After sticking with its well-received previous model through model year 1948, Ford completely redesigned its namesake car for 1949. Save for its drivetrain, this was an all-new car in every way, with a modern ladder frame now supporting a coil spring suspension in front and longitudinal semi-elliptical springs in back. The engine was moved forward to make more room in the passenger compartment and the antiquated torque tube was replaced by a modern drive shaft. Ford's popular 226 CID (3.7 L) L-head straight-6 and 239 CID (3.9 L) Flathead V8 remained, now rated at 90 hp (67 kW) and 100 hp (75 kW), respectively.
The 1949 models debuted at a gala at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City in June 1948, with a carousel of the new Fords complemented by a revolving demonstration of the new chassis. The new integrated steel structure was advertised as a "lifeguard body", and even the woody wagon was steel at heart. The convertible frame had an "X member" for structural rigidity.
From a customer's perspective, the old Custom, De Luxe, and Super De Luxe lines were replaced by new Standard and Custom trims and the cars gained a modern look with completely integrated rear fenders and just a hint of a fender in front. The new styling approach was also evident in the 1949 Mercury Eight and the all-new Lincoln Cosmopolitan.
1950 saw a new Crestliner "sports sedan" — a 2-door sedan with 2-tone paint intended to battle Chevrolet's popular hardtop sedans of 1950. Another new name was Country Squire, which referred to the 2-door wood-sided station wagon. All wagons received flat-folding middle seats at mid-year, an innovation that would reappear in the minivans of the 1990s. The 1949 and 1950 styling was similar, with a single central "bullet" in the frowning chrome grille. In the center there was a red space that had either a 6 or 8 depending if the car had the six-cylinder engine or the V8. The trim lines were renamed as well, with "Standard" becoming "Deluxe" and "Custom" renamed "Custom Deluxe". In 1950, Ford also manufactured a lesser known Business Coupe.
The 1951 Fords featured an optional Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission for the first time. Ford finally answered the Chevrolet Bel Air charge with the Victoria hardtop sedan in 1951. The car was an instant hit, outselling the Chevy by nearly 10%. The Crestliner continued for one more year, however. All 1951 Fords sported a new "dual-bullet" grille and heavy chrome bumpers. This year Ford also added a new "turn-key" ignition.
A concept car based on the 1949 Ford was introduced in 2001 as a tribute model, but was not intended for production.
In the Forza Motorsport line of racing video games, the 1949 Mercury appears as the first postwar era car in franchise history. It first appeared in action spinoff Forza Horizon 2.
In the Pixar film Cars, character Sheriff is a 1949 Mercury police cruiser.