Here’s an obscure, nearly forgotten chapter in Mercury lore: the mid-size 1962-63 Meteor, an upscale version of the Ford Fairlane.
The Meteor name has a complicated history at the Lincoln-Mercury division of the Ford Motor Company, with a continuallly shifting role. Starting in 1949, Meteor was a Ford-based and Ford-priced product offered by Mercury dealers in Canada. Then in 1961, the name was applied to a base model of the full-sized Mercury line in the USA, while the Ford-based Meteor, a rather different car, continued in Canada for another year. For 1962, the Meteor name was dedicated to a new Mercury for the mid-sized intermediate category, a growing segment in the U.S. auto market at the time.
The Meteor was essentially Mercury’s interpretation of the Ford Fairlane, also introduced in 1962. (Closely based on the compact Ford Falcon, the mid-size Fairlane could be described as a Falcon with extra air between the parts.) The Fairlane and Meteor shared the same 115.5-in wheelbase, and while the Meteor looks longer with an apparently longer rear overhang, the two cars are actually the same length. Front and rear-end styling carefully mimicked the full-size Mercury line. Meteor was “the beautiful balance between compact price and big-car luxury,” the ad writers declared.
Powertrain choices included a 170 CID six and a pair of V8s, 221 and 260 CID with up to 200 horsepower, matched to a three-speed manual, three-speed overdrive, or Merc-O-Matic gearbox. As we would expect of Mercury folk, more than three-quarters of the Meteor buyers opted for a V8 and an automatic transmission.
Body styles for ’62 were limited to two-door and four-door sedans, but in ’63 the line was expanded to include a four-door wagon and a snazzy pillarless hardtop coupe. A bucket-seat sport model, the S-33, was offered on the two-door sedan in ’62 and the hardtop in ’63. Otherwise, the changes for ’63 were minor: a new grille and a few other touches.
With prices starting at $2340, around $100 more than the Fairlane but $500 less than the full-size Monterey, the Meteor looked like fair value but failed to sell in great numbers. Tthey were a relatively rare sight even in their time—the most popular model was the Custom four-door at 23,000 units in ’62 and 27,000 in ’63. When the Mercury lineup was streamlined for 1964, the intermediate-class product was cancelled, the compact Comet was shifted slightly upmarket to fill the gap, and the Meteor name was returned to Ford of Canada.