Article and photos by Steve Cole.
1946 Ford Mercury Club Coupe – Albert Neuss
It’s really rare to have the privilege to photograph such a rare and magnificently restored vehicle as Albert’s 1946 Mercury. The vehicle is absolutely immaculately restored and a testament to a long and very challenging restoration.
Albert spied the Mercury on a beachside property and recognised its uniqueness, and spurred on by the knowledge that it is the same model his father once drove, bought the old girl with a vision to restore it to its former glory.
That was 20 years ago!
The Mercury brand was envisioned by Edsel Ford when he saw an opportunity between the lower priced Ford and more upmarket Zephyr.
This gap in the ford stable was being very successfully exploited by Pontiac and Dodge, and so Edsel designed a more luxurious version of the Ford. Edsel intended to call the new car “Falcon” and make it part of the Ford stable, but instead named it a completely new marque for the Roman god of commerce and cleverness Mercury, messenger of the Gods.
Mercury production began in 1938 and featured a 239-cid L-head V-8 of 95 horsepower, and its body was six inches wider with a four inches longer wheelbase than the equivalent Ford. Five body styles included a two-door sedan, a rare convertible sedan, and a five-passenger Club Coupe, or coupe-sedan. Over 65,800 were sold that year at a price of $916.
The Mercury shared no body panels with stablemates Ford and Lincoln, which decades later would make Albert’s restoration process even more difficult.
This was a difficult time to launch a new brand, but Mercury did well until the US entered the war in 1942. Mercury was combined with Lincoln to form the Lincoln-Mercury Division of Ford in 1945.
Mercury’s stretched 116-inch wheelbase added elegance to the styling, a luxurious interior with strip-type instruments, column-mounted gearlever and hydraulic brakes.
During the Second World War (1939 –1945) the Ford Geelong factory manufactured landing barges, military vehicles, and ammunition. Ford Geelong built 455 Landing Craft up to 106 feet in length with a workforce that was mostly women.
1945 saw the end of World War II and the resumption of civilian vehicle production, and the Ford V8 sedan was launched by Prime Minister Ben Chifley.
Ford continued the production of the uniquely Australian coupe utility first sold in 1934. The 1946 Mercury coupe utility was made at the Geelong factory. The front section was constructed using imported complete knock down kits from Canada (source of right hand drive componentry), but the rear section was designed and constructed in Australia. The 1946 model was really a 1942 model assembled locally and sold post war.
Albert’s Mercury utility
Albert’s Mercury is almost unbelievably rare. Not only is the body style uniquely Australian, but only about 70 were made between 1946 and 1948, the only Mercury commercial built in Australia. With the attrition over the years there must be precious few remaining, perhaps as few as 5 or 6.
Albert’s car was largely complete when he found it, but the seaside resting place had taken its toll with corrosion of the body and much of the largely irreplaceable trim. Albert had to assemble one stainless steel guard trim from eight separate pieces, carefully cut, welded and polished!
The final result is absolutely stunning. Resplendent in its lustrous maroon paint, with polished stainless external trim, and the rumble of the original flathead V8 Albert’s Mercury is a wonderful addition to the Club’s collection. The interior is very impressively finished too with its new period correct grey-brown velour interior.
Well done Albert for even attempting such a complex restoration. You have preserved an important part of Australia’s unique early motoring heritage.