By on July 31, 2014

09 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHere’s another Junkyard Find that deserves the Sajeev’s Bitter Tears label. It qualifies for the Brown Car Appreciation Society, it’s an early Panther, and it’s a top-trim-level Grand Marquis (owners of which looked down their noses at lowly Marquis Brougham owners). Let’s explore this exquisite example of Late Malaise Era crypto-luxury, shall we?
13 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars were the same under the skin as the LTD and Continental, and they weren’t bad drivers (by the standards of the time).
07 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOpera lights! Trivia question: what was the last year for factory-installed opera lights on an American car? I’m guessing this feature made it well into the 21st century.
06 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one’s a little rough, though it’s a completely rust-free California car.
17 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSo much trim. So much vinyl.
14 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou see a lot of police-organization and AAA-related stickers on these cars, which is not surprising given the elderly demographic that preferred them.
03 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSteering-wheel cruise-control buttons showed a lot of faith in Ford’s ability to make a clockspring and/or sliding electrical contacts work.
10 - 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFord (and Chrysler) loved these fake vents in the early 1980s. Why?

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62 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis...”

  • avatar


    • 0 avatar

      Sajeev you’re a funny guy. I think you should do more reviews and such and apply your humor to them in the absence of JB/Alex/Michael.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d love more Mehta reviews too. (Any interested parties can look up the ones he did like Mercury Montego and IIRC Buick Lucerne.) He could be made the “Official Large Car Reviewer”.

  • avatar

    Not surprisingly , this bit of blue oval offal is painted turd brown .


  • avatar

    She blinded me with science!

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    “Ford (and Chrysler) loved these fake vents in the early 1980s. Why?”

    During the past decade fake vents have been used to make vehicles look more sporty and upscale. I would imagine this was also the case in the 1980’s when tacky trim bits were often used to create an impression of luxury and performance.

    • 0 avatar

      I found a lovely set of 6 teardrop shaped fake vents on sale at Target a few years ago and purchased them as a gift for a friend’s 911. I think he opted to install them on his trash can instead – no class.

  • avatar

    Are those sidelights angled to an edge for cutting through limbs when an old geezer mashes the go pedal instead of stop?

  • avatar

    Had 2 of them, a mid 80’s cp. and a mid 90’s sedan. Purchased both used for my wife’s driver, kept them a few years and sold both for a profit. The 90’s sedan steering had no road feel and not a lot of rear leg room for such a large car. It also suffered from the power window plastic gear defect which was a pain in the butt. I actually liked the 80’s version better.

    • 0 avatar

      That “power window plastic gear defect” apparently was an ongoing thing with FoMoCo – my 1968 Lincoln was cursed with those. I wonder if they are still in use….

      • 0 avatar

        It isn’t a defect, it’s to keep pets/kids/morons from injuring their paws/fingers/neck/etc.

        Better for society to break some plastic plugs in the gears than to pay for a collapsed windpipe.

      • 0 avatar

        It was terrible!

        Those FoMoCo products with the power window plastic gear defect were just no good at all at for slicing water melons!

        I mean, like what’s the point of having power windows if you can’t slice water melons with ’em.

  • avatar

    That vinyl is in dang good shape and I love the vents (for all their uselessness.)

    Personally though the engine I would want would be post fuel injection, not the variable-venturi crap that was on the early Panthers.

  • avatar

    “So much trim. So much vinyl.”
    So much everything.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    My grandparents had an ’85 or ’86 Grand Marquis. The square gauges on these were pretty cool, and way more functional than the similar era cadillac ‘sweeping needle’, even if they all topped out at 85.

    • 0 avatar

      My dad had an ’85 Fox-body Marquis Brougham company car for a few years. It was OK but the dashboard was the only thing I liked about it. The ’89 Maxima that replaced it was awesome though.

  • avatar

    Wasn’t the last factory opera lights vehicle the GM B-body of 1996? The Roadmaster had a pretty cool opera lights configuration, with LIMITED lighted up, IIRC. I can’t think of any after that which had them factory. Now, there are some conversion vans which have them after that point, but that’s not really “factory” or a car.

    Near to where I live, there is a man who drives a Grand Marquis Brougham just like this, as a DD. It’s white with blue interior. Until recently he had all his original heraldic crest hubcaps! It has heraldic crest hood ornament too. He lost one or two of the hubcaps and now has some cheapo ones on there. When I run, I run past it, and always catch a whiff of old Ford. It has no rust at all, which is shocking considering I’m in Ohio and it’s parked outside.

    • 0 avatar

      The half moon carriage roofs still carried them on Panthers through at least MY02, and I believe those were factory installed. The cloth “simulated convertible” roofs with lights were dealer installed though I believe.

      • 0 avatar

        The only 98+ TC’s I’ve seen with opera lights have always been the sort of “Centennial Gold Coast” type things which seem dealer or aftermarket added. I’m just thinking across the three trims, even in landau format, didn’t seem like the lights were there.

        • 0 avatar

          The half roofs (or quarter roofs) I believed were factory installed. But vogue tyre seems to sell kits, so now I’m confused.

          half roof

          quarter roof

          I also found this, I like how the MY90 Lebaron and MY78 Volvo 262C, and a G-body MY86 Grand Prix made the list but strangely such obvious things like Murano Convertible and [not]-Smart missed the cut. Strange days.

      • 0 avatar

        No the half vinyl roof was only on Town Car Aero Panthers and the last factory installed was 1997.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    Hold on. Are those actual, functional side vent holes on the RH fender? The grille seems to be off them.

  • avatar

    I was 18 then and understood how PawPaw it looked. Perfect for Baptist preachers, older real estate agents and tiny women going weekly for a hair bluing appointment. It was still sporting its drag coefficient of 0.53 when the Sable came out with one of 0.29. At least it was just a couple hundred pounds heavier than a new 911 Turbo.

  • avatar

    Roger was a stalwart.

    Roger stepped out of his Taurus travel trailer into the er-fresh Monday morning air. He flicked his cig alight with the purple Bic, and took in a long drag. He heard a helicopter hovering nearby over the roaring din of the Nimitz freeway. “The police still have that damn thing in the air from last night?”, he wondered. Nope, just a news chopper, taking it’s daily assessment of the plight of the working class. Roger felt exhausted, having been awoken at 3AM by the unmistakable POP-POP-POP-POP of gunfire at the apartments. Next came the cacophony of Hayward’s finest. It reminded him of Korea.

    Another long drag resulted in intense lung irritation, manifesting in a long fit of coughing. Roger rammed the butt home in the ashtray next to it’s expired cousins in response. Once he caught his breath, he was greeted with a frustrating scene. A familiar young black male strolled in between his and the adjoining trailer. The seat of his jeans hung low, much to Roger’s ire. “I thought I told you not to go through here you sumbitch! This isn’t a shortcut.” The young man scowled at him, continuing through the hole smashed in the wooden fence. Roger coughed again, spitting some mucus onto his “yard” while the youth vanished though the hole. The tattered green tarp atop his trailer fluttered in the soft breeze and caught his attention. He would need a new one of those.

    Roger grunted into the sheepskin-shod throne of the Mercury, and swung his pulled up crew sock covered legs into the footwell. With a hearty whir of the starter, the 302 was summoned, assuming its 2500rpm idle speed. The whole car torqued with a thunk when the shifter was pulled into drive. Roger rode the brakes all the way out of the trailer park onto A Street. The man and his machine shared startling similarities. Both, were well past their primes, used up. Roger’s bald scalp, once shod with a toupee, was akin to the Grand Marquis’s roof. Its missing landau pelt was punctuated with bare rivets. Roger stopped for a red signal and kept his foot in it to keep the motor alive. This brought to light the synonymity of a terminal lung malady in the form of Ford’s Variable Venturi carburetor. The car churned out grey smoke as if it had lit up it’s own cig.

    The Marquis bounced on it’s soft front end as it entered the parking lot of the hardware store. “This’ll fix that little a$$hole…”, Roger grumbled, selecting some lumber for an improvised fence repair. He threw his new roof tarp into the back seat, and stuck the board halfway out of the window. It took forever to re-light the Merc.

    When Roger was pulled over, it came as a surprise. The stickers on the rear window were what he considered to be a bribe in advance. He supported the law, and somehow felt above it as well. “Perhaps I should have gotten the 2013 sticker?”, he wondered. The officer returned with some paperwork and his license. “Sir, I’m going to issue you a fix-it ticket. This gives you 90 days to make the necessary repairs so you can re-test and become emissions compliant.” Roger already knew what was going to happen, and stopped listening to the officers attempts to bring him up to speed on California’s oppressive emissions regulations.

    Roger stood back and admired his fence work while enjoying another Marlboro. The un-stained and hastily nailed in plank stuck out like a sore thumb, but it would do the job. However, a couple months later, it was found on the ground one morning. It had obviously been removed out of spite. Roger coughed phlegm furiously, enraged. He looked at his dead chariot and crafted a clever plan. Roger re-installed the plank. The Mercury gathered the last of it’s strength, and was forcibly floated to 4000rpm once started. It’s rear tires euthanized small shrubs while it took the final ride a mere ten feet. Roger pressed the rear bumper to the fence, then let the V8 stall out. His car looked good there with it’s “do not resuscitate” order, and he smiled through the pain and adversity of another long coughing fit.

    “That’ll fix you….you sumbitch.”

  • avatar

    This is just my favourite Panther of all time. Preferably in quad red, like in this ’80s flick, chase scene.

  • avatar

    OMG do I love these. Long live opera lamps. Everyone should drive a Panther at some point in his/her driving career. Once you do you won’t want anything else. After owning a Crown Vic and a Town Car I sure wouldn’t.

    • 0 avatar

      I did:

      My Dad had a 90 or 91 TownCar…and it was awful. Mom’s Intrepid felt like a sports car in terms of acceleration and handling. Honestly the Intrepid’s seats were much more comfortable than the couches in the TC.

    • 0 avatar

      I had the honor of learning how to drive behind the wheel of one of these; actually, my dad’s ’84 Grand Marquis to be exact. It was white with blue velour interior and power everything (except for side mirrors, oddly enough). Our family kept that thing for the better part of sixteen years. It handled just about anything we could throw at it.

      Along with all of the average daily driver duties, it accompanied us on several trips from Boston to all over New England, New York and Washington DC. Whenever my father was in the mood to build something (which was often) or just wanted to cover every flat surface of our basement and attic with wood paneling on a whim, he would hit the local hardware stores/lumber yards and fill the trunk and back seat to capacity. Whatever leftover materials didn’t fit would inevitably be lashed to its Landau roof.

      I took my driver’s license test in this same car and eventually drove it to college and my part-time jobs. We loaded the thing up when it was time to move all my brother’s stuff into his dorm room. When there were no spaces available, we riled up campus security by hopping the nearest curb and parking on the sidewalk. The thing guzzled gas but the A/C always blew ice cold air on the hottest summer days and pretty much laughed at the worst snowstorms we ever saw during winter.

      The thing was a real beast and I lost track of how many tires, brake parts and shocks we went through over the years, but it always got the job done without complaint. I dare say it was almost as sturdy as a pickup truck, but with a comfortable ride and acres of space for when friends wanted to tag along.

      Based on my positive experiences, it’s zero mystery to me why just so many people got so attached to these things.

  • avatar

    “Ford (and Chrysler) loved these fake vents in the early 1980s. Why?”

    What are you talking about, Ford STILL loves them! The new Taurus has ’em, the Escape has ’em, the Focus had ’em until very recently. I’ll be a happy man when those god-awful fender vents go away for good.

  • avatar

    So what separates genuine luxury from cheap dollar store-grade luxury?

    The details.

    If the Grand Marquis was anything of a true luxury car, you’d never see anything like, say, a Ford logo blatantly stamped in plain view on the opera lights. This “detail” just screams “CHEAP.”

    The details matter. They always do.

  • avatar

    I vaguely recall my grandparents owning one of these. The metal cruise control buttons on the steering wheel brought that memory to the fore. Old days, happy times.

  • avatar

    Sad to see these go away. Forget Mercedes and BMW, the Marquis is a *real* luxobarge ride.

  • avatar

    Pretty classy car when not covered in grime. My great aunt had one of these in Navy blue. Garage-kept and absolutely pristine. It replaced her ’57 Chevy. My six-year-old self thought the buttons on the steering wheel were super futuristic.

  • avatar

    Invariably, Panthers from this time period have sagging rear springs.

    Need to put the trim tabs down to get the thing to plane out!

  • avatar

    This car has (most likely) been crushed by now.

  • avatar

    “Steering-wheel cruise-control buttons showed a lot of faith in Ford’s ability to make a clockspring and/or sliding electrical contacts work.”

    Actually, the ones in my ’86 Lincoln work perfectly after all those years – but heaven help you if you bump them on a slippery day. The back wheels break loose as the car madly attempts to race up to the pre-set speed. I managed to swerve into soft shoulder, but my friend in a similar year Grand Marquis spun off the highway and rolled the car. I can only assume that while it’s a rear wheel drive car, the speedometer is linked to the front wheels… Instant recipe for disaster.

    But the switch -does- still work to this day. Good work, Ford! :p

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Up until the mid-80’s when the side view mirrors were integrated into the door frame there was a vent window option. Not the mini-vent of the 70’s but a crank open version with a fairly large knob. Perfect for expelling the geezers El Producto after dinner cigar ashes on the way home from the Country Kitchen Buffet.

  • avatar
    Jeff Semenak

    The cruise control was actuated by vacuum from an actual sealed coffee can, sorry no coffee in it, used as an accumalotor painted black sealed with hose taps. It was hooked up to the infamous Variable Venturi carb on the trusty 302 and was accurate to about a 5 m.p.h. spread.It would floor it to speed up, overshoot the speed set and then slow down. Neck massager I guess…LOL

  • avatar

    Slight nit to pick: “These cars were the same under the skin as the LTD and Continental” — not for 1981. The only Continental-badged Panther was the ’80; in ’81 it became the Town Car. The Continental name reappeared in ’81 on the Fox-body car that soldiered on through ’87.

    I had forgotten about these unfortunate tail lights — the wider ones from ’83 are much nicer. (In contrast, I think the ’80-’82 lights on the LTD are better.)

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