Rare Rides: The Practical and Luxurious 1979 Mercury Zephyr Villager

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the practical and luxurious 1979 mercury zephyr villager

Today’s Rare Ride comes from a time when the family wagon segment was alive and well and Ford was eager to use its brand new Fox platform on as many vehicles as possible.

Presenting the wood-clad Mercury Zephyr Villager wagon, from 1979.

The Zephyr name originated as a line of luxurious Lincoln vehicles in the Thirties and Forties, before being borrowed by Ford of Europe for a small family car in 1950. It returned for domestic use via Mercury in 1978, as Ford needed a name for the slightly more upscale sibling of its new Fairmont.

By the late Seventies, having a competitive compact car in one’s lineup was vital. Fuel economy regulations and an oil crisis put miles per gallon at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Ford took a look at its lineup circa 1974, and saw that all of its small models would need replacement around the same time. After some intense product development, Fairmont and Zephyr were ready as successors to the Maverick and Comet twins.

Given the need to appeal to a broad consumer base, Fairmont and Zephyr were offered in two-door styles as coupe and sedan, and with four doors as sedan and wagon. Thrifty customers chose an inline-four engine of 2.3 liters displacement, while the middling engine option was the Thriftpower 3.3L inline-six. Those with fatter wallets could select from the 255 or 302 Windsor V8s. Transmissions on offer through the model’s history were three- and four-speed manuals, or a three speed automatic.

In the Mercury lineup, the Zephyr was placed between the smaller Bobcat ( Pinto) and the larger Monarch (Granada). Zephyr stood out from Fairmont via horizontal design tail lamps (Fairmont used vertical) and its quad-headlamp arrangement; double the number on Fairmont. Ford customers had to step up to Fairmont Futura to receive four headlamps on their Fox. Wagon variants were available without wood as a base model, or in wood-swathed Villager trim.

Successful in their time as mass-market family mobiles, the writing was on the wall for rear-drive economy cars by the early Eighties. Customers wanted even more efficiency, as well as front-drive safety, in their compacts. Thus, 1983 was the last year for the Fairmont and Zephyr; in 1984 they gave way to the new Tempo and Topaz.

Today’s 1979 Zephyr Villager is a loaded example, in black over black. High-line options include cruise control, air conditioning, and the largest 302 V8. With 75,000 miles on the odometer, it’s yours for just $2,750.

[Images: seller]

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  • HotPotato HotPotato on Jun 10, 2020

    Ye gads, these were awful. There was a guy who ran a super-cut-rate car rental joint in my town with a mostly-Fairmont fleet. As the owner of a succession of terrible imported cars that I got to visit in the shop now and then, I had the pleasure of driving every one of his Fairmonts over the years, from a black-on-whorehouse-red V8 (not fast) to a baby-blue-on-blue I6 (very slow) to a white-on-poop I4 (glacial). No steering effort, feel, or self-centering. Every body panel flimsy enough you could see it moving as you drove. Terrifying "brakes." And awful MPG: I'm sure whatever I was saving in daily rates was being made up at the pump. But at least they still did interior colors in those days: seats, carpets, door cards, and dash were all color-matched to a wide variety of available colors. That one old-car novelty was my small consolation in driving these dogs.

  • Tassos Ι never shop from these ripoff, truly junk food gas station minimarts unless my life depends on it, meaning just COFFEE if I got to have it or I will fall asleep on the wheel. When I go on a long trip, I carry a thermos of coffee plus more than enough frozen water bottles with me. only IF I run out of those, do I stop and get coffee as above.Actually there is a smarter way, bring your own cans of pop (WITH caffeine) in the car and just get a big paper cup full of ice (usually for free) at your ripoff joint.As far as hunger, I usually carry with me a box of granola bars, and even more convenient, some hard candy.There is no need whatsoever to prove your economic and nutritional illiteracy by shopping at these god-awful gas station minimarts.And for god's sake do not get any Starbucks or equally RIPOFF coffee. I buy my Maxwell house 30 oz cans at Krogers, before Biden I could get them for $3.99 (!!!) and they last me for more than a month (200 small cups or so, as they say on the can). After Biden, they go for no less than $6.99. STILL a great deal compared to the two measly Starbucks coffees you get for the same $.You take care of the pennies, and the MILLIONS will take care of themselves. I found this slightly modified adage so true in real life!
  • Xidex wow so much hate here lol.. I have mostly owned Fords my whole life and have never had any issue with any of them whether its a car or a truck. They must be doing something right as they sell the most trucks and do well with the SUV's. My last car was a 2013 SHO Taurus which just recently got traded in due too age and mileage. That car never missed a beat and I was very happy with it. My most current Ford is a 2020 F150 and my wife has a 22 Bronco, zero issues. but I sure get a good giggle when i speak to family who has all gone to Hyundai (they have never been loyal to any one brand, just buy what they like). Dads sonata is on its 2nd motor after owning it for 2 weeks. sun roof came loose and and and...Sad thing is i do prefer a sedan so unfortunately will have to look at other companies but there isn't anything out there that really interests me (well anything i can afford)But what Ford and GM have done make perfect sense. You cant appease every buyer out there but when the car buyers are few and those few are probably all loyal to Brand X then why would you waste the resources to sell to a limited market.
  • ToolGuy I enjoy a good seven course meal (nine is pretentious; first class on the Titanic enjoyed 11 courses but we know how that went). Some say that a nice full course meal should take 4-6 hours. But because I drive an EV and prefer not to charge at voltages over 125, I can really take my time and savor my meals while traveling.
  • ToolGuy "creating a much longer wheelbase" Mmmmm...
  • ToolGuy • Nice photography.• Electric supercharger is cool.• 48 volts is a LOT and would make me very nervous if I were an electrical engineer employed by an automaker. 😉