When I saw this 1964 Mercury Park Lane convertible at the Ford and Mercury Restorers Club meet a few weeks ago, I immediately knew what it was. Actually that’s a fib. I didn’t actually realize exactly what car this was until I saw the informational panel laid out in front of the Merc. Then I knew immediately what it was. Earlier this year TTAC ran a post of mine about the car companies’ pavilions at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. The Detroit automakers went all out and Ford, working with Walt Disney’s team, came up with a novel way of exposing fair visitors to Ford and Mercury cars.
The Disney crew came up with what was branded the Magic Skyway. It was a continuous conveyor that carried 134 Ford and Mercury convertibles, plus a dozen of the earliest Mustang convertibles made (the Mustang was first introduced to the public on the day the fair opened, April 17, 1964). Families would hop into a Ford or Mercury and it would carry them past a series of dioramas that showed the ascent of man from the earth’s earliest history to highways in the sky. This ’64 Park Lane was one of those cars. While those early Mustangs are holy grailish for Mustang enthusiasts, this Mercury’s history also makes it a very unique car. Unique as in singular because it’s a “one of one” car in so many ways.
To begin with, it was ordered and built specifically for the ride at the World’s Fair. According to one account, it was the very first of the World’s Fair cars made. It was the only one of the NYWF Mercurys painted in “palamino”. 1964 was also Mercury’s 25th anniversary year so this was a special 25th Anniversary Edition. In addition to being equipped with a 380 CI V8 and an automatic transmission, it was built with every power, luxury and convenience option that Mercury offered on the car.
This exact car was photographed with Henry Ford II, Walt Disney and Robert Moses, the legendary NY politician who ran the fair. I believe that you can see it in this video at ~4:51 (the video’s color is not very good, that might be a red car).
This Park Lane also has unbroken provenance and it’s been owned by one family car new. Well, “new” is open to question because of the tens of thousands of people who rode in it at the Ford pavilion. After it was retired from service on the Magic Skyway when the fair closed, like many cars used for promotional purposes, the Park Lane ended up in Ford’s “B lot”, where employees could buy them as used cars. Adolph “AJ” Jedryczka worked for Ford engineering and bought the car for $2,500. His co-workers thought he was foolish. They joked about him driving a car that had been sat in by thousands of people’s behinds. Jedryczka paid them no heed, he and his wife loved the car. So did their daughter Virginia.
AJ drove the car to work every day at Building 5 in Ford’s Dearborn engineering center until it was taken out of service in 1970. Six years sounds about right for the usable life of typical car back then. Still, the Jedryczka family knew it was a special car because instead of selling or scrapping it, they parked it in their garage. It still has the original engine, transmission and rear end so it’s a number’s matching car. Actually the rear end is important to establishing the car’s authenticity as it still has the special brackets that were welded to the World’s Fair cars so they could be anchored to the Magic Skyway.
After it was parked, it sat for 40 years. Virginia grew up and got married and two years ago she and her husband started to restore the Park Lane. The restored car had its debut at the Detroit Autorama earlier this year and, as you can see, the family is now displaying it at regional car shows, in one case taking the car back to its old haunts. A few weeks after the Ford & Mercury restorers’ meet, the Park Lane was the hit of a Ford employees’ car show held adjacent to Building 5 in Ford’s Dearborn engineering complex. It looks like there’s a large car show held every fall there in Queens so perhaps the Jedryczkas’ Park Lane will yet again ride in the mean streets of Flushing Meadows.
For more pics, visit Cars In Depth.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS