HERITAGE > Pre-War Fords > Meteor (Phase 2)

The sudden and late decision by Ford United States to stop making the Mercury Meteor left Ford of Canada in a dilemma. Some quotes from the PRODUCT IMAGE AND STRATEGY document from Ford of Canada's Product Planning Office sheds some light on how the Canadian company responded to this predicament.

 

"The Meteor's principal competition is the Pontiac, the industry leader. . . .The Canadian Pontiac has the U.S. Pontiac Catalina body shell with a Chevrolet chassis and driveline including 230 CID six cylinder engine."

 

Consequently, Ford of Canada devised a new model to meet its competition. This document goes on to describe that car. "A last minute decision to cancel the U.S. Meteor at the end of the 1963 model run required a stop-gap redesignation of two series of the Mercury shell as Meteors. These cars differed from the Mercury in that they had Ford car instrument panels, Ford interior trims, slightly less exterior ornamentation and a base six cylinder. The low series Meteor was priced $50 wholesale delivery over the base Ford."

 

So, Meteor re-emerged at the beginning of the 1964 model year, very different from the earlier Ford-based Meteors, and the mid-size 1962-63 Mercury Meteors. Now it was a version of Mercury instead of Ford. As such, it was a foot longer, eight inches wider and an inch higher than the 1963 model.

 

This Meteor was in almost the same position as the Monarch had been, but with three important differences. 1) The revived Meteor was aimed at the low end of the Mercury class, instead of the upper end of the Ford class. 2) Meteor had been an extremely popular car, so its name was better known and accepted. 3) Meteor was a Mercury dealers' product, while Monarch was sold at Ford agencies.

 

Because the re-introduction of Meteor was such a quick decision, there was no time to tool up for it. Therefore, the 1964 Meteor looked identical to the 1964 Mercury. The Meteor name badges and Ford interior were the only visible differences from Mercury. Under the hood, however, the base engine was Ford's 223 cid 138 hp six, but Mercury's base V-8, 352 cid 220 hp, was optional.

 

Two- and 4-door sedans, and 6- and 9-passenger station wagons were offered in base and Custom series. Price of the base 4-door sedan was $2861. That placed it $690 under the lowest priced Mercury sedan, and the price as the Ford Custom 500 2-door sedan. The Meteor sedan under priced Pontiac's lowest priced full-size 4- door sedan by $46.

 

Calendar 1964 Meteor sales topped 25,100 units. That earned it 8th place in the sales when the full-size Mercury reached only 17th place. Here was another case of Ford of Canada's mutation achieving greater success than the model from which it evolved.

 

Meteor's 1965 sales were even more successful when registrations totalled over 33,500. Now it had gained back its habitual fourth place standing of its former Ford-based days.

One reason for its 1965 success was some distinctiveness. The document, mentioned earlier, outlines some of Meteor's differences. "For 1965 and 1966, Meteor differences from Mercury have been expanded to include--

  • Ford sedan roofs instead of Mercury reverse backlites.
  • Unique grille.
  • Unique appearing taillights and bumper.
  • Unique side ornamentation.
  • Ford instrument panel.
  • Ford soft trims.
  • 240 cid 6 cylinder engine.

Meteor's 1965 grille, it was the same as on Mercury's full side models (which echoed Lincoln's 1965 grille). Meteor's difference was in the centre third where all the bars were thin and horizontal. M-E-T-E-O-R was spelled out in a gap across the middle.

Meteor decorations replaced Mercury's on the front fenders. Also, the appropriate model name in chrome script appeared on the front fenders. The underlined Meteor name identified this car on the deck lid.

Regarding model names, Meteor revived its previous nomenclature. There were now three series. Rideau, Rideau 500 and Montcalm offered a total of 10 models.

For 1966, there were 14 models. A new 10-passenger station was added to the two upper series. These wagons had the dual-facing rear seats. The Montcalm series expanded to include a new Montcalm S-33 2-door hardtop and convertible. They had V-8 power only.

Stylewise, the 1966 Meteor had a flat, full-width grille of fine squares. In a gap across the middle, the Meteor name was spelled out. The Montcalm had its name on the lower right corner of the deck lid, and added ten vertical chrome pieces on the panel below the lid.

The six was still the base engine but the base V-8 was a 289 cid 200 hp motor.

Sales of over 31,100 Meteors during calendar 1966 marked the peak of the Mercury-based model's popularity. Although the 1967's had new body, there was a sales decline which continued in succeeding years.

A horizontally split grille had become Meteor's trademark. There were thin horizontal bars above and below the gap, with a few vertical bars. But the Meteor name now appeared in chrome script on the hood over the driver's side headlights.

An additional luxury hardtop and convertible topped the 1967 lineup. Above the S-33 was the Montego. The Dearborn boys must have loved the Montego name, because that was what most of Mercury's mid-size models were called for 1968. So, Meteor rechristened its top pair Lemoyne.

Styling for 1968 featured a deeply contoured grille made up of thin rectangles within heavier horizontal and vertical bars.

Base engine in most series continued to be the 150 hp 240 cid six. It also became the base engine in the S-33, but not offered in the Lemoyne. The standard V-8 grew to 302 cubic inches and developed 210 hp.

Three optional V-8's included a 390 in 315 or 320hp versions, and a 428 worth 345 hp. For 1969, the 390 was good for only 265 hp due to emission reduction stuff. A 429 replaced the 428, and it produced 320 or 360 hp.

The redesigned 1969 full-size Mercury came in two distinct styles, Monterey and Marquis. The Mercury Monterey was not available in Canada as such. Instead, it was expanded to 15 Meteor models and bore essentially the same styling as the American Monterey, which was different from the Marquis. This new design policy for Meteor continued through 1976.

The 6-cylinder disappeared at the end of the 1969 season. So, the 1970 Rideau and Rideau 500 base engine became the 220 hp 302 V-8. For the rest of the Meteors, the 250 hp 351 was standard.

For 1971, the same was true. However, there was a reduction in the model range. There were no S-33 and Lemoyne series. That meant Meteor's last convertible was built in 1970.

For 1972, there were only eight models, but standard power in all of them was the 351. It got replaced in the 1973 station wagons by a 260 hp 400 cid motor.

A further model reduction saw the Rideau omitted from the 1973 lineup. Now, Rideau 500 and Montcalm were the only lines left. The same models and engines returned for 1974.

Despite the disappearance of the American Monterey at the end of the 1974 model run, Meteor remained. Though sales were down to around 10,560, Ford of Canada felt it was sufficient to keep Meteor alive.

So, the 1975 model appeared with a redesigned grille. There were three stacked rectangles on each side, and each was filled with small squares.

As before, there were six models. The 4-door pillared hardtop (really a sedan), 2-door hardtop, and 6-passenger station wagon came in Rideau 500 and Montcalm editions.

There was virtually no change for 1976. In fact, some 1975 pictures were used in the 1976 sales catalog.

They could be identified by the Meteor name on the deck lid. Mechanically, these models used the 351 engine, while the standard Marquis used the 400 cid V-8.

A 4-door sedan and 2-door hardtop were the only models built. Priced at $5672 and $5669, respectively, they were about $200 to $225 less than the regular Marquis prices.

Besides the addition of a station wagon in the 1978 lineup, the Marquis Meteor continued with no significant change through 1979.

Downsizing made the 1980 Marquis nearly a foot and half shorter. The Meteor version came in the smaller size, which also meant that the engine was smaller. The 302 was back as the standard power source. There was little change for the 1981 Marquis Meteor.

Alas, that was the final Meteor. But there was an irony about the 1980 and 1981 Canada-only Meteors. They were all built in Ford's St. Louis, Missouri plant. Of course, every one of them was shipped to Canada.

That ends the long story of approximately 620,000 Meteors-- Ford of Canada's unique car Canadians flocked to Mercury dealers to buy.

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