The marque: US Ford brand with a deeply fuzzy identity.

The marque: US Ford brand with a deeply fuzzy identity.

The history: Mercury began in 1938 to give Ford a brand a bit grander than a workaday Ford but not as swanky as a Lincoln. Edsel Ford, son of Henry and FoMoCo president at the time, was fed up with losing buyers to Pontiac and Dodge. Styling was a key Mercury element, but under their skins the cars remained close to their Ford siblings. Ford created the Lincoln Mercury division in 1945, and the 1949 Ford, in "customised" form, became James Dean's mount in Rebel Without a Cause. In 1959, Mercury was briefly bundled with Lincoln and the ill-fated Edsel brand. The hefty Mercury Marauder entered a stock-car race programme as Ford tried to give the brand a sporty identity. In 1967, the Mercury Cougar was a grander alternative to the Mustang. As the 1970s passed, the cars got slower, more ornate and more bloated. Now the bloated end of the market is catered for by the Grand Marquis and the Villager MPV, and Mercury still has no real identity of its own.

Defining model: The '49-51 model, especially in "lead-sled" customised form - lowered, stripped of much chrome and repainted.

They say: Tell us who we are, somebody.

We say: Branding is a mercurial thing.

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