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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Mercury created memorable rides

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Mercury created memorable rides

Bobcat, Cougar and Grand Marquis will drive into line's history book

The Sign of the Cat has ended.

The Bobcat, the Cougar and even the Grand Marquis will join the nameplate boneyard of automotive brands that outlasted their worth. Ford Motor Co. officials announced Wednesday they will discontinue the Mercury brand by the end of this year.

Mercury, the brain child of Edsel Ford -- the namesake of another defunct Ford brand -- was created to bridge the gap between Ford and Lincoln.

Its cars were rarely originals, built off of Ford chassis with slightly different sheet metal, but many were memorable -- some not for the right reason.

But what a ride Mercury provided.

From the 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser, complete with an average speed computer and automatic seat adjuster known as the Seat-o-matic, to the big floating 1983 Grand Marquis, Mercury has managed its best to make Fords look fancy.

But that didn't always work.

Remember the Bobcat? Built off the Ford Pinto platform, it may have been Mercury at its worst.

There were certainly other contenders for that title. How about the Lynx or the LN7? Even Farrah Fawcett couldn't help those cars.

But there were great Mercurys, too.

Perhaps its best vehicles came in the 1960s, when Cougars, Comets and Marauders rumbled down the road with engines as big as houses under their long hoods. Its biggest volume year came in the next decade -- 1978, when Mercury sold 580,000 vehicles, according to Ward's Automotive.

Mercury was the brand for people who wanted to travel in comfort and style. It required people to prepare to "move into a Mercury" as one of its ad campaigns declared.

It was also a family-friendly brand offering a plethora of station wagons over the years -- the Colony Park, the Commuter and the Country Cruiser all had their day in the sun.

And if you wanted to see the sun while driving, there was the 1954 Mercury Sun Valley. It had a plastic roof that let the sun shine through.

Then there was the Grand Marquis, which arrived in 1983 and is still sold today. Its soft lumbering ride defined the way Americans once rolled along the highways.

Most sedans nowadays don't seat six -- the Grand Marquis still does.

But no car better represents Mercury than the Cougar. It arrived as a powerful cat as a 1967 model -- the same year as the first Chevrolet Camaro. Its big V-8s came with names of cities like Windsor or Cleveland and people still debate which is better. (My vote: the 351 Cleveland.)

Then the Cougar began to evolve along with the brand. It lost its Mustang mojo as well as that pony car's underpinning, adopting the Ford Torino chassis. Through the '70s it would grow even bigger.

And while many cars suffered nearly irreparable damage during the '80s, the Cougar stood out as modern and fun. The XR-7 offered a turbo and a five-speed manual transmission. It also had that distinctive C-pillar that almost looked like a triangle eating up the second row window.

But like all of the Mercury vehicles, it would eventually be replaced.

Now, that's about to happen to the brand. We all understand the math and the reasoning; its time has come and gone.

Thanks for the ride.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100603/OPINION03/6030389/1148/auto01/Mercury-created-memorable-rides#ixzz0pnODr0HF

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