My Classic Car: Ray’s 1964 Mercury Meteor

Meteors were Mercurys assembled in Canada | Ray Tuck photos
Meteors were Mercurys assembled in Canada | Ray Tuck photos

I was lucky to get this true family car from a family friend. He bought the car because it was made in Canada, just as he was born there. It needed some work but he put the time and effort into this beauty. Continue reading

My Classic Car: Roger’s 1974 Mercury Cougar XR7

'Goldie' just needed some tender-loving care | Roger McKee photos
‘Goldie’ just needed some tender-loving care | Roger McKee photos

I was looking for some kind of pickup truck, but in a car lot in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, there was this Big Cat! All that was the matter was rusty wire hubcaps and its brown color. Not my favorite but it turns out the paint was original.

I was greeted by the lot’s salesman and he told me about the car. Turns out this car sat in a garage in Pittsburgh under a car cover since 1976. It ran but not perfectly. It had dry-rotted HR814 tires, but also all the documentation and factory undercoating.

Goldie was attractive and had only 24,500 miles on it. So I fell in love.

Come to find out, the car had a smogger 351 2v Cleveland with a C6, black bucket seats and floor shifter. All original everything, and was perfect inside, outside and underneath.

It just needed a little TLC from sitting.

And to think he was shopping for a pickup truck!
And to think he was shopping for a pickup truck!

Well, I love Goldie Hawn and had a license plate made with a big Cougar flying thru the mountains and here we are. Course, I would love to take her for a cruise and who knows maybe some day. Don’t think her hubby Kurt would mind.

All and all, she is a dream car, right down to the rim-blow horn and Alpine CD player I stuffed in the glove box. So now I can have a portable concert where ever we end up. Life is good.

— Roger McKee, Baden PA

My Classic Car: Duke’s 1954 Mercury Monterey

Duke"s 1954 Mercury may have been someone else's honeymoon machine | Duke Millington photos
Duke”s 1954 Mercury may have been someone else’s honeymoon machine | Duke Millington photos

‘Back to the ’50s” in Minnesota is one of the largest classic car and rod shows in the nation, with nearly 12,000 vehicles on display. Two years ago, I brought my original 72,000-mile 1954 Mercury Monterey down for the three-day event. Like most car hobbyists, I had put countless hours in bringing the car to look as new as the day it came off the factory line.

The vehicle drew nice crowds and many comments, as there are not many stock, pristine ’54 Mercs around.

On the second day, I watched as a young lady escorted an elderly gentleman, holding him steady by the arm as he moved around the vehicles. As they approached my area, I could see him shaking his head as in disbelief.

Her father sat in the car for a long time
Her father sat in the car for a long time

He asked if the Mercury was my car and I said, “Yes,” providing him and his daughter with a little background on its history. He then proceeded to give me his story, stating that he came down to “Back to the ’50s” specifically looking for his first new car, a ’54 Mercury, and had been walking for over two hours before finding mine.

Interestingly, not only was my ’54 Mercury a tw- door coupe like the one he owned, but it had the same options and colors inside and out.

However, what came next watered my eyes: His search at that show was done with a special purpose in mind, for it was the vehicle he and his new bride had taken on their honeymoon 58 years ago. She had just passed away two weeks before, and he wanted to find the car that they had started out their life together so many decades ago.

He sat in the car for the longest time, going over every feature on that beautiful dashboard, while his daughter took photos. When they left, the countless hours spent over the past year working on the car, became incredibly worthwhile and meaningful to me because of the joy and wonderful memories it brought to another individual.

— Duke Millington, Lindstrom MN

Multiple Choice: 1957 Buick or 1957 Mercury?

Once again, you’re at an auction (in this case, it’s a Silver Auction) and you can afford to bring home only one of these classics. Your choice involves 1957 models from two of Detroit’s upscale brands — a two-tone green Buick Century and a red-and-white Mercury Turnpike Cruiser. Which one do you want, and why?

Vehicle Profile: 1967-1970 Mercury Cougar


In 1967, Mercury officially entered the Pony Car arena with the introduction of their Cougar models. The Mercury Cougar was designed to be a sport/luxury vehicle intended for the pony car market. It was also designed to compete with its counterparts not only in the USA but also in Europe.

The Mercury Cougar immediately gained acceptance and was even extremely successful in the racing circuits of the day with involvement of greats like Dan Gurney, Bud Moore (NASCAR), Parnelli Jones, Ed Leslie and former Carroll Shelby employees Nels Miller, Mark Waco and Bernie Kretzschmars. They worked together on a Cougar race team for famed Indy car owner Bob Estes, racking up a record six wins in ten races for 1967.

The Mercury Cougar was designed as a slightly larger-sized vehicle (after extensive study results were compiled by means of corporate and public surveys). It was more luxurious in options and offerings than the Ford Mustang, on which it was based. Mercury designers worked to combine all the best qualities of the Ford Thunderbird and Mustang models.

The target market for the Mercury Cougar was a younger, upscale, well-educated, more discerning, married with family buyer. It was ultimately geared toward the male ego. The 111-inch wheelbase was 3 inches longer than that of the Mustang and overall length was 6.7 inches longer as well. The Cougar also weighed approximately 200 pounds more than the average Mustang but possessed a softer more comfortable ride in stock form. The Cougar still had the characteristic short rear deck area and long hood area in keeping with the Pony Car styling cues.

All early Cougars were of the two-door (notchback-style) coupe design and a convertible was added in 1969 and continued for 1970 (culminating the end of the first generation of the Pony Car year models). The Mercury Cougar would only be available with a V8 powertrain (of several various displacements from 289-cid to 428-cid over the 1967 to 1970 year models) and coupled to a 3-speed or 4-speed manual transmission or 3-speed automatic transmission.

1967 and 1968 were virtually the same except for larger displacement engine offerings for 1968 and some subtle styling changes (i.e. federally mandated side-marker lamps for 1968). The signature fender to fender (with center divider) “electric razor” looking grille, with closely spaced vertical chrome inserts and concealed headlamps were all a part of the more sophisticated look and functionality.  The rear, nearly body-wide, sequentially flashing turn signals/tail lights (borrowed from the earlier Ford Thunderbirds) also added to the sophistication. Crisp bodylines and angular styling gave the car a unique, aggressive tough guy look.

The sportier GT package offered more performance upgrades (like 390-cid big-block engine) than the base model Cougar.  The even more luxurious XR-7 package was offered and comprised of a competition styled cluster walnut wood grained dash/console area and steering wheel inserts, leather/vinyl covered seats and a leather automatic shift-control handle. An extra special XR-7G option (“G”, for the racing legend Dan Gurney) was offered and came with all sorts of special performance goodies like racing-style hood pins (then popular), a center hood scoop and even some Lucas fog lamps. A mid-year (1968) introduction, GT-E option, saw the use of the 7-Litre, 427-cid and even later on the 428-cid Cobra Jet “Ram Air” engine, which was intentionally under estimated at 335 hp. Some 150,000 total units were produced in 1967.  In 1968, those numbers dropped to about 113,000 units (619 were XR-7G’s and 602 were GT-E’s, only 244 with the 428-cid C/Jet engine).

The 1969 Mercury Cougar welcomed the introduction of the convertible model along with a few other subtle styling changes (including more engine offerings).  Weight was added with a wider and longer wheelbase. The grille had now changed to horizontal fins instead of the vertical style (electric shaver) models. Some optional enhancements to the front-end area included a spoiler and Ram-Air induction style hood scoop.

An Eliminator performance package was offered for the first time which included a 351-cid with 4-barrel carburetor, or optional 390-cid with 4-barrel carburetor or even 428-cid “CJ” (Cobra Jet) or 302-cid “Boss” motors. The Eliminator was detected visually by the blacked out grille area and further enhanced by standard front and rear spoilers, special striping and better performance/handling suspension package. However, the awesome XR-7G and the GT-E options were both dropped for 1969. Production dropped again to 100,000 total units for 1969.

1970 saw the final year of the first generation Mercury Cougar and only a few changes from the 1969 version. The hood now contained a center tooth which divided the new grille area in two. The black grille/headlamp covers had reverted back to the vertical electric-shaver style fins. Inside the car we saw some new interior patterns and a federally mandated, lockable, steering column to help deter theft (however, as always, the thieves quickly figured out how to circumvent that minor setback to their craft) . The 351-cid engine was now available in both the standard Windsor with a 2-barrel carburetor and the new Cleveland, 300 hp (with 4-barrel carburetor) versions.

1969 and 1970 convertibles were produced in small numbers and today are very prized among collectors. Total production for the 1970 year model dropped to 72,000 units. The muscle car era was being heavily scrutinized each coming year, until they all but eliminated performance as we knew it.

Vehicle Profile: Mercury “Lead Sled”

One of the most significant and easily recognized vehicles to emerge from the post WWII era of prosperity had to be the awesome looking 1949 Mercury, also known as the original “Lead Sled”! The coupe was the most sought after of the offerings, but the 4 door sedan, complete with “suicide rear doors” and even the convertible models weren’t too rough on the eyes either.

This car (built 49 to 51) was the dream of Ford’s, then design guru and styling chief, Bob Gregorie and his team. He fought hard against the “powers that be” at Ford management and its bean counters to gain approval to ready his cutting edge, factory customized behemoth and beloved brainchild for production.

When they constantly refused to have any part of it, mainly due to costs of bringing it to realization as a profitable production vehicle for the masses, he turned to the Mercury Division of FoMoCo and pitched his concept to them. Once gaining the approval of Mercury’s management and getting the green light for the project sometime in 1947, he pushed to have it ready for the 1949 year model production run. The beloved “Merc” was born!

His “dreamy design” was complete with styling cues he gleaned from some of the early west coast customizers of the time and included such things as a much lower, wider stance, longer sleeker lines, low roof lines, “fade-away” styled fenders and blended quarters, huge chrome grille and mammoth bumpers and actually, a car that looked fast just sitting still! He is many times credited with creating the first “factory customized” production vehicle and I for one am not going to dispute that credit.

Who can forget the Bob Hirohata ‘51’ Merc and the rage it created? A genuine original, which I believe, was the first fully customized (post-factory that is) “Merc” out there. This awesome looking monster of a vehicle was completed in 1952 by the artisans and craftsmen at the now infamous Barris Kustoms Garage in southern California! It still carries on thru time as one of the greatest, all-time, bad-ass lead sleds out there! This is definitely one car that I would love to own someday!

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