Instead of targeting a single product within Mercury, this dedication is broadly focused on the Mercury fleet which propelled them within some glorious days.
As World War Two ended, and a hungry consumer product were awaiting an automobile viewed as fashionable to their newfound optimism and outlook. Ford Motor Company’s design direction during the post-war era saw was a leader in the formulation to a new American style of motoring. Fully integrated fenders with the body, lack of running boards and lower appearance were aspects Ford chose to pursue in 1949 combining them into a sleek but affordable vehicle. By styling defined as the “inverted bathtub” Coinciding with the release of the new Ford, Mercury achieved its higher class initiative by overshadowing the principal brand.
Called the Mercury Eight, the model years between 1949 to 1951 Up until the late 1950s, a vehicle brand was widely defined by a single car representing their entire portfolio. A wide option list would allow the consumer to adapt the vehicle from a bare bones bargain car to a premium-trimmed edition. In the 1949 introduction, the Mercury started for under $2,000 with a top-priced example costing just above $2,700. Available in four body types including a Sport Sedan, coupe, convertible and two-door wagon, the 1949 Mercury immediately became a sales success selling over 301,000 units.
Unlike Ford badged counterpart, the Mercury brand car was standard with a Flathead V-8 engine. Producing a now mediocre 110 horsepower, the aging V-8 design was still the top powerplant in the Ford arsenal. Through the three-year span, minor adjustments were made to equipment of this Mercury. More chrome was added to the exterior in 1950 while a Merc-O-Matic three-speed automatic transmission became optional equipment in 1951. Naturally, the Mercury car of 1949 would be assumed as the better cruising companion.
The Flathead V-8 immediately became the basis for aftermarket performance enhancement largely creating the automotive accessories industry. With around 900,000 Mercurys built in three years having endured little more danger than the occasional drive by a nervous teenage driver, there was more than enough eight-cylinder Mercury ready to be rodded as a younger, performance-crazed 1950s generation.
The Mercury became a cultural icon for early street rodding and automotive modifications thanks to its appearance in the James Dean classic picture ‘Rebel Without a Cause’. Released in 1955, the movie a 1949 Mercury Coupe presence served as a how-to reference for fashioning customized vehicles in the decades succeeding the film. Making a much smaller cultural impact in 1986, a Mercury also appeared in the Sylvester Stallone movie Cobra where a hot rod version of the vehicle served as the scruffy police officer’s mode of transportation. However, an interesting factoid from ‘Cobra’ is the movie’s star Stallone was the actual owner of the 1950 Mercury.
As the James Dean movie brought light to the up-and-coming sensation of customizing Mercurys, two soon to be prominent hot rod artists would use the 1949 Mercury as a testbed to what would be a fantastic car career. A young car customizer named George Barris and older brother Sam chopped the roof of a Mercury Club Coupe to create the Hirobata Merc. Of course, George Barris went on to design and create several Hollywood movie and television cars including the ‘Black Beauty’ for the Green Hornet tv series and 1960s Batmobile. Ironically, a 1949 Mercury served as a Batmobile in a brief 15-part Batman serial released by Columbia Pictures.
In 1949 and 1951, Mercury was the 6th highest selling brand in the United States . While the Mercury division did experience more robust production years since, the three years of the new post-war era vehicle captured an identity which had allowed the brand to outwit Edsel and Continental.
Information Source: Ford Motor Company, Barris Kustom Industries
Photo source: Ford Motor Company