By on September 24, 2012

The super-Malaise-y Granada/Monarch was replaced by the Fox platform-based Fairmont/Zephyr in a process that lasted through the late 1970s and early 1980s (a Fox-based Granada lingered on until 1982). The Fox was like science fiction next to the well-seasoned early-60s chassis that came before, and car buyers who wanted a sporty two-tone coupe went right to their Lincoln-Mercury dealers to buy Zephyrs like this one.
You’d never know the 1970s had been over for a while after a glance at this tan-and-gold disco cruiser.
The good old Ford 250 inline-six engine— which I just learned came with the official name of “Thriftpower Six”— was a straight early-60s flashback for the purchaser of this Zephyr.
Ford certainly got its money’s worth out of the Fox platform; depending on the strictness of your definition of new-versus-upgraded chassis designs, it was built until either 1994 or 2003.


I couldn’t find any ’82 Zephyr ads, so here’s one for its Fairmont sibling.

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63 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1982 Mercury Zephyr...”


  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    I used to think these were “sporty”.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Never Sporty but the dated 1980′s design looks to have stood up fairly well to these old eyes .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    What I have never understood is why FORD USA carried on with the boat anchor six when a far better engine was being produced in Australia and it’s decendents still are. in fact the last iteration of the design ,the xr6 turbo has more gut s and reliability than the US sourced V8.
    The Aussie six went from the antique you pictured ,to a cross flow cast iron head design on a similar wider block ,to the alloy head and onto the OHC six they have now . Hundreds of thousands of Taxi’s were running these engines with an average of 100,000 miles (160KMs) per year.
    Ask any of the six cylinder Mustang owners who have swapped in an Aussie six about how well they run.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      Ron – Ford wasn’t done milking the tooling of their old, inline, push-rod six.

      In the mid-1980′ies they even went so far as to lop off two cylinders to make a four banger which went on to propel the Ford Tempo.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Probably Ford’s absolute rock bottom in terms of product quality. I vividly remember the horn stalk, which was apparently a big savings over a proper wheel mounted button. Barely less crude than that auto parts store kit that you attached to the column with a hose clamp, certainly no safer. Amazing what can pass under DOT standards.

    • 0 avatar

      The horn stalk was Ford’s misguided attempt to be more European, before they actually Taurus’d their product line up 8-ish years later. I seriously doubt that part is cheaper than a conventional horn.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        It does away with the electrical rotor connection between the wheel which turns and the column which does not. That may save some money.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        On today’s vehicles a horn stalk would also save the cost of switches made expensive and temperamental due to incorporation into an airbag cover or floating airbag assy.

        I preferred the stalk solution we had these in our 1980 Fiestas and 1979 LTD, as hub mounted horn switches are inherently less safe since one has to take a hand off the wheel to trigger the horn.

        Idea died due to the neanderthalers conditioned to believe that god intended for the horn to be at the center of the wheel hub (a place that once made sense, in the days before turn signal switches and airbags).

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        I always preferred the thumb buttons of my old Honda and Acura, as well as some of our old Fords. Quicker reaction.

    • 0 avatar
      namesakeone

      If I recall, the horn button was taken off the steering wheel hub to make way for an airbag that never came (on that particular steering wheel). They didn’t know, at the time, that there would be a new corporate wheel which could accomodate a horn and an airbag. Go figure.

  • avatar
    DM335

    Actually, the Fairmont/Zephyr twins replaced the Maverick/Comet for the 1978 model year. The original bodystyle Granada/Monarch continued until its update for the 1981/82 model years, after which it was replaced by the LTD/Marquis midsize cars.

    Both the Fairmont and Zephyr were available as 2-door sedans, 4-door sedans and 4-door wagons. The 2-door coupe shown here was sold as the Fairmont Futura or the Zephyr Z-7. Both were also available in numerous combinations of solid paint, two-tone paints and split vinyl roof combinations. In later years, Ford put the Fairmont Futura label on higher-end sedans and wagons as well.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Folks often criticize GM and Chrysler for too much platform sharing or badge engineering, but seem to forget the Fox body proliferation, especially in the early 80′s. You had the Fairmont/Zephyr standard models, the Futura coupes/Z-7 coupes, the Thunderbird (it wasn’t)/Cougar and the Fox body Granada. Shortly after, you STILL had the Fairmont/Zephyr (now with Futura or Cougar station wagons!), the LTD and Marquis Fox body sedans and wagons, the Thunderbird (it was)/Cougar XR7s, but the Fox body Granada went away.

      That’s not counting the Mustang and Fox body Capri models…

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    My aunt owned the Ford Fairmont version of this. I remember riding behind her in another car and watching as she drove over a railway crossing; one of the tail-light covers fell right off.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      LOL! Yep, that must have been a defect on those cars! I remember seeing a few of these without taillight covers. I think it happened to contemporary Marquises as well…

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        And Ford LTDs. I’d forgotten about that, my dad’s 79 LTD lost both covers within the warranty period. Also had to have the housings replaced because the chrome delaminated from them (and also the license plate housing and front grille and headlamp assys – $hitty or out of control process for sure!)

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      In the late 1970s, if your car’s only problem was that it spontaneously shedded taillight covers, you owned a reliable car. This wasn’t the Malaise Era just because the cars were slow.

  • avatar
    texan01

    Growing up, I had a neighbor that had a white 79 4 door Zephyr. She and her housemate were both in their 60s and lived there till their 80s.

    That was a two Mercury house as they had the 79 and a mint 67 Caliente sedan with 49,000 miles on it. That 67 is a story for another time.

    The 79 would sit outside, and get driven once a week to the store or to run errands. It had the 2.3 and automatic, white with red interior. It once got demolished sitting in the driveway by a drunk driver, fixed and looked good again, then it got hit again by someone failing to see the stopped car in front of them. It was junked and she bought an Escort wagon for the rest of her days. I don’t recall Dad or I ever having to fix it for them, so it was pretty reliable, I don’t even think it cracked 100.000 miles in 20 years.

    I always have a soft spot for a Zephyr, as I thought it looked so much better than the Fairmont.

  • avatar
    msquare

    As far as the Aussie sixes are concerned, I think you’re running head-on into the “Not Invented Here” culture that permeated Detroit back then. Why design a Pinto from scratch when you had the Escort and Cortina selling everywhere else?

    Ford Australia was presented with the original Falcon design and had to re-engineer it for Australian road conditions. Then they began to go their own way starting with the Mustang-like XA models of “Mad Max” fame.

    The one glaring flaw of the small Ford six (the 3.3L/200 cid version was used in the Fox bodies, by the way) was its cast-in intake manifold which had trouble feeding the cylinders on each end. In the States it wasn’t much of a problem because you could always go for a V8. Aussies expect more from their sixes and get it.

  • avatar
    gsf12man

    I could be wrong but I think the Fairmont variations were all 200 c.i. sixes.

  • avatar
    gsf12man

    msquare beat me to it—what he said!

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    I remember a friend of mine’s family in high school bought a brand new baby blue four door Fairmont with the 2.3 four. There was four or five of us in the car and my buddy’s sister was driving. She had to pass someone and, at 45MPH, she floored it. It got louder, but I swear it actually slowed down. I am sure the six was almost required.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      Sounds about right. When we lived in Baton Rouge, and my dad was an engineer at Texaco’s Louisiana Plant, he often worked late and would miss his carpool. So he’d take home a Fairmont (2.3l), and as he’d climb the Huey P Long bridge, the car would lose speed with the gas pedal buried. The bridge didn’t have that much of an incline but obviously just enough.

      A few years later, when he was running the marketing group the purse strings for company cars loosened considerably and he got an SHO in 89. Hey, it was still a Taurus.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    My old ’83 Mustang had the exact same center console. Which would make sense of course, since that too was a Fox.

    I would much rather have had the 250 I6 instead of the 3.8 V6 2bbl garbage engine it had.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    The 2.3L 4-cyl was quicker than the ancient 6–even with an auto trans (check Consumer Reports of the era). Only the 200 cubic inch six was offered–slow and thirsty.

    Gasoline price almost doubled from early 1979 to early 1980, when my dad got a new 2.3 Fairmont with manual 4-speed. Probably on of the few ordered with the “handling suspension”. The “tin can”, as he called it, was really not a bad car. All four of us fit, it got 29-33 mpg on trips (doing 55-60 mph), 19 to 23 mpg in suburban LI driving (depending on season). While not bulletproof, certainly not a lemon. For the era, I’d say it was a good car and a great value: X-cars were selling for sticker and would prove to be lemons, and imports with room for a family were really pricey in the late 70s/ early 80s.

    I think the MSRP sticker read $5300 or $5600 with options, I wish we had kept it. The base price was $4,700 or so—quite a rise from th $3,663 advertised in Sept 1977.

    Maybe history will repeat…Iran in 1979 and now, oil spiking to $150 per barrel and gas to $5-6, all the “quantitative easing” leading to some late-70s style inflation. We had a generation to get our house in order….we didn’t.

    Enjoy your SUVs, lol

  • avatar

    Wow, floor shift, bucket seats and a center console?!? This one is fully optioned for maximum sportyness (not to be confused with actual sport).

    I hate to be an internet anorak who corrects people on the internet, but the Fox chassis only came with the 200/3.3 six. If our car had a 250 we’d have had a stick shift in the Lemons car by now.

  • avatar
    99_XC600

    As a side note. I’m always amazed at the settings these cars are in. They do not represent the typical junkyards in the Northeast.

    Looking at the pic’s, there is almost no items between the cars and the walking lanes. And they’re even elevated off the ground, what a concept.

    The typical junkyard in the Northeast have cars lying in the mud and jammed up against each other. Most of the time you’re taking a great risk of twisting your ankle from all the crap strewn between the cars.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    During the planning stages prior to moving to a neighbor island, the Mercedes 220 and Toyota Corona wagon were replaced with a ’76 Chevy 1/2-ton pickup and ’78 Mercury Zephyr wagon. Dad wouldn’t take any guff from the salesman when he identified the only fully loaded wagon with V8 hidden in the rear lot. The dealer was especially reluctant to sell that particular model, and at first we guessed it had been destined for the main showroom floor. We found out a few weeks later it had been specially ordered by Jimmy Pfleuger for his wife. Whoops! The intermittent wiper circuit would synchronize to Strauss’s Blue Danube waltz at its longest interval setting. My father confirmed the silly euro-centric horn button as an attempt to emulate behavior and use across the Atlantic; I’m glad that particular feature is long dead. As the Corona had replaced a monster Mercury wagon, we kids eagerly anticipated the return of side-opening rear seats, and were disappointed when we confirmed that feature disappeared from domestic station wagons some time during the early 70s.

    That wagon served the family well during its 8 years of service and was ultimately replaced by an ’86 Camry. One evening’s party crawl ended up with a friend from a “Porsches-only” family converted to the OHV V8 camp; as the wagon gained new passengers with each “this party sucks; let’s see what that one’s like” interval, he marveled at the 5.0′s ability to not slow down, even when confronted with the final fully loaded blast up Haleakala’s slopes for the eventual “let’s go see the sunrise” request. He told me years later his parents were appalled when he dragged his own Fox-body home and started hopping it up.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      For anybody, like me, wondering who Pfluger was:

      http://m.thegardenisland.com/mobile-touch-2/?disableTNStatsTracker=1&asset=06f46b10-c164-11df-ab6e-001cc4c03286#06f46b10-c164-11df-ab6e-001cc4c03286

      Hell of a guy!

  • avatar
    NewsLynne

    This and the Fairmont win my vote as some of the ugliest cars of the era. Seeing the interior only reinforces that. Between these and the K Car, you have to wonder what was in the water supply.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    recall renting a Fairmont in LA, Cal and drove tho Vegas and at that point I knew I would never buy a Ford, thios thing had about 30k miles and it was falling apart, Hertz, you’ve come a long way, baby!

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I owned a 79 blue sedan with 200 six/automatic that produced a stunning 85 HP. Was probably one of the worst cars I owned as far as performance/ mileage and comfort. I do remember my dad test driving a silver 1980 sedan with the 4 banger and it felt about the same as the six on flat land. The moment a hill was encountered was a different story. He brought the car back and bought a 1982 Cutlass coupe with the Buick 3.8 that felt like a luxury car in comparison and despite weighting 400 LBS more got 5 better MPG than my 79 200 six.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    Had one of these in the late 80s. I was driving a Mustang GT convertable until I got busted DUI on a business trip. My lawyer suggested I drive something less conspicuous so my car guy found one of these. 200 CI straight six. Sloooow….

  • avatar
    rudiger

    One of the more interesting tidbits of the Fairmont and its spinoffs was how none of them were available with a proper gauge cluster, i.e., tachometer. All they got was the GM-typical speedometer, fuel gauge, and idiot lights.

    Even the craptacular Citation had an optional tach. Apparently, Ford’s engineers understood, all too well, that the Fairmont’s engine choices were so lame and weak, why bother with a tach or other gauges, even as an option.

    • 0 avatar
      gsf12man

      Some variants used the Mustang instrument cluster with tach; I think it was optional on Futuras and Z7s. At least, later ones. Ford typically did offer the options you wanted, just not on the model you wanted.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      “All they got was the GM-typical speedometer, fuel gauge, and idiot lights.”?

      Wow, I didn’t know these cars were GM! lol

      [I know your being sarcastic]

  • avatar
    geozinger

    My MIL’s mother had a Fairmont Futura with the 200 six, it wasn’t a bad little old lady car. The six was fairly torquey at low speeds.

    My brother had purchased a new 1978 Mercury Zephyr ESS (European Sport Sedan), with the full on Volvo treatment; it had the funky vents in the back windows, the 2.3/4 speed combination, and a AM/FM radio. But it looked like a cheapo Fairmont that had blacked out window frames.

    That was all it had, it cost something like $4300. My father about pooped himself, his 1975 Mercury Montego MX cost that much and had a lot more “stuff” in it.

    The car itself wasn’t awful, but the malaise era emissions controls strangled the 2.3 Lima motor; it never ran right from day one. How he kept it for 8 years is beyond me.

  • avatar
    and003

    If I owned a hot rod shop specializing in Ford vehicles, I could easily turn this Z7 into a high-performance hot rod with an Art Morrison Max-G chassis and the engine choices would be either a Coyote 5.0 or a Modular 4.6 engine.

  • avatar
    raph

    I’d take one, its fox roots insure the ability to instill a good amount of badassery in something like a Zephyr and as a bonus you could watch as the outrageous laughter faded into tears of sadness when somebody gets owned by an early 80s crap box.

    I need to look into one of these as a DD, I wonder how a set of Terminator wheels with some sporty rubber and a Cobra disc brake conversion would work out mixed with some 347 goodness and a built DOA…. yeah, Steeda 5 link rear a nice dual exhaust system with an h-pipe and two chamber flows.

    Pfffttt… G8, I think not!

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    I’ve heard that the main reason for these car’s existence was simply Henry Ford II’s conservatism (read: stubbornness). He was intensely distrustful of FWD, despite selling the front drive Corcel and Fiesta in foreign markets, and would not allow FWD compacts into North America, even though it was obvious that was the way the market was trending.

    He also refused to downsize the full-size line until the last minute, and then only OK’d a half-hearted effort, which resulted in the badly compromised packaging of the Panthers.

    Aside from the Mustang, the Fox platform ceased to be used on mainstream cars after 1986, while Chrysler’s K-cars lasted to 1995 and GM’s X-car derivatives lasted till 2005.

    • 0 avatar
      Shawnski

      The Mustang through 2004 used a modified Fox platform (Fairmont/Zephyer)

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        Yes, aside from the Mustang. The Mustang is a niche product sold to enthusiasts and others that don’t need to carry more than two normal people and the occasional pair double amputees. The Fox as a mainstream platform was finished nearly 20 years before the Mustang stopped using it. Note, no Fox Escorts or Fox Focuses in that time.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      That sounds about right. After the success of the enlarged 1958 Thunderbird, HFII had ‘small Thunderbird’ solidly imprinted in his brain and for the rest of his life as the head of Ford, he never let it go.

      That was his original concept of how the Mustang should be built (and he finally got it with the Mustang-based Cougar) and the smaller, personal luxury car was the way he always thought. The Futura/Z7 are the early eighties’ version of Hank the Deuce’s never ending quest for the ‘small Thunderbird’.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      There were some ‘pure’ Fox cars after ’86. T-Bird/Cougar til 1988 and the Lincoln Mk7 til 1992.

  • avatar
    Shawnski

    After a variety Fox body and sn95 Mustangs GTs, I bought an ’80 Fairmont 2 doors sedan from a good buddy of mine for $300 back in ’01. While it was an original rust belt WI car, it only had 53k mi and very little rust. I won’t bore everyone with all the details, but I subsequently put over $9 k into suspension, paint, interior and hopped up motors and trannys. The last time I weighed it with an AOD and ironhead 5.0 it came up 3000 lbs on the nuts….thats before my final lighter aluminum head ,T5 combo.

    The car was set up for open road course and Autox duty. Since this car would accept anything factory and aftermarket for Mustangs up to 2004, it was a very economical car to build into an effective fast car with very forgiving handling.

    A simple, honest, robust car from the late malaise era of light weight RWD cars…a time when cars used the very effective circa 1965 basis of drivetrain engineering with a good dose of European inspired lightness and space efficiency.

    I can send pics if anyone is interested – fun cars to hotrod.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    The father-in-law had a baby blue Z7 2-door. I never even got well enough acquainted with it to know what motor it had – knowing him I’d guess the V6. He traded a 1970 Torino on it, but kept the mounted snow tires – when he ran them on the Zephyr it had such a pronounced rake that I’ll bet even with high beams he couldn’t see more than a carlength at night. He didn’t care, it was a no-cost solution, and this was important to him.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back when these were popular there was a company converting Z7/Futura’s to Ranchero’s (Fairero’s? Zephero’s?) Taking out the rear side windows and moulding a pick up bed actually enhances the styling.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “The super-Malaise-y Granada/Monarch was replaced by the Fox platform-based Fairmont/Zephyr…”

    Not all true. The Maverick/Comet were directly replaced by the 1978 Fairmont/Zepher. The Granada name lasted til 1982, then was officially replaced by the Fox based ’83 LTD. So, while the Granada was replaced by a Fox car, it was’t the Fairmont, which was replaced by the Tempo.

    And someone called the Z7 coupe “an 80′s design”. Not true at all, it is pure mid 70′s, intro’d fall 1977, 35 years ago!

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    These cars didn’t share any front suspension components with the falcon/maverick/granada. The fairmont/zephyr used front struts with a rack and pinion steering setup.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    This was another obscure police car of the Malaise Era. Not this Mercury, but Ford really did issue a police package Fairmont!

    It had all the engines available in the police package, save for the turbo 2.3; yes you could get a cop car with a 2.3 and automatic! Also the California Highway Patrol really did think about using a Fairmont, they tested a few of them with a 302 2bbl. They liked the braking and handling of the car, but in came short in size and performance (considering the fact that at time, ’79 they still had a few ’78 Dodge Monaco 440′s in use, so the gap in performance would have been quite noticeable. The idea didn’t catch on and the Chippies still stuck with Dodge and their St. Regis, which turned out to be one of the worst, if not the worst police car ever… even though most cops thought the Fairmont was the worst ever! They didn’t like the cramped room, miserable ride and the weak performance…. though I still contend the ’81 Dodge St. Regis 318 is bar none the worst.

    You can see police package Fairmonts in E.T when they pursue the kids on the bikes… they were a light blue color.

  • avatar

    OMG ! This was my driver’s ed car. Back when schools still could afford driver’s ed. Back when dealers gave a car to the school for driver’s ed for the free advertising.

    Two Observations..

    .I always remember the best driving advice I got from the Gym Coach who part timed as the instructor “Sometimes, you just have to wait”.

    We didn’t get the “push to honk” stalk, either. Glad it never caught on.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    I was 9 when this car was made…and I recall thinking it was elegant and sporty. In an era of column-shifters, there was something intriguing about a luxurious car with a floor console / automatic shifter that really resonated with my preferences.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I had a Chevy Caprice rent a car from Detroit to Toledo, and then it died, dead battery, so they swapped it for a Zephyr that looked exactly like the one in the pics. I really liked the Caprice and wasn’t thrilled to get stuck with the Zephyr. It had a six in it, and I drove it to Indianapolis to go to the 1981 US Nationals drag races. It was tolerable for the most part, until I hit a huge crater on the way home and all the way back, it was trying to turn hard left. By the time I turned it in, the left front tire was all chewed up.

    It was the second best rental car I ever had.

  • avatar
    r0ckf0rd

    I remember these as a kid — my dad had a white 1980 Zephyr wagon with a red vinyl interior. 2.3L engine with a … wait for it … 4 speed MANUAL transmission!! This thing was one of the $995 specials sitting in the back of a shady used car lot back in the late 80′s. It was in an accident years before making it to that lot(I found a notebook under the spare tire one day that detailed the thousands in repairs done to the front end after an accident — gotta love the pre carfax days!!), repainted and lasted until 2001 or so. The amazing thing was — it never rusted. In all the time it spent in WI winters, the only rust on the car when the engine gave out at 170K was on the hatchback area. Whoever had that car repaired did an excellent job on getting it repainted/rust protected!!

    I drove it a few times in High school — could not get over the manual transmission & want one in my car stable if I can ever find one… I know its wierd, but these had the strangest door “clank” i’ve ever heard on a car.


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