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Mercury, true to the body in the sky it is named for, never got too far away from the orbit of the (Ford) sun. Sometimes it danced towards being Junior Lincolns, but a majority of the time they spent their existence being nothing but fancy Fords. The one glaring moment counter to that would be the 1957-60 models that did share their body structure with senior Edsels for one year.

Appropriate as we go into Mercury Retrograde, we find one of the finest examples of Mercury appearing barely disguised in its role of “Fancy Ford.” With a smattering of mascara and a burst of blush, make-up was applied to the basic senior Ford body in an attempt to make something special for suburban buyers. Whether that was convincing or not could be summed up by how popular Mercury was compared to its contemporaries.

11215936_10152793298887201_1275367275_nMercury Full sized model sales were definitely retrograde compared to medium price market contemporaries. At this point, former loser Pontiac had knocked value queens Rambler and Plymouth down a few pegs, and Oldsmobile was handling business quite well. Buick was dragging itself back from the brink with newly conservative shapes as well. Even Dodge, in the perils of a downsize debacle, managed to offer two different full sized lines in 1962.

The main problem was, feature-wise, in 1962, the Big M didn’t offer buyers much more over the Ford Galaxie. A bit of length here, a bit more chrome there, but not even the standard V8 (nevermind a larger displacement one) to set them apart like in the past. Sure the interiors were slightly more plush and better finished, but the shift linkage was still exposed on the top of the column like Fords.

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Little details towards making the Mercury more unique may have lead to integrating the polarities instead of playing into the Castor and Pollux myth around Mercurial tendencies that the Mercury brand displayed through the early 1960s.

Perhaps in the long run the lack of investment was smart, as we’re only left with Buick, Dodge and Chrysler out of all the traditional medium priced brands. Dodge and Chrysler are pushing their images more to the Ford/Lincoln extremes than they represented in the 1960s.

It does reflect a disappearing class of citizen that once cared for this particular market segment of car in the first place. Perhaps a canary in the coal mine, Mercury communicated quite accurately the decline of solid citizen middle class virtues.

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