Monday, May 11, 2015

XM Turnpike Cruiser: 1956 Mercury Concept

Once the 1950s got nicely underway American automobile makers began to produce dream car after dream car -- what are now called concept cars.  As is true now, some were far-out shapes that never would be produced.  Perhaps a few features under consideration for future models might be included to test public reaction.  And futuristic designs might have been shown with the idea that they would deliver the message that the car company was a progressive, cutting-edge firm that could and would be able to deliver fabulous products in the years ahead.  Other show cars were simply tarted-up current production cars that could be created quickly with the purpose of generating some publicity.   Then there were (and are) concept cars that include many (or even most) styling features intended for near-term production.

The 1956 Mercury XM Turnpike Cruiser concept car fell somewhere between the first and third categories just mentioned.  It was futuristic, but lent both its name and some styling elements to a forthcoming 1957 Mercury model.  Links with information about and images of the show car are here and here.

For some reason, photographs of the XM Turnpike Cruiser are hard to find on the internet.  Some of the images posted below, for example, seem to be scanned from magazines or other publications.  The links feature these and other images including some showing a specially-built display truck-trailer combination that toured the USA showing off the XM Turnpike Cruiser.  My father and I visited it when it stopped off in Seattle.


Stylists doing dream cars were still in jet fighter - space ship inspiration mode when the XM Turnpike Cruiser was hatched.  Nevertheless, it was practical enough that it could have entered production.  The front features "frenched" headlight assemblies, bullet-shaped bumper guards and a sensible grille design.  The "panoramic" or "wraparound" windshield was like those on mid-50s production cars.

Looking down.  The wraparound backlight has the flavor of late-1940s Studebaker Starlight Coupes and forthcoming 1959-60 General Motors four-door hardtop backlights.

Side sculpting was bold, even exaggerated.  But the contrast of a convex element intruding over a concave shape is interesting,  Aside from the huge tail light assemblies that blend into the side sculpting, the rear is simple -- another useful contrast.

When the door opened, a transparent roof panel open with it, presumably making it easier to enter and exit the car.  I'm not sure how practical that would have been here in rainy Seattle.

Here is an advertising card for the 1957 production Turnpike Cruiser.  I liked the show car (still do, actually), so was disappointed in the street version.  I'll discuss it in detail in a later post.


Anonymous said...

The show card 1957 Turnpike Cruiser is highly inaccurate. Notice even the headlights are way too small. Look up a photo of a real one. They were pretty amazing revisions of the already pretty amazing 1957 Mercury.

Donald Pittenger said...

Anonymous -- Good call. The card must have been prepared prior to the introduction of the '58 line that actually had quad headlights -- except for sales in a few states where they weren't yet legal.