Like all of us, I couldn't wait to buy my first car. It was 1964 and I was making just $1.10 an hour, so I figured it would be a while before I could save up enough for something that would run decently. Then, I got a tip I couldn't believe. A cousin of my girlfriend told me about a '56 Mercury that was for sale a couple of blocks away. He thought the owner only wanted $50 for the car. We got over there as fast as we could.
Sure enough, there sat a turquoise and white Monterey 4-door sedan. It looked good to this 17 year old car lover, chomping at the bit for his first car. It had the 312 four-barrel engine with 210 horsepower and dual exhaust. It even had a brand new battery. Only later did I find out why. And, as advertised, she only wanted fifty bucks. I ran home and grabbed my meager savings. Mom was skeptical, but I told her it ran great.
That night, I got my first speeding ticket. I suppose the fact that the Merc had one blown muffler and the other was a glass pack couldn't help but attract the traffic cop when I nailed it taking off from a stop sign.
It wasn't long before I found out why there was a new battery. It was the first year of the 12-volt ignition system for the Mercurys and Ford may not have exactly perfected it yet. There was a constant drain on the battery and we couldn't pinpoint the problem. After yet another attempt to locate a short in the system, my brother Tim and I went out one night just cruising around. The headlights suddenly started dimming and then everything went totally black at 50 miles an hour on a dark country road. The last thing I remembered seeing was the road splitting and a ditch directly in front of us. I stayed line up with the ditch, slammed on the brakes, and that's where we landed.
I pretty much gave up on finding that annoying short in the system and eventually sold it for what I paid. But it was a fun car, and it left me with lots of great memories. At car shows today, I look hard for every mid-fifties Mercury I can find. If only I still had it...