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So long, Mercury

June 5, 2010 - Mike Donahey

Ford Motor Co. announced recently it would cease making its Mercury brand automobiles.
The news on National Public Radio caught me off guard and immediately disappointed me, but I’ll get to that later.
In short it was a business decision to discontinue the brand begun by Ford in 1939.
An automotive business analyst commenting on the move said it made sense.
Only 93,000 Mercurys were sold in 2009, he said. Plus, dropping Mercury was consistent with Ford’s business plan of devoting valuable company resources to selling Fords and Lincolns, which, he said, the company was successful in doing. He cited their past decisions to sell its Jaguar brand and other lines as evidence.
My disappointment comes from selfish and somewhat sentimental reasons.
The first car I bought was a 1960 Mercury Comet.
There wasn’t much “comet” to it by the time I bought it for $300 in 1967, purchased with paper route and restaurant dish-washing monies.
It was a one-owner, had relatively low miles and clean. But for a teen-aged male it wasn’t sexy compared to the muscle cars my friends at Clinton High School were driving then, like Camaros, Chevelle Super Sports, Dodge Chargers, Ford Mustangs, Pontiac GTOs, Oldsmobile 442s and others. In fact, the Comet’s six cylinder engine, three-speed on the column and light green color paled in comparison.
And yes, the term "muscle cars" was accurate. Their horse-power loaded motors could effortlessly “lay rubber” seemingly a half-mile long at ear-splitting levels
in the CHS parking lot then and more. However, I had other priorities and having a muscle car was not one of them. The Comet was my car and was paid in full. Importantly, it was cheap transportation when every dollar counted.
The heater did not work very well, but good enough for the extremely cold winters we had back then. Speaking of winters, that little car started every time,
even on the coldest days. My dad borrowed it when his wouldn’t start. It didn’t use gas – it sniffed it. A tank of gas seemingly lasted forever.
When Karen and I were married – you guessed it – we owned a Mercury, purchased from my brother Tom. However, our 1967 Mercury Monterey had a huge V-8 engine that could seemingly pass other cars while they were standing still, which I found exhilarating. Another feature – it had a trunk the size of a cavern. We jokingly thought about renting the space out as an apartment, but decided to pass.
We kept the Mercury for several years into our marriage. We had to get rid of it well after 135,000 miles and the repairs became too many and too costly.
Now we own a 2002 Mercury Sable GS. We bought it in 2003 from a local dealer with relatively few miles and has proven to be one of the most reliable cars we have ever owned. It seats five comfortably and gets decent town and highway mileage. It served us well on many long drives to Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. where our daughter attended college. There have been many trips to hometowns Clinton and Decorah, or visiting family in Rochester, Minn. or Spring Green, Wis. as well. In it our youngest daughter learned the basics of driving a car before taking Drivers Education.
We have even talked of looking at Sables when the time comes to buy a different car.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed when that time comes and trust we will find another good Mercury.


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