1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser 2-door hardtop, Model 65A
On loan from: Jack Robinson, Kearney, NE
Notable: Car was restored using parts from three cars; steering wheel is flat on top.
Original cost: $3,758.00 (1957 average household income, $4,500; average cost of a house, $12,220; gallon of gas cost 24 cents)
Number made: 7,595
Engine, etc.: V-8 valve-in-head, 4-barrel Carter downdraft carburetor; 368 cu. in., 290 hp; Merc-O-Matic push button automatic transmission; 122 in. wheelbase; 4,005 lbs.
In 1956 President Eisenhower signed the National Interstate and Defense Highway Act. It appropriated $25 billion for the construction of 41,000 miles of freeway across the U. S. The new highway system was the inspiration for Mercury to create the new “Turnpike Cruiser”, the perfect car for cruising the Interstate highways of the future.
The plan began in 1955 when Ford decided to split Lincoln and Mercury into separate divisions. Up until then, Mercury had been just a deluxe Ford (except for 1949-51 when it was a sort of “junior Lincoln”). Ford believed it needed a new design to compete with GM’s medium and higher priced models. Mercury got its own distinct structure for 1957 and care was taken to make it look different than the higher-end new Edsel that was planned for 1958.
The Turnpike Cruiser was Mercury’s top-of-the-line offering in 1957 and 1958. It was a bold car that defied conventional expectations that Mercury only produced conservative cars. The list of standard equipment included nearly every power item available. The automatic transmission gently sent power to the rear wheels. Coil springs and semi-elliptic leaf springs provided a smooth ride and four wheel hydraulic brakes the stopping power.
Its looks took cues from Ford Motor Company concept cars and included a wrap over and around windshield, roof astro-style vents and “Cruiser” fender skirts. It had streamlined and angular rear tailfins called “projectiles”. Rear fenders featured “concave side channels”. The steering wheel was flat-topped for better road visibility. The dash was called the “Monitor Control Panel” and featured an unusual “Average Speed Computer Clock”.
In the back was a power “Breezeaway Ventilation” rear window. The cabin cooling system involved taking air through intakes on the front of the roof and letting it out via the rear retractable window which was protected by an extended roof overhang. (Unfortunately, the front roof intakes leaked water even when closed.) The front seat had a memory function which could be preset. Safety features included padded sunvisors and dash, rubber housing for the tach and clock, and optional seatbelts, with a child’s pullover safety harness also optional. Sliding door locks were less likely to cause injury and were less accessible to thieves.
One special series was the 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser which was designed specifically to be the official pace car for the 1957 Indianapolis 500. Only 1,265 Pace Car versions were made.
The Turnpike Cruiser was produced for only two years as consumers became interested in smaller more compact cars.
See also: http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Mercury/1957%20Mercury/1957_Mercury_Foldout/1957%20Mercury%20Foldout-04.html (Original 1957 Mercury sales brochure)