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Our Cars--1978 Mercury Marquis Brougham Sedan

MercCookie's post on the LTD inspired me to write about my own experiences with a similar beast:  A 1978 Mercury Marquis Brougham Sedan, pictured below. 

 I originally purchased it for $300 when gas was $0.98 cents per gallon, purely because it had working air conditioning. That summer was extremely hot and humid, and my other cars (a 1968 Charger and a 1997 Neon) lacked that feature. I had the room for it, so why not? Over the course of owning it for a year and a half, I learned a lot about how people give you a lot of respect when you are driving a gigantic, rusty battletank with dings, rust, and missing hubcaps. Merging onto the freeway was like the parting of the red seas; everyone saw me coming and seemed to think, "Oh crap, this guy doesn't care at all! Get out of the way!" Then again, perhaps it was my sticker. My Uncle works for Raytheon, a missile defense company, and he'd given me a sticker that adorned my rear bumper. It read, "Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle: Discriminate and Destroy."   

1978MercuryMarquisBlue1024 My particular Marquis had a 400-cubic-inch Cleveland V-8, which emissions components strangled to a still-respectable 200 horsepower. Yeah, it was somewhat slow, but it sounded nice and was capable of pegging the needle; its speedometer only went up to about 80 mph.  The only repair it ever needed was a power steering hose. The high-pressure return line would spray power steering fluid onto the exhaust manifolds, which on cooler days would result in slightly annoying smoke but on hotter days,would start a fire in my egine compartment.

Yep, my car lit on fire on a regular basis. It was frightening the first time it happened. Someone told me they saw flames, so I ran about twenty feet away and jumped into a ditch expecting a fiery explosion behind me. Nothing happened--it just sort of sat there. I didn't fix it for a while, so I kept a towel (The Hitchhiker's Guide was right!) in my backseat. When the smoke became bad, I'd pull over, pop the hood, slap out the flames with my towel, let the engine cool down for a few minutes, then continue driving. The main issue was that on hot days, I had to keep moving. If I slowed down and made a lot of turns, the engine would be hotter and more fluid would spill. At one point, in Platteville, Wis., I had to pull over for eight fire engines and a few ambulances to let them pass. Of course, because I pulled over, my car started on fire again. I eventually replaced the hose, a $30 part, and all was well.   

The Marquis had a bit of rust, which I fixed with a few friends one afternoon. We started cleaning up the cancerous areas with a corded drill and abrasive disc, but it didn't seem fast enough. To remedy this situation, a friend had brought over a pack of adhesive discs with a rubber wheel that attached to a drill.   The only problem is it wouldn't fit, since the shaft was too big. So, we improvised. We grabbed a router, removed the guard, bolted in the rubber disc, adhered a pad of sandpaper, and I turned it on. Some of you may realize just how stupid this was--you see, routers spin at about 25,000 rpm.

The large rubber disc spooled up, shaking violently, and then smoothed out and made a high pitched shriek as the disc disintegrated into chunks of shrapnel spraying in all directions. A piece the size of a AA battery hit my friend in the shoulder, who was wearing a sweatshirt over a T-shirt--it left a purpleish yellow bruise visible for quite a long time. Whoops.

1978MercuryMarquisBrougham4-DrMaroon Another great memory this car gave me came during one of those summer nights where you leave the windows down, the radio up, and you really bond with your car. This particular night, I was driving home and hit road construction. Literally. The Mercury had peaked fenders surrounding a peaked hood, and from the driver's seat it just seemed like you were looking down the sight of a rifle. But, instead of a rifle, the car was a 4,500-pound ramming machine.

Someone had blocked off a perfectly usable lane with those folding blinky construction signs, and I cackled as I veered into one of them with my front bumper. Time slowed down to a crawl, and I was rewarded with a serrated orange arc of light as the sign sailed about 30 feet into the darkness beside me.  

The weirdest thing about that car--and I know you won't believe me--was that it could actually handle. I don't know why; the thing was 22.5 feet long and weighed more than most construction equipment. But when I took on ramps I discovered I could go about as fast as I could in my modified Dodge Neon (pictured behind the Mercury). The Neon had always been a great-handling car, so I was perplexed by the fact that the Merc could hang with my Neon. I investigated the front suspension, and while I may be wrong, from what I could figure out, the thing had two swaybars in front. Why? I have no idea.  

I eventually sold the car to keep my Charger, but in retrospect it should have been the other way around. I know Chargers are iconic, but this Mercury was truly a great car. I fell in love with its ice-cold air conditioning, its comfortable ride, the sparking hazard switch, and all of it's other little defects that gave it its personality. More importantly, it seemed to bond with me somehow, and it always treated me right.   Except for the whole fire thing, of course

The first photo is mine, the only surviving picture I have of it, sitting in front of my Neon, and the other pictures are from the Mercury Archive, a great resource for fans of gigantic luxury cars.

--Rob the SVX Guy

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That's hilarious and touching - I love the fact that the car would catch on fire from time to time with no apparent ill effects. That's old-style American iron, ladies and gentlemen. It wasn't perfect, but it just kept running and running.

I've always liked the looks of these, too. They're pretty eye-poppingly extroverted, of course, but I like the look. I enjoy the picture of the Marquis parked in front of the business jet. The message is clear - this is an *executive* ride.

I love big domestic iron from the 1970s and early 1980s. I can't explain it, I just do.

Cars like this are WHY Mercury exists... much nicer trimmed that a pedestrian Ford, but they lack the "Snob Appeal" of a Lincoln. Sadly, today's Mercurys don't push the envelope of style as this '78 model did (Even the headlight covers look padded!), and maybe that's why they are not as successful as of yore. However, I'm not a fender skirt fan; why cover and hide perfectly nice wheels?

Nice post, Rob.

"Even the headlight covers look padded!" That was, indeed, the case. Not just vinyl, but *padded* vinyl, just like the roof. Those padded headlight covers were the first thing I thought of upon seeing the picture. That was the last year of the really big LTD/Marquis, and I just love it. (And, as another Douglas Adams fan, I too keep a towel in my car. You never know.)

To quote the Dead Milkmen, "If you love somebody, why not set them on fire?" It would seem your car took that adage a little more literally than most.

Does anybody know what city is in the background in the promo photo with the jet? It looks like what Vegas might've looked back in '78 viewed from McCarran Airport.

I may need a new beater soon, and these last two articles have revived memories of my old LTD to the point that I'm searching eBay for late 1970s land yachts from Dearborn. Curse you, Car Lust!

They're great cars. The only real downsides are horrible gas mileage, and they're close to impossible to park downtown. If I had a place in the country.... yeah, I'd probably pick one up. I'd probably try to find my old one, actually. I still have the VIN number saved somewhere.

Theodore, please beware! I have a friend near you, in Michigan but near Chicago, that has a few of these cars. No surprise, but his biggest foe is rust... one car he bought became a parts car immediately because the entire frame was rusted out... too unsafe to even be put on a lift.

You may wish to look for a fresher car from California or the southwest. All of these have seen many winters, and I don't have to tell you anything about salt. Good luck in your search!

The car handled well because of those big white letters on the tires!

Great story, Rob. I'm inspired . . . now, where are those photos of my old beater . . .

Hah!
I remember that router incident.
Can you recall my fleeing the very moment that thing started to spin?

By the way, the Catalina was 18.5 feet long.
I'm not going to say you're wrong about this car, but I know you didn't have 3 feet on me.
Even the Continental was ~18.5 feet.

Anyway, great article.

You're right. It was only 229 inches, or 19.08 inches. :)

I remember my first car it was a Mercury Monterrey (I have forgotten how to spell it.) A very dangerous car for a young country boy. It was the biggest car in town could seat about a dozen comfortably, and the Ford 400 had some lauch power but I could never ever get the rear end to break loose. It would just rock back kick up and lauch.

I have the '76 version of this car sitting in my back yard. My dad bought it from an old man in Texas. It had exactly 40 thousand miles on it. It now has 53 thousand miles. Leather interior that looks like a clown car or something. Horrible tan and cream. Yellow exterior with shot white vinyl top. Top leaks. Interior has lots of mold. The car is amazingly free of rust. 460 motor with C6 auto. Runs like a top. Four fresh tires. Eight-track player too! I'm in Louisville Kentucky. Do any of you Car Lust dudes wanna buy it? 800 bucks and it's yours. If you're feeling frisky you could even drive it home. Just hope it doesn't rain!

I had a 77 Grand Marquis for over 10 years in the late eighties to around the year 2000. I used to tell people it was an economy car since it didn't break down much and I had no payments. Really, it was quite a good car, and I drove it pretty hard. Took it to NYC and Miami and New Orleans once, then back to Minneapolis. It had everything but a moonroof, and when I finally bought a new Sable, the big Merc had nearly 200 thousand miles on it. People make a little fun of these cars sometimes, them being a bit big and all, but I can tell you that owning one actually did save money and you were always safe. It was a lot of iron and they were fairly indestructible. I missed it enough to get a newer 2005 last summer. Same great ride, better economy and safety, and I'll probably get another 10 years out of it. Easy.

I recently bought a 1978 Mercury Grand Marquis and I actually love the big ol' tank. It only has 83,000 original miles and it shows. The 8 track player even works without dragging. Anyone got one to part out? I need the chrome bezel that goes around the drivers side headlight door. Also, I just put some beautiful Centerline wheels on it but the front end needs to be dropped. Any suggestions on the best (and most economic) way to do that?

My uncle has one he is trying to sale right now. I'd get it from him, but I don't care too much for the color. It is dark green with a white top. I might be interested in yours though Bryan. These cars are indeed long. I'd be curious to see a good list of car lengths. I believe a 73 Imperial is at or about 20 feet long, 78 Continental 19.5 feet, etc. How do 2 door versions usually rank up to 4 doors?

Some old high school buddies of mine where driving around and saw a yard sale. At the sale they found some real treasures, a compete kagerator kit, and a big huge Braugham for $300. They pooled there money a bought both treasures and took the Braugham to one of the guy's work shop where they proceeded to us up a couple of metal saw blades cutting the roof off. From then on Blinky as we called it(because one of the headlight covers was stuck open) became our party mobile. On a few occasions the two treasures would be combined for extended road trips with a poney keg in the trunk and the tap running up threw the back seat. Crazy days.

I have a 1978 mercury grand marquis i,am trying to locate some exterior body parts new or second hand

parts rqd
chrome trims
chrome front and rear light bezels
chrome door mouldings with vynal affect inserts theres 6 per side

dose any one know i can obtain some of these items
contact me on above email address

many thanks

I had a 1978 Mercury Marquis for a couple of years. Used to love picking up another couple and we would roll the windows down, crank up the tunes and just ride...all night long, just ride. That was my first car but I would never had gotten rid of it. My mom sold it while I was at college.
This thing was the shiny metallic blue clearcoat. It matched a lot of police car blues from that era. I had repainted it original color, tinted the windows, put 70 tires on it, shined up all the chrome, and kept it clean. It was gorgeous! I would drive it from the coast up to college and back at night cuz I like driving at night. One night as I was driving back thru Houston about 330 or 400am, I was on the Pierce Elevated running about 80+ and a Houston unit pulled up next to me. I thought I was busted (but he was beside me instead of pulling me over) so I just eased off a little and kept going, thinking "Don't panic". He gives a little wave and took off. Whew, I thought. Then he dropped back and starting waving his hand, meaning let's go. After he did this a few times I figured, why not? I punched it. Well, it reared up, took off and really got into the groove. She lowered right down, me and the cop car were side by side for quite a while. I don't really know who won, but when we got to the county line, at that time, he hit his lights once, hit the siren, gave a little wave and took the exit.
Man, I loved that car.

I drove a '73 Ford Galaxie for a few years. From the side, it was identical to that Mercury. When you know how to drive 'em, they handle pretty damn well... even with bald tires. I should have kept that beast.

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