39 Years Ago In an age of new-model closed introductions, Ford Motor Co. in July 1961 publicly unveils details of its upcoming '62 Mercury lineup. The reason, according to auto industry insiders, is to help quash persistent rumors that the Mercury brand is going to follow the recently de-ceased Edsel into oblivion.

In the same month, Chrysler Corp. President and Chairman, Lester Lum (Tex) Colbert asks to be relieved of his duties "for the good of the company and to facilitate the estab-lishment of new senior management." The move comes less than a year after William C. Newberg, a close Colbert associate for 20 years, is forced out after just 60 days as Chrysler president following disclosure of financial holdings in two Chrysler suppliers. In late July the board elects one of its own, George H. Love, head of Consolidated Coal Co., to the Chrysler chairmanship and Lynn A. Townsend to the presidency.

23 Years Ago It's a hot month in Washington, DC, for the automakers in July 1977 as they await regulatory action on several fronts. The most critical of those is Congressional approval of final emissions standards for the upcoming '78 models. Separate House and Senate bills await joint committee resolution, Congressional final approval and President Jimmy Carter's signature. Without final regulations automakers cannot even ship cars from the factory, threatening the orderly launch of new products such as General Motors Corp.'s downsized intermediates and Ford Motor Co.'s Fairmont and Zephyr. Carryover models can still be built through Dec. 31 as '77s. (In a marathon session, Congress completes work Aug. 3 on a bill granting the industry a 2-year extension of '77 standards, avoiding massive shutdowns.)

Meanwhile, automakers are seeking Congressional review of a decision by the Secretary of Transportation mandating passive restraints - air bags or belts - to be phased in beginning with '82 model luxury and large cars.

17 Years Ago Chrysler Corp. Chairman Lee A. Iacocca, in Congressional hearings on corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards in July 1983, comes out strongly against rolling back the 27-mpg (8.7L/100 km) rule for '84 model cars and the 27.5-mpg (8.5L/100 km) regulation for '85. A rollback, says Mr. Iacocca, "would send the wrong signal to the American public." He also argues that a rollback would be grossly unfair to Chrysler after it has spent "millions of dollars in a good-faith effort to convert to fuel-efficient front-wheel-drive cars."