2/16/11

Mercury Meteor - Runs for a while.

Apart from featuring a car I'd never heard of, this ad for a 1961 Mercury Meteor had little to recommend it as post fodder, until I read the copy.
Now, you may know an old man who grumps about computers, technology, and modern cars. I do. here are some favorite grumps that spring to mind:

-They're too hard to work on.
-They're too complicated.
-They all look the same.
-The wheels are too round.

As far as identical styling goes, I think this is relative. I can generally tell a Pontiac from a BMW from a Honda in a second. However, if you lined up a 1938 Packard, Ford, and an Edsel. I'd tell you that they all look like a carton of eggs, and I'd need the badges to help me guess the manufacturer. Sometimes dad would accede my point, depending on his mood and coffee level. I know a different old man who would punch me if I made the same argument. Fortunately, the punch would be one of those radio punches where they announce for the listeners at home their violent intentions: "Why, you... Take THAT! And THAT!" Aside: I love old radio programs. Their tropes are ridiculously great and greatly ridiculous.

Anyway, I'd never heard of this "Mercury Meteor", although I'm sure Mr. Craigson will register some unbelievably detailed trivia in the comments. So, apart from some nice Chrome rendering on the wheels, I had nothing to talk about. But look at the terms of the "extended" warranty...

A year. That's "extended". The standard warranty just says "lunch time". Citizens, don't let any cranky old fossil tell you cars were better back in the whatever old days. Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of NPR's Car Talk, routinely remind callers-in that cars keep getting better and better. Dealerships have been losing income from repairs in recent decades because cars break less. Computers and sensors keep an eye on engine functions and can perform adjustments on the fly that used to require a Saturday afternoon and nine beers to take care of. Even bad cars (you know who you are) are better than the best cars of the past. Consumer Reports has to regularly adjust their ratings scale because cars keep improving.

In closing, here are some things said by Craig Craigson a few weeks ago regarding spark plugs. As much as I regret making an argument from authority, his profession is car-related. This doesn't make him infallible on the subject, but he knows some stuff. I do remember my dad spending regular nights in the garage dikcing around with the carburetor on my mom's Galaxie 500, when he would rather have been on the couch watching NOVA.
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I love old cars, but here are a few things you needed to contend with:

- Six-volt electrical systems: Largely vanished by the early 1960s, but circa 1950 when this ad was produced, 6-volt systems were still all the rage. They had enough power to turn the engine about four times, and you couldn't use the headlamps with any other accessory.

- Carburetors: While relatively simple, carburetors were also smashingly inefficient. It would be as if you consumed food by having it shot across the room at you by a catapult. You could get a cheeseburger in your mouth, but you'd have to throw 62 of them to get the job done.

- Points ignition: Until the advent of solid state ignition in the 1970s, every driver had to carry around a kit with a little screwdriver a wrench and a points file to keep the energy from the coil flowing in correct time. Awful.

Between the points and the lousy 6-volt system, and the imprecise fuel metering, spark plugs fouled all the time. You can go a hundred thousand miles without ever changing plugs now, but in those days, annual tuneups were mandatory.
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Once again, citizens, we are spoilt.

7 comments:

Craig said...

Mercury Comet = Slightly fancier Ford Falcon

These were "compact" cars back then. Instead of a tinny tuna can with a back seat built for legless dwarfs, cars like the Comet, Falcon, Plymouth Valiant, Corvair, Chevy II, Buick Skylark and Olds F-85 were real cars, built to fit five real people.

For the record, I drive a car from the 1980s every day. It cost me $1,800 and one fan clutch in two years.

Here's my rant on modern car "features" that I'm growing really, really tired of:

http://yankeedriver.wordpress.com/

Phil Are Go! said...

Hah! Good list. I have had the door lock arm pinch happen. Gotta remember to keep my arm off that button until it goes down.

I do wish that my mirrors would reposition when I put it in reverse. It would help avoid curb rash on aluminum wheels. But, so would higher profile tires, heh.

Thanks as always, Craig!

Craig said...

Good stuff, Phil.

Hey, I found this the other day that you might be interested in:

http://www.lov2xlr8.no/broch1.html

Good quality scans of car brochures and ads from the Golden Age of Painting Things With A Brush

Phil Are Go! said...

Ding! Bookmarked! Good find.

"Dodge Kingsway"??? What the hell?

Craig said...

Ah, the lost art of naming things.

I bet two guys in white shirts and skinny black ties came up with that before lunch over half a bottle of cheap scotch.

Now you pay half a million bucks to some Corporate Identity firm and the best thing they come up with is "Azzzzuria XrBoTRi"

Phil Are Go! said...

Oh, Kingsway is a perfectly good car name. I'd just never heard of it.

I don't mind the alphabet soup method of car names, but only for brands with a very strong engineering emphasis, like BMW. I think the idea of letters and numbers started with them. They wanted to push the fact that their engineers drove the company to such an extent that even the names were like serial numbers. But now everyone wants to buy that level of prestige just by naming the car XR4TI, thus diluting the coolness.

Oddly, VW has had some lame names, like "Jetta". In Europe, it's just called the "Bora" which I think sounds better. MBW's system of 3- or 5-series makes the heirarchy clear to me. Same with Audi's A4, A6, A8, etc. The Germans can do the number/letter names and make it come off as sincere to me, for some reason. Maybe because they're got a whole system planned out which makes each model fall into place?

Craig said...

Yeah, BMW used to make sense when the 3 denoted the series and the 25 or 28 denoted the size of the engine, and the i denoted fuel injection.

But now it's all messed up. You can't really determine the engine size (just that one's bigger than the other), and they've added all kinds of crap like:

535 iXdrive Gran Turismo.

Then on the X3, they've changed the naming convention to "X3 xDrive35i" What the hell does that mean? They really painted themselves in a corner.

Bora may have been a name that Maserati still has the rights to in the US. Good name.

Oddly, "C" names just work for cars.

Charger. Challenger. Comet. Corvair. Corvette. Camaro. Cutlass. Country Squire.

I like the names like "Turnpike Cruiser" or "Super Duty" or "Tradesman" too. Those tell me what those cars are all about.

"Galaxie" was always a great name.

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