1961 Mercury Meteor 800 4-door hardtop
|Body and chassis|
4-door station wagon
The Mercury Meteor is an automobile that was produced by Mercury from 1961 to 1963. For 1961, the name was applied to low-end full-sized vehicles; for 1962 and 1963, the name was applied to Mercury's mid-sized sedans, in a marketing attempt to appeal to the excitement surrounding the Space Race, before being discontinued. Introduced while Mercury as a marque was in flux, and never a solid marketplace performer in consumer sales, the Meteor remains more a side note than a well known Mercury product.
Canadian Meteor nameplate
Meteor was first used by Ford of Canada as the brand name for a distinct line of models introduced in 1949. The standalone Meteor brand name used then-contemporary Ford models, trimmed specifically for the Canadian market with unique grilles, taillights and other trim to marginally differentiate them from the Ford vehicles. This was done to give Canadian Lincoln-Mercury dealerships a product to sell in the low-price field, similar to Ford of Canada dealerships offering the Monarch line of lower-price vehicles which were actually another variation of Ford models with unique trim and model names. This was typical practice in the Canadian market (compared to that of the United States), where smaller towns might have only a Ford dealer or a Lincoln-Mercury dealer, but often not both. The introduction of Meteor also gave Lincoln-Mercury a direct competitor to the GM Pontiac brand in Canada.
From 1961 to 1963, the Meteor brand was temporarily discontinued, as the Mercury division used the Meteor name for a specific model. In addition, in both the United States and Canada, the Mercury division was shifted downward in price.
In 1964, Lincoln-Mercury reintroduced the Meteor brand, replacing the Mercury Monterey in Canada. In contrast to previous versions, new Meteors used Mercury bodies, distinguished by the use of Ford interior trim. After 1976, the separate Meteor model lines were discontinued, with the nameplate becoming a low-cost trim of the Mercury Marquis in Canada through the 1981 model year.
In the mid-1950s, Ford executives were convinced by Ernest Breech that, in order to compete with General Motors, the automaker had to meet each sales segment with a unique product. The plan affected Mercury by calling for the marque's first completely new platform and body design since World War II in order to differentiate it from Fords, beginning with the 1957 model year.
Historically, Mercury was usually considered a "lower-medium-priced" car, most often compared to Pontiac and Dodge. Under Breech's plan Mercury would move upmarket and compete more directly with Buick, Oldsmobile, Chrysler and DeSoto and the Edsel would take over Mercury's previous role as the lower-medium-priced car and compete more directly with Pontiac and Dodge.
While Breech’s plan could have succeeded in the early 1950s, by the late 1950s the bottom was beginning to drop out of the middle price car market; the 1958 recession effectively rendered Breech’s plan obsolete. Sales of Ford’s Edsel marque were a complete disaster.
Sales of Mercury products failed to reach expected levels, leading to cost cutting decisions beginning in the 1961 model year. Had Robert S. McNamara, then head of the Ford division, had his way, Lincoln, Edsel and Mercury would have been eliminated. Instead, a compromise was made, and beginning in 1961 Ford and Mercury used the basic Ford body shells, and relied upon unique trim elements to differentiate the marques one from another. Edsel, meanwhile, was discontinued after a short run of 1960 models; what emerged as the 1961 Mercury Meteor was initially envisioned as the 1961 Edsel.
Mercury product planning underwent another shift with the departure of fiscal conservative McNamara from Ford. What had been McNamara’s attempts to remake Mercury as a senior Ford were discarded, and instead, for 1965, Mercury was marketed as being "built in the Lincoln tradition".
The first step towards this goal was the elimination of the compact-bodied Comet. Although Mercury had no mid-sized car for the 1964 and 1965 model years, the Comet continued to sell well during this time. Because the Comet name had better recognition than Meteor, the Comet name was transferred to Mercury's mid-sized car based on the Ford Fairlane beginning with the 1966 model year, in effect finally replacing the Meteor model and name that had last been built and used in 1963. For 1964, the Meteor name returned on a series of full-size models in the Canadian market, much as had been the case until 1961.
First Generation (1961)
1961 Meteor 800 2-door hardtop
Pico Rivera, California|
Mahwah, New Jersey
St. Louis, Missouri
|Body and chassis|
223 cu in (3.7 L) Mileage Maker I6|
292 cu in (4.8 L) Ford Y-block V8
352 cu in (5.8 L) FE V8
390 cu in (6.4 L) FE V8
2-speed Merc-O-Matic automatic |
3-speed Merc-O-Matic automatic
|Wheelbase||3,048 mm (120 in)|
The first step taken to make Mercury more cost effective within Ford, was to shed its higher priced Montclair and Park Lane models. The Monterey, previously the entry-level full-sized Mercury offering and priced slightly higher for the 1961 model year than comparable 1960 models, became the new top-of-the-line model. It was joined by the new, lower-priced Meteor 600 and Meteor 800. The Meteor 600 and Meteor 800 were, respectively, the evolution of the Medalist and Custom models last offered in 1956, as well as replacements for the discontinued Edsel. All full-sized 1961 Mercurys rode on a 120” wheelbase.
For 1961, the Meteor was a full-sized model, differentiated from the Monterey through its trim and taillights. Meteor 600 taillights were oblong, while the Meteor 800 and upmarket Monterey used six circular tail lights, three on each side. Meteor 600s, available only as two- and four-door sedans, featured chrome spears from the taillights to the front wheels. Meteor 800s, available in two- and four-door sedan and hardtop body styles, featured the spear and three chrome bars on the front fenders, chrome fender fin trim, rocker panel trim and back-up lights.
The standard engine in the Meteor and Commuter was a 223 cubic inch displacement inline six-cylinder with a single-barrel carburetor that generated 135 horsepower (101 kW) @ 4000 rpm. Optional engines included a 292 cubic inch V-8 with a two-barrel carburetor generating 175 horsepower (130 kW) @ 4200 rpm (standard on the Monterey and Colony Park), as well as a 352 cubic inch Marauder V-8 with a two-barrel carburetor generating 220 horsepower (160 kW), a 390 cubic inch Marauder V-8 with a four-barrel carburetor generating 300 horsepower (220 kW), and a 390 cubic inch Marauder V-8 with a four-barrel carburetor generating 330 horsepower (250 kW). The standard transmission was a three-speed manual with overdrive available as an option. Merc-O-Matic and Multi-Drive automatic transmissions were available as options.
Second generation (1962-1963)
1963 Meteor S-33 2-door hardtop in Carnival Red
Kansas City, Missouri
|Body and chassis|
4-door station wagon
170 in3 OHV straight-6|
221 in3 Windsor V8
260 in3 Windsor V8
|Wheelbase||2,934 mm (115.5 in)|
For 1962, Mercury marketing decided that the Monterey nameplate had better consumer recognition than the Meteor moniker as far as full-sized vehicles were concerned (despite the fact that the Meteor outsold the Monterey), and instead assigned the Meteor name to a new line of mid-sized cars based on the Ford Fairlane which, in turn, was based on a long-wheelbase version of the Ford Falcon chassis. This smaller, mid-sized Meteor filled the product gap between the full-sized Monterey and the compact, Ford Falcon-based Mercury Comet.
Riding the Fairlane’s 116.5 inch wheelbase, the 1962 Meteors wore unique rear quarter panels that mimicked the Monterey's jet-pod tail lights. The base Meteor and better-trimmed Meteor Custom were available as two- and four-door sedans. The Meteor S-33 was a specially appointed two-door sedan featuring premium exterior trim and interior ameneties including bucket seats, and a center console. Its styling and features were similar to the Fairlane 500 sports coupe.
For 1963, Meteors received a trim update and the addition of two body styles, a four-door station wagon and a two-door hardtop coupé. The four-door station wagon was added to both the Meteor and Meteor Custom series. In the Meteor Custom series the station wagon was referred to as the Mercury Country Cruise and featured simulated wood-grain trim on the exterior. The hardtop coupe was added to the Meteor Custom and Meteor S-33 series. The hardtop coupé replaced the two-door sedan in the Meteor S-33 series, as had the Fairlane sports coupé.
The base Meteor engine was a 170 cubic inch, inline six-cylinder engine with a one-barrel carburetor 101 hp (75 kW) at 4000 rpm. Optional engines included a 221 cubic inch V-8 with a two-barrel carburetor that generated 145 hp (108 kW) and a 260 cubic inch V-8 with a two-barrel carburetor that generated 164 hp (122 kW). A three-speed manual transmission was standard. Overdrive and Merc-O-Matic automatic transmissions were options. A four-speed manual transmission became an option for 1963.
Sales of the mid-sized Mercury Meteor were less than expected and the model was discontinued at the end of the 1963 model year.
- Odin, L.C. A concise guide to the Ford and Mercury full-size automobile production 1969-1978. Belvedere Publishing, 2016. ASIN: B01HE91Y4K.
- Gunnell, John, Editor (1987). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946–1975. Kraus Publications. ISBN 0-87341-096-3.
Media related to Mercury Meteor at Wikimedia Commons
|Park Lane||Park Lane||Park Lane||Park Lane||Marquis||Marquis|
|Colony Park||Colony Park||Colony Park||Colony Park||Colony Park||Colony Park|
|Sports car||Capri||Capri II||Capri|