Sharp As A Razor: Sidney Patrick Kelly Becomes A Poster Boy For Gangster Chic


Siddy Kelly mug shot 1924 (courtesy Police and Justice Museum, Sydney)

Even by the standards of Sydney crime figures of the first half of the 20th century, Sidney Patrick Kelly was particularly vicious. A member of the so-called “razor gangs” that terrorised the inner suburbs of Australia’s largest city, Siddy (as he was known), slashed, shot and bashed his way through his many enemies and, occasionally, even his friends. And that was just the men. For women who fell victim to his short, volcanic temper, he arranged even harsher retribution.

Readers of Larry Writer’s Razor volume may vaguely recall him although he was, at best, a peripheral character. So, too, within the highly-romanticised mini-series that inevitably resulted, screening as Underbelly: Razor in 2011.

Siddy Kelly was an associate of Kate Leigh, Tilly Devine, Nellie Cameron, Guido Calletti, and even infamous Melbourne gangster, Squizzy Taylor.

Standing just 160cm, he always had something to prove and even much bigger men moved, and spoke, carefully in his presence. Early in his career, he was a cocaine dealer and police informer; gradually, he gained a fearsome reputation as an enforcer.

NSW Police of the period

What he lacked in stature, he compensated for with a mercurial unpredictability. Siddy ran with a bunch of equally tough, though much larger, friends. Amongst them was his elder brother, Tom.

They were a fine pair, the Kelly brothers though Siddy seemed to have a slight edge on Tom in the cruelty stakes. The gang muscled their way through the Sydney underworld, restraining Siddy’s targets while he ceremoniously unfolded his straight razor and deeply sliced a face or, if negotiations had progressed beyond all resolve, a throat.

As a boy, he worked as a jockey and remained fascinated by horseracing throughout his life. He owned racehorses but was caught out with batteries under the saddles of some of his mounts and banned from the sport. Later, he operated illegal baccarat dens.

At the peak of his activities during the 1940s, his share of the profits amounted to around £1,000 a night (about $72,000 in today’s dollars) In comparison, the average weekly wage in 1946 was £6/9/11 (6 pounds, 9 shillings and 11 pence – somewhere around $470 in current terms).

Likely lads at Central Police Station, Sydney

In 1947, Kelly and his wife, Theller Omega, known as Poppy, moved to grander surroundings. A two-storey mansion at 2 Martin Road, Centennial Park, adjacent to the parklands and within sight of the Sydney Showgrounds, was purchased for £8,500 (about $615,000 in today’s dollars).

Located on a 1948 square metre block and including extensive gardens, the house had been built around 1919 in the then-fashionable Inter War Free Classical style. It was designed by the prestigious Sydney architectural firm of Burcham Clamp and Mackellar.

At the time of Kelly’s purchase, the mansion was known as Babington. Later, and perhaps as a result of its notoriety, it was renamed Stanton Hall.

A gangster moving into the silvertail suburb of Centennial Park was notable enough to attract significant press coverage. Kelly didn’t shy away from the limelight. One newspaper quoted him as saying: “I have had a pretty busy life. I figured it was about time my wife and I had a slice of reasonable comfort in a home where we will not be cramped.

Melbourne gangster Squizzy Taylor

“I have always wanted a place where I could put up my friends and guests, and I have always wanted gardens, lawns and fishponds,” he continued. “The place is a good investment, and I have always said that nothing is too good for the Kellys.”

He continued to make money hand over clenched fist, primarily via his baccarat operations or gambling on horse races. Yet, a huge fortune and glamourous home could not inoculate Kelly from the vagaries of fate.

On the evening of Wednesday 1 September 1948, Siddy Kelly complained of not feeling well. The next morning, brother Tom went to his room to check on him but found him dead. An attending doctor listed his cause of death as heart failure. He was just 49 years old.

Dozens of journalists camped outside his home. One newspaper dryly noted he was “a well known figure among the exotic elements of Kings Cross”.

Journalists gather outside Babington during Siddy Kelly’s funeral

His funeral was held at Botany Cemetery. It was a private ceremony, attended by no more than 50 mourners including Poppy. Press coverage mentioned the floral tributes, estimated at £300, that adorned the casket as it made its way from his Centennial Park home.

Of all the mysteries associated with Siddy Kelly (principally, how a man with so many enemies had managed to stay alive so long), one final mystery was about to kick into high gear.

On his death, Kelly was said to have squirrelled away between £50,000 and £100,000 ($3.5 – $7 million in today’s dollars). Keep in mind, Kelly’s five-bedroom mansion on the best street in the suburb had cost less than £10,000. A police source was quoted as saying: “He was a man who never gave money away.”

On rumours that some of the money had been buried in Centennial Park, gangs of crims armed with shovels and flashlights spent weeks digging indiscriminately throughout the extensive parklands, all to no avail.

The real Nellie Cameron

Sensing a windfall, the Taxation Office descended but were perplexed to find that the gross value of the estate barely grazed £8,800 ($637,000 today). Net worth was just £2,768 (just north of $200,000 today). It didn’t help that Siddy’s long-time solicitor, Harold Joseph Price, had earlier in 1948 been sentenced to 12 years in jail for misappropriating clients’ funds.

Although Price had stolen some £34,000 ($2.5 million today) from a number of accounts under his care, the general consensus – in the underworld and elsewhere – was that he wouldn’t have been so stupid as to steal from Kelly himself. The money was out there, it was felt, but nobody knew just where. And it was never found, despite the best efforts of the police, the tax office and Sydney’s criminal elite.

Babington, later known as Stanton Hall, today remains largely in its original state, though undoubted refurbished many times since. It was last traded in 1976 for $90,000 and is today estimated to be worth in excess of $10 million.

What happened to Siddy Kelly’s fortune will probably never be known. As to Poppy Kelly, that is also somewhat of a mystery although just a few years later she was briefly listed as living in much humbler surroundings in nearby Randwick. There is only one mention I’ve found so far on an electoral roll for Poppy. That’s not to say there’s aren’t others; I just haven’t found them yet.

The glamourous Nellie Cameron of Underbelly: Razor

However, if Siddie had stashed away a substantial amount of money, maybe – for whatever reason – he hadn’t got around to telling his wife about it. How long she remained in Babington remains a mystery as well.

But a visit to Kelly’s grave deepens the mystery somewhat. What was formerly known as Botany Cemetery is now the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Gardens. Close to the shores of Botany Bay and today encompassed by heavy industry and maritime and port facilities, it opened in 1888. The area was traditionally sandhills which, even today proves challenging to excavating graves.

I was hoping to find that Poppy shared her husband’s grave (by which I could then confirm her name) but that wasn’t the case. Kelly’s grave was in an older part of the Roman Catholic section and, unusually, the burials along this particular row occurred by date, beginning in early September 1948 and running until late in the month. It was the only row I could find where this occurred.

The headstone was also of interest. Probate was granted on Siddy’s estate in the first week of November 1948, by which time the word had well and truly circulated about the dire state of his finances. It was just eight weeks after his funeral and probably about the time a headstone was ready to adorn his grave.

Siddy Kelly’s headstone at Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park, Sydney

Yet the granite headstone misspells Kelly’s name. It reads Sydney Patrick Kelly. Could this have been Poppy extracting an enduring revenge for her husband’s failure to provide for her?

Maybe another clue lies in the Biblical quote included on the headstone.

“God forgive them for they know not what they do.”

I was first drawn to the story of Sidney Patrick Kelly back in early 1989. At that time, I was working away at the Mitchell Library, Sydney, most likely researching one of my books; from the date, it was Sand On The Gumshoe: A Century Of Australian Crime Writing, published later that year.

Jim Devine, husband of Tilly Devine

All the books I worked on during that decade (and into the next) necessitated extensive research at the Mitchell Library so it was very much a home away from home. In fact, I’d been a regular there since 1979, when I started writing for various encyclopedias published for Rupert Murdoch.

Before the universal prolificity of computers and the internet, historical research was libraries and card catalogues. In the process of looking for one thing, I often found something else equally or even more interesting. In this case, it was an article on Siddy Kelly published in People, an Australian news and general interest magazine from 1955.

I have no idea what I was initially searching for. It may have been something about Arthur Upfield, creator of Bony, the indigenous Australian detective. Or Carter Brown, the pen name of Alan Geoffrey Yates, credited with almost 300 pulp crime novels and novellas from the mid-1950s on. Or maybe even Berkeley Mather, English-born but Australian-educated, a now-almost-forgotten creator of eloquent spy thrillers who also co-wrote the script to Dr No, the first official James Bond movie, and did uncredited rewrites on From Russia With Love and Goldfinger.

Difficult to know but somehow I stumbled across this People article on Sidney Patrick Kelly and thought it’d be interesting to follow up at a later date. So, risking a hernia, I lugged the bound quarto volume of People magazines to the Mitchell Library’s copying department (self-service photocopy machines being some years in the future).

Sydney crime scene photo of the 1920s (courtesy Sydney Living Museums)

At a later date, I received from the copying service photographic negatives of the relevant three pages (can’t recall why it would have been photographed and not photocopied), which went into my desk drawer, survived several home relocations and various major and minor life changes, until I dug the negs out last week and determined it was about time I did something about the article.

Only took 33 years. Pretty good, considering.

However, there is a coda to Siddy Kelly’s story. The opening photograph of Sidney Patrick Kelly, with his blue-steel gaze and snappy attire, comes from the collection of the Justice and Police Museum in Sydney. It is part of an archive encompassing more than 100,000 mug shots, crime scene and related photographs from the NSW Police Department.

Included are some 2,5000 “special photographs” taken of prisoners at Central Police Station, Sydney, between 1910-25. These photos are remarkable, shot on large-format glass negatives. The subjects were allowed to pose as they wished in quite informal settings, totally unlike traditional institutionalised mug shots.

The mean streets of midnight Sydney

This photograph of Kelly was taken on 25 June 1924 and appeared in the NSW Police Gazette. It was captioned “Illicit drug trader. Drives his own car, and dresses well. Associates with criminal and prostitutes.”

Museum curator Peter Doyle (a crime writer of note, although he arrived too late on the scene to be included in Sand On The Gumshoe), collated some of these highly atmospheric photos for publications under the titles City Of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs 1912-1948 (2005) and Crooks Like Us (2009).

The books were an outstanding success in Australia, deservedly so, although their influence extended even further. In 2011, the Justice and Police Museum was approached by the corporate head office of Ralph Lauren in New York. They wanted to licence images from the collection, notably the “special photographs”, to be enlarged to wall-size murals for display in their New York City and London flagship stores.

Crime is never as glamourous as it appears on television

The Siddy Kelly photo at the beginning of this blog was one of the photographs selected. It’s interesting that a man as essentially evil as Sidney Patrick Kelly would continue to exert an influence on popular culture so long after his death.

Befitting the modern era, Kelly had become a commodity. A sharp dresser with the promise of danger in his level gaze, he was now the personification of edgy fashion. Perhaps it would have amused him. Certainly his acquaintances would have had a laugh.

Rat Rods, Rocket Sleds and Land Yachts: Atomic Age Detroit Metal Shines At Newcastle Museum


Some people don’t get it. And, most likely, never will. Some do. Of those who get it, a few will never move beyond it. They embrace it in all its forms. The rest are spectators, no matter how inflamed their interests, they’ll never cross that great divide, turn fantasy to reality, embrace the actuality.

Although this applies to collectors in general, it’s especially so for those whose main interest is cars. Most people out there are content (happy may be stretching it) with their late model Fords or Toyotas, even with the current trend towards the bland homogeneity, that has rendered all cars pretty much the same, the choice narrowed to a handful of designs and a handful of colours. Good luck finding your car in a shopping centre car park.

Yet there are those of us who want more than mere transport. Prestige, perhaps, individuality, certainly, a statement of style or their love of design excellence or nostalgia. These people really enjoy driving. It’s a pleasure for them. An adventure.

 

I love old cars, in particular the American variety of the 1950s to 1970s. I’ll leave it up to qualified experts to explain my preferences. Certainly, my last three cars fell within that grouping – a 1968 Ford Galaxie, a 1963 Cadillac Coupe de Ville and a 1978 Lincoln Continental Town Car.

I had the Cadillac for almost 20 years and it’s appeared in previous posts, as much for its fascinating back story as the collective joys of owning and driving a classic car.

 

For those not familiar with the backstory, check out:

https://davidlatta.org/2011/08/29/a-classic-link-to-old-time-las-vegas-the-dunes-frederic-apcar-and-the-casino-de-paris/

https://davidlatta.org/2011/08/30/say-hello-to-my-little-friend-the-joy-of-a-classic-car/

 

The Cadillac has long been America’s mainstream luxury car, an aspiration noted lyrically in so much of the country’s music (especially blues and early R&B songs) and pop culture. I never doubted I’d be a Cadillac owner forever.

But it was not to be and, instead, I found myself switching alliances (perhaps a little too easily). My Caddy was what is now termed a survivor. Although mechanically excellent, the original Silver Mist paintwork needed a respray and the red leather interior (an expensive option, along with the bucket seats, in its day) also required extensive attention. I was looking at big bucks for the quality finish it deserved.

Then the engine blew a cylinder. It took me ages to mull over the options (limited as they were – fix or not) and it was probably more the case that I didn’t want to make the hard decision. What I didn’t want to face was the possibility of the Caddy ending up in a wrecking yard. In the meantime, I needed something to drive.

 

As I started shopping around, I ruled out another Caddy as they were priced beyond what I wanted to pay. In what turned out to be a timely combination of dumb luck and divine intervention, I found a beautiful midnight blue 1978 Lincoln Continental Town Car. It’s the default limousine used extensively in the United States for airport transfers, while it’s substantial bulk and moderate retro stylings gave it something of the flavour of a Mafia staff car.

The price was right, ridiculously so, and everything else checked out so I flew to Adelaide for an inspection. It was in immaculate condition; it’d been purchased from a deceased estate in Maquoketa, Iowa, brought to Australia, complianced and fully registered in South Australia just two years before.

Maquoketa is some 200 kilometres west of Chicago but the pristine undercarriage revealed the previous owner to be extremely fastidious; bless him, he was exactly the sort of person people like me dream of buying a second-hand car from. There was nothing to indicate the Lincoln had ever poked its shiny chrome beyond the shelter of its garage between late autumn and early spring in its entire existence. In fact, throughout the car, there was very little indication of the almost 40 years since it had rolled off the assembly line in Wixom, Michigan.

 

On the leisurely drive back to Sydney I became acquainted with the Lincoln’s left-hand drive (not as difficult or confronting as initially expected) and the rapid response of the 460 cubic-inch (around 7.5 litre) engine.

It didn’t take me long to come to terms with the idea that I should keep the Lincoln and sell the Cadillac. Still, it did take a while to finally list it on eBay, expecting a fairly low selling price considering its condition. But, once listed, the magic manifested. The opening bid landed almost immediately and, ultimately, 14 bidders duelled like wine-soaked Musketeers; it eventually realised just a little over what I’d paid for it some 20 years before (and, incidentally, more than I paid for the Lincoln). Try that with a late-model Toyota.

It’s little wonder, then, that I seek out car museums whenever I’m in the United States. Give me the opportunity to tour the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, or the America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington, and I’m in like a shot.

 

I have no more understanding of the intricacies of the internal combustion engine than I would the opening chapter of Quantum Physics For Dummies, so the technicalities matter little (that’s where a good mechanic is essential); it’s the excess, the unashamed kitsch, that gets me far more than any technical appreciation.

And it’s not just Americans who still treasure the more outrageous examples of their automotive heritage. I have taken tours of Paris in classic Cadillacs and seen a fleet of 1950s and 1960s American cars on a club run through rural Finland.

Australians also have a similar fascination which is how I came to discover Lost In The 50s, a private collection at an industrial area in Newcastle, New South Wales.

 

Open just one day a month, it’s the culmination of more than 30 years of collecting American cars and pop culture memorabilia of the 1950s and 60s by businessman Glen Jennings and his family. Lost In The 50s is devoted to the Atomic Age (a sub-strata of the so-called Golden Age of US automobile design, pegged between 1948 and 1973).

It was a time when the post-war economic boom fuelled the rapid rise in US consumer culture and influenced car companies to produce ever more ostentatious designs. Immensely powerful engines, vast surfaces of brightly-hued steel panelling offset by bulky chrome flourishes and all the mod-cons consumers never knew they needed but soon came to expect (and then some – under-dash record players, anyone?).

All packaged in enormous designs that recalled missiles, rocket ships and the gleaming futurism of 1950s Hollywood science-fiction movies. The aim wasn’t so much to get from Point A to Point B but to do it in the most style and comfort.

 

The space race, honed razor sharp by the Cold War, dominated the skies while Detroit car manufacturers mimicked their own ever-skyward quest for dominance. In feverishly competing to make their products as attractive as possible to American consumers, there also occurred an inevitable competition between brands. And the late 1950s to mid-1960s saw the rise of jaw-droppingly audacious automotive design, as shamelessly brightly-coloured as metallic peacocks, the likes of which had never been seen before.

There was a staggering range of choice to entice consumers. The major automobile companies – Ford, General Motors and Chrysler – along with a handful of smaller independents, including AMC and Studebaker, fought to differentiate their products. And each of these also had an array of brands.

Ford had, amongst others, such brands as the Lincoln, Mercury, Fairlane, Galaxie, and Mustang (best not mention the Edsel), while GM boasted the Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac. Chrysler’s included the Valiant, Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Imperial and New Yorker.

 

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1966 George Barris-designed Batmobile.

 

 

Many of these are represented in the Lost In The 50s collection. It ranges across family sedans, pick-up trucks, hot rods and a couple of notable movie cars. The most instantly recognisable is the 1966 Batmobile, from the Adam West television series. Adapted from a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept vehicle by legendary US custom car creator, George Barris, an  original and three replicas were created for filming.

 

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1966 George Barris-designed Batmobile.

 

All are now in private ownership. Barris’ original, designated the #1 – which remained in his personal collection – was auctioned for the first time in 2015, fetching $US4.6 million. However, there’s a thriving industry producing driveable replicas, fibreglass bodies often mounted on Lincoln Town Cars chassis. I’ve lost count of the number I’ve seen at motor museums around the world and the one at Lost In The 50s is a prime example.

 

1950 Buick Roadmaster Fastback Coupe

 

My pick from this smaller section of the museum is the pearl grey 1950 Buick Roadmaster Fastback Coupe. The front grille, with a rictus of chromed malevolence, looks like something out of a Stephen King novel (small wonder as a 1953 Buick Roadmaster was the supernatural lynchpin of King’s From A Buick 8).

But it’s the central hall of the museum that holds the most glittering of prizes and it’s here that the truly wonderful over-the-top 50s and 60s cars are in evidence. Here’s my personal favourites:

 

Lost50sBonneville8502
1958 Pontiac Bonneville Coupe

 

1958 Pontiac Bonneville Coupe in two-tone green with a continental kit. The Pontiac was one of General Motor’s earliest brands, beginning in 1926, and soon became one of the favourites of American consumers. The Bonneville emerged initially in 1957 as the luxury convertible edition of the Pontiac Star Chief. The following year, the Bonneville became a stand-alone model.

 

Lost50sBonneville8501
1958 Pontiac Bonneville Coupe

 

The 1958 was available as a two-door hardtop or convertible. The base price was $US3,481 (against an average income of $US5,100 per annum) for a V-8 370 cubic inch, 255hp engine with a Carter four-barrel carburettor. Options went all the way up to a 330hp with triple Rochester twin-barrel carburettors.

 

 

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1958 Pontiac Bonneville Coupe

 

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1958 Pontiac Bonneville Coupe

 

 

Lost50sOldsmobile8508
1958 Oldsmobile Model 98

 

 

1958 Oldsmobile Model 98 4 door sedan in cherry red. Until 2004, when the company was shuttered, the Oldsmobile was America’s oldest operating car company, dating back to 1897 when Ransom E. Olds started manufacturing in Lansing, Michigan. General Motors purchased the company in 1908.

By the late 1950s, the Oldsmobile was powered by an 8-cylinder Rocket V-8 engine (it first appeared in the 1949 models) and was the first post-war overhead-valve V-8 engine. The Oldsmobile was one of the fastest American cars of its time, capable of 0-60mph (0-97 km/h) in a bit more than 12 seconds and an absolute top speed of 97mph (156 km/h). In 1949 and 50, 88s won more than half the NASCAR Grand National Races. General Motors had the OHV V-8 market pretty much to itself for several years.

The 1958 Oldsmobile had an option of a J-2 Golden Rocket with three two-barrel carburettors. Revolutionary as the Rocket 88 engine was to General Motors and the automotive industry in general, it also played an indirect role in the development of rock’n’roll.

 

Lost50sOldsmobile8506
1958 Oldsmobile Model 98

 

A paean to speed and power (and ipso facto sex), “Rocket 88” was a song written by Jackie Brenston in 1951 at the Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale, MS. Brenston was saxophonist with Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm band. The song was recorded by the Kings at the recently-opened Memphis Recording Service studios in early March 1951 but released as Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats. Brenston sang vocals while the sax breaks were by 17-year-old Raymond Hill.

In the petri dish of American culture that was slowly but surely fermenting gospel, rhythm and blues, and country music during that decade, black and white influences travelling parallel tracks, many music historians identify Rocket 88 as the first rock’n’roll song. It’s passionately argued for and against but within that Memphis studio was recorded one of the first, if not the penultimate, song in the development of modern music by people who would also play their own important roles.

In 1956, a precocious 16-year-old by the name of Anna Mae Bullock, first sang with the Kings of Rhythm and soon became a regular member of the band. She started dating Raymond Hill and they eventually had a baby; when the relationship floundered, she began dating Ike Turner. In 1960, she adopted the stage name of Tina Turner when Ike formed the Ike And Tina Turner Revue.

 

Lost50sOldsmobile8510
1958 Oldsmobile Model 98

 

But the most enduring of rock’n’roll’s fickle flourishes of fate involved the Memphis Recording Studio. It was opened in 1950 by Sam Phillips who, two years later, inaugurated his own label, Sun Records, there. For the first few years, Phillips concentrated on emerging  black musicians such as B.B. King and Howlin’ Wolf although he was intrigued by the possibilities inherent in finding a white singer who could convincingly handle black music.

In July 1954, a nineteen-year-old blonde blue-eyed Memphis local, Elvis Presley, recorded a number of tracks, of which “That’s All Right, Mama” and “Blue Moon Of Kentucky”, became the first of five releases on the Sun label. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

Lost50sOldsmobile8507
1958 Oldsmobile Model 98

 

1961 Chrysler Imperial Coupe

 

1961 Chrysler Imperial Coupe two-door in ice blue. The Imperial was Chrysler’s luxury brand from 1955 until the mid-70s and it was to Chrysler what Cadillac was to General Motors or Lincoln to Ford. As beautiful as this car is externally, some of its more notable refinements are inside.

Although dash-mounted push button transmissions were available in a handful of American cars, only Chrysler maintained it for any great length of time. The two-speed PowerFlite transmission was available in all Chryslers from 1954 to 1961, with the three-speed TorqueFlite appearing in 1956. Push buttons disappeared at the end of the 1964 model year.

 

1961 Chrysler Imperial Coupe

 

The oblong steering wheel and seeming lack of steering column is another stylish Space Age design feature. The tyre-shaped hump on the trunk is known as the FliteSweep Deck Lid and was an option on 1957-61 models. In 1961, it cost $US55.45 extra.

At 227.1 inches (5.76 metres) long, it was the longest non-limousine car on the market.

 

1961 Chrysler Imperial Coupe

 

 

1958 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser

 

1958 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser gold two-tone with continental kit. This is one car that polarised the market back in the day and continues to bedevil collectors today. Is it amazing design innovation or just amazingly kitsch?

The flagship of Ford’s Mercury division, the Turnpike Cruisers (which included a convertible option) were only available for the 1957-58 model years and didn’t exactly set the market afire; only 17,000 were sold in 1957, for example.

 

1958 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser

 

This is despite some entertaining innovations including the Breezeway power rear window, the Seat-O-Matic automatic adjusting seat, and a push-button transmission known as the Multi-Drive Keyboard Control, which lent the vehicle severe sci-fi street cred. A 383 cubic inch 330hp Marauder V-8 was standard under the hood, with a 430 cubic inch optional upgrade available. Zero to 60mph in well under ten seconds.

The Continental Kit, which extends the rear bumper and mounts the spare tyre externally, was perhaps the ultimate in flash. Despite all the bells and whistles, the Turnpike Cruiser was short-lived, with 6,407 produced in 1958. It didn’t help that the US was in the midst of a recession at this time and, when consumers had fuel economy at the top of their shopping lists, a shiny aircraft carrier on wheels seemed an unnecessary indulgence.

 

1958 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser

 

Its rarity these days, however, along with a renewed appreciation makes it highly prized.

The electric retractable rear window, a somewhat dubious innovation, was maintain by Ford for some time, possibly hoping the marketplace would eventually respond. Mercury revived the Breezeway in 1963-66 in its Monterey, Montclair and Park Lane models; within the Lost In The 50s collection is a beautiful black 1960 Lincoln Continental Sedan with a Breezeway back window.

 

1958 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser

 

 

It’s easy to spend the entire day at Lost In The 50s. Members and friends of the Jennings family act as docents, answering questions and generally acting as proud hosts of an extraordinary collection. Car clubs often set up in the forecourt along with food trucks. Check out their website for upcoming opening dates. Purchasing tickets well in advance is recommended.

https://www.lostinthe50s.com.au

 

 

 

 

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