Merced County Times Newspaper
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The graceful, two-toned 1956 Mercury gets better with age

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Doane Yawger
Doane Yawger

Car enthusiasts all have their favorite vehicles, myself included.

I have loved the 1956 Mercury since I first spotted it 63 years ago. The Merc gets better with age and still sits on top of my hit parade. Many other people love them, too, which means you’re not too likely to find a good one at a reasonable price these days.

The 1956 Mercury has graceful, flowing lines. That starts with the gently rounded rear fenders and proceeds forward to peaked headlight brows.

The grille and jutting front bumper on the 1956 Mercury are pretty toothy and predominant but that works for me. In those days, chrome was king and there was plenty of bright stuff to be found on the 1956 Mercury.

A friend of mine owns a 1956 Mercury Monterey two-door hardtop, painted in black and white. Back in the day many cars were two-toned; maybe that’s why today’s monotoned cars don’t resonate with me all that much.

The 1956 Mercury has a clamshell-shaped dashboard with a prominent fan-like array of gauges. For an auto buff, it’s a built-in entertainment center with numerous gauges, dials  and displays.

In the neighborhood where I grew up, a neighbor owned a four-door 1956 Mercury Montclair hardtop. There was no center pillar to classify it as a sedan. But this four-door was charming, not your grandfather’s car.

The neighbor’s car was adorned in a cream white and orange color scheme seen on many Ford and Mercury models of the day. It might have been a four-door but it wasn’t frumpy or mundane.

Way back when I remember riding in that Mercury four-door. It was comfortable, luxurious and reasonably powerful as I recall.

Actually the 1956 Mercury is a modest refinement of the 1955 model which has basically the same lines. The side trim is different between the two years but they are hard to tell apart. Another friend of mine owned a 1956 Mercury hardtop for quite some time but regrettably sold it years ago.

Styling obviously changes over the years and the charm was lost on the 1957-58 Mercurys, which had an angular spaceship-like look to them with character lines running every which way.

The design target often moves between years of a particular car. You love the lines of one car but the next one is a total dud. Every year from the 1950s through the 1960s styling changed dramatically for each model. There was considerable suspense just before the new model was introduced in the fall.

Now a car’s design may be mostly unchanged for a number of years. That makes it difficult for an auto enthusiast to tell if a car is a 2019 model or one that’s five years old. It makes today’s car spotting a boring prospect compared to the good old days.

Back to the 1956 Mercury. It had the Ford Motor Co. “bread and butter” 312 cubic-inch V-8 engine that soldiered along for a number of years. Refined and reliable, that engine was capable of some significant power but generally was docile for most drivers.

As a youngster, I built a primitive, small-sized model of that 1956 four-door but sadly it has never been rendered in a larger-scale mass-produced kit or one of the precision diecast metal models. (If  you can’t get the real car, you can be “consoled” if there’s an exact rendering of the car, I have found.)

The 1956 Mercury also came in a swashbuckling convertible and a plain-Jane pillared two-door sedan but the most memorable one for me is the two-door hardtop. Last week when I visited a thrift store in busy Sacramento, I parked next to a 1955 Mercury hardtop that time has been very kind to, looking like it just drove off the showroom floor.

Not only are the 1956 Mercury’s lines endearing but they bring back memories of a kinder, simpler time. Every day’s a good day if you can feast your eyes on a 1956 Mercury.

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