Thursday, January 4, 2018

Mercury's Unpublicized 1955 D-528 Concept Car

There might be other cases like Mercury's 1955 concept D-528, but I suspect there are few of them.    After all, what's the point of designing and building a running concept car using more resources and cost than a non-running "pushmobile" -- and then never formally showing it to the public?  Apparently Ford Motor Company management thought that creating the D-528 was an engineering research "investment" that was worthwhile without the need for any additional benefit of the publicity it might generate if revealed to the public and sent on the auto show circuit.

Unlike many concept cars from the 1950s, the D-528 was never destroyed.  I saw it in the spring at the Petersen Auto Museum in Los Angeles.  The museum's web site's page devoted to the D-528 is here.  It describes the D-528 as follows:

"The D-528 was built to test advanced concepts in seating, lighting, air conditioning, and front frame design. The hinged rear fender bulges were functional, concealing a spare tire on one side and a gas tank on the other. Such a design gave the car adequate luggage capacity despite the need to accommodate a large air conditioning system. Although it boasted design features such as a pillarless windshield and Ford’s first reverse-sloping retractable rear window, it was an in-house research vehicle that was never shown publicly. “Beldone” [as it is sometimes called] was a stage name selected by Paramount Pictures for the car’s appearance in the 1964 Jerry Lewis movie, The Patsy, not an official Ford designation."

Below are some photos I took of it.


The D-528's styling was probably largely completed in 1954.  Elaborate two-tone paint schemes were already in production on General Motors' redesigned Oldsmobiles and Buicks, but still rare industry-wide.  Chrysler Corporation was two years away from launching its tail fin styling, and quad headlights were even farther in the future.  Perhaps these considerations help explain why the D-528's styling is comparatively clean.  Note that the windshield is somewhat panoramic, but the objects amounting to A-pillars lean backward in the fashion Chrysler used on its 1955 and later models, and not the vertical orientation Fords and Mercurys were given for that model year.  My main complaint about this aspect of the car is that the front fenders are too rounded, providing a heavier-than-necessary appearance.  Oh, and there seems to be too much overhang in front of the wheel opening for a rear-wheel drive car.

The front overhang seems less objectionable in this side view.  Note the thin, flat roof -- a feature Chrysler used in its sensational 1957 redesigns.  The fenders also seem too heavy from this perspective: the sides needed to be flattened a little bit.  And then there are those rounded lumps at the rear....

The quotation above explains the purpose of the lumps, but there is no getting around their awkward appearance.  The trunk lid has a blob-like shape.  It might have been improved by being flatter and by having a more squared-off aft -- something that would have added more carrying capacity.  The taillight housings do not seem to blend well with the bulges.

The most interesting feature of the dashboard design is the central section that intrudes into the passenger compartment.  Unusual for its time, but somewhat prophetic of what can be found on todays' cars.

It's possible that the reason why the D-528 was never formally introduced to the public was that it wasn't all that attractive due to the odd features noted above.


emjayay said...

Yeah, the marketing guys probably said best to keep it hidden. I never saw it before. The trunk shape is pretty archaic for 1954 - more like an early 50's Buick or Cadillac.

Edmon D. said...

Mercury is the bomb!