Join us in the Ford Motor Company’s anechoic chamber in Dearborn as we check out the full-sized Fords for 1970.
Ford had a new tagline for its big-car line in 1970: “Take a quiet break.” The slogan was used across the board in both the print and TV materials that year, and it was a notable departure from the muscular Total Performance theme of the previous decade. But on the other hand, the new messaging recalls the memorable 1965 campaign in which Ford bragged that its cars were quieter than a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud. (See the famous Ford commercial here.) Of course, the property of quietness in a car also plants two more desirable attributes in the minds of potential buyers: quality and luxury.
To sell the quiet concept in the spot below, Ford took the cameras to a “quiet room” at the company’s engineering facilities in Dearborn. A more technical name is acoustic anechoic chamber, and essentially, it’s a space designed to deaden reflected sound waves so that direct sources of noise can be identified and studied. And yes, the anechoic chamber is still an important tool for the automakers today. Featured here, naturally, is the very top of the Ford full-size line for 1970, an LTD Brougham 2-door hardtop. The LTD badge was a solid winner for Ford at the time, accounting for nearly 375,000 sales that year—close to half the full-size production in ’70, which also included the Custom, Galaxie, and XL. Video below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage
The 1955 Chevrolet is celebrated today for its revolutionary V8 engine, but in fact, the entire car was an important leap forward for GM’s best-selling car brand.
When the 1955 Chevrolet was introduced to the assembled press at the General Motors Milford Proving Ground on October 12, 1954, it was described (yawn) as “all new,” but in this case, for once, the public relations people weren’t stretching the truth even a little. This car truly was all new. The fact was that Chevrolet’s engineering had grown dated by the early ’50s, and the updates were a welcome change. As hard as this would be to imagine a few years later, Chevrolets before 1955 were not known for their performance or advanced design.
The numerous improvements included a new box-section frame, redesigned front and rear suspension, tubeless tires, and a 12-volt ignition system—a necessary upgrade to support the high-compression 265 CID V8. As we know, it was the exciting new V8 that came to dominate the Chevrolet story for 1955. But actually, there were a number of interesting developments that are worth a closer look.
This view of the undercarriage above shows off the new ladder frame, which used sturdy box-section rails from front to rear. Meanwhile, a set of 14 carefully calibrated rubber body mounts tied the chassis and body together while isolating the passenger compartment from road shocks and noise. But if you look more closely at the illustration, you may notice something unusual: The frame has no crossmembers between the front and rear. Where did they go?
In this new Chevy, the cowl and firewall assembly doubled as the center frame crossmember, as shown above. A heavy-gauge stamping of double-wall steel construction that formed a natural arch, the cowl assembly added rigidity to the frame and to the front of the body structure as well. Chevy engineers called this piece a “plenum” because it also housed an integrated heater and air-conditioning unit, a feature introduced at GM by Pontiac in 1954. The unitized packaging allowed Chevrolet to offer optional air-conditioning at a more realistic price ($565) for a car in the low-priced field. Previous factory A/C systems used a bulky and costly trunk-mounted evaporator unit.
There was no transmission crossmember, either. Instead, the engine and transmission were supported by a tuned rubber mounting system at the front of the block and the sides of the bell housing (above). This allowed the engine to roll on its natural axis of rotation a limited amount rather than transmitting the rough motions into the chassis structure. In this regard it was similar to Chrysler’s Floating Power system of the 1930s. And with the transmission supported at the bell housing and free at the tail housing, its noise and vibration were isolated from the passenger cabin as well. All ’55-’57 Chevrolets used this mounting system in all engine and transmission combinations, six and V8. Convertible models employed a familiar X-member in the frame for added chassis rigidity.
In another major departure from traditional Chevrolet practice, the ’55 chassis abandoned the tried-and-true torque-tube driveline, adopting Hotchkiss drive with an open propeller shaft and Hooke’s joints front and rear. The modernized setup offered improved wheel control and reduced driveline noise. Meanwhile, the rear leaf springs were moved outboard from the frame rails and the shock absorbers were splayed out as far as possible as well. This design, which the Chevy marketing folks branded “Outrigger Suspension,” offered increased roll resistance but without stiffening the spring rates and thus making the ride suffer.
The front suspension was thoroughly overhauled as well, with upper and lower ball joints replacing the previous kingpin setup and the addition of a new recirculating-ball steering gear. Chevy engineers also took the opportunity at this point to dial a sizable amount of anti-dive into the front suspension geometry (above) to improve driver control under deceleration and braking. While seemingly subtle, these details front and rear provided a major improvement in the car’s handling. (And they may help to explain how the ’55-’57 Chevy chassis became a favorite on the short-track stock-car scene for decades.) While the new ’55 Chevy V8 engine was a hot performer, the new chassis was a performer, too. And it didn’t take long for the news to spread that Chevrolet was now in the performance car business.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage
Ford’s MEL V8 might not have a famous racing record, but it’s worthy of a closer look.
The Ford Motor Company had a plenty on its plate for the 1958 model year. First, there was the rollout of an entire new car division, the ambitious but unfortunate Edsel. Next, there were two distinct new big-block V8 engine families heading into production, the FE series and the MEL series. The FE (short for Ford-Edsel) went on to glory at Daytona, Le Mans, and elsewhere, while the MEL V8 (Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln) is largely forgotten today. But that doesn’t mean the MEL isn’t an interesting engine and worthy of a closer look.
Between 1958 and 1968, the MEL V8 was produced in four displacements: 383, 410, 430, and 462 cubic inches. All were built on the same basic architecture with 4.90-inch bore spacing, and they all shared the unusual design feature shown above. There were no combustion chambers in the cylinder head. Instead, the block deck was machined at a 10-degree angle, forming a wedge-shaped combustion space in the top of the cylinder bore. This unusual construction, engineered in part to provide manufacturing flexibility, was a Motor City fad of the late ’50s that was also found in the Chevrolet 348/409 V8 (read our feature on the 409 here) and Ford’s SD series large-displacement gasoline truck engines. While the MEL V8 resembles the big SD V8 in some aspects, it shares no major components with the SD, the FE, or any other FoMoCo engines—it’s a lone ranger. Applications for the MEL V8s break down as follows:
+ 383 CID: 4.30-in x 3.30-in bore and stroke, used by Mercury in 1958-60
+ 410 CID: 4.20-in x 3.70 bore and stroke, used in 1958 Edsel Corsair and Citation. Marketed as the E-475 V8 in accordance with its 475 lb-ft torque rating.
+ 430 CID: 4.30-in x 3.70-in bore and stroke, used in 1958-60 Mercury, 1959-60 Ford Thunderbird, and 1958-65 Lincoln.
+ 462 CID: 4.38-in x 3.83-in bore and stroke, used by Lincoln from 1966 to 1968, when it was replaced by the 460 CID V8 from the Ford 385 engine family and the MEL series was discontinued for good. The MEL and 385 engine families share 4.90-inch bore centers, suggesting that the 385 was designed to run on the MEL’s tooling.
As we’ve seen, Ford wasn’t afraid to try new things in this period. For example, check out the elaborate engine shroud with thermostatic air intake shown above left on an Edsel E-400 V8 (361 CID, FE series). While a press photo was released, it doesn’t seem the remarkably modern-looking engine cover ever made it into production. (We haven’t seen one, anyway.) However, we can see that the production Edsel engines (410 CID E-475, above right) did use thermostatic air control, ducting exhaust heat into the air cleaner housing.
Despite its multiple virtues, the MEL V8 never gained a foothold in the high-performance world. Its exploits in racing were few but noteworthy: Johnny Beauchamp’s 430-powered ’59 Thunderbird nearly won the 1959 Daytona 500 in the famous photo finish with Lee Petty, while the team of Rodney Singer and Karol Miller took Top Eliminator honors at the NHRA Nationals in Detroit in 1959 with their Lincoln-powered dragster.
Among production MEL V8s, the ultimate in looks and muscle might well be the 1958 Mercury Super Marauder, a special package with three two-barrel Holley carburetors and a fabulously styled cast-aluminum air cleaner assembly (below). With 400 hp at 5200 rpm and 480 lb-ft of torque at 3200 rpm, the 430 CID beast is easily among the most powerful engines offered by the Motor City in the ’50s.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
In the 1950s, dream cars from the Motor City usually looked into the future, but the Packard Request looked into the company’s glorious past.
According to Packard designer Richard A. Teague, the 1955 Request show car came to be when company president James Nance asked him to create a modern vehicle that incorporated the vertical Packard radiator shell. “Just hundreds of people asked for a return to the classic Packard grille,” Teague told author George Hamlin for Special Interest Autos magazine decades later. “Dealers, people on the outside. They would write in. These people just felt that the wide horizontal grille (which was by then industry vogue) didn’t carry the same impression, the Packard feeling, that the old grille did.”
Hence the show car’s name, which Teague selected himself: Packard Request. So while most factory dream cars of the ’50s were attempts to reach into the future, the Request was an effort to revisit the grand old company’s past glories.
Initial drawings and clay studies were based on the production 1954 Packard, then transferred to the updated ’55 sheet metal package (the illustrations above are from Popular Mechanics, February 1955). As Teague noted, the job was far more complex than simply pasting a traditional stand-up grille shell onto a modern front end. Considerable finesse was required to make it look right. Teague credited fellow Packard stylist Dick Collier for establishing the essential look.
Construction of the Request was assigned to Creative Industries of Detroit, the Motor City’s leading specialist in prototypes and special projects for the automakers. A not-quite complete 400 two-door hardtop was plucked off the assembly line at Conner Avenue and sent to Creative, where the unique front end and other features were fabricated and installed. While the hood was fiberglass, the massive split front bumpers and grille assembly were formed from heavy-gauge steel and reportedly weighed more than 400 lbs. Other touches included custom-built tail lamps and Caribbean-style interior and exterior trim pieces.
Once completed, the Request was sent out to tour the 1955 car show circuit, where by all accounts it was a popular attraction. But by then, of course, Packard styling was already headed off in an entirely different direction, the one represented by the Ghia-built 1956 Predictor dream car. And as we know now, unfortunately, the company didn’t have long to live anyway. Somehow, in the disorder and confusion as the company shut down its Detroit operations in 1956 and production was moved to Indiana, the car simply disappeared, as the story goes.
The one-off show car wasn’t seen again until decades later in Oregon, where it was recovered and restored. Today the Request resides in the collection of Packard mega-enthusiast Ralph Marano. Below is one more look at the Request with designer Richard Teague, left, and William T. Graves, Packard’s vice president of engineering.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Most gearheads will instantly recognize the familiar GMC 6-71 blower, but its original application and backstory remain relatively unknown. Let’s explore.
The GMC blower of history and legend is, of course, a type of pump known as a Roots blower. Two brothers, Philander and Francis Roots of Connersville, Indiana (no relation to Rootes of Great Britain; note the spelling) initially devised their machine in the 1850s to pump water, but it has countless applications for moving fluids and gasses, from underground mines to blast furnaces. In common use, a Roots blower can be as small as a matchbox or as big as a house.
One interesting aspect of the Roots blower is that its internal flow is the opposite of what we may imagine: around the outside of the rotors or impellers (above right). In automotive applications, a Roots blower typically has two, three, or four lobes per rotor (the GMC uses three in its original form). The Roots is a positive-displacement pump. That is, with each rotation it will pump its approximate displacement. When pumping air, it’s one atmosphere in and one atmosphere out with each turn of the rotors. There is no net internal pressurization in the blower itself.
The concept of supercharging is essentially as old as the automobile. Obviously, if we can pump more air through an engine at a given speed, we can burn more fuel and make more power. Numerous types of pumps are suitable for the job, including the Roots blower, and Mercedes was the first to offer a Roots blower on a volume production vehicle with its Kompressor models in 1921. But there were many others to follow, including Bugatti, Bentley, and Maserati.
A small but noteworthy point: Since the Roots is a positive-displacement device without internal pressure, supercharging is achieved by using the blower to pump more air than the engine can, thereby raising the air pressure in the intake manifold above atmospheric. For this reason, some insist that the Roots blower, unlike most other types, is technically not a supercharger—even though supercharging is the ultimate result. If we call the machine a Roots blower, everyone can be happy.
Above is the GMC 6-71 blower in its original habitat: mounted on the side of a GMC Detroit Diesel 6-71 engine. Introduced in 1938 and produced well into the 1990s, the 6-71 is a two-stroke, six-cylinder diesel. In GMC diesel nomenclature, 6 represents the number of cylinders, while 71 represents the cubic-inch displacement per cylinder. So the displacement here is 426 cubic inches, and that is the approximate displacement of the blower as well. The 71-series has been produced in versions of one to 24 cylinders, and each one has a blower (or blowers) of appropriate size. Here the blower does not serve as a supercharger but simply as an air pump. Since the 71 series is a two-stroke, the blower is used to pull in fresh air and push out the spent exhaust gas.
As we saw earlier, Roots blowers were originally found only on the most exotic and expensive cars—beyond the reach of the backyard mechanic. But that changed in 1948 when pioneer hot rodder Barney Navarro mounted a war surplus GMC 3-71 blower on the flathead V8 roadster he raced on the California dry lakes. Others followed, and now thanks to General Motors, hot rodders had an affordable and plentiful supply of Roots blowers in a number of sizes, including 3-71, 4-71, and the 6-71, the latter being perfect for the new overhead-valve Detroit V8s. Regardless of size, all the GMC blowers have the same authoritative sound, somewhere between a growl and an angry whine.
Soon enough, the ever-inventive hot rod industry developed a number of adapters and drive systems, including gears, chains, multiple v-belts, and the most popular setup, the toothed Gilmer belt. Aftermarket cases, rotors, end plates with sealed bearings, and other parts also appeared, and complete turn-key kits as well. (Above, Weiand kit at left and Dyers kit at right.) There were also front-mount kits from Potvin, Cragar, and others (see below) that echo the original Blower Bentley setup, though the conventional top-mount system with Gilmer belt proved to be more practical.
In ’70s drag racing, the 6-71 size gave way to 8-71 and larger blower displacements and today, NHRA racers in Top Fuel and Funny Car use blowers of extrapolated 14-71 dimensions as defined by the current rules. On a 6-71, the impellers are not quite 15 inches long while the 14-71’s are a full 19 inches in length. But the design itself is based on the original GMC two-stroke blower.
To tell the truth, these days the GMC 6-71 blower is increasingly obsolete as a performance booster. There are newer and better alternatives including the turbocharger and the Lysholm twin-screw supercharger (which resembles a Roots blower but isn’t). Still, hot rodders continue to embrace the venerable 6-71. For looks and sound, it’s difficult to top.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
In 1968, American Motors entered the rapidly expanding U.S. pony car market with a worthy competitor to the Ford Mustang: the Javelin.
As we’ve often noted here at Mac’s Motor City Garage, in the mid-1960s American Motors was hard at work reinventing itself—from a maker of small, plain economy cars to a full-line automobile manufacturer with a complete range of vehicles. Products like the Marlin and the Rogue signaled that the company was catching up with American car buyers of the ’60s. But with the introduction of the AMC Javelin in September of 1967, the automotive press truly sat up and took notice. Car Life magazine, for one, called the new Mustang fighter an “all-American image buster.”
This American Motors ad (above) draws the obvious parallels between the Javelin and the Mustang. Obviously, the Javelin was aimed squarely at the hot-selling Ford product and its pony car competitors. In features and pricing the two cars were quite similar, but AMC, true to form, claimed the Javelin had the edge in practical details like trunk space and legroom. It’s interesting to note that the Mustang and the Javelin were created pretty much the same way. Just as the Mustang shared its basic platform and components with the compact Ford Falcon, the Javelin owed much to the Rambler American underneath.
The Javelin rode on a unit-construction chassis with a 109-inch wheelbase, three inches longer than the American, while sharing the American’s coil-tower front suspension and Hotchkiss drive at the rear with open driveshaft and parallel leaf springs. Exterior sheet metal was based on two AMC Project IV show cars of 1966, the two-seat AMX and four-seat AMX II, with the concept originating as a two-place coupe by AMC designer Charles Mashigan.
The Javelin was offered in but a single body style, a coupe with a sloping roofline that split the difference between a fastback and a traditional two-door notchback. There was no convertible. At midyear in ’68 AMC brought out its two-seat variant of the Javelin, the AMX. (See our feature on the AMX here.) That’s the reverse of the original product lineage, interestingly enough. In the AMC styling studios, the two-seater came first. Naturally, the four-seater offered far more potential sales volume.
Two key elements of the pony car theme, as pioneered in the Mustang, were upscale interior appointments and a wide variety of drivetrain choices. Following that template, the Javelin’s cockpit was fairly luxurious, for a Rambler anyway, with bucket seats, embossed vinyl, and full-pile carpeting. For $105, the optional SST package included upgraded cabin materials and twin beltline stripes on the exterior.
Powertrain options included a 232 CID inline six with your choice of three-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission, while the eight-cylinder options included a pair of 290 CID V8s engines (with two or four-barrel carburetors) and the 343 CID mill with 280 horsepower. The V8s could be matched to a Borg-Warner T10 four-speed manual gearbox or the Shift-Command three-speed automatic with console or column shifter. The big 390 CID V8 from the Ambassador with 315 hp became available at midyear. But meanwhile, check this out: When Car Life road-tested a 343-powered Javelin SST for its December 1967 issue, it reported a quarter-mile time of 15.4 seconds at 93 mph. That’s impressive performance for the smaller V8, aided no doubt by the four-speed gearbox and sporty 3.54:1 final drive ratio. This was no granny car.
Javelin production for the inaugural 1968 model year totaled a little more than 55,000 cars, barely a drop in the bucket compared to the Ford Mustang and its 317,000-plus sales that season. But for tiny American Motors and its total model-year production of not quite 273,000 cars in ’68, the Javelin was a solid hit, and the company began planning a second-generation pony car for 1971-74.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
We’re seeing many hot rods with great looking drilled and/or slotted rotors behind big billet as well as forged wheels. There’s no question that they look trick, but what is the straight story on how they work? Are they better than plain rotors, or worse? In the real world of street driven cars, will they help my stopping power? Rather than listen to a lot of opinions, let’s look at the science behind these questions by getting info from the experts at Wilwood brakes and ECI.
Mike Skelly of Wilwood offered us a little history on the origin of drilled rotors. As road racing tires allowed greater track speeds in the 1960s, race teams began seeing a great loss in brake capability. In that era of organic and asbestos based pad friction material, a problem occurred with the adhesives used to fasten the pad to the steel backing plates. As the temperature of the pads increased, the adhesive would break down and cause a layer of gas to form between the rotor and the pads. That vapor layer retained heat in the rotor and acted as an “air-bearing” high-pressure area between the pad and rotor. By drilling holes in the rotor surface, those gasses were able to be dissipated into the vented center of the rotor, no longer interfering with the pad to rotor friction. Racers also liked the idea that the rotating mass of the rotor was reduced, causing a small advantage of less inertia during acceleration and braking.
Slotting the rotor is felt to have its greatest effect removing worn off pad debris from the rotor surface. The relatively sharp edges of the slots are also considered as an aid in resolving the pad glazing that can occur at high temperatures. Fresh pad material is then exposed for better braking action at the cost of faster pad wear due to the constant renewing of the pad surface. The conclusion is that slotting may improve braking, with little chance of loss.
Since asbestos based brake pads were outlawed in the nineties, new materials and bonding adhesives have been developed. The now common ceramic based pads do not produce the outgassing problem in any conceivable street use, so there is no real function-based reason to use drilled rotors. Slotted rotors may still be useful in their ability to remove pad glazing but consequently produce faster pad wear. That spells more brake dust on your wheels, which can be corrosive to aluminum wheels, as are many of the chemical cleaners used to remove that dust. Since most hot rods are not driven hard enough to get hot enough to glaze the pads, slotted rotors may offer little in the way of better brake function.
Heat damaged brake rotor
It’s important to recall that a major function of the rotor is to transfer heat out of the brake system. The laws of Physics tell us that energy can be moved and converted to other forms of energy, but never destroyed. That means the kinetic energy (rotating mass) of the rolling wheel and tire are resisted by the brakes, which convert that motion energy into heat energy. That heat is then dissipated into the air by the cooling of the caliper body and rotor. Think of the rotor as the radiator for the brake system. That’s why brake fluids with higher temperature tolerances were developed, and why vented rotors are common today.
Following that heat transfer logic tells us that a rotor with more mass can absorb more heat energy than a lighter rotor of the same design. That is an advantage of larger diameter rotors, along with the greater leverage of increased size. The problem with regard to our question of drilled and slotted rotors is that those practices act to reduce the mass of the rotor, reducing the desired heat transfer. Some rodders have correctly stated that the rotor surface area is increased by drilling or slotting, but the issue in heat transfer is mass, not surface area. It does seem that a greater rotor surface area may allow a faster cool down after the heavy braking has stopped, but the issue is more about heat transfer during braking due to rotor total mass.
It is the experience based opinion of every single brake expert I have consulted, that the loss of rotor mass due to drilling and slotting creates more brake loss than any possible gains due to degassing or faster cooling of the surface area. There is no better authority on hot rod brakes than Ralph Lisena at ECI. Ralph agrees that practical street driven vehicles rarely encounter the high heat conditions that make drilled or slotted rotors beneficial from a strictly functional stand point.
For the street, you want a heavier, larger diameter rotor. As a case in point, the ’73-’87 Chevy pickups offered a light duty one-inch thick front rotor, and a heavy duty option that was one and a quarter-inch thick. Since both were ttwelve-inchdiameter cast iron vented rotors, using calipers of the same piston bore and using the same pads, the conclusion we draw is that GM engineers agreed that the larger rotor mass would produce the desired better brakes for heavier loads.
So we seem to be back to the idea that the major issue in brake system heat transfer is the rotor mass. Outgassing of heated brake pads is not an issue in any conceivable street application. Therefore, drilling the rotors may cause a very small loss of braking power, rather than an increase. But, we may be over thinking a small issue. The consensus among experts is that there will be little effect either way in the real world. So, if you like the way they look, go for it. You’ll have the racy look, and the car should stop just fine. In fact, I just got thirteen-inch Wilwood rotors for my own ’57 Chevy “Smokey Yunick” Tribute AutoCross car. I’ll run it hard in the Goodguys AutoCross series, so we’ll take Wilwood’s advice to run slotted, but not drilled rotors.
Article courtesy of Goodguys Rod & Custom Association, written by Brent Vandevort.
For 1958 the tagline at Plymouth was “The Star of the Forward Look,” and for once this was no idle ad agency boast.
The tagline for this 1958 Plymouth campaign (below) was “The Star of the Forward Look,” and in this case we’re inclined to agree. As well as any single Chrysler product could, the ’58 Plymouth exemplified Virgil Exner’s Forward Look design theme, which began with the 1955 models but really took off in 1957. In that year the entire Chrysler Corporation product line sported low, sleek rooflines and the most dramatic tail fins in the industry, throwing the General Motors styling team into a panic. (See our feature on the 1957 Plymouths here.) For ’58, Plymouth received a minor facelift with quad headlamps—which the front end had clearly been designed for in the first place—and now the look was complete.
In watching the clip below, you could be forgiven for assuming that the Fury Hardtop Coupe was the only Plymouth offered that year. But actually there was a broad product lineup with the Plaza as the base model, the Savoy holding down the midrange, and the Belvedere (and Fury) at the top of the heap. Available engines included the trusty flathead six with 132 hp, a pair of 318 CID poly-head V8s, and the Golden Commando 350 CID V8, while the Powerflite (two-speed) and Torqueflite (three-speed) automatic transmissions included standard push-button controls.
Actually, in ’58 Plymouth was the star of the show at Chrysler Corporation from more than one angle. With model year production of almost 444,000 units, Plymouth continued to hold down the number three slot in the Motor City sales charts, trailing only Ford and Chevrolet. And meanwhile, Plymouth sold more cars than the rest of the Chrysler divisions combined, demonstrating the size and scale of the “low-priced three,” as the category was known in the U.S. auto industry at the time. Video follows.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Here’s the selling story for the Ford Motor Company’s middle-luxury Mercury division for 1958.
This 1958 Mercury commercial takes us back to that familiar time when the American automobile was sold by the inch and by the pound. Bigger was better, and “longer, lower, and wider” was another way to say “new and improved.” Cars kept growing all through the 1950s, and by ’58 they had nearly reached their zenith in size and weight. In this spot, a wacky stunt featuring rodeo star Wag Blessing is used to demonstrate (purportedly) that the Mercury has “the solid, comfort ride of a big, heavy car.”
Indeed. Through a good part of the decade, the Mercury brand was marketed under the tagline “The Big M,” and the 1958 models were true to form. The senior Park Lane, introduced at midyear to compete with the Buick Roadmaster, rolled on a 125-inch wheelbase, sporting an overall length of 220.2 inches. (Wheelbase for the rest of the line was 122 inches.) Two new V8s built on Ford’s MEL architecture were offered in 383 and 430 cubic-inch displacements, and there was a Super Marauder version of the 430 boasting three two-barrel carbs and 400 horsepower—one of the most powerful engines of the ’50s. Along with much of the industry, Mercury had joined the push-button transmission craze—read about Merc-O-Matic Keyboard Control here.
Despite the ambitious product lineup, 1958 was not a banner year for Mercury, nor for the Motor City’s middle-luxury class in general. Sales tanked as the nation suffered through its first real post-World War II recession (at the time, labeled the “Eisenhower recession”). Production for the Mercury brand slipped more than 50 percent, prompting a complete rethink of the division’s product strategy and Turnpike Cruiser styling theme. But for the moment, let’s enjoy the rough-riding demonstration by Wag Blessing. Video below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.