Abandoned History: Ford's Cruise-O-Matic and the C Family of Automatic Transmissions (Part II)

We continue our Abandoned History coverage of the Ford Cruise-O-Matic transmission today, shortly after the three-speed automatic established itself as a reliable motivation source for Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury products. Developed by the Warner Gear division of Borg-Warner, the new automatic caught Ford up to the competition as far as an automatic offering was concerned. Efficient and economical to build, Studebaker got in on the Cruise-O-Matic action for their cars too.

After the box proved itself on Ford and Mercury cars, it spread to the luxurious ’55 Lincoln lineup where it replaced the four-speed GM Hydra-Matic. We pick up there, as efforts got underway to improve upon the original Borg-Warner design and add whiz-bang features. This entry doesn’t end up where you’d expect.

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Abandoned History: Ford's Cruise-O-Matic and the C Family of Automatic Transmissions (Part I)

As we finished up our coverage of General Motors’ Turbo-Hydramatic family of transmissions, I asked which gearbox you might like to see covered next by Abandoned History. The comments honed in on Ford, and the various versions of the C family of automatics. Fine by me! Today we head back to the Fifties to learn about the genesis of all the Cs. It was the extremely Fifties-sounding Cruise-O-Matic, built with pride in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Junkyard Find: 1997 Mercury Cougar XR7 30th Anniversary Edition

Ford’s Mercury Division built rear-wheel-drive Cougars from the 1967 through 1997 model years, followed by a 1999-2002 run of front-wheel-drive Cougars based on the Mondeo chassis. Today’s Junkyard Find is thus historically significant on three counts: it’s the last model year for the rear-wheel-drive Cougar, it’s a special edition commemorating the 30th anniversary of the debut of The Man’s Car, and it’s the last year for the XR7 luxury package. Bitter tears, indeed!

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Buy/Drive/Burn: Mid-seventies Captive Imports

Today’s Seventies captive imports trio comes to us via suggestion by commenter MRF 95 T-Bird. He wants to see which of the Manta, Capri, and Arrow warrants a malaise era Buy. We’ll straddle two model years today, 1975 and 1976.

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Buy/Drive/Burn: Upmarket Brand American Midsize Sedans in 1997

We’re back with more 1997 midsize sedan action in today’s edition of Buy/Drive/Burn. They’re all on the smaller end of the midsize sedan scale, all American, and crucially, all wearing semi-upmarket branding.

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Rare Rides: The 1994 Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe, Fast Personal Luxury

We’ve been talking about Thunderbird often lately, whether it’s in a Buy/Drive/Burn, or a recent Rare Rides on the 007 Edition Thunderbird of 2003.

And earlier today the Internets served up a random ad for a teal 10th-generation T-bird in fantastic condition. Seems like a perfect opportunity to add it to our coverage of the long-lived personal luxury nameplate.

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Junkyard Find: 2011 Mercury Mariner, Last Gasp of the Mercury Brand Edition

Ever since I found one of the very last Oldsmobiles in a Denver car graveyard, I’ve been keeping my junkyard eye open for other final-year-of-marque Detroit machinery. We’ve got the 1998 Eagle, the 2001 Plymouth, and the 2010 Pontiac, and now it’s time for one of the very last vehicles to wear the Mercury badge: this 2011 Mariner Premier.

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Junkyard Find: 1974 Mercury Montego MX Brougham 4-Door Pillared Hardtop

For the connoisseur of Malaise Era Broughams, the Mercury Montego MX Brougham checks all the boxes: long hood, “stitches” molded into plastic door panels, unapologetically phony “wood” dashboard trim, low-compression smog V8, and obvious kinship with a much cheaper corporate twin. That’s what we’ve got with today’s Junkyard Find from the year of Richard Nixon’s resignation.

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Rare Rides: The 1991 Mercury Tracer LTS, Put It on Your List

Rare Rides has featured Ford’s compact Escort offering previously, in a first-generation EXP from 1986. Today’s Escort hails from the model’s second generation and wears a Mercury badge instead. It also has three important letters on the back: LTS.

Let’s check out a sporty economy sedan from the good people at Mercury.

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Rare Rides: The Singular 1989 Mercury Sable Convertible

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.

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Rare Rides: The Practical and Luxurious 1979 Mercury Zephyr Villager

Today’s Rare Ride comes from a time when the family wagon segment was alive and well and Ford was eager to use its brand new Fox platform on as many vehicles as possible.

Presenting the wood-clad Mercury Zephyr Villager wagon, from 1979.

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Junkyard Find: 1977 Mercury Bobcat 3-Door

You’d think that examples of the Ford Pinto and its Mercury-badged twin, the Bobcat, would have disappeared from the American junkyard ecosystem by now, given the cheapness of these cars and the decades of exploding-Pinto punchlines since “Pinto Madness” came out in 1977. No doubt due to the huge quantities sold during the Pinto/Bobcat’s 10-year production run (well over three million), such is not the case; I continue to find Pintos and Bobcats in junkyards to this day.

Here’s a light blue ’77 three-door Bobcat in a Northern California self-serve yard.

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Buy/Drive/Burn: Economical, Basic American Sedans for 1985

It’s the mid-1980s, so having a gas-guzzling, rear-drive Malaise box from the late ’70s is unthinkable. No, you’re a modern consumer, and you demand something front-drive and economical, but still with Malaise build quality.

Today we pick a compact Ace of Base from 1985.

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Rare Rides: The 1989 Ford Tempo - Luxurious and All-wheel Drive

Today’s Rare Ride is an example of a vehicle that was fairly common in the early Nineties. However, the passage of time is never kind to low-value and oft-forgotten economy cars, so survivors like this little blue Tempo are quite a find.

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Junkyard Find: 1983 Mercury Marquis Sedan
Ford squeezed every possible nickel of value out of the rear-wheel-drive Fox platform during its near-20-year production run (longer than that, if you accept the SN95 Mustang as a Fox), and I enjoy tracking down as many Fox variants as possible while I march up and down the rows of my favorite car graveyards.I think the period of Peak Fox came during the first half of the 1980s, as the Malaise Era shifted into the Conspicuous Consumption Era (and we haven’t seen a Fox Ford here since 2019), so this 1983 Mercury Marquis deserves inclusion in this series.
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  • SCE to AUX Just add a split rear window, and the hybrid sins will be forgiven.
  • SCE to AUX Just add a split rear window, and the hybrid sins will be forgiven.
  • SCE to AUX Maybe those union dues will help soften the landing. Employment there used to be 4000 people, and the plant has been at risk for 15 years. Stellantis did recently say that it would be trimming dead wood so it could rebuild the company. The Cherokee is finished, but I bet the plant reopens with a smaller workforce once Stellantis figures out what to do with it.
  • Zipper69 The Bronco is a soft option and has the style that the Jeep lacks. The actual ability of the respective vehicles is irrelevant, they "compete" on image alone. The Bronco is new and trendy and production can't keep pace with demand
  • MaintenanceCosts Will the Bronco have a four-motor configuration a la Rivian? That seems to me like the right approach for an EV off-roader. Enables lots of neat tricks.