We’ve discussed before how choosing the name Mercury for its middle class brand might have been FordMoCo’s biggest mistake. Selecting the celestial body known to astrologically put the most mix-ups in our lives was just right for conjuring up a make full of surprises and shadows.
This Mercury Retrograde we once again trace back to the heady times of 1959, from the alternate perspective of a top of the line Park Lane, all dressed in Black. Different in mission and purpose than the bare bones Monterey, we’ll see how it was supposed to be a giant killer and a bridge to bigger things, but had to retrace its steps under the age of McNamara.
Underneath the styling updates, the Park Lane, like all 1959 Mercury models, represented an evolution of the all-new 1957 models, yet one a return of Mercury being in sole possession of the this chassis.
The previous season’s senior Edsels shared chassis bits and rooflines with Mercury. There had been plans to continue the larger Edsel for 1959, but the dismal sales of both the Senior Edsels and Mercury, the more established brand, along with price confusion that had Citations equally or more expensive, model per model as Park Lanes and Turnpike Cruisers saw the E-Car models ending up on the chopping block.
This gave room for Mercury an attempt to fight Buick, Oldsmobile, Chrysler and DeSoto while Edsel attempted in vain to woo potential Pontiac and Dodge buyers into the finer for $50 more than a Chevy leagues of the marketplace.
Mercury did have the benefit of once again being a relatively unique product during a year which all GM standard cars shared a basic body shell, and only minor differences separated DeSoto from Chrysler. From the unique perch, the luxury Mercury added a bulkier, yet more harmonious suit, the largest wrap around windshield in the industry and a new wrap around rear window to match. Underneath updates to the frame improved rigidity and allowed for even more expansive interior room, as did the multi-tiered, yet more compact instrument panel.
The wheelbase now spanned a Electra 225/Ninety Eight competitive 128 inches, altho the Park Lane managed to eek in more minor overall length just under 223 inches long.
Pulling the works along was the MEL series 430 V8 that served to propel the Titanic Uni-Body Lincolns while serving as a premium option in the Thunderbird as well. With 345 horsepower on tap for 1959 it was known for low stress low end Torque. The big block moved these “Big M” Super Mercury models with ease on par with all competition, if a bit asthmatic in all out top end performance. The price paid was prodigious fuel consumption that rarely averaged in the double digits.
In a lot of ways, the Park Lane was fully competitive. In a lot of ways it was exactly the type of car American Buyers were turning way from in droves during the recession addled year of 1959. Without the snob appeal that contemporary Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Chryslers, the Park Lanes languished on showroom floors. This black beauty is just one of over 7,200 Cruiser Hardtop Sedans that came out of factories during 1959.
That relative rarity makes them a beautiful bargain nearly 60 years later compared to the premiums their rivals command. All the while they might perhaps be a better social commentary about the trials and errors, and the innate joys that late 50’s land yachts had to offer buyers.