Home » I Saw Some Crazy Stuff At An LA Car Show: A Mercury Pickup Truck, A Diesel International Scout, An Iso Grifo

I Saw Some Crazy Stuff At An LA Car Show: A Mercury Pickup Truck, A Diesel International Scout, An Iso Grifo

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The song “Mercury Blues” has its roots way back to the 1940s, when it — via the lyrics “crazy ’bout a Mercury” — paid homage to what was then a stalwart in the American auto world: Ford’s Mercury brand. That brand became a shell of its former self by the 1990s and 2000s, and then ultimately disappeared in 2011, but don’t let those dark days hide the glory that once was the Mercury M-series of pickup trucks — rebranded Ford F-trucks for the Canadian market. This white one joins an absurdly rare International Scout diesel and an Iso Grifo as the stars of the car show I attended in LA on Sunday.

Cars & Coffee events are too damn early, and yet, because I have to get up everyday around 6:15 anyway to run this website, I managed to attend the one at Griffith Park about 15 minutes east of my Studio City, CA apartment. I drove my beloved 1985 Jeep J10, and met up with my friend Tom (you can see him below, just in front of my J10 on the left), who drove his own Nash wagon.

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The car show was legit; it was a genuinely diverse grouping of some of the most incredible old Mercedes diesels you’ve ever seen, lots of BMWs and Porsches, and plenty of JDM glory. My four favorites, though, were these:

Mercury M-Series

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I work with a Canadian everyday – Thomas Hundal — and yet somehow he’s been keeping the Mercury M-Series from me, for whatever reason. How did he not, upon our first meeting, mention: “David, this interview shouldn’t continue until I tell you that in Canada you could buy a rebadged Ford truck called the “Mercury M-Series”? Come on, Thomas, this is important stuff! I would have hired you on the spot!


It’s a fascinating thing, really, and I’m going to let Canadian auto journalist Glen Woodcock describe why it exists. From his archived write-up on Autonet.ca:

In the brave postwar world of 1948, there were two types of Ford Motor Company dealerships in Canada – those that sold Fords and those that sold Lincoln-Mercury products. Why they didn’t just combine all three lines I’ll never know, but I’m glad they didn’t. Because to give Ford dealers a more upscale car to compete against Oldsmobile and DeSoto, the Canadian division, then headquartered in Windsor, created the Monarch line of badge-engineered Mercurys. And so Mercury-Lincoln dealers could have a lower priced car to compete against Chevrolet and Plymouth, they invented the Meteor line of badge-engineered Fords.
Both of these new cars were made in Canada, and exclusive to Canada, but that still left Mercury-Lincoln-Meteor dealers without a brand of trucks.

He goes on:

According to R. Perry Zavitz’s 1993 book, Monarch/Meteor, reprinted last year and available from Old Autos Publications for $30, there were few major styling differences between 1948-50 Mercury trucks and their Ford counterparts. The biggest change was Mercury’s use of a more massive chromed grille, with four broad horizontal bars rather than Ford’s five narrow bars. Mercury trucks also got a chrome strip on their front fenders and rectangular parking lamps.
“Virtually every Ford truck model was duplicated for Mercury dealers to sell,” Perry wrote. “The same engine and transmissions offered by Ford trucks of Canada were available with the Mercury label.”

Model designations were the same, except they began with an “M” instead of an “F.” From 1951, with few exceptions, the only difference between Ford and Mercury trucks was the nameplate. Over the years, the Mercury line of trucks sold in Canada mirrored what was available from Ford – everything from parcel deliveries to heavy duty step vans, and from school buses and cab forward designs to Super Duty tandem axle models.
Mercury trucks were built in Windsor until 1953, then in Oakville, and were marketed here until they were phased out in favour of their more popular Ford siblings.
The last Mercury truck rolled off the Oakville assembly line on March 23, 1968.

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A Diesel International Scout

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My favorite car at the meetup with this Turbodiesel International Scout II, which not only featured the 1980-only Nissan  SD33T turbodiesel, but also badging and some incredible graphics on the sides. Just look at this glory:

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Behold that mighty turbodiesel. Typically, Scouts were equipped with 304 V8s or 345 V8s or maybe AMC straight sixes or they might have a four-cylinder made using a V8 block (an absurdity).

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Actually, just for fun, I want to show that crazy four-cylinder that International used to build using a V8 block, because it really is absurd:

Rwp Scout Comanche Engine

The brochure above makes it look like a V-engine, but as ISASIH’s for-sale listing on the forum “IH Parts America” shows, that rearward bank features no cylinders!:

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Anyway, back to the incredibly-rare turbodiesel (IH also offered naturally aspirated diesel Scouts, but I bet they were clinically slow, not that this one isn’t); check out the interior, which the owner told me was the original interior design (but restored):

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Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution

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I’ll let my former colleague Raphael Orlove talk about the mighty homologation special that is the Mitsubishi Pajero Evo. In short, it’s a Dakar vehicle sold to the public; it’s an absolute rally monster, especially in the really rough, high-speed stuff. From Raph’s Jalopnik article:

The Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution, PajEvo for short, was built from ‘97 through ‘99 as a means of sneaking into the Dakar Rally’s production-based T2 class. The Dakar Rally is the toughest car (and bike) race in the world, and building a car for it is a serious task. It should come as no surprise that the PajEvo is a serious car.

The PajEvo got all new suspension, new differentials, a unique 276 horsepower, 257 lb-ft variable valve timing 3.5 liter V6 engine, skidplates, Recaro seats, a widebody kit, and mudflaps. Gotta love those mudflaps.

The idea was to sneak a super-strong car into the otherwise-tame stock class by selling 2500 beefy specials to the public. That homologates them for the stock class. It’s a way to sort of stretch the rules by following them to the letter of the law but not the spirit.

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Iso Grifo

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What you’re looking at here is a rare Italian car built by the same company that made Isetta microcars, which were licensed to BMW in Germany after apparently not selling so well in their home market. That company was named Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A., though by the time it bowed out of the microcar game and started building larger sports cars in the early 1960s, the name changed to Iso Rivolta (named after Renzo Rivolta who created the car company out of a refrigerator manufacturer named Isothermos). Here’s Car and Driver‘s blurb on the car:

Renzo Rivolta built Isothermos refrigerators before WWII, but after the war he perceived a greater need amongst Italian consumers for basic transportation and added capacity to build scooters and Isetta bubblecars under license from BMW. With success came a desire to build grand touring cars, first the Iso Rivolta, a Bertone-styled four-seat coupe, appeared in 1962, and later the two-seat Gran Turismo Grifo in 1963. Power came from the Corvette’s small-block V-8 and four-speed gearbox, but the chassis was designed by Giotto Bizzarrini and cloaked in an aerodynamic body built by Bertone and designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. The price was about double that of a Corvette, but the Iso Grifo was way lighter and more technically sophisticated.

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A typical Iso Grifo in good shape tends to sell for over $600,000. And it was just sitting in that parking lot in Griffith Park, for all to see. What a great car show this was!

Ford Taunus 17M

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I will admit that anytime I hear the name “Ford Taunus,” the first thing I think is “V4 engine,” but that didn’t come until the early 1960s, and the “P2” Taunus 17M you see here is from the late ’50s, and features an overhead valve inline-four.  It’s a larger Taunus variant, and coincided with the beginning of German cars (this Taunus was developed by Ford’s division in Germany) upsizing after diminutive, cute cars that abounded after World War II when resources were scarce. The styling of this larger Taunus was inspired by American cars of the era, and that’s obvious when you look at the tailfins:

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An honorable mention from the show was this 1987 Buick Riviera, specifically its amazing CRT touchscreen command center, which still worked!

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Here are some photos of other vehicles from the show. Speaking of shows, if you’re in Detroit, bring your car to our Walmart meetup! Detroit car culture and LA car culture are both incredibly strong; which is stronger? I still need more time to decide.

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Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
11 months ago

: “David, this interview shouldn’t continue until I tell you that in Canada you could buy a rebadged Ford truck called the “Mercury M-Series”? “

Wait until he tells you about the Fargo trucks that were sold in Canada until 1972.

Or the “Chrysler Intrepid”, “Buick Allure” “Pontiac Wave” we got.

And then there is the entire Asuna brand:

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
11 months ago

. The price was about double that of a Corvette, but the Iso Grifo was way lighter and more technically sophisticated.”

Also, the Grifo had an actual trunk, which the Corvette didn’t have from 1962 to 1982. So it was more sophisticated AND more practical.

11 months ago

Now that you’re out there, I have to recommend the South OC Cars and Coffee in San Clemente and the Malibu Cars and Coffee.
South OC gets pretty huge and is held every Saturday at the San Clemente Outlets off of Hwy1. It has no shortage of parking.
Malibu is actually a two-part C&C. It starts out at a small oceanside park across from Pepperdine University. Eventually, they all migrate from the park to the strip mall off of Hwy 1 and Cross Creek. If I’m not mistaken, Spike also does his podcast from there once in a while too.
Personally, I plan to hit the Griffith Park one the next time I’m out there.

11 months ago

Is that the utility kit from a Jurassic Park explorer?

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