In 1952, Mercury offered a full-size vehicle called the Monterey. Sales slowly dipped the succeeding years and in 1955, the Monterey lost its status as the top model for Mercury. As part of the demotion, the Monterey was available in two lower-priced trim packages- the Medalist and the Custom, which was the basic model. The low- priced Medalist did not fare well on the market and was discontinued a year later in 1956.
The Brief Existence of the Medalist
The Mercury Medalist was the epitome of all flash and no substance. The Ford Motor Company had placed colorful ads depicting the Medalist on highways and the open road. Loving couples stood on the shores of placid lakes with the Medalist gleaming in the foreground. Beaming families smiled as they saw loved ones inside. Vibrant illustrations referred to it as “The Big M” as it scaled mountainsides and passed pace cars on racetracks.
But was there anything truly memorable about the 1956 Medalist aside from the beautifully illustrated advertisements? Not really. Basically, it was a 1956 Ford with an extra 3.5-inch wheelbase. It was equipped with a standard 312 V8 engine instead of the 292 in a Ford. The Ford of 1956 didn’t take any chances. It was a moderately conservative automobile that was far from extraordinary. The Medalist was the epitome of an entry level vehicle.
The length of the Medalist was shorter than other mid-priced cars in its class. The DeSoto was a full seven inches longer. To further the point, the Medalist wasn’t even the most powerful car of the group.
Why did Mercury take the time and energy to promote the Medalist so heavily?
A Sacrifice Was Made
A key component of any traveling circus is the person known as the advance man. His job is to ride ahead of the show to tell everyone about what was coming. After all, people in town had to prepare themselves for the big event. It appears that was the primary goal for the 1956 Medalist. Other car companies were promoting the cars they had. Succinctly, Mercury went to market with the car they had, which was not an ideal situation for the company at the time. But Mercury was covertly priming customers for the vehicle that was coming, a revamped Monterrey.
The challenge for Mercury was transitioning from the 1955 and 56 Ford-based Mercury automobiles that were less substantial. The only way was through clever advertising. The auto industry was on the cusp of a postwar expansion which could mean a new direction for Mercury. The plan seemed to work. In 1957, Mercury grew to be a bonafide manufacturer of a medium-priced car with its own unique body shell.
The Medalist paved the way for the release of the full-size 1957 Mercury Monterey, which was redesigned and grew considerably larger as well. The wheelbase was an exclusive 122 inches. A new design for the frame allowed the floor to be lowered which gave the car an even lower and longer appearance.