American Cruisers: Mercury Marquis


The Mercury Marquis, another land yacht that did well during its time, was the brand's top-end model. But like the Mercury brand, it was killed off in 2011.

There is a very good reason for having picked the Marquis/Grand Marquis instead of one of its platform-mates from Lincoln or Ford. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in New York City thinks of it as nothing more than an expensive taxi, and what's more, there's already a Lincoln in this series. As for the Crown Victoria, well, you'd just be scrolling through the pictures thinking "cop car". Younger readers won't remember a car called simply "Marquis", but rather the Grand Marquis, and so we should explain.

The car started out as just Marquis, a rebadged version of the Ford LTD. The Grand Marquis came out some years later as the top trim for the car, just as the Crown Victoria was used as the top trim for the LTD. Both of these trim names would eventually take over as model names, but we'll come to that. The Marquis debuted in 1967 as Mercury's new top-end model, thus beginning the phasing out of the older Monterey model. The smallest engine available was a 390cu-in (6.4L) V8 which produced 330 horsepower. But for those who wanted it, there was the option of a 428cu-in (7.0L) "Super Marauder" V8.

This was essentially the same Ford FE-code 428 engine being used in the Shelby GT500 but with a different name. This officially produced 345 horsepower, but dyno tests suggest somewhere around 410 was the real figure. The first generation would only last two years, and was replaced in 1969 by the second generation, which is also the most significant. This comes first from the fact that Mercury brought back the Marauder trim package, formerly used with the Monterey in '63-'65 for NASCAR homologation, but was now just a performance trim which came with a 429cu-in engine.

Following this, the Grand Marquis would debut in 1975 as the car's top luxury trim. The Marquis and Grand Marquis of this generation generally rated higher than the competing GM products in owner's surveys, and they sold in huge numbers. In fact, a total of 7,850,000 units were sold when you count Ford and Mercury models together, making this Ford's second-best-selling platform, outsold only by infamous Model T. It would live on until 1978 in Marquis form and 1982 in Grand Marquis form. One CarBuzz staff member actually owned one of these, a '78 Marquis model. He paid $800 for it in 1998, and it lasted for two years.

It was a giant, lumbering yacht of a thing, but its V8 made a pleasing noise and the front and back bench seats were essentially just very comfy couches. It wasn't fast, but the owner was young and had a heavy foot, and it got him dragged into traffic court enough as it was. Having been built during the energy crisis, the speedometer was a bar-type which stopped at 85mph. The idea was to discourage speeding, but owners like himself took it as a challenge to spend as much time as possible driving fast enough that the needle was completely buried in the dash. Almost hard to see how he ever got into any trouble.

But for days spent aimlessly cruising around with nothing to do, it was the perfect car. The Marquis and the Grand Marquis began to diverge shortly after this. After a short-lived third generation, the Marquis name was moved to a smaller platform and the Grand Marquis would take over as the name of the full-sized car in 1983. The Marquis would last only a few years in this smaller form, before being replaced by the Sable after 1986. But the Grand Marquis would live on far longer than one would have expected. By the debut of its second generation as its own model in 1992, the Grand Marquis had cemented its reputation as an old person's car.

This would only get worse with each successive generation, but as the car was badge-engineered, there wasn't much in the way of development costs. Sales weren't as high as they had been during the Seventies, but they were significantly more than enough to justify the expense of manufacturing the car. In one of the weirder moments in the history of Mercury, the decision was made to revive the Marauder name in 2003. This featured a thoroughly redesigned and sportier interior, and all Grand Marquis badging was replaced with Marauder badges. The 4.6-liter V8 had its output increased from the sad 220 horsepower standard to 302 horsepower.

Ford even built and showed off a convertible version with a supercharged engine, but this never made it to production. The Marauder was a decent but in all underachieving attempt at a sleeper, and sales were poor. Sales of the Grand Marquis in general were on a downward trajectory by this point, and the car was finally killed off in 2011. The Grand Marquis had become quite the dinosaur long before it was discontinued, but it's still a shame to see that the idea of a relatively affordable car built with comfort as its main priority is something which nobody is interested in anymore.

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