Greg Zyla: The Mercury that surprised the automotive world
Compliments of Ford Motor Company
Cutline: Advertisement for the 1950 Mercury, as the brand sold its 1-millionth car that year. The 1949-1951 Mercurys were top sellers and surprised many in the auto business with its success.
Q: Greg, I've always been a fan of Mercury, and wish Ford would have kept the brand name in its car lineup. As a child, my mom and dad had a 1950 Mercury, which my dad later told me was the best selling Mercury to date. Through the fifties, sixties and seventies, Mercury was a winner at the dealership showroom. Do you recall the 1950 Mercury? Thanks for your columns on the cars of yesteryear. Charles Dalton, email from Illinois.
A: Charles, I sure do remember those Mercurys, as my mom and dad had one, too. It was a 1950 four-door sedan with suicide doors, and I remember we traveled to New Jersey in that car from Ranshaw, Pa. My dad was worried we wouldn't make it as the car used to overheat and he thought the radiator was leaking. We did make it to my aunt and uncle's house near New Brunswick, and dad and my uncle put a new hose on that had a pin hole in it. After that, we were fine.
And it was indeed those 1950 Mercurys that set sales records, with 334,081 vehicles sold that year and surpassing Dodge on the mid-priced sales category. (Chevy and Ford were one-two, overall, in decade sales while Mercury was seventh and Dodge eighth of the 24 car manufacturers).
However, it was actually the 1949 Mercury that got the ball rolling, as the new design Mercury increased in sales by nearly 50,000 from the old 1948 style, which sold just 154,000 units. For 1949, Mercury was all new and shared a body with Lincoln instead of Ford, as the Lincoln-Mercury tie in was officially created.Additionally, it was in 1950 that Mercury sold its one millionth car, making it a very special year for Ford workers and management.
Although all new in design, the 1949-1951 Mercurys did have an Achilles heel, relying on the proven yet dated Flathead V-8, which sized in at 255.4 inches and produced 110 horses. Mercury's first overhead valve Y-Block V-8, a 256-inch engine, appeared in the Mercury line in 1954, and not a year too soon. (The first Ford car to use the Y-block V-8 was Lincoln in 1952, with a 318-inch engine.)
Important numbers for the 1950 Mercury include a wheelbase of 118 inches, base price of $1,980 for a coupe, 3,430-pound curb weight and a two-piece front windshield. The 1951 Mercury was similar in design to the 1949-1950 models, but in 1952, a new design Mercury rejoined the Ford platform, built with similar sheet metal, the 255.4-inch Flathead V-8 and chassis components.