Thursday, December 21, 2017

1954 Mercury Monterey XM-800 Concept

A mid-1950s concept car that was neither a fancied-up production model nor a jazzy dream car was the 1954 Mercury Monterey XM-800.  It could have been a production car for the 1957 model year, and would have been a very attractive one even with the minor adjustments needed to make it practical and street-legal.  Alas, that didn't happen, and by 1958 cars in Ford's stable joined in the styling madness that infected the American automobile industry in those times.

For some background on the Monterey XM-800 and its fate, go here and, especially, here.

Even though it did not become a production design, the XM-800 lent a few styling features to future Ford Motor Company models.  These are shown below.


High angle photo of the XM-800.  Basically, the design is a clean, archetypical example of mid-1950s American styling.  Significant details include the panoramic windshield, the thin roofline, low hood, and the very long fender line where the endpoints are the extremes of the body (not counting bumpers).

Front three-quarter from slightly below eye-level.  The air scoop on the hood might actually be functional (I can't be sure), but regardless, it adds interest.

A 1957 Mercury Montclair.  Its grille design has a bit of the XM-800's flavor.

The 1961 Mercury grille is even closer.  But these are the only models years halfway close to 1954 where the theme was used.

The rear end suffers from the heavy chrome trim on the trunk -- the only styling failing.  I like the design of the passenger compartment greenhouse, especially the C-pillar with a Targa feeling.

Side view.  A functional, not aesthetic, defect is the small front wheel opening.  The metal sculpting surrounding it echoes the front of the fender.  The rear wheel spat cutline reflects the angle of the rear fender edge as well as that of the greenhouse Targa.  And yes, the lower edge of the car does run downhill from aft forwards.

The general sense of the XM-800's side did get picked up on 1956 Lincolns.  Note the angles of the fore and aft fender edges.  Also the wheel openings.


jrm said...

To dig a little deeper into this design, what was the rear-end supposed to evoke? That huge chrome rectangle and horizontal-ribbed section look like a license plate nacelle on steroids. If US license plates had been the size of small billboards, this is what everyone's rear styling would look like.

Maybe it was intended to evoke some sort of "exhaust panel", or imply a rear-engine powerplant. If you asked the designer(s), what is this rear area about, what would they have said?

Cars from the '40's and '50's had all kinds of little symbolic "power" cues, esp. in the '50's with the scoops. A lost language of sorts today.

emjayay said...

jrm: Lots of Hondas and actually to a lesser degree other cars, particularly on the front, have fake lower side air intakes and exhausts at the rear, like for brakes on racing cars. So there's that. It's like the 50's, only artless.

For a while a few years ago fake vents on the side behind the front wheel openings were a thing. I think Range Rover started that one.

emjayay said...

A related version of the roof treatment around the C pillar was used on 1957-59 Ford four door hardtops. Another version is seen on 1956-57 Lincoln four door sedans.