By on September 8, 2020

Today we head deep into the purest sort of Rare Ride: A vehicle which exists as a singularity, a one-off. It’s a two-door convertible version of the first-generation Mercury Sable.

The lightbar will guide our way.

Taurus and Sable were a big risk for Ford when it introduced its new midsize twins for the 1986 model year. The company went big on cohesive product development, aerodynamics, and a new, modern take on a family sedan and wagon. Six years in development paid off: The Taurus and Sable were an instant hit. They readily found favor with customers eager to leave their boxy rear-drive sedans behind.

The twins’ first generation ran from model years 1986 to 1991, and cars were available solely in sedan and wagon body styles. Sable remained in its original guise until 1989, when it was lightly refreshed via some new parking lamp lenses and different tail lamps. But over at Cars & Concepts, some designers had an idea for additional Sable development sans roof.

The project started with a standard Sable sedan that wore silver paint and a burgundy cloth interior and was powered by the reliable Vulcan 3.0-liter V6. Extensive surgery was required to turn the sedan into a convertible, and the first order of business was ditching the rear doors. Front doors were then made longer to aid rear-seat access, which meant the interior door panels were reworked entirely. A redesign of the rear suspension also occurred.  Somewhere in the process, the roof and windows went away too.

Many engineering hours were spent to design a fully automatic hydraulic convertible roof. It folded behind the rear seats and was hidden by a solid tonneau cover. And speaking of the rear seats, tiny 3-inch televisions were added to entertain passengers who found Gameboy screens slightly too small.

The convertible transformation was finished in time for the 1989 SAE Expo, at the very first edition of the NAIAS. There’s no evidence to suggest the project was anything other than Cars & Concepts showing off what they could do. The concept was put in a warehouse for many years until it was titled properly and sold via eBay in 2006. It’s currently for sale via a car dealer in Austin, who used the Sable as a display at his dealership.

The car has accumulated slightly less than 300 miles between 1995 and today, and its odometer presently reads 9,800. This very unique Sable is all yours for $18,900 or thereabouts.

[Images: seller]

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32 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Singular 1989 Mercury Sable Convertible...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I want to hate it, but that’s very nicely done.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      I agree, you are correct. They put an awful lot of work into that project. Thank you Corey for posting this. I hope C&C Inc got some work out of this. They are clearly very capable.

    • 0 avatar

      “I want to hate it, but that’s very nicely done.”

      Why immediate reaction is the hatred? That’s one reason why I am pessimistic about human trace. Why not show some respect and love first as Jesus would do? All you need is love, love is all you need.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        We’re talking about a car, and IMO the Sable was the lesser of the Taurus/Sable twins. And I’m not a convertible fan.

        • 0 avatar
          dtremit

          @SCE to AUX – agree that the styling of the Taurus has held up better over the years. But for this specific conversion, the Sable was the better choice.

          The greenhouse of the Sable sedan was almost all glass — which meant it had a continuous trim line below the windows that wrapped all the way from one A-pillar to the other.

          For this conversion, they appear to have maintained that line — the hard tonneau cover sits inside it.

          The rear quarter of the Taurus, by contrast, is contoured around the metal C pillar — chop it off, and it would have looked weird.

          (I also think the perception at the time was that the Sable was the more premium and fashion forward of the two siblings, so I suspect that was part of the calculus.)

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The ad doesn’t state exactly where the car is, but in one photo, it looks like it’s at or near a Toyota dealer (the red band around the building).

    The wagons used a completely different rear suspension, so the Chapman struts didn’t intrude into the cargo area. I wonder if they just grafted in the suspension from a wagon?

    Since this was built by someone as knowledgeable as C&C, I imagine there’s some structural reinforcement added to address torsional rigidity and cowl shake.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Where did the hydraulic power for the top come from? Does it piggyback off the power steering or is it separate? Verrrrry iiiiiinteresting!

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Convertible hydraulics usually have their own electrically driven pump system. Don’t want to have to have the engine running to close up the car.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        Correct. I took the one apart on my old Camaro and was surprised how small it was, although there’s no need for the top to move very quickly.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Thanks (both of you). I guess I just always assumed that electrical convertible tops were electric motors and mechanical servos (and pulleys, bellcranks, etc.) It never crossed my mind that they’d use hydraulic actuators, but I guess what works, works.

          • 0 avatar
            dtremit

            @JimC2 – both kinds certainly have existed over the years. But hydraulics were a lot easier and more reliable to implement for a long time.

            A standard top without a motorized tonneau or latch often will just use one hydraulic cylinder on each side — the rest of the motion is just embedded in the top linkage. And once the cylinder hits either limit, I think the fluid just cycles, so there’s no need for a stop switch.

            On the other hand, some things would have been easier with servos if they’d been more available. The worst I can think of in mass production is the top on the suicide door Lincolns:

            http://octopup.org/img/car/lincoln/info/convertible/m/1964-Lincoln–Power-Top-Schematic.jpg

            (I think the retractable hardtop on the Fairlane Skyliner may have been even worse, but they made a lot fewer of those.)

  • avatar
    jawolk

    Errrrrr….. “Grumpy Old Men” meets “Logan’s Run”?

    I am dating myself here, but seriously.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I had a 1987, first new car as a married couple. We went for the station wagon, as we were starting our family. It was a great car, except for the “reliable” Vulcan 3.0. Head gaskets!!!! It also ate transmissions, having had the “transaxle” replaced twice (under Mercury extended warranty) in 6 years. We eventually traded it in on a then newer idea, the Ford Windstar, which was surprisingly reliable for 7 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      Yeah but the water pump was right on top of the engine so it was easy to change every 20,000 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Maybe there was a learning curve, but my Vulcan was and still is a solid motor. Factory water pump did fail at under 80K miles, but the car was a high cycle car with loads of idling. Replacement, while easy, lasted even less than that. I’m on pump #4, with the three replacements good for about 50K each before the shaft seal began to leak…sad to say but with a newly acquired Avalon, the Sable is soon to go away…Just waiting for its 29th birthday first.

        Speaking of Ford water pumps, what moron designed the water pump in some of the ecoboost engines…they are inside the engine and when the shaft seal starts to leak they contaminate the engine oil and destroy the engine.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Lol, a perfect example of someone spending a lot of time and money for what amounts to a napkin, a pencil and one too many beers

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Surprisingly, this isn’t all that horrible.

  • avatar
    David Cardillo

    …to this day, still too much “slab”, both vertically and horizontally…Ugh!

    • 0 avatar
      downunder

      That rear wheel “arch” is what kills the look, a normal wheel arch would have relieved the slab side look.

      • 0 avatar

        Straight across and covering part of the tire, that sir is a fender skirt.

        • 0 avatar
          ToolGuy

          Corey, I thought of you today when watching an old episode of Top Gear – glanced at the 300SL and was like ‘does that thing have *front* fender skirts?’

          Turns out they are called ‘eyebrows’ and some say they are there for reasons:
          ——–
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercedes-Benz_300_SL
          Eyebrows are a stylistic feature that also stretch the curvaceous body.[22][23] The front pair deflect road water from hitting the windscreen and the rear had to be added for visual symmetry.[24] These eyebrows give styling to an otherwise slab-sided body. Mercedes-Benz claimed they were aerodynamic additions and pushed airflow over the top of the car and kept the windows clean in bad weather.[25]
          ——–

          [SL stands for “super-light” – who knew.]

  • avatar

    That Vulcan engine sucks. It was already old school back then in 1986. This will be very slow car.

  • avatar
    80Cadillac

    I was at the 1989 NAIAS, since I was a student at the Center for Creative Studies at that time, but I don’t remember seeing this car. It looks rather good, and makes me wonder if a Sable coupe wouldn’t have been a good seller, as well. The Sable was truly futuristic and sensational.
    I think the “want to hate it” comments here may be in reaction to the 5-spoke wheels…they do not suit the elegant body. More delicate “lace” style alloys, like on the 1989 Cadillacs, would be more era-correct and a better match.
    Nice article and pictures!
    Here’s a Cadillac with wheels like I mentioned. Ironically, the car for sale is painted “Sable Black”!
    https://classiccars.com/listings/view/1185045/1989-cadillac-fleetwood-for-sale-in-mesa-arizona-85204

  • avatar
    detlump

    I believe C&C’s last address or one of the last was: 12500 E. Grand River Brighton MI 48116. The building is still there, but another company is occupying it. I do recall attending at least one car show there, in the parking lot.

    C&C did work for all of the Big 3 and others, I believe, but they were located very close to the GM Proving Grounds in Milford.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Really want to dislike this car, but I can’t. They actually seem to have done a ‘good’ job.

  • avatar
    07NodnarB

    I was not ready for that. (takes a pause) I…It… (takes another pause). Of all things I thought i’d never see that has got to be first on the list. Interesting…

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