10 Forgotten Classic Mercury Models You Probably Never Knew Existed
Defunct manufacturers’ most obscured models
Updated September 20, 2017
It wasn’t that long ago that Mercury was still with us. Blue Oval’s entry-level premium division was discontinued in 2011 after successfully reducing the price gap between Fords and Lincolns for 73 years. Decision that lead to Mercury’s discontinuation wasn’t an easy one – especially considering Mercury’s faithful, decades-long servitude – but at least it gave FoMoCo the opportunity to consolidate their Ford and Lincoln lineups, and their future marketing strategies. Memory of classic Mercury cars will remain with us forever, though.
Although Mercury models were usually rebadged Fords, some of them have managed to earn quite a reputation for themselves. Grand Marquis, which also happened to be the last Mercury model produced, was one of them. There were also Cougar and Marauder, for instance. Others too, but not all of them were as well-known as the aforementioned nameplates. Some have simply disappeared much too soon for them to leave a lasting impression. Others weren’t exactly all that memorable to begin with. Whatever the reason, here are some of the most obscured and forgotten Mercury models we’ve managed to dig out for you.
1969-1970 Cougar Eliminator
Mercury Cougar is hardly a forgotten car. This upscale version of Ford Mustang reinvented the brand with its velvet-wrapped performance. Most people will also remember top of the line Cougar XR-7 with its blacked-out grille and performance to match. But how many of us still remember the Eliminator? Aside from having arguably the most amazing name in pony car world, Mercury Cougar Eliminator sported performance to match. It’s the Eliminator that’s finally grew some fangs for the feline badge.
All 1969 Cougar Eliminators came with standard 290-horsepower 351 cu in Windsor V8 engine. Optional 390 cu in V8 generated 320 ponies, while another option, 302 cu in Boss engine, developed 290 horsepower albeit with much higher rpm redline than the 351 mill. Moreover, 302 Boss mill was only available with Cougar via Eliminator package. Finally, top of the line was reserved for 428 cu in Cobra Jet V8 and its 335 horsepower – with or without the ram air option. All the engines apart from venerable 390 cu in V8 carried over for 1970. There were now two standard mills, however. The same 351 cu in Windsor V8 from a year before and 351 cu in Cleveland V8 with canted valves and 10 horsepower extra.
Transmission choices were colorful as well. 3-speed floor-mounted manual was standard across the board, while 4-speed stick and 3-speed C6 automatic were optional. Hurst aluminum “T-handle” accompanied the manual sticks, while automatic received wood grain shift knob. Blacked out grille was accompanied by black hood scoop, beltline stripe and spoiler stripe. Only six exterior and seven interior color schemes were available for 1969. That interior options figure would rise to ten available choices for 1970. Still, Mercury Cougar Eliminator was pitted against stern opposition comprising of Mustang, Camaro, ‘Cuda, and Firebird. That’s one of the reasons people never really gave it a chance, hence only 2,250 1969 models and 2,267 1970 units were ultimately ordered.
1969 Cyclone Spoiler II
Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II was a part of the big four aero warriors which simply tormented the opposition in 1969 and 1970 NASCAR Stock Car Racing. Rest of the aero cars lineup consisted of Cyclone’s mechanical twin Ford Torino Talladega, and Mopar’s dynamic duo Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird. Homologation rules required Mercury to build 500 Cyclone Spoiler II’s for general population. Yet, despite winning 8 Grand National races over the course of mentioned two seasons, Cyclone Spoiler II remains the most obscured of the four.
Mercury built 503 Cyclone Spoiler II’s in total. Or, as some sources state, only 351. Apparently, Mercury encircled 152 regular W-nose Cyclone’s with 351 D-nose Cyclone Spoiler II’s when they lined them up for inspection, and NASCAR inspectors were non the wiser. But that’s just a rumor. Anyway, we’ll assume they actually built all 503 reported cars. Of those 503 units, 285 were Cale Yarborough editions (southern markets edition), and 218 were Dan Gurney specials (western market edition). Former were painted Wimbledon White with Candy Apple Red interior and exterior trim, while latter sported Presidential Blue interior and striping upon white base paint. Mercury added 19.5 inches of new sheetmetal in order to extend Cyclone Spoiler II’s nose. They also included high-performance 3.25:1 axle, styled steel wheels, optional AM radio (one and only option) and, of course, a rear decklid spoiler.
All production units were equipped with 290-horsepower 351 cu in Windsor V8’s. However, racing Mercury Spoilers got 427 cu in V8’s at first, and then the mighty 429 cu in Cobra Jet V8’s later during the 1970 season. Thanks to 780-CFM Holley carburetor, aluminum forged pistons and 3.91:1 axle ratio, among other improvements, Cobra Jet-powered Cyclone Spoilers were capable of developing 375 horsepower. At least officially. In truth, they probably made around 425 ponies. As already mentioned, Mercury Cyclone Spoiler remains the most obscured of all aero cars. And one of those classic Mercury models we all dream of owning. Well, dream on because not more than 134 of them survive to date.
1975-1976 Grand Monarch Ghia
Mercury Monarch was a rebadged version of Ford’s own Granada compact car. Blue Oval’s entry-level premium division marketed it between 1975 and 1980, but during the first two model years, they also offered an even plushier version of the car – Grand Monarch Ghia. It was a perfect example of Ford offering the right product at the right time. With all the small luxury imports available at the time, Ford desperately needed a model to bridge the gap between their own full-size luxury cars and the aforementioned imports. This was it.
From performance’s standpoint, conventional Monarchs and Grand Monarch Ghia’s didin’t really differ. They both came with standard 250 cu in straight-six engine, and optional 302 and 351 cu in Windsor V8’s. It was the plushier interior and wealth of options that differentiated latter from the former. Grand Monarch Ghia sported thicker and softer carpeting and upholstery. Moreover, it offered standard disc brakes on all four wheels and a hydraulic power steering system. Package was rounded off with vinyl roof, whitewall steel-belted radial tires, dual map lights, and 14-inch cast-aluminum spoke wheels.
Around 14,000 people ended up with Mercury Grand Monarch Ghia in 1975 and 1976. One of them was Henry Ford II himself. He and a number of Blue Oval’s top executives chose it as their personal carrier. Despite the prominent owners, Grand Monarch Ghia is still somewhat forgotten today.
1976 Capri Black Cat and 1977 Capri Le Cat Black S
Don’t let their names fool you. Although some of the most obscured and forgotten Mercury models, Black Cat and Le Cat Black S are one and the same. It’s actually a special edition package for German-built Capri compact deprived of both Ford and Mercury badging between 1970 and 1977. Captive import sports car’s sales were strong at first, but by the time Capri II had arrived in late 1975, they cooled down.
In order to boost sales yet again, Blue Oval resorted to old fashioned special edition with unique stripes and paint job we were so accustomed to seeing throughout the seventies. That’s how Capri Black Cat was born. For 1976 model year, Black Cat came in black/gold paint scheme completed with gold striping and gold-painted steel wheels. Black and gold theme continued on inside with vinyl-trimmed seats. Heavy-duty suspension was also offered in the package, while power steering remained an option. When “II” disappeared from Capri’s name in 1977, Black Cat also got renamed to Le Cat Black S. Very little beside that had changed, however. Only the addition of Rally Cat option with dual stripes and decklid spoiler is worth the mention. That and the addition of identical Capri Black Cat special edition in white. I know it’s a paradox, but it was Ford’s doing.
Power came either from 2.3L Lima four or German-sourced 2.8L Cologne V6. Former produced 88 hp and 116 lb-ft of torque, while latter made 109 ponies and 146 ft-lbs. Despite being sporty and stylish, Capri’s sales continued with free fall established a few years before. Slow sales and strong Deutschmark finally killed the Capri in late 1977. Capri itself deserved more. Not to mention its compelling Black Cat special editions. At least it was later replaced by another German-sourced import – Ford Fiesta.
1984-1989 Merkur XR4Ti
Capri was so successful in fact, that only Volkswagen Beetle sold more units in the U.S. than the little Cologne-built sports compact. FoMoCo recognized that, and made a decision that would take shape in 1984. Decision to market all German-imported Fords under a new badge. And, since they were German, corresponding German name was seen as a natural choice. Hence Merkur was born. German for… well, Mercury, of course.
Merkur was short lived, though. Only two models passed through the infant badge over five model years. First one was Ford Sierra XR4i-based Merkur XR4Ti, and the other was modified Ford Scorpio. Performance-oriented XR4Ti hot hatch had more potential, in my modest opinion. 2.3L Lima four engine and Garrett turbocharger were capable of developing up to 175 horsepower in manual transmission-fitted models. Automatic transmission units were limited to 145 ponies. It’s basically the same engine found in Fox Mustang SVO and Thunderbird Turbo Coupe minus the intercooler.
Although Merkur XR4Ti was more than a capable performer, only 42,464 Americans were convinced to buy one. It’s a shame, really, since most Cologne and Saarlouis-built captive imports proved to be fine cars. But, did I mention Merkur XR4Ti was actually hand-assembled in Rheine, Germany by Karmann? I have now. It was also the last Ford’s model to be imported into the U.S. from Europe. At least until new Ford Focus RS arrived in 2016.
1954-1955 Montclair Sun Valley
Montclair used to be Mercury’s flagship car during two short instances. First between ’54 and ’60, and second between ’64 and ’68. During Montclair’s first foray into the market, Mercury immediately offered one rather unconventional version of the full-sizer. The glasstop aptly named Sun Valley. Much like its Ford counterpart, the Skyliner.
Sun Valley’s dark green-tinted plexiglass roof was a novelty at the time. An awkward one at that. Whole front area of the roof was opened up and allowed the exterior light free passage into the cabin. Problem was, this also raised interior temperature. Especially in sun belt states. Although desert tests conducted by Ford suggested difference of only 5 degrees between glasstops and hardtops, potential buyers remained skeptical. Only 9,761 people bought 1954 Sun Valleys, and additional 1,787 buyers snapped up 1955 year models. All were available in either yellow or mint green exterior paints, complemented by correspondingly colored all-vinyl interior upholstery or white cloth-green vinyl option.
Another problem was Sun Valley’s high price tag. $2,582 for 1954 models, to be precise. Moreover, optional air conditioning further raised what was already steep price, hence precious few Sun Valleys ended up receiving one. Power came from new at the time 256 cu in overhead valve V8. All 161 ponies of it, to be more precise. Due to low production and 60 year gap between then and now, precious few Sun Valleys remain alive. Less than 175 of them is the estimated figure.
Mercury LN7 was basically a slightly more upscale Ford EXP which is itself almost forgotten now. EXP was Blue Oval’s first two seater after 25 years and departure of the original Thunderbird. But, what about its Mercury stablemate? LN7, as it was the case with Mercury, offered slightly revised body and interior. Mechanical bits, on the other hand, weren’t changed.
That’s why Mercury LN7’s motivating factor was the same 1.6L in-line four found in EXP. It only made 70 horsepower which went against Ford’s policy of marketing the cars as sports compacts. As of March 1982, HO option with 9.0:1 compression ratio and 80 horsepower became available, but Mercury decided to axe the car anyway. Only some 40,000 of them have been sold and much less survive to date. Moreover, there were 27 LN7 convertibles produced. These are the ultimate collectibles nowadays. After Mercury discontinued the LN7, Ford’s counterpart received a forced induction powertrain. 120-horsepower EXP Turbo Coupe could have had LN7 XR-7 stablemate, but it was already too late by then.
As mentioned above, LN7 and EXP mainly differed outside. Mercury’s version of the compact featured a distinctive bubbleback rear window at the back and 10-slat grille up front. All that wasn’t enough, however. Even for a car capable of recording 44 mpg on the highway.
2001-2003 and 2005 Grand Marquis LSE
Grand Marquis was one of the longest-running Mercury nameplates. Full-size luxury car debuted in 1975, and remained in the lineup until the bitter end. In fact, it was the last Mercury ever to come off the assembly line. As such, it’s far from forgotten. Yet, high performance version of the latter generations is. Grand Marquis LSE was, at the time of its introduction, the first performance-trimmed full-sizer from Mercury in three decades.
Unlike performance and handling packages which were available with many classic Mercury models over the years, LSE was a pure blooded sporty trim. As such, it added heavy-duty suspension with revised shocks, springs and stabilizer bars, 3.27:1 rear axle ratio and dual exhaust which raised 4.6L V8’s output by 15 hp and 9 lb-ft of torque over conventional models. In total, Grand Marquis LSE developed 235 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque. Grand Marquis also benefited from Panther platform’s last substantial overhaul in 2003. LSE models then received new rack-and-pinion steering, shocks, front and rear suspensions, and frame. Yet, this was the same year Mercury introduced the reinvented Marauder. Although it proved to be a flop, its 302 horses were enough to kill the LSE trim as well. LSE would then return for one last push in 2005, but sales were yet again slow.
Problem was, Mercury has never really done enough to distinguish it from more conventional models. Slightly more power and handling improvements were all right, but very little was done in design and development departments. Younger crowds didn’t want to be associated with a car favored by retirees and rentals. And not to mention the severe lack of marketing. All combined, Grand Marquis LSE never really stood a chance.
1989-1990 Cougar XR-7 V6
XR-7 appeared on many performance-oriented classic Mercury carsc over the years. None enjoyed it more than the Cougar where XR-7 made its debut mid-1967. Over the years, it became an integral part of the Cougar lineup. But, although most people will remember the original Mercury Cougar XR-7’s of the late sixties, rest of them are somewhat obscured. They were never really potent enough to justify the badge, it would seem. Yet, seventh generation MN12 cars changed all that overnight.
Instead of using venerable V8 like its predecessors, MN12 platform Mercury Cougar XR-7 sported a supercharged V6 under its hood. 3.8L Essex mill was good enough for 210 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque with the help of a blower. Naturally aspirated models only made 140 ponies. Not only did MN12 Cougar XR-7 pack quite a lot of heat, but it was also heavily equipped. Standard were an electronically adjustable handling suspension, four wheel discs, Mazda-sourced 5-speed manual transmission, and sport seats with lumbar support. It was not enough. In fact, new XR-7 sold worse than previous generation models. Lack of V8 engine was the likely reason. So, in 1991, Mercury replaced the forced induction V6 with ancient 5.0L Windsor pushrod V8. It only made 200 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque, so sales declined further.
MN12 Cougars soldiered on until 1997. At one point, XR-7 was the only model offered. Sales rose again by the time 4.6L Modular V8 replaced the venerable Windsor in 1994. But XR-7 still only produced 205 ponies. Feat which was already accomplished with two cylinders less, and five years before.
1957-1958 Turnpike Cruiser
Although features like air conditioning, memory seats and power windows often go unnoticed on modern cars, they were novelty back when Mercury Turnpike Cruiser debuted. And, of course, Turnpike Cruiser had them all. It was the first Ford model to feature so many high tech features at the time.
Long list of available amenities includes power windows, brakes and steering, special deep-dish steering wheel which provided better visibility, Merc-O-Matic push button transmission, first ever padded dashboard, etc. But despite the long list, Turnpike Cruiser will likely be remembered for its novelty “Breezeway” ventilation system. It was the first electrically retractable rear window complemented by dual air intakes at the top corners of the windshield with antennae sticking out. It proved to be even more efficient than automatic air conditioning which was an expensive option back in the day. 1957 models were powered by 290-horsepower 368 cu in Y-block V8’s and sold in 16,861 units. They comprised 8.5% of total Mercury sales. 1958 saw introduction of even larger 330-hp 383 cu in and 360-hp 430 cu in V8’s. Triple-carburetor option on the latter generated a hefty 400 horsepower. Sales plummeted, however, as only 6,407 people ordered Turnpike Cruiser in 1958.
Mercury Turnpike Cruiser was supplanted by Mercury Park Lane in 1959, bot not before it left a respectable legacy. It was used as Indianapolis 500 pace car in 1957, although Indy car was a convertible (1,265 produced later on). Turnpike Cruiser was no stranger to demolition derby as well. That’s the reason few of them have remained alive today.
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