Mercury Rising!

Images: Shreya Goswami

You see her from a distance, reflecting sunlight from her gleaming body. As she gets closer, her substantial size becomes apparent and then, in a few short moments, she glides by in uncanny silence, sparkling in the morning sun. If you’re a petrol-head, this is your cup of morning coffee (or tea).

Mercury was intended as the sportier brand of the Ford Motor Company. Lincoln was the luxury brand while Ford itself was the brand for the masses. The Mercury Eight model series was made between 1939 and 1951. The 1949 line was the first post-War model introduced by the newly formed Lincoln-Mercury division. Gone were the separate fenders and running boards, now replaced by pontoon fenders and an all-enveloping body which the Mercury Eight shared with Lincoln, instead of the smaller Ford. The engine of choice was the venerable Ford flathead V8, this time in 255 cu in (4.2 litre) guise.

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Big Blue’s substantial flanks reflecting a winter morning’s sunshine from her flawless surface

Styling was a hit, so much so that 1951 proved to be the best of the post-War years for Mercury, having sold over 309,000 units, higher than in 1950 and much higher than in 1952. It would therefore be reasonable to assume that there would be several thousand Mercury Eights surviving in all body styles but in reality, the survival rate is quite abysmal, especially in stock form. Why? Remember all the post-War era hot rods? The start of the custom, chop and lower trend? These beautiful Mercurys were chopped and customised in their tens of thousands! After having served their purpose they were either scrapped or have survived in heavily modded form.

The car we feature today is Big Blue, a 1951 Mercury Eight, beautifully restored to stock condition by father and son duo, Pallab and Saurav Roy of Calcutta (Kolkata). Their restoration facility is aptly named Father & Son Restorations but the Mercury wasn’t restored for a client, it is in their ownership.

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Perhaps the best angle to view the big Merc...dual exhausts hint at the power from the 4.2 litre V8 motor

It’s a pity that so many Eights were chopped because in factory form, the full-size American sedan is pretty sexy and sleek. The Roys acquired the big Mercury in 2017 and commenced on the restoration shortly thereafter. Being a right-hand drive export version, this car was made by the Canadian division of Lincoln-Mercury. As such, it has a unique feature found on the export versions; the dashboard is actually a carryover from a 1949 Mercury Eight while the rest of the car is a 1951 model year!

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Full wheel caps with the intricate Mercury emblem at the centre

Restoring the Mercury wasn’t easy. The survival rate being low, reproduction parts are few and far between. After much hunting, new old stock parts were found and acquired to replace either missing or worn out parts. Options added to the car were an original optional Zenith radio and leather upholstery in place of the standard fabric offering. Of course, like most other restoration projects, a lot of time and effort was involved, too much to describe here.

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Pleasing to look at, the full size Mercury Eight Sports Sedan shared its body with the contemporary Lincoln

The completed car is breathtaking. The Roys painted their car in a factory shade of metallic blue (banning blue) with blue and light gray leather interiors. The dashboard is particularly pleasing with its separate instrumentation and dollops of chrome. In fact there’s a lot of chrome on the car; the bumper blades and guards are massive. Perhaps the biggest nightmare during the restoration was the distinctive full width front grille. It’s a die-cast metal unit which had pitted badly.

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The third generation Mercury Eight was a favourite amongst hot rodders and custom coachbuilders, which is why it is difficult to find a stock example such as Big Blue

Die-cast metal (commonly referred to as pot metal, monkey metal etc.) is a very unpredictable mix to rechrome and the results are often disastrous. The Roys were lucky to find a complete n.o.s. (new old stock) unit in the USA which they imported for their car. Saurav Roy made it his mission to achieve a paint finish that would do justice to the substantial flanks of the big Merc. He decided to apply the final coat of paint himself but only after he was satisfied that every exterior panel was absolutely true…a wise decision, as there’s nothing worse than a car with a great paint job only to be spoilt by ripples and waves along the surfaces.

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Taking in the morning sun on the roads of Calcutta (Kolkata)

The restoration was completed towards the start of 2019, just in time for the touring season and she debuted at the Statesman Vintage & Classic Car show that year in Calcutta. Much to the Roys’ delight, their Mercury Eight not only won the overall trophy for the best classic car of the day but she won it with the highest score ever given by the Statesman judges!

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Owners Pallab and Saurav Roy, whose facility ‘Father and Son Restorations’ undertook the restoration

Big Blue has been maintained very well since the restoration and the interiors and engine bay are presented in immaculate condition. The original and hard-to-find Holley double barrel ‘tea pot’ carburetor (so named as its completely enclosed by a cover) is a pleasing sight, as is the period correct, fabric braided wiring harness and Trico windscreen washer system, complete with glass jar and of course, period decals. The ultra-smooth flathead V8 wafts you along in powerful silence. Unlike many other American cars of its era, body roll is contained in the Mercury, thanks to stabilizer bars.

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The highly detailed dash panel with a factory correct option Zenith radio. Interestingly, the right-hand drive export market cars built in Canada, such as Big Blue, featured the 1949 model dashboard.

Today, the Mercury Eight Sports Sedan of the Roys is a familiar sight at drives organised by the Classic Drivers Club (CDC), of which the younger Roy is an executive committee member, and Big Blue is a big draw amongst enthusiasts and general folk alike.


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