We bought our first Mercury Sable back in the 1990s and now have our fourth and fifth versions of that car sitting in the driveway. The recent news that Ford is putting an end to its 71-year old Mercury line provokes mixed feelings in me: I have some affection for the vehicle, otherwise I wouldn’t keep buying them; but the cars weren’t without their flaws so maybe a change will be good. As my own era of Mercury car ownership is nearing its endpoint, I’ve thought back to how we ended up as Mercury customers in the first place.
My initial attraction wasn’t to the car but the dealership – Gervais Lincoln Mercury. I actually bought my first car from the Gervais family back when they sold Buicks on East Merrimack Street. It was a family-owned business with deep roots in Lowell and its location was convenient for service appointments. When Gervais moved to Industrial Ave and switched to Lincoln Mercury, I followed. When the time came for a new car, the Sable seemed perfect: big enough to be safe but not so big as to break the bank or seem ostentatious. The sturdiness of the Sable was proven to me one day about ten years ago. As I passed through the intersection of Chapel Street while driving on Elm, I noticed a flash of red to my left. It was another car running the stop sign on Chapel. It plowed into my driver’s side door, just inches from where I sat, belted into the driver’s seat. The impact was violent and the car spun around, but within seconds I was able to slide out the passenger’s side door with only a couple of minor bumps. The car was totaled.
The Sable was not without its flaws. Our first two had blown engines, but the company fixed them at no charge. Every one of the cars has suffered from chronic air leaks in random tires, an annoyance that has made me an expert at using gas station air pumps in all weather and temperatures. Sometimes it took a while to get problems corrected but in the end, the Gervais family and staff always made sure they were corrected.
In some ways, I see the passing of Mercury as the passing of an era. We’re in the age of the internet and to me, it’s easier to buy things online than in person. But cars have never been in that category. The close proximity of the dealership – I can walk there from my home – and the multi-generational family connections always trumped the convenience of the internet. But with Mercury’s demise, my next car purchase could be a vastly different experience.