“XM-Turnpike Cruiser is not merely a ‘dream’ car,” Mercury boasted. “It is a full-scale, fully operative automotive styling laboratory.” The working drivetrain included a 312 CID Y-Block V8 with twin four-barrel carburetors and a Merc-O-Matic transmission. The dual exhausts exited through racy rear fender outlets, and overall height was only 52.4 inches, nearly five inches shorter than a production model. The XM stood for “experimental Mercury,” one may safely guess.
In the photo below, a pair of models with a passing resemblance to Doris Day and Audrey Hepburn try out the Cruiser’s roomy trunk. The spacy, far-out design was well-received on the car show circuit, and much of its look was applied to the 1957-59 Mercury production cars. (That included the distinctive tail lamps, though in considerably smaller form.) There, the styling was less of a hit, and the production Turnpike Cruiser, a gadget-laden premium model slotted in at the top of the Mercury line, was not a great seller, either. It sold well below expectations and lasted only two model years.
As sales stumbled, Reith was moved from general manager of the Mercury division to head of Ford of Canada. Rejecting the apparent demotion, the former whiz kid moved on to lead AVCO’s Crosley electronics division. The XM-Turnpike Cruiser show car is still in existence, though in rough shape at last report, and currently resides in California awaiting restoration.