This 1954 Mercury Monterey XM800 was first shown to the public at the 1954 Detroit Auto Show. It was built for Ford by Creative Industries of Detroit, Michigan, and was designed by the Mercury pre-production studio with John Najjar serving as the studio manager. Elwood Engle worked on the project as well, serving as a consultant assigned by George Walker’s design firm.
Benson Ford promoted the idea of creating the car as a second Mercy car line that could compete with Buick, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile. Promotional material of the time stated ‘advanced design, engineered to go into volume production.’
The vehicle was never put into production. Rather, Mercury was made into a distinct mid-sized car and the Edsel division was made into its own marque.
The car was promoted throughout the year at various auto shows. It was also featured in the 1954 20th Century Fox Film entitled Woman’s World, starring Clifton Webb, Van Heflin, Cornel Wilde, Fred MacMurray, June Allyson, and Lauren Bacall. A model of the car was made famous by appearing in boxes of Post’s Grape Nuts Flakes.
The XM 800 was donated to the University of Michigan’s Automotive Engineering Lab in 1957 for training and inspiration.
The XM-800 was a ‘push car’, meaning that it was not drivable. The car was pushed or towed wherever it went. It had a completely functional V8 engine with a transmission that was nothing more than an empty case. The decision to keep the car non-functional was for cost-saving measures.
The exterior of the car was dramatic, futuristic, and had many bold edges. The interior was just as futuristic, incorporating many ideas that could one day be used on production vehicles. It had a ‘deep dish’ steering wheel with a shorter steering column that was more energy-absorbing in case of an accident. The radio knobs were moved from the face of the dash to below the radio faceplate. The prior location had been considered a safety hazard.
After the concept vehicle had outlived its usefulness, the university auctioned it off and was purchased by a private citizen. The car was brought to central Michigan where it was stored in a barn. The owner never returned. The owner had paid for only a years worth of rent. After several years had gone by, and the owner of the barn was in need of room, the car was moved outside alongside the barn.
The car was spotted in the late 1970s by Dan Brook. After doing some research, they realized it was a ‘dream car’ from the 1950s. They purchased it from the farmer who was nearing the decision to bring it to a dump. Dan began work on restoring the car, disassembling it and preparing it for the work that was to follow. After figuring out the cost of the project, Dan decided to put the car back together and advertise it for sale in Hemmings for $30,000. The car caught the attention of car collector Joe Bortz who kept in contact with Dan over the next three years. Dan was holding out for a higher offer than what Joe was offering. A deal was finally reached in late 1987 between the two parties and the car was sold.
Having over 30 other concept cars, Joe had plans to restore the XM-800 the work was never completed. He did get it running and installed a working transmission.
The car was put up for sale on eBay in September of 2008 and was purchased by the current owner. The new owner undertook the monumental task of disassembling and refinishing the entire car. The work was done to great detail, resurrecting one of the great concepts from the 1950s. Upon completion, the car was put on display at the 2009 Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance. More information about the car can be found on the owner’s website at tbirdsquare.com.