the view through the windshield
1940 Mercury Eight: A Slightly Better Ford

The Mercury brand was born of Ford Motor Company's realization that they had nothing to offer in the "mid-priced field" - the place between the $700 Ford and $1,400 Lincoln Zephyr. This market segment was producing lots of revenue for Chrysler Corp., General Motors and the independents and Ford wanted a piece of the action.

Henry Ford's son, Edsel, came up with the idea of creating an additional offering for Ford. He was thinking of a "super deluxe Ford", rather than a separate model. In fact, early production Mercury models carried hubcaps with 'Ford Mercury' on them. At its late 1938 introduction as a '39 model, the car was finally designated Mercury. Early Mercs looked a lot like Fords, although the two didn't share a single exterior body panel. Nevertheless, the Mercury was a little bigger, more powerful and better-trimmed than its Ford Deluxe sibling and it sold well - 70,835 vehicles in its first model year.

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Mercury was restyled slightly for 1940 with new sealed-beam headlights, new taillights and was given the designation 'Mercury Eight', an acknowledgement of its 95 horsepower V8 engine. (Many of its medium-priced competitors had mere six-cylinder powerplants.)

In 1940, over 86,000 Mercuries were sold. Most of these sales probably would have gone to other medium-priced make if Mercury didn't exist; in that context, Mercury was a success. But, it was a qualified success, in the sense that most other mid-priced brands handily outsold Mercury:

1940
Car Brand
Price
base 4-door sdn.
Price
top convertible cpe.
'40 Model year sales
(units)
Ford
$701
$849
559,978
Lincoln Zephyr
$1,439
$1,818
21,944
Mercury
$987
$1,079
86,062
Oldsmobile
$899
$1,222
185,154
Pontiac
$876
$1,046
217,001
Buick
$996
$1,431
278,784
Dodge
$855
$1,030
195,505
DeSoto
$945
$1,095
65,467
Hudson
$763
$1,087
87,945

Nevertheless, the early Mercs were handsome cars and quite popular with hot rodders just after World War II. (posted 5/31/10)

Remember When: 1940
auto blogIn 1940, the Great Depression was beginning to ease; Americans were earning more and buying more so being able to buy goods and further fueling the economy.

Germany invaded France, Denmark, Luxembourg Belgium, Netherlands and Norway. Germany and Italy agreed to form an alliance against France and the United Kingdom. Bombs fell on Great Britain.

In the 1940 Presidential Election, Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Republican Wendell Willkie and gained an unprecedented third term. The Selective Training and Service Act was signed into law as first peacetime military draft in United States history.

1940 produced several memorable hit songs: 'I'll Never Smile Again' by Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, Glenn Miller's 'In the Mood' and 'Pennsylvania 6-5000' and Artie Shaw's 'Frenesi'.

Synthetic rubber was the most important of several new products debuting in 1940; fads included calypso music, and roller rink skating.

In 1940, a new house cost $3,920; the average income per year was $1,725. The price of a gallon of gas was 11¢.

Popular films included 'Pinocchio', 'Fantasia', 'The Grapes of Wrath', 'My Little Chickadee' and 'The Great Dictator', starring Charlie Chaplin.

Several famous people were born in 1940: Mario Andretti, Tom Brokaw, Herbie Hancock, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, golfer Jack Nicklaus and singer Tina Turner.

Deaths included auto magnate Walter P. Chrysler, Leon Trotsky, Austrian auto/airplane builder Edmund Rumpler, movie cowboy Tom Mix, Neville Chamberlain and writer F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In baseball, the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Detroit Tigers to win the 1940 World Series.


More AutoSketch car drawings can be found here.

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Disclaimer

The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

Spelling, punctuation and syntax errors are cheerfully repaired when I find them; grudgingly fixed when you do.

If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of giving me free cars to try and change my mind.

If I have slandered any people or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.

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