1992 Mercury Grand Marquis
According to Click & Clack, the cheapest car to run is the car you already own. Lucky for me, the car I already own--as opposed to the one I lease for the lovely and talented Mrs. Drucker--is a 1992 Mercury Grand Marquis LS, and I flat-out love it. I'll begin expounding on its wonderfulness a paragraph or two further on; first, though, I'd like to explain how a dashingly youthful 59-year-old came to be driving a geezermobile in the first place.
Actually, the whole story begins in 1967, the year I convinced my parents that my college experience would be greatly enhanced if I didn't have to walk to campus from my in-town lodging. Rather than recount the entire tale, I'll skip forward a few decades, to 1999, when those very same parents came into possession, almost by chance, of the subject Grand Marquis. At the time, it had 30K on the clock, and because it was their second car, the mileage had jumped by only 7K when they passed it on to me in mid-2001. I drove it for three years, bumping the mileage to 75K, and then sold it to a buddy who used it to commute between his home on Long Island and his offices in Brooklyn and Queens. Two years later he was offered a real deal on a 2002 Grand Marquis, and in early 2006 I jumped at the chance to buy the ‘92 – now with 99K showing – back from him for small money. Since then, I've bumped the mileage to 126K.
Let's now jump back to 1992 and have a look at what a Grand Marquis buyer got for his $25,637 (plus tax & tags, but minus the probable whopping dealer discount). In 1992 the Grand Marquis (along with its Crown Victoria stablemate) got a sleek, curvaceous new body and the aluminum 4.6-liter OHC "modular" V8 that had made its debut in the previous year's Lincoln Town Car. The top-of-the-line LS had a base sticker of $20,644, which my car's original owner bumped to $25,637 by selecting every possible option. The Preferred Equipment Package 172A ($2,312) added a whole list of items that really should have been standard equipment: cast wheels, upgraded stereo, cruise control, etc. Beyond that he chose:
- Electronic Group ($516)
- Keyless Entry ($146)
- Dual 6-way Power Seats ($504)
- Full-Sized Spare ($85)
- ABS/Traction Control ($695)
- Rear Air Suspension ($285)
- Leather Seats ($555)
The roster of options brought the Grand Marquis' equipment level right into Town Car territory, but in a package that was seven inches shorter and, at 3768 pounds, nearly 300 pounds lighter. (Just by way of comparison, our 2007 Accord is 21 inches shorter overall, on a 6.5-inch shorter wheelbase, and is less porky by 648 pounds.)
Here are some of the things I love about my Grand Marquis.
The ride is very quiet and, thanks in part to the rear air suspension, pillow soft. On long trips, after a dinner break at 500 miles I'm perfectly happy to get back on the road for another few hours. Both front seats adjust all over the place, and have adjustable lumbar supports that, amazingly enough, are in just the right position for my long-suffering lower vertebrae.
On those long trips, the Grand Marquis delivers a surprisingly good 25 miles per gallon, despite not having had anything like a tune-up in more than 50,000 miles. Around town that figure drops to 21 miles per gallon, which isn't wonderful, but isn't so low that it would make economic sense to replace the car with something more frugal.
The $516 Electronic Group consists primarily of a digital instrument panel and information panel that can display outside temperature, distance to empty, fuel remaining, and either instant or average miles per gallon. Checking mileage the old-fashioned way, by dividing miles driven by gallons added, I've found that the dashboard display is as near as matters to being right on the money. The same is true of the outside temperature display.
These days, keyless entry generally involves a wireless remote either built into the key (my Honda) or as a separate key fob (my mom's Camry). At some point, Mercury added that feature to the Grand Marquis, but in 1992 it involved a five-button keypad on the door. (Newer ones still have the keypad, in addition to the remote.) This means that I can leave the keys in the ignition when I go to the grocery store, thus eliminating that unsightly bunch-of-keys bulge in my pocket. Wonderful!
It has fabulous air conditioning. I've owned well over 40 cars, and can't think of any whose a/c cooled the car so quickly, even sitting at idle. I wondered why this should be so until an ex-cop friend got into the car and exclaimed "ah, cop air conditioning." He went on to explain that Crown Victoria Police Interceptors often spent much of the working day at idle, and that the a/c and cooling system were designed to cope with that kind of abuse. In the interest of full disclosure, I must mention that the blower doesn't work when the lever is in the Floor position. This means that during the winter I must select either the floor/defrost mix, or the vent position, both of which work as intended. I've managed to survive two upstate NY winters with the heater in this state of disrepair.
It requires next to no maintenance, and what it requires doesn't cost very much. Despite receiving its last tune-up more than four years ago, the Grand Marquis never fails to start, and it runs like a champ. As a result of two years of hard service on awful roads, the tie-rod ends and front shocks needed replacing when I got the car back in '06. Beyond that, it's needed front rotors, pads all around, and a water pump. I'm pretty good about oil changes every 3-4K, and while the water pump was out I asked for a fresh serpentine belt.
The only potentially major expense came in May of '07, at 112K. The car was in the air for an oil change, and I mentioned to the mechanic that the air suspension had been unusually good to me, having lasted nearly 16 years. Needless to say, when the car was lowered to the ground, one of the air bags failed. A quick phone call revealed that replacement bags from the dealer would cost many, many hundreds of dollars. All told, replacing them would have cost well over a grand. Taking an uncharacteristically sensible route, I opted to have the air suspension replaced with steel springs and the appropriate shocks, for about half that amount. Once home, though, I got curious and Googled "grand marquis air suspension." One click later, I had an alternate source for the bags. The price, including overnight shipping to the shop, was $208 for the pair. I was out the door the following afternoon for a bit more than $400.
Right now, my 1992 Grand Marquis performs pretty much the way it did 17 years ago. The body is still tight, all of the accessories (except for the aforementioned blower) work properly, and only the slightest bit of rust has begun to appear just behind the front wheel wells. Worth noting, too, is that I've never, ever even been pulled over, much less ticketed while driving the Grand Marquis. It's nigh invisible to The Authorities.
I plan to continue driving my ‘92 Grand Marquis indefinitely, and when that's no longer possible, to replace it with another, newer example. The Grand Marquis received a significant suspension upgrade in 1998, and a new frame, steering system, and suspension in 2003. The newer ones handle better than mine does, but don't seem to ride as smoothly. With that in mind, at some point I'd love to find the best 1997 Grand Marquis LS in the world. That's probably unrealistic, though, and what I'll probably wind up with is something considerably newer. No doubt it will be cheap as cheese, and I'll bet it will make me as happy as my ‘92 does every time I slide onto its comfy leather seat and turn the key.