Mercury Montego Sportshauler

mercury-montego-sportshauler.jpg

What I really enjoy—and sometimes hate—about Car of the Day is that it forces me to learn new things. I'm very interested in European sports cars, micro cars, concept cars…

But it'd get boring after a while if that's what was always featured. "Oooh, look, another Citroën…"

I know very little about (full) American classics, trucks, work vehicles…and muscle cars. Growing up in Canada—right beside the American border—seeing old Corvettes, GTOs, Chevelles, and the like just didn't do it for me. Maybe they were too mainstream?

Suffice it to say, it means I needed to do some homework on the Mercury Montego.

At the 1971 Chicago Auto Show

At the 1971 Chicago Auto Show

The Montego is the sister car to the Ford Torino, sized in the "intermediate" class of automobiles, loosely defined as something having between a 112 and 118-inch wheelbase. For reference, a new Chevrolet Malibu squeaks in just shy of that, and a Hyundai Genesis slightly above.

With more than six available engines, three transmission options, and 11 (!) possible body styles between both Torino and Montego, it's not often I write about a vehicle that could be called mainstream. *shudder*

What you need to know about the Montego is that, in coupe form, it could be considered a personal coupe or GT car. At the top end in Cyclone trim, a V8 with at least 360 reasons to punch it and wail toward the horizon.

mercury-montego-sportshauler.jpg

Technically, however, the Sportshauler wasn't actually a real Montego—it was based on the Ford Ranchero pickup truck, another close relative built on the Torino/Montego chassis. Even though it's cleverly disguised, it makes sense: with a long truck bed already designed, there's plenty of room for cargo.

The only thing left is to cover up any clues it's a Ranchero—it sports a Montego front end and a Montego-like faux fastback. Without rear seats or windows behind the doors, from the side it's almost an awkward-looking design.

The car in 1972, updated with new paint.

The car in 1972, updated with new paint.

It's forgivable, though, because in the huge trunk is an amphibious vehicle. I think it's an Amphicat that's been modified slightly to match the show car and may be a little narrower than its production counterpart. (Unless you have hours to burn, do not start looking at old off-road vehicles.)

The 70s were all about recreation, so this concept Mercury's biggest asset was the junk in its trunk. And it looked awesome. But Chevrolet, AMC, and Dodge also tried to capitalize on the increasing number of enthusiasts who wanted to get off the beaten path.

(And, sometimes, get off off the beaten path. But that's a story for another day.)

Sources / Recommended reading