Mercury Turnpike Cruiser History

Car of the Future

turnpikecruiser01Mercury’s Turnpike Cruiser was a true “car of the future” with more gadgets than had ever been put in a Ford model vehicle. It boasted a huge V-8 engine, the “Merc-O-Matic” push button transmission, power steering, brakes, windows and seats…with memory! The driver enjoyed a special steering-wheel flattened at the top for a better view of the road and quad headlamps (where legal). What’s really unique about the design is the electrically retractable rear window for “Breeze-way Ventilation,” and twin air intakes at the top corners of the “Skylight Dual-Curve” windshield with a Jetsons-like antenna sticking out on each side. This ventilation system was sometimes better than the air-conditioning.

The “Seat-O-Matic” memory seat system was amazing for its time, but proved almost-fatal if one tried to use it while wearing seatbelts.

The Turnpike Cruiser also had a number of standard safety features: padded dashboard (the first of its kind), padded sunvisors, rubber housings for the tachometer and clock, a deep-dish steering wheel, and the wrapped “V-angle” tail lights.

1956 Concept Car

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The 1956 Detroit Auto Show debuted the Mercury Turnpike Cruiser concept car, touted as “The Car of the Future” with all its bells and whistles. Many of its features never made it into actual production, but it’s really fun to see. The XM-Turnpike Cruiser toured the country in a semitrailer with big picture windows on each side. “Big M” touted it as “not merely a ‘dream’ car…a full-scale, fully operative automotive styling laboratory dedicated to pioneering, testing, and perfecting new ideas in design, new features, new safety and new power application.”

Here is some rare footage of the TPC concept car at the 1956 Auto Show in Detroit:

Indy 500 Pace Car

The convertible cruiser was chosen to pace the Indianapolis 500 race in 1957.

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1957 Production

Total production for 1957: 16,861 units
2-door coupe – 7,291 produced – Priced at $3,758
4-door sedan – 8,305 produced – Priced at $3,849
2-door convertible – 1,265 produced – Priced at $4,013

1958 Production

The ’58 model had a larger engine, a 383  (bore and stroke: 4.30 x 3.30 inches) with 330 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and a new fancy 3-toned paint job. Buyers now had a choice of transmission: an improved Merc-O-Matic or new “Multi-Matic.” But only 6,407 Turnpike Cruisers were produced in 1958, due to lack of sales in ’57 and ongoing technical problems.  Apparently the more “bells and whistles” there are on a car, the more that can go wrong, and it did go wrong in the TPC.

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Legacy

Because the TPC was often used for demolition derby, you won’t see many of them out there today. It wasn’t even considered a true collector’s car until recently, when people started to appreciate its uniqueness (and rarity)! The four-door model with continental kit measures 18-1/3 feet in length. The Mercury Turnpike Cruiser is a true American treasure of automotive history.