QOTD: What Muscle Car Couldn't Pull It Off?
As the heady 1950s horsepower race transitioned into the far-out 1960s pony and muscle car wars, buyers were able to gorge themselves on a buffet of choices. The only question needing an answer was: how wild do you want it?
If there’s money in your pocket, well, step right up to more horsepower and brawn than you can ever hope to handle, young man.
Seemingly overnight, Detroit felt the urgent need to muscle car all the things. Compact economy car? Better drop a 340 or 383 cubic incher in that light, skinny-tired sucker. Plush, gargantuan family sedan with soft springs? Meh, that thing can probably be made to haul ass. Add some cubes!
Budding environmentalists clutched their chests and reached for their puffers. Still, amid the smorgasbord of tire-shredding excess, some models made you wonder: was this really necessary?
Okay, there’s several ways of looking at this. First, there are the models that could claim some performance bona fides, but just didn’t seem right for the part. Others offered up all the flash, but next to no dash. The post-smog era 1970s is your go-to decade for those models. Dodge Magnum, anyone? Mustang II? Opera-windowed third-generation Charger?
Who are you fooling, buddy?
As easy as it is to criticize the wannabe muscle car with nothing under the hood, I’m going to have to go with the first option; models that joined the race simply because the automaker felt it had to.
While there’s plenty of options to choose from, one model always stuck out like a bloated, overweight thumb at the top of the Mercury lineup, which isn’t an automaker that immediately springs to mind when one thinks of the muscle car era. Mercury played a role in the fun, sure. The Cougar gave classy Mustang lovers exactly what they desired, and the intermediate Cyclone eventually evolved into a snarling, NASCAR-worthy racer with available 429 Super Cobra Jet and Drag Pack options.
Above it, however, was a model already associated with your sort-of well-off father-in-law; a model poised to become one of the quintessential landau-topped barges of the 1970s. The Marquis.
By 1969, the Marquis had adopted the faux Lincoln look that paid Mercury big dividends for years, with retractable headlights, a vinyl top, and no shortage of cubic inches under the hood. Sensing the Cougar and Cyclone weren’t enough (can you imagine an era where not having a full-size muscle car would be harmful to a brand?), Mercury planners went to town turning the Marquis into something it wasn’t.
The result: the 1969 Mercury Marauder X-100.
While the front clip remained the same, the two-door Marauder sported buttressed C-Pillars (a la Dodge Charger), matte black hood and trunklid, deep-dish sport wheels and completely fake rear fender vents. Rear fender skirts only added to the vehicle’s visual bulk. Coming or going, it looked ungainly. But it also looked menacing, and that was half the battle.
Under the hood, Marauder X-100 buyers received the base engine from the model’s Cyclone sibling hooked to a standard three-speed automatic. Boasting 360 horsepower and a very generous 480 lb-ft of torque, the X-100’s 429 V8 guzzled fuel by the tanker load as it strained to motivate 4,400 pounds of Detroit steel.
Its acceleration wouldn’t impress a modern-day family sedan driver, and few rivals quaked in fear of being swept from their performance pedestal when the X-100 rolled up to a stoplight. 0-60 miles per hour times flew by in a tick under eight seconds, with the quarter-mile mark arriving in 16 seconds (at 86 miles per hour). It was as good as the Marquis got, and it cost a pretty penny. Buyers yawned.
Production figures claim 5,635 X-100s moved off the assembly line in 1969, with another 2,646 in 1970. After that, Mercury was done trying. The world just wasn’t ready for a plush, personal luxury coupe muscle car — and it still isn’t. At least, not from a domestic automaker.
So, that’s my pick for a muscle car that landed with a thud, setting few hearts aflame. Nice try, but not necessary. (Would I own one now, just for the quirky privilege? Damn right. Let me get OPEC on the line.)
Now it’s your turn: What “muscle car” would you add to this list?
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