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The unsung beauty of a 1953 Mercury Monterey

Mercury, the now-defunct brand that went from being a unique and beloved member of the Detroit family of automakers to a much-derided collection of badge-jobs, deserves a respectable place in the annals of automotive history. While the past few generations of models were little more than slightly less appealing Fords, there was once a time when this company created unique cars with one-of-a-kind parts and looks that would stop pedestrians in their tracks.

It's hard to pinpoint what decade or generation was Mercury's heyday, as the automaker never really had a complete lineup of truly spectacular cars at any given time so much as a few standout models throughout the years that elevated the marquee above the competition. One such car was the second-generation Mercury Monterey.

When Mercury introduced the Monterey, it hit the scene at around the same time as the Ford Crestliner and Lincoln Lido compact coupes. Not quite sports cars, these models were aimed at the more popular hardtops offered by General Motors at the time that featured average performance in an attractive package. When they were first introduced in 1950, despite several appealing features, like an opulently detailed interior and a number of aesthetic pleasantries along the exterior, few of these models were sold.

In 1952, Ford reimagined the Monterey and decided to sell it as Mercuries top-model, complete with a four door sedan and station wagon variant to complement the suddenly handsome – and increasingly popular – sports coupe. In a recent AutoWeek article, the paper took a look at an old advertisement for a Monterey that showcased the gorgeous two-toned body style – in this case, a beige body and a rich red hard top.

"It's a stunning car — light, compact, decked with chrome yet still somehow restrained, at least compared to what followed. The ad asks us to "Imagine tingling, jet-smooth, alive-with-action performance" and "visualize a kind of construction that builds a car as a whole… And it's not hard to imagine, or visualize," the articles author Graham Kozak said in the July 12 story.

The reimagined Monterey entered 1952 with 18 percent more window space so that passengers who may have felt cramped in an earlier incarnation of the model now could enjoy expansive views of the road from any seat in the car. As well, the already impressive interior was reimagined with heater and vent controls that had been changed to levers and placed on a plane set perpendicular to the dash behind the steering wheel.

This last detail may have been the one damning feature of the new Monterey, as Popular Mechanics named this one of the 13 Most Unsafe Vehicles ever built because of the rather gruesome, stabbing nature of these levers upon collision. Aside from that, however, this V8 roadrunner was a blast for safe drivers, and was a coupe that truly doubled as a family car, given the vast interior room and trunk space.

The Monterey most recently came back as a minivan which was, of course, no more than a re-badged Windstar, and hardly a generation-defining breakthrough. Do you have a favorite Mercury that you think helped define the brand for a given generation? Leave your thoughts below:

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