In 1959, as Janice Finlay was approaching graduation from high school, so her parents purchased for their daughter a graduation present: a used 1953 Mercury Monterey convertible.
The Mercury convertible when new sold for $2,609.50. Her parents paid $750 for the six-year-old convertible, which she was happy to receive. Finlay named her present "Nellie."
Ever since she took delivery of the Mercury on Memorial Day in 1959, Finlay has been captivated by the beauty of the car. Delving into records she learned that her Mercury had been built in New Jersey and left the factory wearing a coat of Tahiti Tan paint.
Under the hood was one of the last 255.4-cubic-inch flathead V-8 engines delivering 125 horsepower. All of that power was delivered to the rear-drive wheels via a Merc-O-Matic transmission. Optional equipment on the car included: heater, AM radio, power seat, power steering, power windows, and a 3-spoke steering wheel.
Slender fender skirts halfway cover the rear 7.60x15-inch tires. The convertible is supported on a 118-inch wheelbase. Between the bumpers the Mercury stretches a hair less than 17 feet in length.
The 3,670-pound convertible has a turning diameter of 40 feet. It is only 6 feet, 2 inches wide.
Finlay admired the control levers on the dashboard that resembled control levers on contemporary airplanes. As fond as she was of "Nellie" the exterior color was something she could do without, so Finlay had the car resprayed to a black hue.
Unlike many owners of antique cars, Finlay drives her car instead of transporting it in a trailer. Consequently, an occasional repaint is required to take care of the small nicks and dings acquired on the highway. The red and ivory upholstery nicely contrasts with the black exterior.
The rear bumper was replated with chrome in 1970, Finlay says, and in an effort to make the front of the Mercury as attractive as the rear, she gave the front bumper the same treatment a year later.
When Finlay was presented her car 52 years ago the odometer showed that it had been driven slightly more than 49,000 miles. She reports that the odometer recently registered 310,000 miles!
The original convertible top, as well as the first replacement, was both fitted with a plastic rear window. Finlay says both of the rear windows fogged so badly that the limited visibility made driving really dangerous.
In 1993 she paid $728 at the Sears store for a white top with a plastic rear window. That 18-year-old window remains clear to this day. "Not too shabby," Finlay observes.
In 2003, Finlay celebrated her car's golden anniversary by driving it to Michigan. On the return trip to California the generator failed in Wyoming.
A flat-bed truck was located, which hauled her Mercury to a shop. The necessary parts were found and Finlay settled into the driver's seat, touched the starter button and the six-volt electrical system spun the V-8 into action.
On the way home, Finlay says Nellie was comfortable while cruising at 75 mph. She admits to making non-stock changes to Nellie. The single exhaust pipe was replaced with dual exhaust pipes, each one running through a glaspak muffler. "It sounds better now," a satisfied Finlay says.
As a reminder of days gone by, Finlay hangs a pair of fuzzy dice from the mirror. That was almost a requirement in the 1950s.
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