By on November 14, 2009


This Marquis Brougham certainly seems the polar opposite of yesterday’s Nissan Pao. It weighs three times as much, is a domestic, certainly not an illegal alien, not exactly artistic or tasteful, definitely not retro, and didn’t require a lottery to buy it (more likely rebates). It’s available 7.5 Liter engine is 7.6 times as big as the Poa’s, even if it only makes 202 hp. Yet, a number of similarities occur to me:  They’re both in the same parking lot. Their owners are obviously making an artistic statement. They both have a horsepower to weight ratio of 31 lbs/hp. Both engines are carbureted. Nissan and Mercury joint-ventured on the Quest/Villager mini-van. Both of them are not displayed at MoMA. Somebody help me out here…

Back to the Mercury at hand. This is just not a car that inspires a full-on Curbside Classic. If it wasn’t wearing that appropriate majestic coat of purple, the traditional color of royalty, I probably wouldn’t have even taken its picture. But it was, so it’s earned its fifteen minutes of fame. And it has earned its place in history: the end of the road for the big Fords and Mercuries. The following year was the big downsizing to the new Panther chassis. But we’ll do a full-on CC on that subject with another of the Marquis’ stablemates. Engines were pathetically feeble: the standard 351 (5.7 liter) had all of 144 hp; the optional 400 (6.6 liter) squeezed out 160 hp; and the big 460 (7.5 liter) managed a whopping of 202 hp. Mileage? don’t ask. Ah, those were the sweet days of automotive malaise.

(Edit: I’ve corrected the earlier title and made a few changes to reflect this car’s historical significance. Thanks to the commentators for pointing them out)

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30 Comments on “Curbside Classic Outtake: 1978 Mercury Marquis Brougham...”

  • avatar

    That is not a Grand Marquis, it is either a Marquis or a Marquis Brougham. The only exterior difference between the two was the Brougham nameplate on the trunk below the Marquis nameplate. Interiors and equipment content were different, Brougham had upgraded seating with availability of split bench. 78 Grand Marquis was differentiated by lower wider chrome encased color keyed bodyside molding at  doors lower feature line. I drove many of them as demos, sold LM from 76-92. Probably had about a dozen 76-78 models. Was a good seller back then, the quintessential domestic almost luxury barge, built on same frame as Lincoln Town Car/Coupe (Town Car/Coupe was trim option back then over std Lincoln sedan/coupe). Lincoln frame was lengthened 3 inches as I recall for more back seat legroom. Definitely not a factory standard paint option however many colors like the one shown were offered as special paint options but if it was factory special painted the bumper inserts always were argent (inserts may have been repainted to match body making it a factory painted body). Ford had about 500 non stock color options available. I once leased a deeper purple Town Coupe with a chamois interior and coach roof through a private lease company. I’m sure the color combo caught their attention when the vehicle was returned as all the invoice said was special paint. We accidentally ordered a gold Marquis Brougham sedan (they also made coupes) with a medium blue full vinyl roof and interior, the buyer said the reason they picked it is they knew they’d never lose it in a parking lot.

    The example shown appears to have a metal finish roof meaning if it is original it is a Marquis and not a Brougham as the vinyl roof was optional on the Marquis and standard on the Brougham. I don’t recall a vinyl roof delete option on the Brougham but there may have been.

    Edit: Just noticed the smaller pictures where the rear decklid has the Brougham logo and painted Marquis logo so obviously it’s a bargain basement repaint but still may be close to the original factory color. Can’t tell if it’s a painted vinyl roof or a metal finished one.

  • avatar

    Thanks for reminding me how much cars of this era sucked.  I was having that conversation with a friend last night, i.e., how it is the the Big 3 made bigger and bigger cars through the 70s, while the specific outputs plummeted (the 500 Caddy was the worst…at one point it fell to 190hp).   My neighbour had one of these, albeit in a nice colour.

  • avatar

    Paul, Paul, Paul.  This would certainly be an appropriate CC.  Think about it.  This was the end of the line for the real full sized car.  The monstrous land yacht that got 9 mpg but could seat 5 if not 6 in comfort. 

    These cars pull strongly at the heartstrings of those of us of a certain age.  I had one of these as my drivers ed car in 1975.  A big yellow Marquis (like this one – the Grand Marquis name was reserved for the loaded top of the line model).  If a guy could learn to parallel park one of these things (let alone keep it between the white lines on the interstate), a guy could drive ANYTHING.

    Agreed they were far from fast, and they lacked the power and style of the cars from a decade earlier, but they were the industry’s early attempts to navigate the new universe of federal regulation for safety and emissions while still giving the public what it wanted at the time.   Althouse these had been a drug on the market during the 1973 oil shortage and the 1974-75 recession, in the 76-78 period, Ford sold all of these it could make (as did every other brand that still offered a big car.   IIRC, the big Marq pulled in some former GM buyers who felt that the downsized 77-78 Pontiac Olds and Buick models were a bit small.

    This car also represented the last time that there was a reason to buy a Marquis instead of the corresponding Ford.  This car rode on a 124 inch WB as I recall, a 3 inch extension over the LTD.  Also, the car had significantly better styling than the LTD and looked a lot more like a Lincoln than it did a Ford.

    Although these had some rust issues (what Ford product of the 70s didn’t?) they proved to be quite durable in service.  Hindsight tells us that they were way better than the corresponding Mopars (if for no other reason than the Lean Burn systems) and had an impressiveness factor that was lacking in the 77-79 GM B and C bodies.  They were quieter and better riding than anything else in the era and if boulevard or interstate cruising was your thing, you couldn’t do better.  If you were interested in handling, well then, this was not your car.

    So Paul, I say that anything that was good enough for Steve McGarret on Hawaii Five-O is good enough for curbside classics. 

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      That occurred to me when I realized it was a ’78, and not a ’75or ’76, like I assumed earlier. But I have a big Lincoln, which was built through ’79 and was the real end of the road for these big guys. I was going to do my end of the land-barge era CC with that. And I also have some big Fords of this era. Can’t use them all. But I appreciate your and mtymsi’s comments and corrections.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Melt it down and make two interesting vehicles out of the recycled steel :).

  • avatar

    What’s with all of the purple cars in Oregon?

  • avatar

    ^ I was wondering about the vast amounts of purple as well.  If it were pink, then I’d assume it was the former chariot of a Mary Kay Commando.  But purple…

  • avatar

    People who complain about 70’s engine power always conveniently forget to mention torque, because it ruins their story. That 460 probably put out over 400 ft.lbs, which is just what you need to tote all that weight around.
    To those of you too young to remember, we got around just fine in the 70’s. My dad had a ’77 LeSabre with a 350 4 bbl. and a ’77 Fury 318 and both cars had more than enough power. He hauled good sized travel trailers with both of them.

    • 0 avatar

      Both cars also got mid to upper teens fuel economy, respectable for the day.

    • 0 avatar

      This is a very good point (at least with the large V8s). It reminds me of the old, well-known axiom that the auto industry lived by, even through the first gas crisis in the early seventies and, frankly, continued up to the current bailouts (and may continue past that): “Americans talk horsepower, but they drive torque.”

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      This has to be one of the oldest arguments in all of in the land of piston heads. Nah, I’m not taking the bait ….

  • avatar

    The design looks dated even by late 70’s standards.

  • avatar

    For 7 years, I drove a 1977 Marquis wagon (without the wood grain) from new and never got more than  15 mpg on a level road, or uphill, or downhill, or with a tail wind etc. etc. But the land yacht held my wife,  4 children, a 100 lb. Lab retriever, and all the camping equipment required for a week. And in 7 years it covered almost 200,00 miles and it never broke.  It just did what it was designed to do.

  • avatar

    I want it, I want it, I want it.  But in a more subdued color.
    I love these 70s land yachts, my grandmother’s first new car purchase after my grandfather died was a 79 Oldsmobile 98, she was trading in an early 70s Ford LTD.  When her second husband died in the late 90s the last car the man owned was a 1977 Malibu Classic Sedan, the old lady needed a pillow behind her to be able to see over the steering wheel (she’s about 5’2″ tall.)   My father’s work cars for most of the 80s and 90s where Caprice Classic Station wagons.  I LOVE BIG DETROIT LAND BARGES!
    And yes 100% correct, American’s drive torque.  My first car was a 1982 Celebrity, 151 cubic in Iron Duke, 92hp but almost 130lbft of torque at an insanely low RPM (about 1500 rpm IIRC).  Even with that gutless little engine it would instantly light the tires on a wet street.  That’s what I miss from modern engines, low end grunt.  Give me an 455 Olds (hell even a 403 Olds) over the V8s now a days that make 350lbft of torque at 4000-5000 RPM.  My dad’s Caprices used to cruise effortlessly (70mph) at about 2000RPM.
    I’m only 32 yrs old BTW.

    • 0 avatar

      You should check out a Mercedes or Jaguar showroom if you are looking for a modern V8 with lots of low end.

      The current GT500 also registers 400lbft @ 2000RPM when hooked up to a dyno.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for recommending a few $50,000 plus cars, lol.  I’ll look for them on eBay Motors in about 10 years.
        Nothing personal, I’m just a different kind of guy when it comes to cars.  Car and Driver (much maligned on this site I know) about a half dozen years ago had a comparo where they tested a bunch of $50k to $60k European luxury sedans against each other.  In the same issue the boys had gotten a hold of a Ford Crown Victoria for about $25,000 (give or take) and then thrown about another $25,000 worth of go fast parts at it from supercharger to suspension upgrades ect.  Guess which one I’d rather drive for $50,000?

        • 0 avatar

          Ah yes, the Kenny Brown Panther project…the last in a long line of C/D project cars…
          I’m with you on the subject of low end torque. But thanks to EFI and long runner intake manifolds, there are tons of affordable used cars with serious low end grunt from the last 15 years, from 5.0 Mustangs to LT1 Camaros/Caprices…heck, you can drive a 97 Vette with the LS1 motor for $15k or so! And while they may not quite match the Marquis’s 460 torque output, they have a lot less weight to lug around…and most of them actually are rewarding to rev to 6000+ rpm…something the 70s era lumps could never dream of.

  • avatar

    My first car was a ’76 Mercury Marquis Brougham with the 460/7.5 liter engine.  That car had a massive amount of torque.  I remember getting around 13-14 mpg, and in the winter I remember once getting around 7. It was great for long distance highway driving and around the windy, hilly roads of my home town, it did just fine.

  • avatar

    These cars served as SUVs before anybody even knew what an SUV was. You drove them in winter, took them camping, pulled trailers with them, and never worried about AWD or Onstar and airbags.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    We found one of these Queen Mary sized Mercs at a show-the young guy that won it in a lottery and he loves this car so it’s like the old song “different strokes for different folks”.

  • avatar

    That BIG trunk and removal of the rear seat vertical section and perhaps removal of a small amount of thin metal reinforcement would allow one or two folks to stretch out and sleep in the vehicle.

  • avatar

    My grandmother loved her 1978 Grand Marquis (silver w/dark red leather, and the 460 cu. in.) so much she talked of being buried in it.  I don’t think she was joking, either, but my grandfather traded it long before she passed.  What I recall is a back seat so huge it was like a traveling living room, a trunk big enough to carry two of those retro Nissans, and that it was longer than the Airstream my grandfather pulled with it.

  • avatar

    My parents had a ’76 Grand Marquis sedan for  awhile when I was a young’un…silver with a maroon vinyl top and maroon ‘deluxe’ vinyl interior…Fully loaded,  and with the 400c.i., I’m sure it had to have been a total gas hog.

    That car was pretty pimpin’ by 70’s standards, and even though we were trading down from a Lincoln due to the bad economy, the Merc still commanded some respect.  Huge, smooth, and with that deep-well trunk you could practically live in, it felt pretty much as upscale as any Olds 98 or Electra 225 the neighbors may have had.  Mercurys have frequently been little more than “Fords with lipstick on”, but somehow that Grand Marquis felt a lot more upscale than an LTD. Pity that Ford has starved the brand, it’s probably on the way out…

  • avatar

    One thing I remember about big cars of that vintage is that the first two feet of the car was literally empty space.   Heck, you could have easily fit a large displacement V12 under the hood !    I guess that was the 70’s rendition of the Air Bag.

  • avatar

    I have a 71 Lincoln thats sure is big.

  • avatar

    In 1976, when I got my license, my first ride was a 1973 Ford LTD.  Green, green vinyl top, 400 cid 2-bbl.  Rim blow wheel, IIRC. A/C that would frost the vents, and acres and acres of room. Great highway cruiser.

    29 days after I got that license, the LTD gave its life when some idiot ran a stop sign in front of me. The LTD crushed the van, but the front end was gone,  and it went the the junkyard.  I walked away from that crash, so I’ll always have a soft spot for these FoMoCo land yachts.

    And yes, they did make some torque. 

  • avatar

    When he was caught, Timothy McVeigh, the OKC bomber was driving a 1978 Mercury Marquis, (it was a a pale yellow one) escaping from his crime.

    He got caught because a cop noticed he had no license plates on his car, and that was enough to pull him over.

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