It’s hard to tell if there’ll be many mourners to lament the passing of Ford’s Mercury brand this year, and I’d be lying if I called myself one of them; however, I’ve always found interesting the brand’s utter failure to assert itself in any regard.
It would be hard to argue that Mercury’s proudest moment wasn’t the original Mercury Cougar musclecars of the 60s and 70s; however, Mercury, the owners of a long lineage dating back to the 30s, have been more synonymous with anonymity than anything else since then.
Ford and Lincoln certainly put Mercury in a hard position. If Mercury was to inhabit some middle zone (either as a pseudo-luxury Ford or a junior Lincoln) between the two, it’s hard to say what such a car would be like. After all, Lincoln never established itself as the import-fighting, cutting-edge luxury brand it could have been (think Cadillac). Most still associate Lincoln with Town Cars. That doesn’t leave much space for Mercury. Is it a pseudo-pseudo luxury car? Who wants that?
The front-wheel drive return of the Mercury Cougar was certainly the brand’s most (only?) notable car the 1990s/2000s. With an attractive coupe body not shared with Ford or any of its other subsidiaries, the Cougar seemed to be, finally, a Mercury with some identity and some edge. I remember slapping my forehead in disgust when I learned that Mercury had opted to release a version with “French Blue” paint instead of a version featuring the SVT Contour’s 200 horsepower V6 Duratec engine, a move that would have put the Cougar in the same class as the Acura Integra Type-R and other hot, relevant performance coupes of the decade. Of course, the Cougar instead became another also-ran and quickly faded from existence in an all too typical conclusion for Mercury. Well, at least they won’t have Mercury to kick around anymore.