Home Culture How a Car Was Named After the Town of Montclair

How a Car Was Named After the Town of Montclair

by Eva Grall
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Did you know that there is a car named after our town of Montclair? Who would have thought that our humble little suburb would be honored as the namesake of a classic vehicle! And the Mercury Montclair isn’t just any old car. It is a fabulous, stylish vehicle from the era when the US was known as the best car manufacturer in the world. Style, substance, innovation, and popularity continue to make the Mercury Montclair a favorite among car collectors and vintage enthusiasts today. Read on to learn more about this historic vehicle.

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(Photo credit: hemmings.com)

The History

In 1955, the Mercury division of Ford released several sedans under the banner name of Mercury Montclair. The full-sized vehicle came in three options: a 2-door coupe, a 4-door sedan, and a 2-door convertible. The company halted production for a short time in 1960 until they reused the namesake from 1964 to 1968. While the specific origins of the car’s name are still unknown to Ford historians, it is the general consensus that it was named after Montclair, New Jersey, due to its proximity to Mercury’s Mahwah Assembly facility. The town’s upper-class community likely made the name even more attractive to the designers and marketers over at Mercury. We agree; it has a nice ring to it.

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The Montclair was the premium sedan available from Mercury, slotted above the Monterey line of vehicles. It was initially introduced with a color-contrast panel below the window line. The two-tone matched the roof and was reminiscent of the earlier Ford Thunderbird. The 1956 sedans were updated to include a “Big M” emblem instead of the original crest badge, and the side trim became a little more detailed. This second model also had Ford’s “Lifeguard” safety system, which featured seat belts across the lap, a padded dashboard, and sun visors. The revolutionary safety options were based on the Cornell University crash research program and a result of Ford’s crash testing in 1955.

A particular version of the Montclair was offered under Sun Valley and featured a tinted plexiglass roof panel, much like today’s moon roofs. At this time, air conditioning was not available for factory-produced vehicles. Due to the accumulation of heat inside the car during summer months, many customers were displeased with this version. As a result, only 1,787 Sun Valleys were produced, and even fewer were likely sold.

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(Photo credit: hemmings.com)

Through the 1950s, the car continued to be revised, made slightly larger to have a lower, wider body. Manual transmission became standard, and versions of the vehicle were equipped with a futuristic 3-speed push button shift system. This was located to the steering wheel’s left and controlled the parking brake. The car styles and specs continued to be edited and improved to include multiple drive modes, hill hold, and a neutral starting capability. The largest car ever made by Mercury was the 1959 Montclair, disliked by owners for the lack of interior space, poor fuel economy, and a sloping windshield design. Soon, the Mercury Montclair was shelved in favor of other, more popular vehicles.

But it wasn’t the end for our stylish namesake car. The Montclair nameplate was resurrected in 1965 with a more modern design, smaller grill, and single colors options. The vehicle never seemed to reach the level of beauty or cache of its previous designs and fell out of favor with Mercury. Subsequently, the Montclair was discontinued in 1969 to make room for newer models.

The Car

When you imagine a classic car from the 1950s, The Mercury Montclair fits the bill. In vintage paint colors (including a teal sometimes nicknamed “Verona Green”), with chrome accents, and then-futuristic shapes, it is an absolute icon of a car. The versions produced in this 1950s era are exceedingly more popular among collectors. It is truly a classic American car with a pleasing roof-top arc, white-wall tires, and an epic two-toned color scheme. The most common color we see online is teal, which suits its vintage style to a tee.

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The vehicle’s interior was just as fresh as the exterior, with a pleasing dashboard design, thin steering wheel, and a radio. Additionally, color-coordinated upholstery made the car sleek and sophisticated.

How To Get A Piece Of History

The Mercury Montclair is a popular car for collectors and traders. The most coveted and collectible versions are the 1955 and 1956 models due to their iconic American look. They make quite an impact on the road and are visually the most appealing models from a design point of view.

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(Photo credit: hemmings.com)

Buying a vehicle will set you back anywhere between $10,000 for a fixer-upper to $100,000 for a restored car in premium condition. An average model will still cost around $50,000. Car lovers go bonkers for the two-toned, hardtop look, as well as the two-door convertible, as they are smaller in length and more sporty.

While there are no known Mercury Montclairs actually here with us in Montclair, we hope to see one someday cruising down the road from the Tick Tock Diner to the Franklin Fluorescent Mine. Maybe they’ll even invite us along for the ride!

Have you ever seen a Mercury Montclair or know someone who has one? Share with us on Instagram @TheMontclairGirl.

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