Mercury : 1958 Park Lane

1958 Park LaneThe largest Mercury every made, the Park Lane was to have been the crowning jewel in the Ford/Lincoln-Edsel-Mercury line, a line that the marketeers hoped with give General Motors a run for its money.

Unfortunately, that was not in the cards as Ford sales tanked during the 1958-1960 "Eisenhower Recession", and that tanking just didn’t take Ford along with it, it also was felt by Lincoln and Mercury. It was to be the beginning of the end for the Edsel Division, although no one knew that yet. Surprisingly, some models did relatively well in this market, including the Park Lane.

The Park Lane was a product of its era. It was an era of innocence; of big cars, and big ideas and larger-than-life auto manufacturing giants like Ford Henry Ford II, GM’s Harley Earle and even little American Motors George Romney, who was to run for president several time.

So, if this was an era of larger-than-life men, it would stand to reason that the cars they designed were large or larger, like the Park Lane.

Built on a platform unique to Mercury, the Park Lane’s styling was big. There was nothing small it, not even the windshield whose deceptive styling made it appear smaller than it really was. The windshield was full of compound/complex curves and matched the vehicle very well.

Replacing the Turnpike Cruiser lineup, the Park Lane was more than 18-feet long and was built on a 12-foot-plus wheelbase. It weighed in at a hefty 4,300 pounds and it sported a new chromed-dominated design that featured a lots of chrome in the front end, reverse curves at the side and a long, scooped out reverse curve that was part of the rear "fin."

Flatter than its competition, the "fin" was still noticeable. Perhaps the most noticeable feature was the spectacularly long taillight flute that featured three rings and was ended by the bullet-shaped taillight. To say that the design was interesting was an understatement.

The Park Lane sported the new corporate "Cruise-O-Matic" three-speed automatic. The automatic was mated to a new engine, a 383-cubic-inch that cranked out 360 horsepower. Yes, you could certainly light up the rear tires on this behemoth that, thanks to a couple of design enhancements, was actually a quiet vehicle that handled decently for a car of that era.

It was a real sales success, even in a down market, topping out at 163,000 units. This was quite a feat in a car that was unusually styled to begin with. It featured a long hood and fenders with quad headlights that were nicely fared into the fender. The hood featured an overhang that met the chromed grille. The lower part of the bumper - today called the valance -- was also all-chromed.

On the hardtop, the roofline was swept back and over the rear window and was connected to the sail panels.