The last few years of Mercury’s existence, say 2005-2010, were painful to watch. Though the marque had a pretty consistently bumpy road through the years (cheap Lincoln or fancy Ford?), there were still some interesting cars. Who could forget the loaded, tri-tone 1957-58 “senior” Park Lanes, 1967-68 Cougars and the fastback Cyclones of the late Sixties? Or the full-on Broughamtastic Marquis, which first appeared in 1967 as the top-drawer big Mercury? Heck, the Marquis pretty much WAS Mercury the last decade of its existence. So let’s take a look of some of its Seventies forebears, shall we?
The 1977 Marquis was essentially the same as the 1975 Marquis. The main difference was that in 1977 most of its competition had gone on a crash diet and turned out leaner, meaner, and yet more space efficient as well.
And “The New Chevrolet” and its siblings sold like dollar beer at the ball game. What to do? Simple: Improvise.
In 1977, a different tack was taken in Ford and Lincoln-Mercury advertising. With their cars suddenly looking a tad out-of-date against the svelte Caprice Classics, Bonnevilles and Delta 88s, it was time to dust off the old “road-hugging weight” line!
Well, what were they supposed to do? And besides, despite the early success of the downsized B- and C-body GM cars, there was still a strong contingent of people who wanted a definitively FULL-SIZE car, dammit! And all they had to do was mosey on down to The Sign of the Cat and test drive one of these Ride Engineered Mercurys.
Was there a Brougham, you ask? Well heck yes there was! Would any self-respecting middle-priced domestic car NOT have a Brougham model in the ’70s, the DECADE OF BROUGHAM? No way no how!
The Broughamquis…oops, I mean Marquis Brougham, of course had a suitably plush interior environment, with cushy velour thrones and several fake trees sacrificed per car for the instrument panel and door panels.
And upper-middle class suburbanites who shopped these cars were certainly relieved to know there were all manner of emblems, logos and heraldic crests on display. A hood ornament? Why of course!
You may think I’m kind of knocking these cars, but I’m not. Heck, I love them. They were distinctive, and especially sharp in the higher Marquis Brougham and Grand Marquis trim levels. They were not quite as square-rigged as the Continentals they shared a showroom with, but definitely had a Lincoln vibe, especially from the front!
But wait a minute! Where did the Marquis come from? Well I am glad you asked because wait! There’s even more to this article than the 1970s Marquis! So how about a little history?
It was kind of overshadowed by the debut of the new Cougar, the Jaguar-esque premium version of the Mustang, but the first Marquis appeared as a line-topping two-door hardtop in 1967. That’s right. The car sold for the last twenty model years of its life as a four-door sedan began as a coupe!
Interiors were suitably plush, and very Lincoln-like. The top-of-the-line four door sedan, four door hardtop and convertible, however, remained in the Park Lane series.
1968 was essentially a repeat of ’67, save for side-marker lamps and some trim shuffling, as was expected from Detroit in the Sixties. If you’ve never seen a 1967-68 Marquis, don’t feel bad, they weren’t exactly common. 6,510 were built in 1967 and even less, 3,965, for 1968. I’ve never seen one myself, except for in the Mercury brochures I have in my collection.
The scarcity of the Marquis changed in 1969, when it replaced the Park Lane as the top trim series. Now the expected sedans, hardtops and convertible were added to the roster. The new for 1969 styling was pretty damn nice too, I especially liked the hidden headlights. Production responded accordingly, with over 100,000 sold in all the various body styles.
All big Mercurys were restyled for 1971, but the styling was very similar to 1969-70, just a bit smoother. This is one of my favorite Marquises (Marquii? What’s the plural?), and if you watched 1970s detective shows like Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco or any other Quinn Martin-produced TV show (vehicles furnished by Ford Motor Company), you likely saw tons of these!
And of course, Steve McGarrett traded in his 1968 Park Lane for a new ’74 Marquis. (Note: How did I forget to mention that famous car? Thanks to Carmine for the heads up!)
I wonder why he didn’t trade the ’74 for a new downsized ’79 Marquis? Maybe not enough road hugging weight…
1973-74 saw some new sheetmetal and the dreaded “park bench” 5 mph bumpers added. This were the final years of the four-door Marquis hardtops; starting in ’75 all quattroporte Mercs became “pillared hardtops,” which is Ford-speak for “sedan.” Which brings us back to our featured vintage of Marquis.
Of course, given that most people shopping their Lincoln-Mercury dealer in the mid-’70s weren’t looking for cheap transportation, most Marquis coupes and sedans were the higher trim Brougham and Grand Marquis versions, or the Di-Noc fake wood-clad Colony Park station wagons.
But if one was so inclined, a rather plain-Jane type of Marquis could be ordered. In fact, there was even a police package available for the Marquis.
This particular one, a 1978 model, was at the Missouri State Highway Patrol Museum in Jefferson City. If you look closely, you can just see the “Certified Calibration” lettering on the left side of the speedometer.
The police Marquis, with the 460 V8, could hit 130 mph, not too shabby for such a large car. This was the last of the true full-size MO highway patrol cars, and this was no stand-in, it was a genuine retired unit. Pretty cool.
Now where was I? Oh yes, the cheap Marquis sedan. For the time-honored tightwads, or fleet managers, or tightwad fleet managers, you could get a very basic Marquis. No “Grand”, no “Brougham”, just plain Marquis.
Although, as a Mercury, it still had some chrome trim and the ever-important heraldic crests on the sail panels and stand-up hood ornament. But whitewalls were optional, and from the side it could be mistaken for a detective-grade LTD.
But not from the front! Yes, even the cheapest, zero-option Marquis came equipped with hidden headlights.
That must have driven the uber-cheapskates crazy. Imagine the scene: “I don’t want hidden headlights! They’ll just break!” “I’m sorry sir, they come on all Marquis sedans.” “Can’t you leave them off and give me a credit?” “No, we don’t do that.” “Well dammit, screw this! I’ll go across the street and buy an LTD without those fancy-pants hidden headlights!”
Regardless of options, all base Marquises came with a 400 V8 with 173 bhp. If you plumped for the top-trim Grand Marquis, the 460 V8 and its 197 horses were included in the package.
The base interior was pretty hard to distinguish from Ford LTDs, with even the same door panels, though the seat fabric was usually different. A base Marquis four-door cost $5,496 and weighed in at 4,326 pounds (or about 500-600 pounds more than a 2017 Impala). 36,103 were built. I wonder how many were police cars?
The base two-door hardtop (yes, a true hardtop; coupes were pillarless through ’78) was the same price as the sedan, but far less popular with 13,242 built.
And what was the most popular Marquis of 1977, you ask? The top dog Grand Marquis sedan, which started at $6,975 and saw 31,231 examples built. I’m sure most of them stickered for $7,500 and above with all the options that would have been added. And after all, it was the last hurrah for the damn-the-consequences FULL-SIZE Mercury.
After ’78, the whole line was downsized along with sibling LTD. The Continental/Town Car/Town Coupe’ joined the party in ’80, and it was all-Panther, all-the-time until the end came in 2011. And though the last years of Mercury were sort of sad, I was still happy that the good old land-yacht Marquis lasted to the end of the line!