Breezeway, Mercury’s answer to cigarette smoke

The Ford Motor Company created the Mercury brand to fill the gaps in price and size between Ford and Lincoln.

First seen in 1939, it was named after the Roman god of commerce, communication and travel.

By the early 1950s, the brand’s market position had lost its focus.

It seems that Ford’s product strategists were confused.

Was it a larger Ford, a small Lincoln — or both?

Should it champion Ford’s engineering innovation or entice buyers with space-age styling, or go for a performance image?

All were tried by successive management teams with limited success.

That lack of focus persisted until January 4, 2011 when the last Mercury — a Grand Marquis — rolled off the line.

Grand Marquis 2000 2011
Grand Marquis was the last Mercury.


But, I’m putting all that aside, because I like Mercurys.

They are overlooked classics.

Indeed, the first car I drove in the USA was a 1982 Mercury Cougar XR7 coupe.

So, it’s a favourite.

Here are some others.

Styling is what made the 1955 Mercury stand out.

With a wraparound windscreen, loads of chrome and a sensational paint scheme, there’s an hour’s entertainment just walking around this car.

Then there’s the 1957 Turnpike Cruiser.

Based on a concept car from the previous year, Mercury was trying to be an engineering and styling innovator.

The compound curved windscreen glass reached back into the roof.

Passenger cabin air in-takes were positioned above the windscreen, and featured non-operable horizontal radio aerials.

And it was on this model that the roll down rear window — the Breezeway — was introduced.

The Breezeway was Mercury’s answer to improved ventilation in the days before air-conditioning became an affordable option and the need to extract cigarette smoke was highly-prized.

Requiring a unique roof line to accommodate the almost vertical roll down rear window, the last ones were sold in 1968.

Between 1957 and 1960 all Mercury station wagons were svelte pillar-less hardtops.

The product planners thought that hardtop wagons would differentiate the marque from the cheaper Ford and new Edsel.

These were the highest priced Mercurys, so if you had one in your driveway, your neighbours knew you had spent up big to combine load hauling capacity and coupe-like styling.

As part of Ford’s “Total Performance” promotion in the 1960s, Mercury released the Marauder. 

The name had previously described Mercury’s biggest and most powerful V8s.

In 1963 they put the name on the fenders of a hardtop coupe to create a high performance/luxury model.

A 6.3-litre/390 cubic inch V8 was standard.

Or, you could option it with a 7.0-litre/427 cubic incher, with twin four-barrel carbies, boasting 317kW/425bhp.

1982 Mercury Cougar XR 7
1982 Mercury Cougar XR-7


The ’63 Marauder was a hot-rod Lincoln in everything but name.

In subsequent years the product planners dispersed the name across the Mercury range and it lost its lustre.

Now for the final Mercury on my list: The Grand Marquis.

Along with its twin, the Ford Crown Victoria, the Marquis was the last full chassis US sedan ever built.

To drive one was to experience the plush ride of a 1960s big American car.

In 2000, I was driving a Marquis in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and was pulled over by a deputy sheriff for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign.

At the time I had Argentinian, Singaporean and Australian driver’s licences, and pleaded that what I did was how we drove in Buenos Aires.

It was all so confusing to her —my Aussie accent, Buenos Aires address and multiple licences — that she let me off with a warning.

I reckon that the ancient god Mercury was looking over my shoulder that day and rewarded my loyalty to the brand.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos


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