A review of the 1948 Mercury Eight highlights just how far American automotive ingenuity has progressed in less than seven decades. How about 100 horsepower instead of today’s 200, 300 and more? Compare a three-speed manual with today’s six-speeds and eight-speeds. Back then, in an era of 26 cents-per-gallon gas, the massive Eight could be had for less than two grand.
The Origins of the Mercury Eight
The Mercury Eight made its debut in 1939, and the second-generation design appeared in 1941. From model year 1941 to 1948, the Eight was powered by a 3.9-liter, water-cooled V-8 capable of 100 horsepower. Power was relayed to the rear wheels via a three-speed manual transmission. The car was brought to a stop via four hydraulic drum brakes. There was but a single line of Eights produced for the 1948 model year, as the two-door sedan and the business coupe were discontinued from the previous year. Also gone was the eight-passenger Sportsman wood-paneled wagon that briefly appeared after the war.
A $1,885 Convertible
Of the approximately 50,000 1948 Mercury Eights sold, about 7,500 were convertible coupes. These convertibles were sold for $1,885. This translates to about $19,000 in today’s dollars. The average worker in 1948 would have needed about six-months’ worth of wages to buy one outright. Nicely restored versions today may bring upwards of $40,000.
A Mid-year Transition
The 1948 Mercury Eight represented the last year of that particular model, and it was essentially unchanged from 1947. There was little motivation to make changes to a car that the recently established Lincoln-Mercury division already had plans to replace. In April of 1948, production began on the next generation of Mercury Eights, and they would be offered during model years 1949-1951 inclusive.
Development of the “new” concept was rumored to have actually begun in secret during World War II. The re-designed Eights would bear a great similarity to the Lincolns of their day, utilizing the “inverted bathtub” look. This design quirk would be especially noticeable among the convertibles. In reality, the original plan had allegedly been to make this new vehicle the Lincoln Zephyr, but it became the new Mercury Eight instead. The enlarged 4.2-liter engine was capable of 110 horsepower, and a three-speed manual was still employed. Braking was still provided by four hydraulic drums.
The Mercury Eight would go on to become a favorite among hot rod enthusiasts. The expansive skin has since provided the perfect “canvas” on which to show off custom paint jobs.
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