On my first morning, a Sunday, I crept out of my lodgings and strolled around the grid-system streets of old Savannah.
This postcard concerns what resembles an alternate-reality Ford Mondeo, the Mercury Mystique which Ford USA sold from 1995 to 2000. Why did it exist? It looks perhaps like a rejected Mondeo proposal. What it is, is evidence of increasing rationalisation of the global Ford product range. The Mondeo upon which Ford based the Mercury Mystique was intended to drag Ford’s mid-sized offering into the front-drive world where its main enemy, the GM Cavalier/Ascona, had been thriving for some time.
What happened here was a form of convergence or crash-meeting of two different product lines under one international banner.
For more than a decade, FoMoCo had two similarly dimensioned but differently-engineered cars in their line-up, one in the US and one in Europe. From 1983 to 1994, AmeriFord sold the Tempo (aka Mercury Topaz), a pretty nasty item with front-wheel-drive and an overall length of 4,488mm. During this time, EuroFord sold the RWD Sierra, a car of similar dimensions to the Tempo at 4,531 mm long.
This variety was costing lovely money. So, for the early ’90s, Ford wanted to rationalise their offerings with a ‘world car’. That platform would replace both the Tempo-Topaz twins and the Sierra, thereby achieving economies of scale. The resultant unified platform gave us the car we know as the Mondeo in Europe, a front-wheel drive vehicle of length 4,481mm.
In the US, the CDW27 platform appeared as both a Ford and a Mercury (today’s car). Mercury was a nameplate discontinued in 2011 after many decades of being not much more than a trim variant of Ford cars rather than a brand with unique body-shells. The car we see in the blurry photos is a late Mercury Mystique. You can recognise the doors as being very Mondeo; the lamps are somewhat like those of the Mondeo Mk 1, Phase 2 but probably not identical.
The curious thing about this world car phenonomenon is that BMW and Mercedes had been using the strategy forever. They sold the same cars in the US as in the EU. That makes the quite marked differences between the Ford Mondeo and Ford Contour seem all the more puzzling. The existence of the Mercury variant makes somewhat more sense. Ford could, possibly have made do with near-identical Ford Mondeo/Contours and a differentiated Mercury Mystique (if they really had to). The redundancy is even more pronounced if you consider all the facelifts experienced by the Mystique in its short and un-storied life.
Engine fans will find that the EuroFords had far more engine variants than their US equivalents. I count two or three units for the US cars and five for the EU.
The lingering impression one gets of the US versions of cars we know as European market ones is that the American versions always seem like proposals not good enough to make the final cut. I don’t think there is one Americanised GM or EuroFord car that gained from federalisation.