In addition to the MC4, Mercury showed an MC2.

1997 Mercury MC4 and MC2 conceptsIt was immediately obvious that the MC2 was the direct precursor to the production 1999 Cougar, not the MC4.

Even though the MC2 isn’t the subject car (have you sensed I’m on a bit of a tangent?), I put together this chart to compare it to the Cougar.

1997 Mercury MC2 - 1999 Mercury Cougar comparison

All said, Christopher Svensson, the man credited with designing the MC2 and 1999 Cougar, has confirmed their direct connection in interviews. So what was the MC4 representative of? Unlike the MC2, not a specific model but the whole brand. In fact, the MC2 and MC4 turn out to be quite different vehicles.

One of those distinctions could be highlighted by their names. I say “could” because I didn’t come across any documentation on their origins, but let’s break it down. First, I’d gander the “MC” stands for “Mercury Concept” or, more likely, “Mercury Coupe” (Ford described both as a coupes). Second, the MC2 is a two-door, and the MC4 is… you guessed it, a four-door. There would seem to be a connection.

Oh, if you’ve tried to spot the exterior door handles, there aren’t any. Access is granted via key fob only. And, as a safety measure, the rear doors cannot be opened independent of those in front.

1997 Mercury MC4 concept
Although the rear doors are hinged at the back, in a word-sensitive world they can be called anything but suicide doors and Ford keenly left that pejorative out of their press material. In glossy marketing speak the setup was referred to as “quad-door entry” or, in less simple terms, “a semi-concealed, rear half-door system.”

Employing rear-hinged auxiliary doors on production coupes was still just an idea though, despite an apparent readiness on the part of consumers. Per demand, four-door SUVs were lighting the sales charts afire, and engineers were scrambling to add second sliders on minivans and rear access to extended pickup cabs.

1999 Saturn 3-door CoupeIn 1997, the MC4 and Pontiac Rageous concepts teased the feature and, in 1999, Saturn’s second-generation SC made it available as the 3-door Coupe (shown left with third door highlighted). It went on to gain a second rear door and a new name, Quad Coupe, for 2003 through 2007. The only other coupe with rear-hinged rear doors that stands out to me is Mazda’s RX8, from 2003 through 2008.

Even if I’ve neglected to mention other models with the feature, the fact is that it never caught on en masse. That’s excluding today’s four-door coupes which, to my eye, are merely cramped sedans. (Ba-humbug.)

The MC4 looks like an honest to goodness coupe, however, and offers unfettered access that would impress some multi-doored-minivan owners. So, why did SUVs, minivans and trucks keep their auxiliary doors, but not coupes?

Continue to page 3, below.

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