With all the focus on vintage hot-rodding these days, it’s easy to forget that your parents and grandparents drove fantastic cars like this to work every day. With that in mind, you shouldn’t be surprised that this one works as well as it does, or that it looks so polished. The Mercury brand was hitting on all eight cylinders in 1952, boasting impressive sales and a rejuvenated image thanks to value-packed cars like this. The custom cream beige and deep red paint is pretty close to Vassar Yellow and Siren Red (introduced the following year), and with those contrasting shades, it has a high-profile look that fits the Monterey’s upscale status. Built as a driver and always intended to be enjoyed, it’s important to note that this car has never had a frame-off restoration, so it must have looked good pretty much its entire life. It’s been repainted, but the straight bodywork mostly comes from clean living not a restorer’s tools, and it still fits together with a precision that feels authentic. It shines up great, the finish is deep and glossy, and the tasteful pinstriping fore and aft really pops out from the luster of the beige. Perfect it is not, but this Merc sure turns some heads here in our showroom. The grille up front was borrowed from a 1954 Monterey, the headlight bezels are from a ’57 Chevy, and the taillights are custom, giving this already beautiful design a little more edge. Heavy chrome bumpers are in very good condition, and all the chrome and brightwork is in place and really pops out from the two-tone paint job.
The two-tone red and black interior was probably freshened at the same time the car was painted and shows very little signs of use since then. The vinyl and cloth upholstery is durable and comfortable, stitched into factory-correct patterns that value simplicity over flash. The dashboard, however, is a different story with its futuristic look, floating instrument panel, and aircraft-style control levers for the secondary controls. Handsome door panels with contrasting chrome moldings and levers are in excellent shape, the headliner remains taut and wrinkle-free, and the black carpets below are plush and insulate the cabin. Stewart Warner gauges are neatly installed inside the dash bezel, the better to monitor the Nailhead up front, there’s a Vintage A/C unit under the dash that blows R134a air inside the cabin, and a modern Pioneer AM/FM/CD/Bluetooth stereo handles the entertainment. Out back, the spacious trunk is all-stock and includes a full-sized spare tire.
The 401 ’Wildcat’ V8 under the hood, also known as the ’Nailhead’, is not original to the car but offers more power and less weight than the flathead it replaced. Smooth as silk with a bubbly idle, it looks nicely detailed under the hood, from the finned aluminum air cleaner and matching valve covers, to the upgraded power brake system and Sanderson A/C compressor. The Buick turquoise-green engine enamel on the block almost looks factory-applied, and it really pops out from the satin black inner fenders and firewall. With friendly gears out back, it’s a very pleasant highway cruiser that purrs along at modern speeds, and the TH400 3-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. The undercarriage is very solid and tidy as well, further showing-off a life lived well in temperate climates. Finishing the look, period-looking American Classics wide whitewall tires look great on those bright red wheels with full chrome wheelcovers.
An unusual ’50s cruiser with plenty of power and a demure look, this 1952 Mercury Monterey is every bit as wonderful as you remember them being back in the day. Call today!