brand, which itself old Henry had purchased in 1922.  This was a logical move considering that cross town rival General Motors had five car divisions producing six brands (Cadillac offered an entry level companion make called LaSalle from 1927-1940) in addition to the GMC Truck division.
      Mercury often appeared to be little different from its Ford or Lincoln counterparts and was seldom given any truly unique product.  Consider that the brand did not get a version of the Thunderbird in the 1950s.  No, Mercury digressed from being a junior Lincoln at the beginning of the 1950s becoming barely more than a premium Ford by the end of the decade.  Ford instead chose to dump unreasonable amounts of money into two other brands in the 1950s in a futile attempt to match General Motors brand for brand.  Continental was offered as a separate make above Lincoln from 1956-58 to go head to head with Cadillac while Edsel bracketed Mercury on the cheap side with the Ranger and Pacer models and the expensive side with the Corsair and Citation.
      One upside to the deletion of the Edsel brand was that it gave the Mercury brand its first significantly unique product in its history.  It seems that Edsel was preparing a small car derived from the Ford Falcon, called the Comet.  Without its intended parent division, first model year Comets were simply a brand to themselves and became Mercurys the following year in 1961.  Aside from the 1968 Cougar and the imported Capri from Ford of Europe, Mercury would struggle from this time on until its demise to gain a truly unique product.  Things would get quite bad as the years went on.  Here are just some of the examples of the cars that failed to differentiate Mercury as an upscale brand.

1) 1975-80 Bobcat – Sure, this Pinto twin was named in order to associate the car with the Cougar, but unfortunately most people think of a vehicle that somehow managed to have an even shorter wheelbase; the skid steer tractor!


2)  1975-80 Monarch– not too bad of a car considering it was a rebadged Ford Granda, but this car’s claim to infamy is that it served the basis for the disastrous Lincoln Versailles.

3)  1979-86 Capri (the Fox bodied Mustang clone) – imagine, owning a car nearly identical to a Mustang but without the aura of the name.

4)  Cougar sedan and station wagon– Yes, in 1977 one could buy a Mercury Cougar station wagon.  Deciding this was a bad idea by 1978 the Cougar wagon disappeared. Mercury changed its mind again in 1982 and dragged the Cougar name through the dirt for a second time, lasting again just a model year. Thankfully the Thunderbird didn’t suffer the burden of offering a wagon like its Mercury clone.

5)  1978-1983 Zephyr– Yes, Mercury decided to swipe the hollowed Zephyr nameplate from Lincoln and paste it on a clone to the pedestrian Fairmont. Sadly, Ford would later choose to tarnish the name even further by deciding to place it on a thinly disguised Ford Fusion not-so-cleverly disguised as a Lincoln.


6)  1981-87 Lynx– Let’s be honest folks, GM offered the J-car based Cavalier through five brands, including Cadillac, and all were more distinguishable from each other than a Lynx was from the first American Escort.  The Lynx was such a success that its replacement was a mildly re-skinned Mazda 323 badged as the Tracer.


7)  1991-94 Capri– The third time Mercury attempted to market a car under this name, it was a FWD Australian built two seat convertible launched shortly after the MX-5. It didn’t look as good nor handle as well as the Miata and yet somehow it was based on a Mazda powertrain.


8) 1993-2002 Villager minivan– always living in the shadow of its Quest clone and in the shadow of corporate ‘star’ van rivals – Aerostar/Windstar/Freestar.  Does anyone remember the Nautica special edition?  I didn’t think so.


9) 1999-2002 Cougar– A name last used on a rear wheel drive Thunderbird clone,  the FWD coupe should have been marketed as the 3rd generation Ford Probe.

10)  2004-07 Monterey minivan– At least this vehicle was forgotten, unlike the oft-criticized Freestar from which it was rebadged.

Look for our companion piece featuring the “Best of Mercury.”

  1. June 10th, 2010 at 10:47 | #1

    Nice list. I agree that the Monterey mini-van was not only a last ditch effort, but spit in the face of the classic Montereys

  1. June 8th, 2010 at 12:17 | #1
  2. June 8th, 2010 at 21:55 | #2
  3. July 19th, 2010 at 22:39 | #3
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