The 1954 Mercury has never been able to steal away the spotlight from its older automotive siblings built from 1949-51 because the earlier Merc models inspired the Lead Sled custom movement for an entire generation of car guys.
Mercury was an upscale brand in the Ford family of fine cars, built to compete with Oldsmobile, Buick and higher end Mopars in the tweener market. A Mercury was more than a Ford but not quite a Lincoln in the Blue Oval food chain, so it meant owners were headed in the right financial direction-but not yet far enough along the road to success to buy a Lincoln.
One could successfully put forth a strong argument that a top scale Ford equipped with every available option was more luxurious than an entry level Mercury, but the general rule of thumb was a Mercury had a higher prestige factor than a Ford.
The 1954 Mercury embodied everything that was right about a medium grade luxury car built that year. A noticeable feature was the rear deck of a ’54 Merc because of the large taillights housed in what could only be described as fledgling fins with roots in the 1952 Mercury models.
The major difference was the 1954 Mercury’s taillights were full-sized compared to the standard edition 1952-3 Mercury taillights and were more conspicuous on the car. The ’54 Merc’s wraparound taillights were a bold and beautiful appointment that accentuated the car’s subtle fins, a feature that became a signature look for domestic cars during the latter part of the 1950s.
A 1954 Mercury was also offered with a unique V-8 model known as the Y-block OHV (Overhead valve) V-8 engine, a new powertrain designed to replace Ford’s famous flathead V-8 engine that traced its roots back to 1932. Ford flathead power gained notoriety when a 1934 Ford driven by notorious bank robber Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie and Clyde fame) was able to outrun everything except bullets after he and his criminally inclined female companion finally met their deaths in a police shootout.
The advent of the more powerful 256 cubic-inch OHV Ford V-8 came 20 years too late for Bonnie and Clyde, but the engine delivered 161 horsepower to the right foot of 1954 Mercury owners who chose to live up to the Roman god’s (Mercury) reputation for blazing speed during the latter stages of the early 1950s.
The 1954 Mercury was also given a better ball joint front suspension that gave the car superior handling on the road, a feature that was a wise addition to a faster car at the time.
As mentioned earlier, the Mercury marque was always associated with luxury, so it is no surprise a 1954 model offered power steering, power brakes, power seats-and even a plexiglass sunroof-on its option list. A ’54 Merc’s generous list of options ensured the car was a perfect blend of style, luxury and performance for its lucky owners.
By: Jerry Sutherland
Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post, Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.
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