Sunday, March 4, 2012

1946 Mercury 4-Door Town Sedan

"You're a step ahead when you step into the new 1946 Mercury. Here's more beauty – all the way through – from massive new front grille to colorful two-tone interiors. More all-around performance: faster pick-up, power that flattens out hills, and bigger brakes that give you safe, sure stops with pressureless ease. There's more economy, too – for Mercury is surprisingly easy on gas and oil. Here's the heritage of over four decades of engineering skill . . . here is what you've been waiting for – the 1946 Mercury!"

Since the launch in 1939, Ford's beautiful sister brand was in a dilemma: being purely a Ford under the skin, but purposed to be an upmarket product, Mercury's heftier price tag had to be justified with something. For Mercury, this "something" was power and more glamour. And, surprise, the simple strategy worked pretty well. While Ford was known for a restrained, almost frugal use of any trim and equipment, Mercury followed in the footsteps of GM, adding glitter and the full set of amenities to its cars.

The prewar Mercury had a enlarged Flathead Ford V-8 engine, and 10 hp more power than the Ford, but these subtle differences between both brands were reduced merely to ornamentation when the civilian car production resumed right after the war. Mercury and Ford now even looked similar. Both brands shared the same body and had identical V-8 engines implanted. The only difference: the 1946 Mercury rode on a 2-inch longer wheelbase than the Ford, but it was barely noticeable, as the car just had a slightly longer bonnet. 

The trick to lure the affluent customers into believing that their car was worth paying so much money was in Mercury's glamour strategy: While Ford's front grille, in example, consisted of stamped metal, the beautiful "High-Style" front grille of the Mercury resembled a shiny electric razor with its multiple chromed and precisely assembled plates. Just add some more chrome trim on the side fenders and running boards and nicer interior appointments, and off you went in a pretty glamorous looking car. Mercury fared pretty well in postwar times, when the hungry car market absorbed almost everything on wheels regardless of it's premium price compared to a similar Ford.

For the next generation and right in time for the company's 10th anniversary, Mercury should finally get its own distinctive design that justified the premium price tag. Ironically, Mercury's dilemma was now passed on to Lincoln: both brands now shared the same body, and just a longer frontend ahead of the windshield (which was necessary to accommodate the bigger engines) characterized the classier Lincoln. History repeats itself...

Unlike other postwar cars which appear identical over several model years, it's quite easy to distinguish a 1946 Mercury from a 1947 or 1948 model. The former sports a painted grille frame and a simple, straight bumper just like our pictured car, while the latter have a fully chromed front grille and vertical "winglets" added to the outer edges of the bumper.

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