(Found In) Lone Mountain (San Francisco, California): 1959 Mercury Park Lane Cruiser 4 Door Hardtop Sedan

image (11).jpegWe’ve discussed before how choosing the name Mercury for its middle class brand might have been FordMoCo’s biggest mistake. Selecting the celestial body known to astrologically put the most mix-ups in our lives was just right for conjuring up a make full of surprises and shadows.

This Mercury Retrograde we once again trace back to the heady times of 1959, from the alternate perspective of a top of the line Park Lane, all dressed in Black. Different in mission and purpose than the bare bones Monterey, we’ll see how it was supposed to be a giant killer and a bridge to bigger things, but had to retrace its steps under the age of McNamara.

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(Found In) Polk Gulch (San Francisco, California): 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Convertible

image (5).jpegGeneral Motors’s status as the majority producer of Automobiles for much of the 20th Century meant it could waste time where other car manufacturers couldn’t. This meant that GM fielded no less than 3 automatic transmissions for shiftless driving throughout its 5 brands into the 1960’s. This also meant, as Air Conditioning became commonplace, and fun in the sun motoring became a thing of the past, GM fielded convertibles, full sized convertibles to boot, in all 5 brands way into the Disco Ball and Opera Window’d 1970’s.

Right in the middle of the pack, in the middle of the model generation, we have the Oldsmobile Delta 88. What’d you get over the other offerings at Chevy, Pontiac, Buick and Cadillac? Who bought these beautiful beasts?

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(Found In) The Tenderloin (San Francisco, California): 1956 (Packard) Clipper Super Sedan

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Although the voyage was almost over, the (Packard) Clipper was one mighty ship. Full of technological advances, most reserved for the premium revamped Packards of 1955, they should have held the tiller til brighter successes throughout the rest of the 1950’s.

Many factors prevented their efforts at buoying the fleet of Packards while exploring the Medium-Price field against Oldsmobiles, Buicks, Chryslers and Mercuries. All but in name, they were the final formal Packards, and some of the finest to boot.
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(Found In) The Tenderloin (San Francisco, California): 1964 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova 400 Station Wagon

image (6) One must remember the scope and power of General Motors in the early 1960’s. When the Corvair didn’t conquer all, becoming the #2 sales holder among all domestic compact cars, Chevrolet and General Motors were not satisfied enough with quarter million rear-engined wonders that buyers chose.

Crash development to add an additional compact to the Chevrolet line started immediately. This brought no less that 5 miniature motoring experiences to the General Motors fold by 1962. What made the Chevy II so unique among all of those offerings?
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(Found In) South Of Market (San Francisco, California): 1963 Mercury Meteor Custom Station Wagon

13895026_1232262606784763_38402590838525256_n We’ve covered the fall to earth of the 1962-63 Mercury Meteor before. What we didn’t cover were the distinct efforts of metal these Mercurial beasts were offered in. From bargain to slightly brash, it’s kind of a sad story that the 1-2-3 diversity left Mercury dealers with a plethora of plodding ambiguity.

Today we swap out the dashing, dapper coupe version for something far more practical. Spacious, savvy and spoiled with options, the upmarket Meteor Wagons should have been bigger hits.

 
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(Found In) Polk Gulch (San Francisco, California): 1969 Plymouth Fury III Convertible

imageDespite efforts to be a constant trendsetter, Plymouth proved itself to be an also-ran brand in the 1960’s. Always in the shadows of market competitors Chevrolet and Ford, Plymouth also had to fend for territory from not too costly sibling brand Dodge. Seemingly, whatever Plymouth had, Dodge wanted too. Without the customer base of Chevrolet, or the marketplace freedom of Ford, Plymouth was oft-left to itself to provide a narrow bandwith of consumer desires.

While this benefitted the skinflint image of the price-leading Valiant, it didn’t exactly do wonders for fancier wares that carried the Plymouth prestige parade. The Fury nameplate started out in the same league as the Chevrolet Impala in prestige in 1956. A Jupiter Return later, it was more or less a bargain stage brand, in 1, 2 and 3 strengths (each a little less despair provoking than the last). How does that translate to sales when this formula encapsulates a full sized convertible?
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(Found In) Richmond District (San Francisco, California): 1965 Buick Skylark Convertible

image (19)As we head into Convertible season, we look back 50+ years to the peak of the Convertible Market. All American brands minus soon to exit the sales field Studebaker offered convertibles. From petite to ponderous, the choices abounded for budgets stuck in the basement all the way to Bergdorfs.

Buick didn’t stay out of the game at all, offering convertibles in all series except the super exclusive Riviera for ’65. Prize of the smaller lines however was the delightful, spritely and spirited bird named Skylark. For those looking for a pinch of personal luxury in a more petite (if not by as much in the recent past) the Skylark proved the perfect pie to consume on the interstates.

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(Found In) Golden Gate Park (San Francisco, California): 1962 Plymouth Fury Four Door Sedan

image (13) You shouldn’t believe everything you hear over dinner party chatter. Especially when you’re already on the ropes with your business. Chrysler Corporation seemed perpetually going just askew of where buyers wanted for a good portion of the Post-war era.

First the boxy post-war efforts, then the lack of an Automatic transmission, then the quality debacles of The Forward Look to some rather interstellar looking land based transit as the decade clock ticked over into the 60’s, it was a surprise that Highland Park found buyers for their wares. Yet another goof greeted them for 1962.
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(Found In) Civic Center (San Francisco, California): 1966 Cadillac DeVille Convertible Coupe

image (5)As the 2nd half of the 1960’s got underway, Cadillac found itself not doing much wrong. The most premium General Motors offering had long banished American luxury rivals to the lower rungs of the sales charts, if not into the grave. However, this swagger combined with swelling size would eventually be the sword The Standard of The World would nearly mortally wound itself on.

The 1966 Model year represented perhaps the pinnacle of substance, style and snob appeal that would be eventually whittled away from copious Caddies for more than 2 decades. This knight in shining white armor droptop tells a rather peculiar tale of being laurel crowded, yet resting on said laurels at the same time.
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(Found In) Portola (San Franciso, California) : 1960 Chevrolet Impala Convertible Coupe

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It might be amazing to most minds that this flaming red finned flamingo of late 50’s meets the turn-of-the-decade imagination was considered more conservative than what came before. With some flattening of curves and angles, the Space, Spirit and Splendor of the 1960 full sized Chervolets prepped them for a decade of more mature motoring and discretionary buyer tastes.

The rationality mixed with moxie would propel the Impala towards becoming one of the keystone cars of the 1960’s. Like the missile trim on the sides, there was nowhere to go but forward for the priciest non-sports Chevrolet.
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