Ford’s entry-level luxury marque was missing something, and the wide, long low, well-chromed Mercury Monterey Custom S-55 arrived in mid-1962 to rectify the omission. The general intention was to grab a piece of the action that was developing around sportier models in the early ’60s and the particular task was socking it to the successful Pontiac Grand Prix, which was just such a car.
This was the first of the big-bucket-seat Mercurys that sought to profit by stretching and lowering Ford platforms. The Monterey Custom S-55 came with a base 6.4 litre engine, but Dearborn’s new 406 enlargement was available as a go-faster option with two levels of tuning – both engines were called Marauders when dropped into a Mercury. The Monterey was similar to the Ford Galaxie 500XL that arrived at the same time with a similar mission statement.
The Custom S-55 had beefed-up suspension and mostly came with three-speed Multi-Drive Merc-O-Matic automatic transmission coupled with the smaller engine, as the objective was fast roadwork rather than track prowess. The interior was nicely appointed with thin-shell bucket seats, plenty of vinyl trim and a bright-metal floor console with shift lever and storage compartment. But ’62 turned out to be a bad year, with just over 4,000 sold.
Undeterred, the Custom S-55 was back in ’63 with an enlarged range, consisting of four body styles. There was a two-door convertible, two-door Marauder Hardtop, four-door Breezeaway Hardtop and the two-door Breezeaway Hardtop. The hardtops had a distinctive backward-raking sloped rear window and there was a choice of three-speed automatic transmission or a four-speed manual gearbox plus a third, even-bigger engine. The styling did not please everyone, though combined sales did rise to around the 7,500 mark. It was not enough, however, and the Custom S-55 was immediately discontinued.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1962 (until 1963)
6.4 I (390 cid), 6.7 I (406 cid) or 7.0 I (427 cid) V8
With 7.0 I engine – top speed of 120 mph (193 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.7 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Although the Monterey Custom S-55 line was dropped after lust two years, the S-55 designation would later reappear as a high-performance ‘Sports Package’ option on other Mercury cars.