TTAC Commentator SupremeBrougham writes:
Hey Sajeev, out of the blue a man calls me up and makes me an offer to take my Chevy HHR off my hands. I made a counter-offer and the deal was done. Hooray, no more car payments, I’ll just keep and drive the Mystique!
But, as luck would have it, the Mystique decided that it didn’t want to run anymore, so I had to have it towed to my local independent shop, and it’s been sitting there for a while. It turns out that the main wiring harness under the hood has disintegrated and needs to be replaced. He has tried calling a number of junkyards and he said they all laughed at him, and said they all cut the harnesses when removing the engines on junk cars, so none are available. At the dealer, they quoted him a price of ~$800 for a new one! He told me that he is going to try and see if he can salvage enough wiring under the hood to try and reconnect the ends together so that the car will run again. Also, I’ve tried looking online for this part but I haven’t had any luck.
As Detroit was skipping a decade or two of car R&D by concentrating on packing increasing numbers of 128-ouncer-ready cup holders and faux-wood trim into big trucks, it became necessary to make it clear to the targeted buyer demographics that these trucks really weren’t, you know, trucks. In fact, they were more about protection from street crime and potholes than anything else, which is where slapping Mercury badges on the Explorer and Oldsmobile badges on the Blazer came in.
YouTube user Bajabusta has done us quite a service by uploading so many old Car & Track road tests from the late 1960s and early 1970s. We watched the ’72 Volkswagen 412 exhibit some scary trailing throttle oversteer last week, and now it’s time to watch a classic Detroit land yacht make its stately way around a test track.
After being away from the quick-turnover self-service junkyards of Northern California (where Guangzhou-bound container ships full of crushed vehicles leave the Port of Oakland every day) for a few months, I decided to check out one of the biggest when visiting from Denver last week. I found a ’62 Comet, a ’65 Fairlane, and a ’72 Mustang huddled together in The Crusher’s waiting room.
I almost forgot; Mercury is dead. Is amnesia a symptom of Mercury poisoning? Was it not just about the most forgettable brand ever? Ask yourself this: how many Mercuries (not counting the German Ford Capri) over its seventy year lifespan were truly memorable? And by memorable, I don’t mean like the time the toilet backed up so bad the shit floated out the bathroom door. And down the hallway. Yes, there’s way too many Mercury memories I’d rather flush away forever. The keepers? Let’s just say that the ’67-’68 Cougar is the best one of that little bunch. Which in some respects, isn’t saying much, so maybe we’d better cover all three of the memorable Mercuries here; a CC triple play:
When my father arrived at the accident scene, I was huddled in the back of Mom’s Nissan King Cab 4×4, head between my knees, just about managing not to cry. My sixteenth birthday present, a slick, five-speed Datsun/Nissan 200SX hatchback, was broken nearly in half and skewed across the middle of Ponset Street. The parked car I’d hit, a Nissan Stanza, had been launched up the curb, past two houses, coming to rest in the lawn of the third house down. We didn’t know to call it drifting back then. We called it powersliding, and I’d been determined to master it on my first legal day behind the wheel. I’d been doing nearly sixty miles an hour, full opposite lock, in some vague control of the two-tone Datsun, when I realized that it was legal to park a car right where I was headed, and that somebody had done so.
The old man appeared in the window of Mom’s truck. I couldn’t look at him.
“You okay?” he inquired.
“Yes, Sir.” There was a pause.
“Don’t expect to drive again. No time soon.”
“No, Sir, I don’t.” And, in fact, it was a year and a half later before I got another car. That car was a 1980 Marquis Brougham Coupe. Blood red on the inside and out. White Landau roof. Two thousand, two hundred, and ninety-nine dollars was what Dad paid. There wasn’t a straight panel on the car, and it ran down the road as crooked as the dealer who called it “a clean, two-owner example.” Maybe we got ripped off, but without the Marquis I wouldn’t have known Tanya.
In the magical half-fortnight festival of full-size Fords known to all and sundry as Panther Appreciation Week, the most fortuitous things can occur for the True Believers. The obstacles before our durable front suspensions are laid low and the rough path is made smooth before the live axles of our minds, which is how I found myself rolling through New York Tuesday afternoon in a 2010 Town Car Signature L.
“Something happened a few years ago,” my driver, Leo, said. “They ain’t as good as they was.”
“I can explain why,” I said, and I meant it. But first, a word about wheelbase.
Ford may have beat its July 2009 number last month, but sales at the Blue Oval brand still fell compared to the month before. Perhaps more embarrassing still is the fact that the recently-canceled Mercury brand managed to move more volume than Lincoln, despite the fact that both brands underperformed compared to both June 2010 and July 2009.
It may not have been the best of cars, but it also was certainly not the worst of cars. While working my college job at Ford Credit, I arranged for my mother to purchase a brand-new, five-speed 1993 Topaz GS coupe for the modest sum of $8995 after all discounts and rebates. Over the next eleven years, she put 97,000 miles on the car. Her Ford “ESP” warranty covered the very few repairs it required up to the 60,000-mile mark, and it required nothing after that besides a set of tires and the occasional oil change.
It was a good, solid car, always starting in the winter, holding up to Mom’s indifferent attitude regarding carwashes (once a season) and interior cleanings (once a year) and surviving three different low-speed impacts with little cosmetic damage. Fuel mileage was reliably in the high twenties and it went to its next owner without so much as a single spot of rust.
Still, if one had to make a case against “the car that killed Mercury”, the Topaz would be, if not on trial, at least standing in the lineup of potential perps. Here’s why.
Without Volvo, Ford sold 170,900 units last month, for a 15 percent increase compared to June 2009, when the industry was mired in one of its worst years ever. Compared to last month, Ford’s sales (like many other automakers’) were down considerably from their 196,671 unit level. That’s yet another indication of the market’s overall weakness, but Ford’s got its own special problems as well. Even after the announced death of Mercury, Lincoln is nosediving, failing to top its June 2009 number of 7,137 units. At 6,318 units, Ford sold fewer Lincolns last month than GM sold Tahoes. Ouch. Meanwhile, Mercury blithely outsold its fellow premium brand by a healthy margin, moving 9,250 units. Otherwise, the news at Ford was “steady.”
If you scan the autoblogosphere on a regular basis, you’ve read some half-hearted eulogies to the best and worst of Mercury. Fair enough, as the Mercury brand deserves every one of those backhanded compliments: sharing too much content with a comparable Fords and (sometimes) sharing too many styling cues with the Lincolns means it couldn’t die off without a dig or two. And it is an easy target: aside from the (lead-sled) post war Yuppie clientele that inspired Mercury’s creation, the original sleeky-Sable and a few old Cougars, this was bound to happen.
But obviously my love for Mercury ( here, here, and here) means I’m not going to bury Mercury, but to praise it. And to make sure the brand remains in our collective consciousness just as long as it’s GM counterpart, Pontiac. Wishful thinking, Mehta?
Detroit has a long list of sins it committed over the decades, but one of the more pernicious ones is name debasement. Think of the Chrysler K-cars wearing the once proud names of New Yorker and Imperial. GM’s history of name debasement and other crimes in naming is extensive. But it’s difficult to come up with a more egregious one than what was done to the Cougar. Better pop a Zoloft, because this is a depressing CC: beige, boxy, generic, feeble, padded half-vinyl roof and tin foil wire wheel covers. But the crimes against names and humanity must be documented for future generations.
I was born in the city
A city with no shame
And when I play guitar
They all know my name
Well, as fate would have it, they only really know my name at the local restaurant where I play lunch gigs on my Gibson CS-336. I don’t consider myself a blues man, but I will go to see the blues played when I have a chance. My plan for last week was simple: drive from Columbus, Ohio to New York City to see Robert Cray perform, and then to head down Memphis way to catch the various acts on Beale Street. Tie in an additional trip to the New York Auto Show afterwards, and we’re talking 4,100 miles and plenty of dicey parking. Might as well rent some cars and do an old-school TTAC rental review or two.
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