|A 60% INCREASE in sales was Mercury's very tangible reward for its 1968 revamping of the lackluster Comet line into performance-oriented Montegos and Cyclones. Serious and successful entry into NASCAR racing didn't hurt the cause, either, although it has proved tough to match essentially identical machinery against cousin Ford's astronomical budget.
The original Comet name is still perpetuated in the form of a low-line sports coupe but the bread and butter is now supplied by Montego in plain, MX and MX Brougham styles. What Mercury rightfully calls its "top image" cars are the fastback Cyclone and Cyclone CJ hardtops. The formal-roofed Cyclones have been dropped, leaving that style to Comet and the Montegos. There are also a Montego MX convertible, 4-door sedans in three Montego varieties and a separate series of 2- and 3-seat wagons.
Mercury's philosophy in the presentation of its performance packages differs from the rest of the industry in that there is no skimping on Cyclone trim. The interiors are carpeted, normally upholstered in a vinyl softer than glove leather, and feature a wood applique on the dash. They are the equal of any other Merc intermediate interior except the MX Brougham option.
Another departure from conventional supercar thinking is making the mild but quite adequate 302-cubic-inch 210horsepower V-8 standard Cyclone power. This is a regular fuel engine with 2-barrel carburetion and is also the first V-8 option in Comets and Montegos. From here you can move up in any of the series with cubic-inch displacements of 351, 390, 428 and 427. The smaller number of the latter two is on top because this, of course, is FoMoCo's barely disguised NASCAR engine, complete with every piece of race-bred hardware except duel 4barrel carburetion. If you order a 428, with or without ram-air, your Cyclone becomes a CJ. In a Montego hardtop or convertible where it is also available, you just have a lot of street-oriented power (335 horsepower) without the burden of meaningless initials on your car's fenders.
For family usage Mercury engineers are high on both the new 250-cubicinch 6 which is standard through the Montego MX as well as the equally new 351-inch V-8 in either 2- or 4barrel form. Each of these represent second generation approaches to emission control where high standards of cleanliness have been achieved without sacrifice of performance. As popularity directly affects trade-in value, though, it is interesting to note that the three Mercury intermediates with engines of 300 horsepower or over are sold to everyone with lesser power.
Styling changes for '69 are restricted to a new grille that relates more closely to the family theme of a humped hood terminating in a vertical motiff as established by the Lincoln Continental. Two-door models have ventless side glass and with this, of course, you get the eye-level, forced-air ventilation system. Mercury's intermediate wagons for the first time offer at extra cost the new dual-action tailgate that may be opened with the window up or down.
|Reprinted without permission from Motor Trends "New Cars 1969" by Doug MacDonald. Copyright 1968 by Petersen Publishing Co.|