Cars We Love: 1949 Mercury Eight Coupe


The 1949 Mercury Eight is a bona fide movie star, having appeared in several classic films including Rebel Without a Cause, American Graffiti, and Grease. The animated character “Sheriff” in the Pixar movie Cars is also a 1949 Mercury Eight. There’s even a popular Hot Wheels version of the Mercury Eight, known as “Purple Passion.”

The first model made under Ford’s Mercury marque, the Eight was produced from 1939 through 1951. Mercury ads called it “The car that truly dares to ask ‘Why?’” – implying that it was possible for this car to be both large and economical (driving up to 20 miles per gallon). The “Eight” name referred to the car’s Ford Flathead V8 engine. Priced between $1,950 and $2,500, the Eight was meant to be the entry level luxury vehicle of the Ford marques — pricier than a Ford, but quite a bit less expensive than a Lincoln. The design is a good example of the “bathtub” style, so named because of the car’s buffed-out, bulbous curves.

Mercury Eights became a popular choice for low-riding “lead sled” hot rod customizations, so named because molten lead was used as a body filler and because the cars were lowered and their roofs chopped.

Maybe it’s the curves, maybe it’s the appeal of the lead sled, or maybe it’s that James Dean mystique – but the Eight remains a coveted piece of 1940s automotive history.


Photo by Alden Jewell



One thought

  1. just as dealerships were bankrupted without a second thought by the Big Three automakers as they converted to wartime production, customers were handed a load of hooey after WWII when the big carmakers offered little more than light tanks with Ferris wheel steering;

    the European producers were no better, offering nothing save prewar designs like the 166 Ferrari which was little more than a kit car cobbled together by rank amateurs–i’ve seen several up close, one of which actually worked, sometimes–who at least had the excuse of being decimated by the war fought in their own lands;

    lastly, safety was a joke in these claptraps, which benefited from exactly zero of the innovations brought about by the war–no self-sealing gas tanks, seat belts or shatterproof glass, for example;

    sorry, but nobody with any sense beyond misplaced romanticism would give this postwar trash a second look;

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