Disclaimer: This Meteor has been sitting for a very long time, and thus needed a new clutch and some rubber parts. I helped replace the clutch and the owner is such a cool guy, he offered to let me take it for a short spin.
He calls her Francis
Fins and chrome may not do it for every one, but they sure do it for me. This is 19'6" of '59 fins and polished stainless steel, and that is a lot of car. I've had to use two pictures to capture the size of this land yacht. But I have never seen a car this enormous period, let alone one that has such lovely proportions. My only niggle is that the front bumper might be a TINY bit too big and the hood a bit too narrow. But the hood is hinged in the other direction, so that cancels out. And the fins are a bit subdued, but they are there. As are the lovely rocket booster tail lights that were so prevalent on cars of this era.
The salmon pink and white two tone paint is a bit tired looking, but that is still the original 1959 factory applied lacquer. As beat up as it is, the owner is leaving it completely original. The only concession to shiny-ness he has mad was to rub the entire car with automatic transmission fluid. And before you come running with your torches and pitch forks declaring witchcraft, lacquer is oil based, (I think), and the ATF is helping get rid of that nasty chalky white residue that you get with old lacquer that's been out in the weather for almost 60 years. Seriously, I'm not kidding. Just don't try it on your car unless you're sure its lacquer. You've been warned.
There are two major reasons this car scores so high in the interior department.
One, QUARTER LIGHT WINDOWS!!!! Seriously, why did these go away? Depending on which way you angle them, you can roll down the main bit of the window, and have almost no wind hitting you in the face, or spin it right around and funnel it directly at your mug.
The second reason is that there is more foot room than you know what to do with. In the back Shaq would have a hard time complaining about leg and head room, and if he did, he could lay side ways on the bench seat that can comfortably seat four across and take a very comfortable nap. The front leg room is simply cavernous. I cant actually reach the fire wall with my feet, and I'm 5'11".
The seats are sofa like benches, front and rear, and though they are pretty worn, still very comfortable. The lack of seatbelts however, will scare some. The guages are minimalistic, but they tell what you need to know, a fuel, temperature and charge guage complement the horizontal speedometer.
The bus driver steering is needed, since there is no power steering, but it isn't really needed. This car was never meant to do anything even remotely sporty. Put it in top gear, roll down the windows and watch the landscape roll by.
I might actually have been a bit generous here. The motivator for this nearly three ton behemoth is a relatively small 223 cubic inch (about 3.7 liter) Ford straight six. In 1959 it made right around 130 HP, and it still runs very well, especially after a rebuild of the original single barrel carburetor. This is the same basic OHV I6 that was used all the way from 1941 to 1996, in one form or another in everything from the compact Falcon to the legendary F series. It won't get you there in a hurry, but it will get you there without fail.
Massive four wheel drums haul this three ton beast to a stop surprisingly quickly, especially considering the lack of a power assist. There is a slight pull, but evidently that is the nature of the beast with drum brakes when they aren't adjusted absolutely perfectly. The 15" steel wheels are wrapped with new radial tires and capped by NOS Meteor hub caps. Which were a wonderful amazing find in the back room of a junk yard for peanuts.
This car was designed to score well in this kind of scenario. The suspension is very simple, dual wishbones and a coil spring up front, and leaf springs on the 9" solid rear axle. The car is so heavy and the springs so worn in, she just glides over anything and everything. Was that a lady bug or a Volkswagen?
Don't. Just don't. It will go around a corner, yes, but attempt it at any sort of speed and you will either slide clean off the road, miss the corner because of the lack of power steering and power brakes, or you'll end up with a passenger in your lap since there aren't any seat belts. This car is for cruising the two lane black top. Stick to that.
Oddly enough the Meteor doesn't sport a slush box, instead a three speed manual lives underneath. The best part? Its a column shift. 1st gear is back towards you and down, basically making this a dogleg gear box! Who knew? Obviously the ratios are spaced fairly far apart, and it is spinning fairly fast at highway speeds, but for %80 of the time you leave it in third and lean back and enjoy the ride. Seeing a common trend here? She scores high here because of that and the simple cool factor of a column shift manual.
Come on, its a basic sedan from the 1950's. The owner has hung and after market stereo under the dash, with out drilling any new holes I might add, as well as four new speakers, so now he has access to FM radio and CD, which the original Am radio with its single speaker obviously did not. It does still work how ever, and it is a simple matter of some mechanics wire and undoing a few screws to make it look like the new radio was never there.
I may be being a bit generous again, but that after market stereo goes a long way to improving points here. And the old AM radio does still work if that tickles your fancy. The exhaust note is unique, coming from an American I6. It sounds lazy and energetic all at the same time, a sort of chugging hum, and it helps give this car a character all its own.
Less than $3000 Canadian, which at the time the exchange was fairly close, for almost 20 feet of original American/Canadian iron that is the best cruiser I've ever been in. You will not find a car with such a good ride and so much character for that money anywhere.
Have a video of Francis' first drive.
Bonus Information and a Request
The Meteor was to Mercury what the Imperial was to Chrysler, a sort of yes, sort of no sub brand, except the Meteor was only available in Canada. Being based on the Ford Galaxie of the time, most parts are easy to come by, though trim is impossible. Those hub caps? Found on a dusty shelf in a wrecking yard while I was doing inventory. The fender ornaments? Long gone and impossible to replace.
If any one has ideas as to what he should put back on the fender in place of the old fender ornaments, don't hesitate to tell.