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It’s 80 years later, and Edsel Bryant Ford’s brainchild – a line of cars to fill the price gap between popular Fords and luxurious Lincolns – is still going strong.

The Mercury line has undergone some changes over the years, but remains a mainstay of American ingenuity. Named for the fleet-footed Roman god of commerce, the first car in the line (the Mercury Eight, a.k.a. the “Super Ford”) was designed to be powerful and stylish – and yet economical. After World War II temporarily halted production, the vehicle sped to new heights; by 1950, less than 20 years after the first Eights rolled off the line, Mercury sold its one-millionth car.

By the time “Rebel Without a Cause” James Dean drove a customized ’49 Mercury in the 1955 classic, Mercury’s legacy was set. The 1960 introduction of the Comet (Mercury’s first luxury compact) and the Meteor (a downsized sedan) reflected a growing trend toward smaller cars, but it was 1967 when Mercury burned its indelible mark on American highways with the arrival of the Mercury Cougar, the iconic muscle car.

The line would grow to include models of assorted shapes and sizes, with vehicles such as the well-appointed Grand Marquis and the sporty Capri (now a favorite among niche collectors) capturing the fancy of various market segments. Some models would be swallowed by the tides of history, others would rise to replace them – but the move toward smaller and more efficient vehicles was constant, as was the loyalty inspired by Mercury’s relentless quality.

Today, Mercury is dedicated to the safest, most comfortable ride at the best price. From the Milan Hybrid (granted 4.5 out of five stars by influential reviewer CNET) to the Mariner Hybrid (deemed America’s most fuel-efficient mid-size sedan by R.L. Polk & Co.), Mercury is opening new doors to fuel efficiency, power and style.

The Milan and the Mariner have both been honored for their passenger-safety protocols. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the electronic stability-controlled 2009 Milan a Top Safety Pick for midsize cars, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2009 Mariner its highest crash-test rating.

The positive trends continued in 2010. Citing a design that’s “more European in style” and a “more contemporary” interior, reviewer AutoMedia.com deemed the 2010 Milan Hybrid “much improved” and praised “the mid-size segment’s best gasoline four-cylinder fuel economy.”

Other Mercuries garner their own positive press. AllAutoReviews.com called the 2010 Grand Marquis “the perfect family car,” while Car and Driver dubbed the 2010 Moutaineer “a quiet and supple driving experience” and “a true SUV for those who still want one.” Edmunds.com, meanwhile, called the Mariner and its smaller-SUV ilk “one of the near-perfect compromises of the automotive world.”

Bottom line: They don’t look like your great-grandfather’s “Super Ford,” but today’s Mercury vehicles maintain the same standards and value. Foreign-bred competitors are good at playing catch-up, but they can’t match Mercury’s automotive depth – or its innate understanding of the American driver.

Looking for the best deals in fuel efficiency, luxury and style? Look no further than the famous Mercury line. Of course, Hassett Has It – and we’re ready to share!