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"Breezeway" Mercurys

I don't remember what year it was, or what occasion brought Dad and I to visit Grandma that summer evening, but I remember that big white Mercury in Grandma's driveway as clearly as I remember anything, even though I couldn't tell you if it was a Montclair or a Monterey or a Monty Python, or which one of my many aunts and uncles owned it. I remember it so clearly because it it had the coolest back window I'd ever seen.

You see, the back window could be rolled down.

For most of the brand's existence, the average Mercury has been a badge-engineered Ford, usually with a slightly nicer level of trim and a slightly softer suspension and a slightly higher sticker price. However, for a period of several years beginning in the late 1950s, some full-sized Mercurys had a distinct roofline. The trailing edge of the C-pillar (the one behind the seats) was "reverse slanted" so that the bottom was further forward than the edge of the roof.

This wasn't the only use of a reverse slant C-pillar: Studebaker's "Loewy coupes" of 1953-55 had this styling cue, as did the Packard "Balboa X" and "Predictor" show cars, and AMC's 1956 Rambler notchbacks. On the Stude, the rear window was conventionally sloped and wrapped around into the C-pillars. On the Packard show cars and the Ramblers, there was instead a more or less flat piece of glass across the back mounted flush with the rear edge of the pillar.

Ford first used a similar roofline on the D-524 show car of 1954, with the rear glass flush with the back of the C-pillar, like the Packard and AMC. The D-524's rear window rolled down for added cabin ventilation--a feature also found on the Packard show cars, but not on the Ramblers. This rear window treatment appeared on a few more styling studies and show cars before making its production debut on the 1957 Turnpike Cruiser, where it was dubbed the "Breezeway." Other cars in the '57 Mercury lineup got the reverse-slant C-pillar without the roll-down window, and Lincolns and some Edsels had a similar C-pillar with a wraparound backlight.

The Breezeway roof gave the full-sized Mercurys a distinctive look, disguising the fact that they shared much of their sheetmetal with their Ford (and Edsel) stablemates. More importantly from the customer's standpoint, you could roll down the rear window and open up the cowl vent and have a nice flow of fresh air through the passenger compartment at cruising speed without rolling down the side windows. It was quieter than running with the side windows open, and the rear seat passengers would stay dry even in a light rain! This was an awfully nice feature to have on a muggy "dog day" in summer--especially back then, when air conditioning was an extra-cost option of questionable reliability that sucked power from the engine like one of Twilight's vampires whenever you flipped it on.

The overdecorated Turnpike Cruiser was a bit of a flop thanks to the 1957-58 recession, but the Breezeway rear window was revived for Mercury's 1963 model year, and offered through 1966. (It also appeared on some '58 and '59 Lincolns.) After it was discontinued, Mercury continued to offer a retractable rear window in a modified "fastback" form through 1968.

Though clever and distinctive, the Breezeway rear window wasn't really all that popular as a selling point, and the development of flow through cabin ventilation and better A/C eventually canceled out its advantage in passenger comfort. In today's world, where a main objective of body design is to reduce drag, a drag-inducing "back-slash" rear window would probably never even be considered.

It sure was cool when they rolled it down, though.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

The advertising images from the 1964 Mercury catalog were uploaded to Flickr by user "paul.malon."  The photo of the '64 sedan comes from How Stuff Works. For a more complete telling of the Breezeway story, I recommend this article at Ate Up With Motor.


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What's with the bird in the rain?

If it weren't for the reverse-angle rear window, these would be gorgeous cars, IMO. I mean, they've still got beautiful lines but the window just draws the eye there and not in a good way.

My high school car, a 1985 Caprice Classic wagon, had a roll down window that was similarly awesome. Flow-through ventilation? Try wind tunnel. Great when you and 6 of your best (smelly, remember we're talking about HS boys here) friends are packed in for a road trip.

This was especially evident at the extra-legal speeds the 350/4-bbl inspired, though the cruise ship handling sure made driving that fast pretty exciting.

I believe you've already published an article on "magic gate" and similar tailgates, but allow me to reminisce here...

that strange roofline dates back to the Ford Anglia

these didn't roll down though

My family had one of these. Not only was it good for air flow, but the shape of the roof in back kept the sun off the necks of the rear-seat passengers on sunny days.

hehe, actually it dates back to the Mercury Breezeway. Ford UK imported the idea.

Very cool - thanks for reviving memories of this car although my main memory is not so romantic. I remember seeing a contractor working on the house behind my parents in the early 70's with this car and using that opening rear window to extend lumber out the back.

Just as today, people will go out of their way to ignore and avoid the wonderful utility of a station wagon. As the owner of the now discontinued Volvo V70R, I weep.

Lincoln Continentals had the same powered rear window.

Okay, I just can't stand it any more. That quickly-becoming-pandemic incorrect use of the subjective first-person pronoun in your first sentence, that is. You know, it goes, "what occasion brought Dad and I..".

Ye gods and little fishes. It's "me". Got it? ME.ME.ME. Would you say, "what occasion brought I"? Well, maybe you would; maybe you figure if you've heard it on tv or in the movies or on the news or from virtually every jackass in front of a camera that they must have discovered some brand new rule, eh? Wrong.

Sorry you're getting the rant all over you but I just hit "overfull" and had no choice. Okay, now we'll have the obligatory "grammar nazi" comments from a couple who still don't get it and it's back to the subject at hand.

We had a '66 Mercury Monterey that we picked up used in late '67 or early '68, if memory serves. (I was eight.) It was a dark maroon, with black interior. Also had the "400" horse engine. It'd tear up some road, and even back then the gas mileage was notably not bad. Nice ride. You could put an elephant in that trunk, which also kept the exhaust fumes from doubling back into the dropped rear window. (Which had been a distinct advantage over the Corvair station wagon [red/white two-tone] which was the previous family car. Crank down the back window on that puppy and you could commit CO suicide at 60 MPH.)

We had the Monterey until about fifteen years ago, when my mom finally sold it. Original engine, two hundred thousand on it. Still ran, but was drinking a spot of oil. I remember my granddad and my brother replacing a rear-end seal sometime in the mid 70's. That's the only non-tune-up work we ever did on it. A tank!

Re: Jumbo, 9:22am

You must be awfully busy if you're trying to reverse this plague. It's often a pretty good way of telling who has had a thoughtful basic education and who is just a poser.

I know how it starts in life. Kids have a way of using "me" as the subject of a sentence when coupled with another subject, as in "Me and Joe went to the store." Once they are corrected on this enough times, they overcompensate by using "I" even as an object, as in "It was an enjoyable trip to the store for Joe and I."

Somehow the '53 Studebaker managed to make even the reverse-slant C-pillar look good.

At the other end of the spectrum were the bulky '58 General Motors cars. The combination of a reverse A-pillar, a reverse C-pillar, and the bulky bodies below created an atrocious pinched look. There was no way to reverse both the A and C pillars without having a visual nightmare. Right now I'm looking at my '57 Ranchero with pleasure, though, because its reverse A-pillar is complemented by the similar slope at the back of its B-pillar (sorry, no C-pillar on this one!).

We kids used to call it the "breezeway window car" even though we didn't own one. We had just moved to Florida where the local, pre-air conditioning, architecture was big on breezeways.

My uncle Wayne had a 65 Mercury with the roll-down rear window.
He was a late convert to automotive AC, something my dad adopted back in 63 in our Rambler (which featured built-in dash air, not the factory add-on units still common at the time).
To him, the breezeway feature mitigated the need for AC, even in the humid Minnesota summers. Perhaps the length of the Missesota winters made him think twice before adding such an expensive option to his new Merc.
Still, it was fun for us to ride in...when you're that age, anything different is fun.

I was *fascinated* by these cars when I was a kid--I always thought they were uniquely beautiful.

I remember a Breezeway Merc passing us on the freeway with the window down and three kids kneeling on the rear seat, half-way out of the car. I was jealous; it looked like fun.

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