The XM-800 was designed in the Mercury Pre-Production Studio in 1952 by John Najjir, the manager of the suudio, and Elwood Engle a design consultant. It was originally intended to be called the "Javelin" as can be seen in this early full sized clay workup with the "Javelin" nameplate on the quarter panel.
The car was built in October 1953 and was introduced at the February 1954 Dertoit Auto Show, the same show at which the all new Thunderbird was introduced. It was billed as ready to go into "actual production if public demand warrants". As we all now know, the Thunderbird made it but the XM-800 did not. Had it been more widely accepted, it would have been produced as a 1956 Model Monterey.
Here is the original PRESS RELEASE issued February 16, 1954 alerting the public that the car would be introduced at the Detroit Auto Show and this is the photo that was issued with this press release:
The XM-800 was a well traveled automobile in 1954 racking up thousands of miles on it's hauling rig but very few on the XM-800 itself.
You see, the XM-800 was a push car. Altough it had a completely functional V8 engine the transmission was no more than an empty case. It was a cost saving measure often used on concept cars. There were other likely cost saving measures employed on the XM-800 as well which I'll cover a little later.
The XM-800 was pushed or towed on and off the hauler and into and out of the various shows around the country it was featured in throughout 1954 and early 1955.
Sometime in later '55 or early '56 when the automakers were experimenting with safety features for cars a new deep dish steering wheel with a shorter steering column was installed in the XM-800. The deep dish wheel was more energy absorbing in an accident than the original flat type steering wheel. Being deep dish, about 6", the steering column had to be changed as well or the wheel would have been right in the chest of the driver. Anyway, this was a 'safety' change which appeared soon after in production cars of all makes.
Another thing they did was move the radio knobs from the face of the dash where they too were a safety hazard down on the dash below the radio faceplate.(pictures coming)
Then they also added padding to the dash.
All of these changes will be removed and reverted back to the original XM-800 as it was when Mercury first built it.
Circa 1956 when it's usefulness had expired at the Lincoln Mercury Division of the Ford Motor Company, Ford donated it to the University of Michigan along with some other items like Henry Fords boyhood home.
The UM used the XM-800 in it's auto design class as a teaching tool.
The university also did a 'center of gravity' test on the XM-800 shown in this article(article coming)
In so doing, they welded eight foot long 2 1/2" angle iron to both frame rails which were set level with the floor for more accurate measurements I guess. Anyway, these rails will also be removed during the restoration.
Around 1960 the XM-800 had again outlived it's usefulness with auto design rapidly changing and the university auctioned it off.
The XM-800 was purchased by an unknown person who then brought it to a central Michigan farmer and asked if he could store it in his barn. The farmer was paid a years rent in advance and the owner left only to never be heard from again.After a couple years, needing room, and since he hadn't been paid rent for several years the farmer moved the XM-800 outside alongside the barn.
Sometime in 1979 car lovin 17 year old Dan Brooks and his friend happened to spot a car sitting outside alongside a barn. They went and looked it over then went home and did some research. Finding out that it was a real 'dream car' they got excited and went back to talk to the farmer and ask if they could buy the car.
The farmer replied "if you get it out of here you can have it" and went on to say that he was about to haul it to the dump which was next to his farm to get rid of it.
The young men were only too eager to get the XM-800 hauled away. They found that it was mired in the barnyard muck right up to the floor boards and were surprised when they got it out that all four tires still had air in them.
Sometime later Dans friend needed some money to finish off the interior of a camaro he was working on and Dan paid him $100.00 for his share in the XM-800. Dan had every intention of restoring the XM-800 and had disassembled most of the car only to find out that chrome plating of all the parts was going to cost over $10,000.00. That's when Dan decided to put the car back together and sell it. He advertised it in Hemmings for $30,000.00 with no luck except to awaken concept car collector Joe Bortz from Chicago. Over the next three years or so Joe contacted Dan many times making offers to purchase the XM-800 but Dan was holding out for more money until finally late in 1987 they came to terms and Joe bought the car.
Joe also planned on restoring the XM-800 but with his over 30 concept cars he never got to the XM-800 except to get it running and put a working transmission in it to make it self mobile.
Then in September 2008 Joe advertised it for sale on ebay and that's where I come into the life of the XM-800.
The restoration is now well under way with the car completely disassembled and refinishing of the chassis and suspension will begin the week of Thanksgiving. I'll post pictures here soon so keep checking back.