The superstitions around “Mercury Retrograde” are perceived as explanations for communication and travel gone awry. Maybe that was the first mistake Ford made; naming their middle brand Mercury in the first place. For every two steps forward the brand made, it seemingly made two steps back.
They always ended up in the same place: being a Fancy Ford. Before it gave up the ghost and entered another period of review, the 1959 Mercury models tried to right any wrongs that prevented its individualized success on the medium car market.
The biggest step forward should be considered to be the 1957 models. Previously Mercury had done a dance that placed them as either Fancy Fords (1939-48, 1952-56) or Junior Lincolns (1948-51). The design androgyny mimicked the mercurial label. However, in a flush mid-priced market, the decision was made to make a full fledged, individual Mercury.
Between the overcrowding with the new Edsel, a nasty recession and less consumer income to be spread around come 1958 meant the Mercury couldn’t sustain consistent forward motion, much as the planet does astrologically.
A bit more rationality came with the rethought ’59 models. Gone was the miserly Medalist and the technologically tricked out Turnpike Cruiser. Furthermore, there weren’t any senior Edsels muscling in on the heart of the Mid Price Dancefloor. Bulk was up, as was glass area with the compound curve windshield.
Horsepower was down, however. The Monterey traded its swift kick in the pants 383 V8 from the previous year for the 312 Y-Block that was in engine bays for 1956 and ’57. With a mind towards recession-friendly economy, the former 255 horsepower zing that it provided in ’57 was strangled down to 210 horsepower in a vain attempt to give these bruisers some sense of modesty at the fuel pump.
This makes the 1959 models no less odd ducks than any iteration of this attempt to give the Ford’s middle children an identity all their own. In relative terms it wasn’t a failure; DeSoto during these years always fared worse in sales. However the volume on the premium side of the sales scale Mercury was hoping for didn’t materialize. It depends on who you cross compare Mercury to: they definitely weren’t making significant in-roads to Olds or Buick volume, but they were holding their own.
After one more year of unique clothing, Mercury went direct again in 1961. It returned to being what it had been, a Fancy Ford. It would be stuck in this role until its demise 49 years later. Perhaps, had Ford stuck with crafting a unique mid-priced product beyond 1960, the fate of Mercury might have been less subject to further retrograde periods full of “Ford Twin” products. Review and analysis of what you could have done better in a Mercury Retrograde is pointless, however. In the aftermath of your foiled plans, you might find your true direction.