Tag Archives: Justin Houston

Mercury 1939-1979: The Silent Innovator of Promotional Models

Mercury’s first annual, the Parklane 2-Door Hardtop shown in Golden Beige over Marble White.

Mercury’s first annual, the Parklane 2-Door Hardtop shown in Golden Beige over Marble White.

By Justin Houston

Perhaps no automaker has had a more powerful influence on promotional models than Mercury. Yet, the irony is that Mercury was never considered a player in the field of traditional promotional model cars.

PROLOGUE

Promotional model cars had established a strong foothold in Detroit’s marketing strategies by the late 1950′s. Indeed, the arrival of the 1959 sales year saw the introduction of Rambler and Mercury, the last two US automakers to invoke the popular annual plastic replicas.

Why did Mercury stay out so long? Given the shaky marketing decisions at Ford during the early postwar years, it’s a wonder Mercury even got involved at all.

History does reflect the concept that cars selling well don’t need much in the way of promotional efforts, and Mercury was no stranger to this ideology. Between 1949 and 1954, Mercury had risen from 7th to 3rd in sales, right behind Ford at No. 2 and Chevrolet at No. 1. But, like the anonymous tinkerer whose invention was made popular by somebody else who took the credit, Mercury was the initiator of many of the accepted styles of promotional auto models we take for granted today.

For example: Can you identify the first ‘promo’ used as a color demonstrator? How about the first promo to function as a coin bank? And what manufacturer first tried cereal premiums to create brand loyalty? And who offered the first promo of an Indy 500 Pace Car? If you answered Mercury on all four, you’re right!

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Car Stories: Hit and Run Reward

Stuart's 1958 Edsel, FLN502

Stuart’s 1958 Edsel, FLN502


By Justin Houston

Once in a lifetime there comes an event that cannot be told until enough time has passed that the participants are deceased or otherwise no longer at risk of being outted, prosecuted or hunted down for bounty. Hit and Run Reward is one such event.

Stuart Grover was one of my car buddies from high school and we always had this undeclared competition to find the rarest, most desirable cars. Once I mentioned I’d like to find an Edsel convertible with a manual transmission. Stuart readily agreed that was a noble, if lofty, goal.

One day Stuart called and said he’d found a red 1958 Edsel convertible with a manual transmission. He said it was sitting on the back of a used car lot in Midway City. In barely running condition with bad brakes, he bought the car and used it as his daily transportation.

After he’d had the car a year he managed to scrape together the money to replace the top. He waxed and polished the car and it looked great. He went everywhere with the top down.
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