Monthly Archives: June 2010

Another one bites the dust

And what a sad fact it is, that this time the hour has struck for Mercury.

Last week -as a matter of fact in a traffic jam- I had only just noted down a simple outline for my take, in this blog, on that sad fact, when I got home to find my bi-weekly car mag in the post. The editor's note was totally dedicated to the superfluity of the Mercury brand – and to rubbing in that it would not be missed by the car loving community at all. 

I was definitely too late with my scoop. 

But, what made it worse, his negative comments had hit a raw nerve.

Because, way before I had found out about those other -now also extinct- Pontiacs Firebird and Plymouths Barracuda, my one and only benchmark of the American Musclecar had been my King Size Matchbox Mercury Cougar 'Dina Mite' dragster – which Santa had thrown down our chimney as Drag-Pack gift set. 

The fact that the Cougar was later skillfully re-painted black by myself, and donned a highly experimental Humbrol flame job, went to testify that the original, rather feminine purple metalflake paint job was -also to my liking- not suitable for this ultimate badass Yank. It was just too Batman for that (the Bob Kane one with the square chin, not the tights-wearing skinny Adam West version)!

As I started drawing cars in my high school note books, that impressive grille came back more than once in my 'Daytona' fantasy brand model line-up. It was just sooo cool – and mean. For another contemporary parallel: if Darth Vader were a car, he'd also be a Mercury Cougar!

Mercury cougar d till d

When, in those days, my dad's ten-year-old 1970 Ford Capri was finally to be replaced -being half consumed by rust- I played all the tricks in the book to convince him towards buying its logical successor: a Mercury Capri ! This car somehow looked more interesting than the feminine (non-) Mustang it was supposed to offset. Especially in black.

He got a golden Taunus, with a brown vinyl roof, instead. 'Nuff said.

Then, in my late teens and early twenties, getting more into hot rods and street machines  (it took me half a year of persistent writing 'par avion' to Petersen Publishing in California to organise a subscription to Hot Rod magazine), it soon became clear that there was no kooler platform for a lead sled than a 1950 Mercury. Simply shaving and frenching, chopping, lowering and louvering these cars (maybe adding some Lakes pipes in the process) automatically produced the most breathtaking fat 'sleds on the planet. Proof of this may still be produced in the form of my pristine copy of the 1983 Hot Rod Magazine 'Custom Cars' special edition – in the 'giant custom Merc section'. (No, that's not Mercedes.)

Mercury lead sled

But, admittedly, after this my Mercury fad kind of faded over time. 

In retrospect, those lead sleds still look totally awesome, but the Capri has definitely become a bit of an odd relic that people -rightfully- have long forgotten. 

And the Cougar?

In hindsight, it of course never really came close in iconic style to the '68 'Stang, '69 Camaro, '70 Firebird, '70 Challenger or '71 Barracuda. In fact, it only took Ford a couple of years (three, to be exact) to turn it from a menacing Mustang derivative into a sloppy and overweight gas guzzler. Also, they failed to make that breathtaking fastback version.

Yet… the early ones remain truly cool.

It was not until 1996, when the Black Cougar, that epitome of evil, was finally re-introduced to the bigger public by Roberto Rodriguez, giving it instant fame with a starring role as the ultimate bad guys' wheels in 'From dusk till dawn'.

Justice after all…!

- G.