Though constant exposure stripped the Peugeots, Citroëns, Opels, and whatever other cars only really turn up on European streets of their initial shock value, I still could appreciate the commonality of these previously out of reach automobiles. They didn’t ever become dull, and the streets of Berlin still threw me all kinds of curveballs right through the last days of my year there. I never really appreciated the first generation Lotus Elise until I could look right down into one and see its seats mounted as close to the pavement as the race-prepped RX-7 I’d crawled into in my friend’s father’s garage.
But I still dreamed of brown, sagging Oldsmobiles, rattling ’70s pickups, and all the other inhabitants of the US interstate highway system I’d watched slip in and out of view at 70 miles an hour, framed by the windshield and between the A- and B-pillars.
This first-generation Mercury Sable seemed so far away from the metropolitan scenes of Berlin, and its full-length headlights filled me with Sehnsucht. I didn’t dream of how radical it looked back in ’86, or of what it was like to drive – I had never even sat in one. I just missed seeing them around.
I missed this Mercury and I knew that it was no different from some old Renault down the block on Schönhauser Allee. The peculiarities of its styling, endemic to American landscapes differed only in degree to the strangenesses of the commonplace European makes. Contextualizing cars helps you see the reasoning behind and the interest in their unique features of adaptation to their automotive
This Mercury is just another cheap, old American car. A beater easily passed on the street without a moment’s contemplation. I always knew that it was a contribution to the American automotive landscape, but as I slept in my Berlin bed, the Berlin air I breathed swept up into my brain and cast a new light on its waterfall grill, I dreamed it to be just as beautiful as its European counterparts. I think that in these dreams I learned to consider Germany with the same regard as America, to have a Heimat in two countries, to never feel at home in either.
Homesickness is one act of memory most closely tied to forgetting- you forget the streets you didn’t walk along, the people you never talked to, the worlds you did not, could not enter. In my moments of Heimweh in Berlin, the wide face of this Mercury cut into my selective dreaming. Half-remembered, it would pass by me as I walked memory lane, a surreal intruder reminding me of the realms outside my ken in my home, America.
Not that I’ve read either of these two books, but there seem to be two volumes out there on the Ford Taurus, of whom the Mercury Sable is a twin.
Taurus: the making of the car that saved Ford by Eric Taub seems to concentrate on the first generation of the car, and certainly goes no later in history than 1991, the year the book was published.
Car: a drama of the American workplace by Mary Walton is a well-regarded work on the whole process of bringing a car to market, with a behind-the-scenes study of the unsuccessful 1996 third-generation Taurus redesign.