James Dean famously drove one in Rebel Without a Cause, and perhaps Mercurys have never been cooler. That was more than 50 years ago and the brand is now on the verge of extinction. But as Plymouth, Pontiac and even Edsel have shown, some brands have legs that stretch long after new cars are gone from dealerships.
So where does that leave Mercury? Officially, it’s done as of Dec. 31, but enthusiasts are sure to have interest in select models as their availability becomes scarce and their exclusivity elevates.
No, we’re not talking Tracers. This means there could be a decent market for Mercurys on the auction circuit, though experts are mixed in their opinions.
“When we did a good Mercury, it breaks the bank,” said Gary Bennett, vice president of consignment for Barrett-Jackson. “They’re a unique brand with a loyal following.”
Bennett said Cougars, XR7s, Comets, Marauders, and of course, the lead sleds of the late 1940s à la Dean draw interest on the auction circuit.
“I think that the fact they’re going to discontinue, it’s going to create a new awareness,” Bennett said.
RM Auctions found success with another Mercury, the “Woody,” at Pebble Beach this summer. RM sold a 1946 Sportsman convertible for $368,500 and a 1942 Mercury station wagon for $209,000–healthy figures for a brand that’s soon to be history.
On the other hand, Mercury has languished on the sales charts in recent years and any cache built up through racing and boulevard prowess slowly melted away, some argue.
Dana Mecum, president of Mecum Auctions, said he had a 1969 Cougar that raked in nearly $100,000 at a recent sale. But he noted that the brand has been rather flat overall.
“I don’t think it has any effect,” he said of Mercury’s pending demise.
Still, he said he did see renewed interest in Mopar muscle when Chrysler reintroduced the vaunted Hemi V8.
“It not only reinvigorated the new ones, the old ones perked up,” Mecum said.
Richard Sevenoaks, owner of Leake Auction Co., said Mercury is a mixed bag. The style of the iconic 1950s cars still stands out, but the significance of other Mercurys may be lost on younger enthusiasts.
“They developed this swooped hood that no one else really had,” Sevenoaks said. “It’s translating right now. People love the styles of those cars.”
At the press conference to announce Mercury’s doom, Ford product czar Derrick Kuzak put it succinctly, “It’s a storied brand.”
We’ll see if it has a future on the auction market.
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