It’s New Used Luxury Car Month here at Riverside Green! No sooner does brother Bark take delivery of his pre-loved G80 than I have to one-up him with this very fine 1986 Mercury Grand Marquis LS Coupe! This Marquis will be doubly familiar to TTAC readers of yore: the Mehtas took delivery of it from an estate sale in 2010, just after I wrote the story of a misspent Summer of ’89 in my own 1980 Marquis Brougham Coupe.
After ten years of Sajeev’s care and improvements, the “MGM” runs fairly well, although it needs a dozen small fixes from power windows (they don’t) to fuel gauge (permanently on a pessimistic “E”) to transmission selector (which is one letter off… most of the time). Unlike Bark’s Thrifty-Six G80, the Grand Marquis has a full five (er, 4.9) liters of V-8 power, although said power is something like 42% of what the HTRAC Hyundai puts to the wheels.
Here’s the interesting part, however: after eleven years, I have finally found a car that genuinely piques my son’s interest.
We took the big black coupe-sedan…
SHORT DIGRESSION. This was marketed as a “coupe” but it’s obviously a two-door sedan, sharing a 114.3″ WB and approximate roofline with the four-door of the same generation. And yet… that’s the shortest wheelbase you could get with a Panther, same as a Mark VI coupe. So maybe it’s a coupe, right? Incidentally, a 1980 Continental (aka Town Car) Coupe had a 117.3″ wheelbase, same as the Town Car sedan and the Mark VI sedan. There was also a 120.7″ wheelbase P70 Crown Vic Taxi and M70 Marquis Taxi LWB, and a 123.7″ Town Car L. The Panther lifecycle was long and mysterious.
…to breakfast this morning, just me and my son. He immediately grasped the difference between the way cars were packaged in the Seventies and the way they are. “The seats are tiny… you sit all the way up… this part (pointing to the few inches of dashboard between the windshield and instrument panel) is way smaller… it’s like a small car, but it’s also like a truck, but it’s also like a big car.” After thirty-five years, the Mercury still rides better than anything short of a G90 Genesis. Certainly better than my Lincoln MKT.
John liked the smoothness of the car, the fact that at only five feet tall he could see everything around him, the square-edged dignity of the thing. As for me, I found it remarkably easy to get back into the swing of Panther-platform operation. I wouldn’t take my son or wife outside the neighborhood in it — these are not great cars for side impact protection — but I’d happily drive it across the country by myself.
After a half-hour spin through suburban Ohio we brought the Marquis back to the driveway, where once again the sheer long-and-low proportions of the thing served as a sharp contrast to the modern cars all around it. And yet the Panther itself was a stubby thing in its day. Say what you like about General Motors, they knew how to style a 215-inch car. The Marquis looks awkward and Baroque next to the model of elegance that is a 1980 Caprice Coupe or Delta 88 two-door, the same way a Town Car of that era looks ungainly next to the superbly drawn Cadillac de Ville.
Yet I still think the MGM handsome. For its razor-edged nose, for the majesty of its vinyl sail panels, for the (unpowered, this is not a Town Car Signature) vent windows. I like the way it goes down the road. I didn’t realize ahead of time that it would be a St. Thomas car, like my 2009 Townnie, instead of a Hazelwood build like my 1980 Brougham. 1986 was the only year of port-fuel-injected Marquis coupes and it was also the only year of Canadian assembly.
What to do with it? The Mehtas paid $2300 for it, put considerable effort, several parts, and a set of new Tiger Paws on its account, then sold it for me for three grand. Surely it will never be worth more than that. Yet I don’t dislike the idea of spending further money on the car. There are ridiculous ideas; twelve grand would get me a 450-horse 347 small block, a Monster Transmissions AOD, and the proper rear end to make it run. At that point it becomes a Mercury in the old-school mode, a street sleeper, but it’s no longer much of a Grand Marquis. Better, I think, to bring it all the way up to snuff, to as nearly emulate its 1986 condition as I can manage. To save it for sunny weekends, quiet moments, and those times when I would simply rather be… not somewhere else, but somewhen else.
From the pompous perch of luxury-Merc ownership, I chose this week to lecture on the subject of an increasingly feckless Cadillac.