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Lot 144

1941 Mercury Station Wagon

  • Chassis no. 99A349992

Sold for $121,000

Model 19A. 95 bhp, 239 cu. in. Flathead V8 engine, three-speed manual transmission with Columbia rear end, solid front axle and live rear axle with transverse semi-elliptic leaf springs, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 118"

Mercury was the brainchild of Edsel Ford. In the early 1930s, there was a huge gap between the most expensive Ford and the flagship Lincoln, such that three and half Fords could be purchased for the difference alone. The revolutionary, lower-priced Lincoln-Zephyr of 1936 mitigated this somewhat, but there was still a $500 “dead space” in the price list opposite Oldsmobile, Dodge and DeSoto. Edsel correctly perceived the need for a car selling in the $950 range.

Work began in 1937. With the basic parameters set, he set designer E.T. “Bob” Gregorie to work on its styling. Initially Gregorie wanted to start with a clean sheet of paper, but Edsel saw the need to maintain linkage with Ford, particularly to please his father, who was certain to veto anything that was too radical. As a result, the appearance very much followed the Ford profile, a little wider and a little more cherubic. Gregorie termed it “just a stylized Ford. We added a little more bulk to the car, [and] it showed up on the road as a little more important looking.”

There was some controversy about what to call it. Early prototypes bore the name “Ford Mercury,” implying that it was intended to be a premium model Ford. In the end, a whole new nameplate was created, and while the Mercury was in many respects a large Ford, it also had a personality of its own. While obviously Ford-shaped, Mercury had its own, more sophisticated sheet metal. And while mechanically it was very much like a Ford, its engine was bored an eighth of an inch, giving 239 cubic inches and 95 horsepower, to Ford’s 85. At 116 inches, its wheelbase was four inches longer than Ford’s, all of it ahead of the firewall, and this difference would last for more than a decade.

Introduced in New York at the time of the November 1938 auto show, the Mercury was offered in four body styles: a two-door sedan, a four-door, a convertible coupe and a novel sedan coupe with bright metal window surrounds. Seemingly predicting the window style of the postwar hardtop convertibles, this device was actually for ease in manufacturing – the doors could be made less expensively if the window frame, which was not attached to the window itself, simply bolted on. Selling from $916 to $1,018, the Mercury was an instant success, with about 75,000 built in the first year.

The 1940 model year was slightly better, with more than 81,000 sold, and a new body style – a convertible sedan. Oddly, Ford had discontinued the four-door convertible after 1939, and Mercury picked it up. There was, however, no station wagon, perhaps because the differences from the Ford body would have dictated a different wood station wagon body.

For 1941, however, the car bodies were rationalized with Ford. This provided economies of scale, since the lower-priced car sold at eight times the Mercury volume. The fact that the wheelbase difference was all in the nose helped immensely. Ford’s wheelbase grew two inches to 114; Mercury’s thus was 118 and it would remain so for as long as the wood station wagons were built.

The way was then clear for a Mercury station wagon, one of seven body styles in the 1941 catalog. At $1,141 it was the most expensive Mercury, the convertible sedan having been dropped. At $128 more than the Ford Super Deluxe station wagon it offered, in addition to more power on a longer wheelbase, a choice of birch or gum panels to contrast with the maple framing, and color-coordinated leather seats. Like Ford’s, the bodies were all built at Iron Mountain, and exhibited the same features in door and window design and the partially-concealed running boards. “The station wagon finds new duties for the Mercury’s powerful and economical engine,” boasted the sales brochure. While Ford advertising showed wagons meeting trains, the Mercurys were illustrated at airports. Sales volume never neared Ford’s total, but at 2,145 units for 1941, Mercury easily out-wagoned both Buick and Packard.

A high-quality restoration in Cayuga Blue, this 1941 Mercury station wagon has earned the prestigious Dearborn Award from the Early Ford V8 Club. Both the original Birch wood body and the sheet metal are excellently presented, the paint showing a deep shine and the wood no visible flaws. The doors shut well and have even gaps. The roof is covered in new black artificial leather.

The brightwork exhibits new chrome all around, though the glass shows a bit of separation on the side windows. The running boards, partially hidden on post-1940 station wagons, are covered in new black rubber.

The seat faces are upholstered in new red leather, the other surfaces in matching artificial leather. The front seat is furnished with lap belts for two. There are black rubber mats on the floor, front and rear. The dashboard is restored in correct elm grain, and its beige plastic facings are in excellent condition. The steering wheel looks handsome, but close examination reveals a few cracks. The car is equipped with a radio, hot water heater, and dual outside mirrors.

The engine, in Ford green, is clean and appropriately detailed, but shows evidence of use. The chassis and underbody are clean and painted black. The car has Goodyear 6.50-16 blackwall tires, fitted in 1999 and the tailgate-mounted spare has a metal cover in body color.

Nick Alexander purchased the car from Roy Perler of New Haven, Connecticut, in July 1998. After purchasing the car, Nick had trouble arranging timely transportation so he flew to Connecticut and drove the ‘41 Mercury back to Los Angeles himself without incident – a journey of over 3,000 miles. It then made its Early Ford V8 Club debut at Dana Point, California, in 1999, earning a score of 985 points.

Currently mileage shown is slightly under 100,000. The body number dates from April 1941. The car runs and drives well, and cruises easily thanks to its Columbia rear axle and a fresh flathead engine with a four-inch Mercury crankshaft and later Mercury cam. It is registered with California year-of-manufacture plates 8A542, which are included in the sale. A superb example of the rare 1941 Mercury station wagon, this car is equally at home on the show field or on the road. It is sure to please a new owner.


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Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

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California, United States

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United States

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Florida, United States

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Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

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Jake Auerbach

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Kurt Forry

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Matt Malamut

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California, United States

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Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

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Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

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Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

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United Kingdom

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California, United States

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Tonnie Van der Velden

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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more