Remember when Mercury tried to sell the Milan? You know, the division’s entry-level intermediate sedan named after the Italian city? Unveiled in 2005, it was available as an ’06 model later in the year. Unfortunately, the only memorable aspect was Jill Wagner leaning against what was basically a retrimmed Ford Fusion, fitted with plusher accoutrements, stating “You’ve gotta put Mercury on your list.” Mercury sold 166,126 Milans through 2011 (including a scant 2,884 Hybrid versions against a projected 25,000 units annually), as compared to 572,866 Fusions during that period. This highlights a conundrum FoMoCo’s mid-priced division had always seemed to face despite their best efforts.
Case in point is the 1969 Mercury Montego two-door hardtop gracing these pages. The intermediate model entered its second year of production on the heels of racing success, courtesy of Cale Yarborough, who drove his newly minted, Wood Brothers’ prepared, Montego-based Cyclone fastback into the 1968 Daytona 500 winner’s circle in fine fashion. Despite the out-of-the-gate win against the Mopar juggernaut, and another six wins on the NASCAR circuit alone, it was Mercury’s sibling—Torino — that stole the show, both on the track and in the showroom. And not by a slim margin: 172,083 Torino-badged units sold against Mercury’s 114,893.
There certainly wasn’t a lack of sales effort on Mercury’s part. As had been the case a year prior, Mercury offered the 1969 Montego line in four series: the base single-model Comet Sports Coupe (which had already made the transition from its compact origins to the intermediate platform), Montego, upscale Montego MX, and top trim level and rather muscular Cyclone, all of which shared the same basic 116-inch wheelbase unit-body chassis as its Ford equivalents. Similarly, standard components (on most models) included a new 155-hp, 250-cu.in. six-cylinder engine paired with a three-speed manual transmission, which delivered power to a corporate 8-inch differential.
The Montego’s 220-hp, 302-cu.in. engine was a venerable two-barrel economy V-8 that has managed all 65,140 miles showing on the odometer. Owner Brad reports he’s yet to change the spark plugs.
Naturally, Mercury’s intermediate offered cozier accommodations and more sound dampening within the cabin, bolstered by a slightly longer list of standard comfort and convenience equipment. Similarly, exteriors received different trim—obvious among them, the grille and tail panels—but it didn’t stop there. The fenders, quarter panels, and hood differed from those worn by its corporate siblings.
As was typical of Dearborn, options were plentiful, beginning with a more powerful, yet economical, two-barrel equipped 302-cu.in. V-8 rated for 220 hp. A two- and four-barrel 351 was also available, as was a four-barrel 390 and, for the gearhead, a 428 Cobra Jet. A four-speed manual and Select-Shift automatic were also on the list. Axle upgrades, front disc brakes, and a host of power assisted equipment and accessories were not excluded, either—it all boiled down to how much customers were willing to spend.
While the Montego was comparable to Pontiac’s Tempest Custom S and Dodge’s Coronet 440, five decades later it’s the Torino that everyone remembers.