Mercury Monterey

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Mercury Monterey

1950 - 1978
255 - 460 ci
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Top Speed:
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Number Built:
7,850,000 (approx)
4 star
Mercury Monterey
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4


The Monterey body was built on a longer wheelbase and had a longer body than the Ford LTD, Ford Galaxie, and Ford Custom. During its production the car served as the high-end, mid-range, and entry-level fullsize Mercury at various times throughout its run. It was the only Mercury to be in continuous production throughout the 1960s. The Monterey was discontinued after 1974.

The Monterey 72C

The Model 72C Mercury Monterey was introduced in 1950 as a high-end two-door coupe as part of the Mercury Eight series in the same vein as the Ford Crestliner, the Lincoln Lido coupe and the Lincoln Cosmopolitan Capri coupe in order to compete with the hardtop coupes General Motors had introduced the previous model year. Montereys had either a canvas covered top for US$2146 or vinyl for US$2157.

Standard features included leather faced seats, simulated leather headliner, wool carpets, chrome-plated interior garnish moldings, two-toned dashboard, special black steering wheel, fender skirts, dual outside rearview mirrors, full wheelcovers & gold winged hood ornament. For US$10 more all leather seats were an option. Two special colors were offered, Turquoise Blue with dark blue top and Cortaro Red metallic with black top. Black with yellow top was also available. But despite the good looks, few Montereys were sold.

Monterey Generation 1

Mercury got a styling and engineering redesign for 1952, most notably an 18% increase to the window area. The Monterey also became a separate series and Mercury's top model line, a convertible and four-door sedan were included in the new series lineup. The heater and vent controls were changed to levers and placed on a plane set perpendicular to the dash behind the steering wheel. A station wagon was introduced for the 1953 range, and that year a Siren Red Monterey Convertible became Ford's forty-millionth car produced. 1954 saw the introduction of the new 161 hp (120 kW) overhead valve Ford Y-block V8, as well as the bubble-top Monterey Sun Valley, which had a Plexiglas front half roof which was similar to that of the Ford Crestline Skyliner. The 1954 Montereys also received other alterations, such as new, lower taillights.

Monterey Generation 2

For 1955 the Monterey lost its status as Mercury's top model, replaced by the Montclair. The same year, it gained the 292 cu in (4.8 litre) Y-block from the Thunderbird, producing 188 hp (140 kW) with the standard transmission or 198 with the Merc-O-Matic. It used independent ball-joint front suspension. Brake size was increased. 1956 brought another new engine, the 235 hp (175 kW) 312 cu. in. That year, along with the rest of Ford, Mercury cars started to sport the Lifeguard safety equipment. The deep-dish steering wheel and safety door locks were standard.

Monterey Generation 3

The fullsize Mercury was redesigned for 1957 and grew considerably larger as well, riding on an exclusive 122 in (3,099 mm) wheelbase. A new frame design allowed a lower floor which made the car look lower and longer. The station wagons were divested from the Monterey series, with the Commuter, Voyager, and Colony Park lines. The 312 Ford Y-block gained 20 horsepower to go with the added weight, and the 290 hp (220 kW) 368 cu in (6.0 litre) Lincoln Y-block V8 became an option. 1958 brought quad headlamps, as well as an all-new engine: the 383 cu in (6.3 litre) MEL V8. With the new engine came the Multi-Drive three-speed automatic transmission.

Monterey Generation 4

With the discontinuation of the low-price Medalist after the 1956 model year and a trend towards fuel economy, the 1959 Monterey returned to the 312, with 210 hp (160 kW).

Monterey Generation 5

Mercury's full-size offerings were completely revamped for 1961. Bodies, interiors, and chassis were basically the same as the big Ford's, although trim was different to distinquish the marques. The Montclair and Park Lane were discontinued and the Meteor was added at the bottom of the range, making Monterey once again the top of Mercury's lineup. The 292 cu in (4.8 litre) Ford Y-block was standard, with 352 cu in (5.8 litre) and 390 cu in (6.4 litre) versions of the FE V8 available. The Meteor nameplate was moved to a new intermediate line for 1962, so the Monterey 6 with a 135 hp (101 kW) 223 cu in (3.7 litre) Mileage Maker straight-six was added to fill the gap, but only for this year.

The following year, 1963, brought the return of the "Breezeway" window, a powered reverse slanted rear window, first used on the Mercury Turnpike Cruiser and the 1958-60 Lincoln Continental. It also brought a 406 cu in (6.7 litre) FE engine. The six-cylinder, and 292 and 352 V8s were dropped and the 390 V8 became the standard engine with 250 horsepower and two-barrel carburetor with a 300-horsepower four-barrel version optional. At mid-year, the fastback Marauder was introduced. Mid-1963 saw the introduction of the "Marauder," basically the 1963 1/2 Ford Sports Hardtop "fastback" roofline adapted to the Mercury body. A performance "S-55" package included a big-block 300-bhp 390 V8 and a sporty interior that was similar to the Ford Galaxie 500/XL.

The Monterey became the entry-level full-size Mercury again for 1964, with the return of the Montclair and Park Lane. Grilles and taillights were restyled and toned down a bit, making this model especially attractive, a big car but not bulky-looking. The 406 was replaced by the 427 cu in (7.0 litre) version, producing 410 hp (310 kW) standard with an option for 425 hp (317 kW). The Marauder fastback hardtop continued to be offered in all three Mercury series.

Monterey Generation 6

As far as American cars go from the 1960s, the Mercury Monterey was, relatively speaking, a "cheapie" - a bottom-of-the-line 4-door hardtop without many concessions to luxury - something that Detroit cars usually offered plenty of. Kind of strange then, when you consider that at the time Mercury wanted their cars to be known as "little Lincolns". That was the overall impression which had been quite successfully instilled into the car. Yet they remained, from a technical standpoint, "big Fords," still sharing basic body and chassis design with that car.

Even so, not since the days of the bulbously nondescript Mercury's of the early 1950s has there been such visual and sensual difference between the familial kinfolk.The full-size Mercurys were redesigned for 1965 with a new torque-box frame and a more slab-sided look. But the most immediate sensation for a 1965 Mercury, unlike any that had gone before, was one of quietness. Not that any previous Mercury was a particularly noisy automobile, but journalists and reports who took their first ride in the 1965 invariably remarked about its lack of noise. It wasn't the eerie silence that deafened you with a ticking clock (which, being electric, whirred rather than ticked) but it was a vastly subdued formation of decibels that didn't quite stretch to the threshold of consciousness. In typical fashion, Mercury engineers labeled this peculiarity the "NVH factor" and they devoted a great deal of attention to achieving such a low level thereof.

The three initials stood for noise, vibration and harshness - and this term would soon enter the automotive lexicon. Such a simple principle, given the three problems were quite naturally interrelated. To isolate and identify these things, the engineers in Dearborn used one of the early computers to help with their work. The fed into the computer (we are guessing the computer was more the size of your lounge room, but less powerful than your iPhone) measurements and statistics from engineering worksheets, and the computer was able to rapidly pinpoint the probable cause for the various problems. It worked, and proved much better than the once-universal cut-and-try method.

It was the computer which revealed the need for rubber donut-stuffed driveshafts to damp out vibration frequencies. It was the computer which determined the location for the trio of body mounts on each frame siderail, spotting them at those points where vibration waves crossed and cancelled. And it was the computer which dictated not only the location of but also specifications for those rubber bushings used at mounting points for suspension components and engines. Mercury engineers seized upon the computer as a companion to slide rule and drafting board, and the results were there to feel. We are not saying Mercury pioneered the use of computer aided design - but they werevery much amoung the first.

Creating The Boulevard Ride

A more obvious method to achieve quietness was the use of sound-deadening pads and preparations throughout the car body, and this, too, the Mercury engineers pursued. The body itself was so tightly assembled that noise generation potential was reduced. At launch one Mercury company official remarked that heater and air conditioner blowers had to be moved to the engine compartment he was not stretching the truth; reduction of distracting motor noise was almost as important as cleaning out the under-dash accessory clutter.

Concomitant with the coefficient of quiet, there was a vast improvement in ride quality in the Mercury. This, of course, could be proved in a seat of the pants evaluation of passenger comfort and the Monterey chalked up many points. The all-coil spring suspension naturally could not in itself guarantee a good ride, nor can the torque-boxed perimeter frame, but they both helped. Where the previously-used Hotchkiss rear drive forced leaf springs to handle other chores, the switch to 3-link layout required that the coils did only one: Cushion and absorb the bumps in road irregularities.

A Hotchkiss suspension not only needed to cushion bumps but it also needed to locate the rear axle and absorb the brake and thrust reactions. In the 1965 Monterey it did these things well. Even better, the design had relatively high strength for its weight andcombined with low production cost. At the start of the 1960s Mercury found itself up against the Hotchkiss wall. As the ride rates of the springs were softened, and the car's weight increased, the leaf springs were less capable of adequately maintaining axle location. Harshness between spring leafs could never be reduced enough to eliminate the jolts to the frame (and its securely tied-down body). Pebble-sized bumps were transmitted, rather than absorbed. Shock absorber juggling could only disguise and help control this, but not to the standards of smoothness required.

The absence, in coil springs, of interleaf friction, and the fact that they were continually in tension, overcame this latter drawback. The trailing arms carried the springs ahead of the axle, which was located additionally by a trailing arm to a point beside the differential case and a lateral panhard rod from there to the left frame rail. It was these arms which performed the non-springing functions while the coils concerned themselves only with soaking up the bumps. The result was a high degree of smoothness in the passenger compartment, providing a boulevard ride over most road surfaces down to that of a logging trail.

Spring stiffness, measured as ride rates in lb./in. at the wheel, obviously had a definite effect on the riding qualities. Interestingly, Mercury engineers specified somewhat higher than usual rates. But motoring journalists of the time failed to detect any unpleasantness which would have caused second thoughts among the masses who concerned themselves about such things. Even with the heavy-duty springs and shocks, the Park Lane would glide effortlessly over any road surface that hadn't been reduced to ragged chunks. The roughest surfaces, naturally, created jolts which reached the passengers as petty annoyances, but even Herculean working of the wheels couldn't cause the commotion of years gone by.

Flexible Perimeter Frame

The flexible perimeter frame with its torque boxes played a role here. When road irregularities were of rather large magnitude, the twistability of the frame was additional cushioning. Indeed, even on mild undulations it was possible to detect - with concentrated effort - frame workings as they sought to absorb twist before the "shock waves" reached the passengers' isolation booth. A more important consideration was the handling qualities with which the suspension geometry blessed the Monterey. All-around handling (cornering and roadability) was on a high level. The Mercury acquitted itself well as the demands of the road toughened. It exhibited the expected understeering traits, but within normal limits. In the wet, there was comforting reassurance upon finding that the relatively light rear end was completely manageable, that it resisted the great temptation to lose traction and skid outward on turns.

It would do this, of course, when a great slug of power was applied. On dry pavement, however, the rear stayed in line and rear axle hop was drastically curtailed. Body lean, which might be emphasized by the broad flat bonnet, was not out of line at all, though the extra resistance with heavy-duty springs reduced this aspect. Station wagons, it might be noted, carried a larger 0.81-in. anti-roll bar in front. An enthusiastic driver may have wanted to substitute this to further eliminate leaning tendencies. Nevertheless, handling maneuvers were reported to have been well controlled and a one-word summary of the Monterey's traits would be "precise."

The redesigned power steering made its contribution in this area. It was light enough at speed to be pleasant, while still retaining some road feel; in town, its quickness was sufficient to avoid a lot of wheel winding to round corners. There were, however, two not so desirable traits: The turning circle was about 4 ft. greater than average (American) street width and at very slow speed it was possible to run out of powered assist before a sharp turn was completed.

The Monterey was equipped with an integral unit, unlike the more expensive Saginaw unit fitted to the Park Lane. Drivers were hard put, nonetheless, to detect significant difference between the two. A thicker rim on the deluxe steering wheel of the Park Lane and the wheel's adjustability for the best angle were of more merit than any distinction between steering gearboxes. The Monterey featured a "wraparound reservoir" power steering pump, which was notably quieter in operation than Mercury's previous pumps. It delivered 200 psi hydraulic pressure to the gearbox, an increase that was welcome in such a nose-heavy car. It might be noted that road feel in the integral power steering system was transmitted by a torsion bar in the stub shaft to the steering column. Hydraulic fluid completely immersed the gear assembly, providing cushioning against road shock and, via rotary valving, went to work only when turning effort was applied. Overall steering ratio was reduced from 23:1, as were the number of turns required to move the wheels lock-to-lock.

There was one rather dismaying aspect to the Mercury. Brake effectiveness was reduced in comparison to previous models, rather than improved. And, unhappily, the Lincoln Continental's front wheel disc brakes, which would have been a much better option, could not be used because of the Mercury's differing spindles. Engineers obviously eyed the reduction in overall weight and compensated by paring off some of the brake area. Reducing the width of the rear shoes 0.25 in. each drops total swept area from the previous cars 346.5 to 330 sq. in. The curb weight saving hardly justified this; the 1964 model's maximum deceleration rate of 25 ft./sec./sec. dwindled to an average of 18 ft./sec./ sec. and, while there was not quite the tendency towards fade and/or rear wheel grabbing, the 3-in. wide rear shoes and drums from the station wagon (364 sq. in. swept area) would have been tantalizing.

The lower profile 8.15-15 tyres, which planted a larger tread patch on the pavement, also made a slight contribution to the handling qualities, permitted the switch to larger 15-in. wheels for better air circulation (and cooling) around brake drums, and provided more cushioning which aided in the ride improvement. In its underpinnings, however, Mercury made available precisely engineered towing options. Eight-ply rated tires were a US$63 option, and heavy-duty wheels with 6-in. rims (US$37.60 each) were available. So too were "fade resistant" brake lining (US$9.30 extra). The heavy-duty springs and shock absorbers were listed at US$14.60. And three alternate rear axle ratios - 3:25, 3:89 and 4.11:1 - were listed on the specification charts. Although these were, apparently, not offered in a "package" as such, they were available on special order in any combination, and with anti-spin differentials, too.

Styling, as much as anything else, was responsible for the larger-than-life impression which you got from the Monterey. The 1965 model was in fact smaller than the 1964 in box volume (the amount of air space it occupied), but this was primarily because of reduced height. In terms of passenger volume, however, it showed some significant increases. Its expanded stance (3 in. longer wheel-base, up to 2 in. wider treads) was effectively translated into usable interior room. A bit of weight was saved, however, in developing the new body. This reduction, up to 300 lb. in some models, was achieved primarily in the rear half of the car. It resulted, unhappily, in the greater lop-sidedness of front/rear distribution than the 54/46% recorded with the 1964 notchback sedan. The latter had an air-conditioner, but it also had the nominally heavier electric rear window assembly. Still, the weight distribution had little adverse effect on the 1965's handling.

On The Inside

The Monterey featured a built-in air exhaust vent under the rear package shelf. With a vacuum-operated flap controlled by a button on the instrument panel, this outlet removed stale air from inside the car out through the rear deck. It was a worthy companion to the exclusive "notch-back" sedan, which, with its retracting rear window accomplished much the same thing. By opening the saddle-mounted cowl vents complete ventilation without draft or wind roar was accomplished though all side windows remain closed. While the 2-door Park Lane hardtop did not share the rear ventilation feature, it was one of the significant trends in automobiles from the 1960s.

There was a spookiness about the Monterey as it silently locked its rear doors when pulling away from the curb. An unusual automatic door lock was responsible for this, utilizing a vacuum cylinder to pull down the door lock plungers when car speed reached 8 mph. A speed-sensitive vacuum valve was mounted on the transmission, in series with the speedo cable. This opened when the car was accelerating past 8 mph, closed when decelerating below it. The vacuum "pull" on the lock stopped anyone - most definitely children - from unlocking the door when the car was in motion. At rest, the lock plungers had to be manually pulled up to unlock the door, a slightly bothersome price to pay (plus the $26 option cost), but one which overall safety made worthwhile. Another (US$37) option on the 2-door were vacuum door locks, controlled by an instrument panel toggle switch.

The variable interval windshield wipers, a US$10 option on the Monterey (but standard on the upper two series), were a sensible option to pay for - an electro-pneumatic governor was coupled to the wiper system to vary the interval between wiper swipes - from constant down to 5 cycles per minute. A concentric knob on the wiper control adjusted the interval, and the control itself, turned counterclockwise, set the dwell control into action. (Clockwise operates the wipers normally and pulling out on the knob squirted the washers.) Though cycling only intermittently, the wipers automatically switched to full speed when the throttle was opened and the dwell control was bypassed - as in accelerating past a car throwing back road spray. The device, developed by Trico, was at the time a Mercury exclusive - although we believe the Trico system found its way onto other American cars. Wiper blades were 1 inch longer and swept 12% more windshield area.

The power antenna was raised electrically by pulling out on the volume control knob of the radio, lowered by pushing it in. While not an exclusive Mercury touch, it did help set the car apart from its competitors. It was the little touches like this that made the Mercury hard to criticise. One reputable motoring journal from the time did recommend to buyers that they should invest US$3.30 in the special order "flat finish" for the instrument panel. In stock form, it was a bright, finely ribbed panel which, while one of the least gaudy and most refined Mercury had ever produced, tended to be more distracting than necessary. The use of a plastic simulating "engine-turned" aluminum for paneling the side doors in the Park Lane was not to everybody's taste. Upholstering was mostly vinyl in both cars, but the Park Lane could be ordered with leather trim.

By moving everything except heater / air conditioner outlets into the engine compartment in the new body, Mercury was able to create the impression of additional passenger room. The dashboard was moved 5 in. farther away from the front seat passenger, reinforcing that illusion. Although overall height is less than the 1964, head room did not suffer with the floor lowered (thanks to the wide perimeter frame rails). Limousine-like stretchout room was available in the rear seat and the boot was in keeping with the standards of the day, that is, cavernous. Moving the fuel tank forward over the rear axle (filling at the left side) provided for the latter feature.

The Mercury was, in short, a full-fledged medium price and size automobile. Changes in the 1965 model were vast and its character had been tailored to the market at which it was aimed. Most surprising was the restraint which was evident in the car's finish. With exceptional riding qualities, adequate performance, a high order of roadability, and greater quietness in decibels as well as design, it stood as an excellent example of engineering for a discriminating market's demands. Initial reaction among the buyers testified to this, as sales were up 26%. The Mercury-exclusive 410 cu in (6.7 litre) and the 428 cu in (7.0 litre) FE engines were added for 1966. 1967 brought a refresh, and the vertical Breezeway roofline disappeared although they could still be had with a drop-down rear window. The 410 was dropped for 1968.

Monterey Generation 7

For 1969 the Monterey's wheelbase grew to 124 inches (315 cm) inches with the exception of the station wagon which was on the 122 inches (309.9 cm) Ford wheelbase - it was essentially a Ford wagon with a Mercury front clip and trimwork. The redesigned Mercurys were intended to emulate the Lincoln Continental. Minor changes differentiated the 1970 models, but a restyle for 1971 resulted in rounded and more flowing bodywork, beaked grilles, flipper exterior doorhandles, frameless windows on all sedans, wider c-pillars and fender skirts on all but the base Monterey and wagons. The convertible bodystyle for both the Monterey and the Marquis was eliminated and replaced by the new, costly and very rare optional power moonroof which was first made available on a Mercury with the 1968 Cougar.

The 351 Windsor and 400 cu in (6.6 litre) Cleveland V8s were added for 1971, the final year for the 390. The 429 V8, which was standard on the Marquis beginning in 1969, was available as an extra cost option on all Monterey models each year including a two-barrel 320-horsepower version and a four-barrel 360-horsepower option from 1969 to 1971. 1972 brought minor changes to Monterey and Marquis, such as eggcrate grilles and a front seatbelt warning buzzer. Also, SelectShift Cruise-O-Matic transmission, power steering and power front disc brakes became standard equipment on all Monterey models for 1972.

Both of those 429s were replaced by single 209 net horsepower 429 four-barrel for 1972, which was designed to run on regular, low lead or unleaded gasoline as was the case with all Ford Motor Company engines starting with the 1972 model year. The 1973 redesign brought boxier styling and the federally mandated 5 mph bumpers. The Monterey and Monterey Custom were discontinued in 1975, as the Grand Marquis had been introduced as the new top-line Mercury, shifting the lesser Marquis models down to take the Monterey's place. Engine offerings for 1973-1974 included the 351 Windsor two-barrel standard on base Montereys and the 400 Cleveland two-barrel standard on Monterey Custom and optional on base models. The 429 V8 was discontinued after 1973 and Lincoln's 460 V8 became the top option on all models for 1974.

Approximately 7,850,000 full-size Fords and Mercurys were sold over 1969-1978. This made it the second best selling Ford automobile platform after the Ford Model T.

1952 Mercury Monterey
1958 Mercury Monterey
1959 Mercury Monterey
1962 Mercury Monterey
1965 Mercury Monterey
1965 Mercury Monterey
1965 Mercury Monterey
1972 Mercury Monterey

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