Bill “Yogi” Yoggerst bought his 1950 Mercury more than 17 years ago, from 200 miles away, by phone, sight unseen.

Bill “Yogi” Yoggerst bought his 1950 Mercury more than 17 years ago, from 200 miles away, by phone, sight unseen.

The Springfield resident said he was disappointed but not surprised, by a Ford Motor Co. announcement this week that it will phase out the 72-year-old Mercury brand by the end of the year.

“I’d kind of been hearing that story over the last few years,” Yoggerst said.

While Mercury may not have inspired the kind of fan clubs that have grown up around the Corvettes, GTOs and Mustangs of the car-collector world, “Merc” loyalists say they have their reasons.

“I’ve had mine about five years,” Springfield resident Karen Clinton said of her baby-blue 1985 Lincoln Mercury Grand Marquis. “My dad owned it. It was his traveling car that he took out of town for vacations, and I think he bought it new,”

As often is the case with owners of a luxury Mercury model, Clinton refers to the car fondly as “a great big boat.”

“It’s huge. It’s longer than some pickup trucks,” Clinton said.

The car has 107,000 miles on it, and Clinton said she uses it only for short trips and to take her grandsons for a ride.

“After big rains, we like to go puddle jumping in it,” Clinton said.

Teen years relived

Yoggerst, now 67 and retired, owned his first 1950 Mercury — black, three-speed-with-overdrive on the column and a flathead engine — as a teenager in Springfield.

“I probably drove it about five years. I think I gave $200 for it. I drove it out to a job in Salinas, Kan., and that’s where I sent it to the boneyard,” Yoggerst said.

Yoggerst said he didn’t have the time or the money to become a car collector for most of his 30 years in the auto-glass replacement business and 14 years with the Springfield Public Works Department.

But he never forgot that 1950 Mercury.

“I told my wife, when things got better, if I ever found another ‘50 Merc, I was going to buy it," Yoggerst said.

The day came in 1992, after a friend saw a 1950 model while in the southern Illinois community of Murphysboro.

“I asked him to stop and take a look at the car. He called and said, ‘I’d buy it in a heartbeat.’

“I called the guy over the telephone and bought it. That was Oct. 25, 1992. I went and picked it up on Halloween,” Yoggerst said.

Yoggerst has modified the “fire-mist green,” two-door coupe, putting in a new engine, transmission, rear end and air conditioning. Otherwise, the car remains in the garage unless he and wife, Sue, take it out for a cruise or show.

Dwindling sales

In its announcement this week, Ford Motor Co. said it is phasing out the Mercury brand as part of plans to add seven updated models to its Lincoln lineup in the next seven years. The company said it would continue to honor Mercury warranties.

Mercury's sales peaked in 1978 at more than 580,000 vehicles. A little more than 92,000 Mercurys were sold last year.

“I’m a little surprised at what they’re doing, but I kind of understand it. They’re going to put a lot more vehicles into the Lincoln category,” said Bob Ridings of Ridings Automotive Group, which has Mercury dealerships in Jacksonville and Decatur.

Ridings said Ford also is shifting toward more environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient models.

“We suspected it was coming. If it’s not selling, they’re not going to linger. They’re putting their money into development of new models,“ said Ridings.

For Mercury Grand Marquis owner Glen Rogers of Springfield, the news was still a disappointment.

“I see a great number of Mercury cars on the road and am puzzled why Ford would decide to stop production of such a popular car,” Rogers said in an e-mail to the newspaper. “Call me old- fashioned, but like a large, rear-wheel-drive, comfortable ride with a powerful V8 engine and large trunk space.”

State Journal-Register writer Tim Landis can be reached at 217-788-1536