1980 Mercury Antser
Images: Ford Motor Company; Concept Car Central; www.chicagoautoshow.com
Mercury’s answer to America’s driving needs in the late 1980s and beyond was shown in the proposed Antser concept car. The prototype featured an aerodynamic design, lightweight construction and a 1,200-pound electric hybrid power system. Anster was approximately the size of a Mercury Bobcat, and could seat 4-passengers (2-regular seats and 2-jump seats). A comprehensive computer-controlled electronic map display could be programmed to give detours and alternate routes, plus, the instrument panel displayed a computer-calculated average distance required to stop the car.
Angular compact cars of the future were all the rage in the years following the OPEC oil embargo, but Mercury's Antser, unveiled at the Chicago auto show, was unique. Underneath that plastic skin lurked a series hybrid powertrain: batteries powered electric motors in all four wheels, and when they were depleted, a small generator extended the vehicle's range. An all-digital dash was a novelty: along with providing estimated braking distances, it allowed drivers to calculate routes via an on-screen map and pre-programmed data cartridges.
Hotness then (1-10): 3
It would be more than generous to call the Antser's exterior design uninspired; in fact, the wedge-shaped profile looks like a horrid remix of a Sebring-Vanguard Commutacar and a Pinto.
Hotness now (1-10): 7
What goes around, it seems, certainly does comes around. We can't help but notice that nearly twenty-four years after the Antser was trotted around the auto show circuit, automakers are finally ready to install similar (albeit much more advanced) series hybrid propulsion systems into small compact cars. And that digital dash? Very prescient, as Ford's new My Ford Touch system, featured in the new 2011 Edge, is somewhat similar.
Could it have saved the brand?
Although it seems to have predicted several trends that are just now coming to market, trying to push any of these features into production at the time was almost certainly beyond the abilities of Ford Motor Company. That said, it was refreshing to see designers toying with a small Mercury that wasn't merely a rebadged Ford product.
Orphaned Concept Cars - www.automobilemag.com