Curbside Classic: 1970 Mercury Marauder X-100 – Bootylicous

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Memorable (def): 1. worth remembering 2. easily remembered

Maurauder (def): one who raids for booty

In my 1967-1968 Cougar CC, I claimed there were only three Mercuries truly worth remembering. The Marauder X-100 wasn’t on the list, and many of you protested. Fortunately, there are two definitions for the word, and the Marauder is certainly easily remembered; more like impossible to forget. And what exactly is it memorable for? Its booty. So how could we possibly not honor that?

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Marauder is a bit of an unlikely name for a big Mercury. It appeared in 1963.5 to distinguish the semi-fastback roofed Mercs from the reverse-angled Breezeway models (CC here). NASCAR racing made it a necessity, and it presumably brought some suggestion of sportiness to the Monterey, Montclair and Park Lane. And if you were one of the maybe seven folks who paid big bucks to get a genuine eight-barrel 427 in your Marauder, you were obviously not into the herd mentality. But that’s not the key to success, and the name disappeared again in 1965, as the sporty affectation apparently didn’t exactly suit the staid Mercuries all that well after all: “I am so torn between buying a GTO or a Marauder…”

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After a four year absence off raiding for booty, the Marauder reappeared in 1969, showing off its newly-acquired embarrassment of riches. It was an oddly timed and predictably unsuccessful attempt to compete in a market segment that was not only long in tooth, but utterly moribund. The full-sized “muscle-sporty” segment had its birth with the 1955 Chrysler 300, and within a few years expanded to the popular price segment in the early sixties, like the Impala SS, among others. It was a heavily GM-dominated field, as the original Marauder’s demise soon proved.

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But when the new 1964 intermediate muscle cars appeared (GTO etc.), the full-sized progenitors quickly became dinosaurs, in more way than one. What little relevance they once had now evaporated. The segment leader, the Impala SS, was a distinct model from 1963 through 1967, but reduced to a trim option only through its final years in 1968 and 1969. That must have been the cue for Mercury to create the Marauder to glean the Super Sport crumbs.

I realize that this 1969-1970 Marauder holds an exalted place for lovers of big and distinctive booties, so I kind of hate to pop the big bubble. The Marauder, like so many easily remembered Mercuries was just another Ford with heavy makeup. Very heavy, in the case of the X-100.

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Here are the two Blue Oval blood brothers: the Marauder on top, and its near-twin, the Galaxie XL below. The Marauder is nothing more than the XL with a Marquis front end, and a few trim details, like the fake vent and a cheap fake crackle-finish plastic slab that encases the tail lights.

Marauder rear

But the most distinctive difference was the matte black paint applied to that whole rear of the X100 (optional on the base Marauder).

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So why isn’t our featured Marauder wearing those black Lycra tights to really set off its hind assets? because this one is a 1970 model X-100, and the matte black paint on the rear deck was a delete option for 1970. Boo hoo.

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Which also explains why there’s no leather, which was standard on the ’69.

So let’s try to recreate an authentic picture in our minds what these big bad babies were like to drive. Now I could contribute my own memories of a summer’s worth of illicit marauding in a very similar ’69 Ford LTD coupe. But that didn’t have the Marauder’s standard performance handling package suspension or the Marauder X-100′s big 429 V8. Nevertheless, it’s hard to conjure up any memories of even a hint of sportiness in the perpetually understeering LTD, which was a hallmark of Ford products. It was their way of keeping you safe.

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But who’s going to want to believe the drug-addled memories of an eighteen-year old joy-riding the back roads of Baltimore County with no fewer than three girls sharing the endlessly-wide front seat with him? (details revealed when I find a ’69 LTD coupe). But wait! I happen to have a December 1968 issue of Car and Driver which curiously features two road tests of the two most polar opposite cars available that year: the tiny 1.1 L 60 hp Corolla Sprinter coupe and the 7.0 L 360 hp Marauder x-100. These ultimate extremes of trying to turn pedestrian sedans into “sporty” coupes both had predictable results.

The reputation of C/D in the old days of ripping apart cars (literally and metaphorically) in their tests is rather over-stated. The Marauder is treated rather gently, despite the predictable shortcomings of its sporty pretensions. Considering that the brand new canted-valve 429 engine was still in its smog-tainted sunshine years, with high compression heads, a big four barrel carb and un-catalyzed genuine dual exhausts, performance might be expected to be…memorable. It wasn’t. Zero to sixty came in 7.8 seconds, and the quarter mile in a leisurely 16.0 secs @ 86.0 mph.

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And it gets better yet: C/D’s observed fuel mileage: 10 – 13 mpg on premium fuel. Yes, the good old days. Hey, it was fun having to stop every two hundred miles to refill the 24 gallon tank – the gas jockey did it for you. The Marauder’s 4400 lbs test weight undoubtedly played a role.

But there is a pleasant surprise: the Marauder handles reasonably well, for what it is: a big fat Ford two-door sedan; not a sporty car. C/D makes that clear: “rather than being a two-ton sports car as the ad men would have you believe, the Marauder is fashionable transportation – which is not the same thing”. While sporty characteristics might at least be somewhat timeless, fashion hardly ever is, all to obviously.

But the steering comes in for heavy-handed criticism: numb and slow; requiring a full four turns lock to lock. And it loses its power assist when parking, no less. How inconvenient! C/D helpfully suggests that Ford consider buying their power steering components from GM.

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And C/D and I share a similar complaint with the Marauder’s instrument panel. It looks like it should be on an Econoline or a Maverick. What a cheap, love-less, and uninspired block of plastic and vinyl-wood. A couple of tiny, pathetic instruments are lost in a smattering of randomly mis-placed knobs and buttons. The seventies were off to a good start.

marauder 1964 dash

It was all-too obvious where the cost-cutting was taking place compared to the 1964 Marauder’s dash (above).  The ’63-’64 Marauder may not have been the muscle car extraordinaire, but at least this interior looks like a rape and pillaging sort of guy might actually be at home behind the wheel. The X-100? Grandpa heading to the Knights of Columbus.

C/D sums it up: “The Marauder just goes to show you can’t judge a car by its name. Strip away the scheming of market researchers and the babbling of ad writers and you end up with a huge, semi-lethargic, but reasonably competent Detroit cruiser…”  Well, the Ford  market researchers got it wrong, if they thought the market was looking for this: sales were tepid (15k) in 1969, and dropped off the cliff in 1970, before it was sent packing.

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Of course, Marauders can’t be kept at bay forever, and sure enough it returned for its third plundering in 2003. Also weighing 4400 lbs, the blacked-out Grand Marquis now sported a warmed-over 302 hp 4.6, and enough other goodies to knock off seven second runs to sixty, and a fifteen second quarter mile (stock), still none too overly impressive.

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I know it’s a favorite among the Panther crowd, which is well represented in these parts. But it also bombed out in the sales charts, and after a run of 11,053 of them, the Marauder was put to rest, for the third and final time. And our booties are safe at last.