Q: Greg, I’m looking to purchase a 1955 or 1956 Mercury, hopefully a Montclair two-tone hardtop model. What can you can tell me about current pricing and what to look for in the Mercury models as they were completely changed in 1955 from the 1953 to 1954 designs. Thank you for your help Joseph O., New Jersey.
A: No problem, Joseph, as your choice of a car to enter the car collecting hobby is a good one. Personally, I’ve always loved the 1955 and 1956 Mercurys, especially the more expensive hardtop two-tone paint models. Remember up front that the Montclair hardtop is sometimes twice as expensive on today’s collector car market as the lower priced models in 2-door and 4-door sedan styles. The station wagons, meanwhile, are very expensive.
As for the 1955 and 1956 Mercury, let’s start with the models. In 1955, Mercury restyled its car including its first wheelbase stretch since pre-war 1941, although it was just one inch (118 to 119).
Three models were available in 1955 included the entry level Custom, mid-line Monterey and top line Montclair. The station wagon was available only on the Custom and Monterey lines and its wheelbase stayed the same at 118 inches.
The only engine available was a 292-inch V8 that delivered 288 horsepower in Custom and Monterey lines and 298 in the Montclair. The price range for 1955 included a low retail of $2,218 for the 2-door Custom to a high of $2,712 for the Montclair Sun Valley hardtop coupe and/or the Montclair Convertible (both the same). The Monterey Wagon, however, was most expensive at $2,844, and sales for the year were very good at over 329,000 units.
In 1956, some minor exterior tweaking took place and the engines were increased to 312 inches. A new lower cost entry model arrived called the Medalist, which was $2,254 in its 2-door design. The Montclair Convertible jumped to $2,900 while the Monterey Wagon was still the most expensive at $2,977 retail.
Also new in 1958 was a 2-door hardtop Phaeton designation across all four lines. Not surprisingly, overall Mercury sales were again very good at 328,000 units sold. As for the new entry level Medalist, it was the least popular of the four Mercurys as the Monterey and Montclair were the “in crowd” Mercurys to own.
As noted above and in past columns on these models, I loved the 1955 and 1956 Mercury cars and wagons, as my uncle John worked in Metuchen, New Jersey, at the Mercury assembly plant. I used to love seeing hundreds of brand new Mercury cars lined up outside that plant shining brightly in the sun.
Overall, the 1955 and 1956 Mercurys were crisper and more modern in design than the 1953-1954 Mercury, which were certainly nice designs and still in demand today by the collector crowd.
The one major mechanical difference from 1955 to 1956 was Mercury going from a 6-volt electrical system (generator) with positive ground in 1955 to a 12-volt (alternator) system with negative ground in 1956. Other than that, the two years are very close in design and value.
If you find a nice 1955 or 1956 Mercury, you’ll most likely find your car in either Auto Round-Up or Hemmings Motor News magazines, both available at national newsstands. Also, I would not let the 6-volt 1955 Mercury worry me, as many are still at the car shows today and replacement parts are readily available. Some have been changed over to 12-volt systems as kits are available for this change.
Current pricing for a 1955 Mercury Montclair hardtop goes from a low retail of $8,600 with the Merc-O-Matic automatic to a high of $42,000 for a pristine restoration. The 1956 Montclair hardtop is similar in price, with a $9,500 low retail to a high of $46,900. Thus, if you want the top line Mercury hardtop, it commands top dollar.
In comparison, however, the 1956 Medalist 2-door hardtop with an automatic is way lower at just $5,500 low retail to a high of $22,500 while the Custom 2-door sedan comes in at just $3,190 low retail to a high of $13,420. Remember the 2-door sedan has the center post, unlike the hardtop with has no center post.
In ending, depending on the size of your wallet and the actual model you choose, there is a 1955 or 1956 Mercury out there just for you.
Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader questions on collector cars, auto nostalgia and old-time racing at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, Pa. 18840 or emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.