Mercury could'a been a contenda'. In fact, there was a time – long, long ago – when Mercury was a brand to be reckoned with. As far as we're concerned, Mercury hit its zenith in the early 1970s, as you'll see in our image galleries below.
First launched way back in 1939 by none other than Edsel Ford himself, Mercury was initially intended to offer a slightly upmarket option to those for whom the traditional Ford badge was too plebian.
By 1945, Mercury was in full swing and the brand was merged in with the Lincoln division so it could further differentiate itself from Ford, from which the automaker had historically gleaned its platforms. And therein lies the rub... Mercury vehicles have nearly always been too closely tied to their Ford stablemates, with a few notable exceptions.
As such, unlike the recent death of Pontiac, which was met with wails and great gnashing of teeth from brand loyalists, we doubt the shuttering of the Mercury brand will be met with a similar well of tears.
In order to illustrate this point, follow along as we jolt the memory banks with a look back on the both Mercury's Best of Times and the Worst of Times. Hit the jump to see the Five Best Mercurys of All Time, followed by a reminder of how Mercury got itself into its current plight with the Five Worst Mercury Rebadges of All Time.
Along with each image in after the jump you'll find a brief explanation as to why the car is on its corresponding list. As always, we encourage reader participation. Have an idea of the best or worst Mercury in history? Leave it in the comments.
[Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
Five Best Mercury Models of All Time
You're about to see a pattern develop. As near as we can tell, Mercury hit an early apogee in the late 1960s and early 1970s... and sadly it was all downhill from there. In any case, the car you see here is a 1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator, which was the high point of Mercury's contribution to the muscle car wars and is highly sought after today. As you might expect, engine options were all V8s with displacements ranging from 302 to 428 cubic inches. More Power!
Speaking of muscle cars, here we have what could have been one of the coolest Mercury vehicles ever produced. Sadly, it never saw the light of day outside a few samples built for testing purposes. Back in the late '60s, stock car racing was practically a national pastime, and winning races meant a lot to American manufacturers.
In those days, sleek aerodynamic designs were just starting to invade the oval tracks, as personified by the iconic Plymouth Superbird and Dodge Daytona. Mercury was working on the 1970 Cyclone Spoiler II around the same time. Sadly, NASCAR changed its rules to stifle any sort of aerodynamic innovation, and the car was never commercialized.
The Mercury Capri has gone through a number of permutations over its lifespan. Though each version has had its positive moments, we have to give the nod to the first generation. The Capri was built in Germany and was undoubtedly designed first for the European market, and as such was quite a bit different than anything else available in its time period. Sound familiar?
And now we hit a dry spell. Between the early 1970s and the brand's death knell in 2010, there really isn't anything from Mercury that is all that exceptional. Sure, there have been competent cars here and there, along with some decent forays into markets outside its typical stomping ground... but the best we could come up with to highlight is the 2003 Marauder.
While the Marauder wasn't in any way a "bad" car, it also wasn't the fire-breathing performance monster that most fans of the genre were looking for... something along the lines of the last rear-wheel drive Chevrolet Impala SS sold in the States. As it was, the Marauder was comfortable, handled better than it ought to and sounded pretty good at wide open throttle. Moving along...
To Jill Wagner. Before you send in any complaints, remember that we are focusing on Mercury's best models. Jill Wagner is most definitely a model... spokesmodel that is. And she is good. See here, and you're welcome.
Five Worst Mercurys of All Time
This is the Mercury Bobcat. It was first built in 1975. It is based on the Ford Pinto. Yes, it also had a propensity to burst into flames upon impact. It sucked. Let's move on, shall we?
Here we have the Mercury Topaz. Does the idea of a slightly upmarket version of the unloved Ford Tempo strike you as an odd idea? Yeah, us too. Still, Ford did indeed offer the Topaz in Lincoln Mercury dealerships from 1984 until 1994, after which it was replaced by the Mercury Mystique (aka Ford Contour)... which was much better but still uncalled for as a Mercury.
To be fair, the Mercury Grand Marquis totally hit its intended target. The only problem is that the target was set way back in 1983 when the Panther-based Grand Marquis was first introduced. There has been one major redesign of the car, which took place in 1992, but the guts of the Grand Marquis and its Crown Victoria stablemate from Ford have soldiered on without anything resembling a major overhaul.
If only the Grand Marquis had received the attention it should have gotten all along, we can envision quite a nice new Marauder that we'd love to own ourselves. We're thinking turbocharged V6 engine, all-wheel drive and a large body. Oh wait, we're thinking of the brand new Ford Taurus SHO.
Hey, what is that thing? Oh. It's a Mercury Monterey. Apparently it was a minivan produced between 2004 and 2007. Who knew?
And finally we have the Mercury Montego. You may also know it as the Mercury Sable or the Ford Five Hundred, which was a perfectly acceptable full-size sedan that never sold up to expectations. As such, it was replaced by the new Taurus for 2010. Mercury didn't get a corresponding update. We wondered why. Not any more.
Goodbye Mercury, may you rest in peace.