John Johnson always fascinated me. Married to my grandmother’s older sister, Margie, he worked in the oil business in Houston, Texas. While far from being a Jock Ewing, the stories he told in his thundering baritone voice always fascinated me. His ability to tell a good story also fascinated me as did the tattoos of topless women he had on both forearms. But what fascinated me most was his big Mercury Marquis.
The Mercury was used sparingly, although John and Margie always drove it for their annual summer trip from their house in Cut and Shoot, Texas, near Conroe, to my grandparent’s house just south of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The trip was generally about 13 to 14 hours and John always drove it straight through, stopping only for fuel. That Mercury would always do it in comfort and without any fuss. And, the air conditioner was always on full blast.
Oddly, despite my utter fascination (infatuation?) with their silver Mercury, I never once saw it move. Upon arrival at my grandparent’s house, John parked it and only wanted to sit outside drinking coffee, smoking his pipe, and shooting the bull. Margie wanted to talk to my grandmother and didn’t particularly care to be with John.
Incidentally, John’s parking the Mercury in the grass always peeved my grandfather relentlessly. After their departure, he would always fuss about the four dead spots in his grass from the tires. I can remember him saying “He drives that son of a bitch all the way up here without stopping and those hot tires kill my damn grass.” As he was so concerned about less than four square feet of his ten acre property, I suspect his level of excitement over seeing John and Margie was less than my grandmother’s.
I never knew what model year John and Margie’s Mercury was (I did know it was a 1975 to 1978 model), but they loved that car. John said it was the best car Ford ever built, and they were crazy to stop building a real full-size car such as that Marquis.
It occurred to me during one of their annual trips during the late 1980′s the Mercury was beginning to get a few years on it. I had never realized it, but as the teenaged mind is the embodiment of bewildering, I am not surprised it took so long to finally make the realization. So I asked John about it. He got started off on a tangent of a story, that went something like this:
“Yeah, Margie loves that car. Some guy broke into the shed a while back, even got past the iron bars on the door and windows. She saw him out there, loaded up the 12 gauge with birdshot and paid him a visit. Shot him in the ass as he was standing on the boat eye-balling the Mercury. Did you know she keeps a 0.38 in her purse?”
To a 15 year old, this was a most awesome story. So I blasted into the house and asked Aunt Margie about it. She responded, in her smooth silky voice, telling me this while barely containing a laugh:
“Damn that John, he wasn’t supposed to talk about that. That guy broke into the shed, what was I supposed to do? I think I surprised him. That bum bled all over Johnny’s bass boat and then left a bloody butt streak down the side of my Mercury from his trying to get away. I didn’t think I would ever get the blood off my Mercury!”
Even as I proofread this, I have to remind myself they lived in Texas and many things there were more streamlined in the 1980′s. Having been to their house a couple of times, I knew they had an oasis of nice amongst some not-so-nice. As I tried to ask Margie more, she offered up new Mercury information:
“Did you know that is the second Mercury like that we’ve had? The first one was identical. We had just bought it and got it home. The dealer asked us to bring it back in a few days for something. On the way there, I got hit and it shoved me and the Mercury into a concrete wall. I had to kick the window out to leave the car as the doors wouldn’t open. It was ruined and it had 36 miles on it. The dealer just gave us another one since they hadn’t cashed the check yet.”
John and Margie kept their Mercury until 1990 or 1991, when they traded it for a new Grand Marquis. John died a year or so later, and Margie traded it for a Lincoln Town Car. She said the newer Grand Marquis was too small for her 5’10″ frame.
This story is true, although I did change “Margie’s” name. There are some times when truth is better than fiction.
I had not thought of any of this for years until I spotted the featured 1976 Mercury Marquis. While John and Margie had a Grand Marquis, the only difference was a little trim, a few badges, and about $1500 in 1976, as the base price for this Marquis was $5063.
This Marquis is a find for anyone predisposed to wanting such a wonderful cruiser. What sweetens the find is this particular Marquis was for sale (if you hadn’t noticed already) and has only 48,500 miles on it. As far as Mercury’s go, this one is pretty plain, having the base 180 horsepower 400 cubic inch (6.6 liter) V8 and no obvious power options on the inside. As I have a weak spot for big, substantial cars with lots of road-hugging weight, I would love to have it.
The Marquis line was a throw-back to the last redesign in 1973. It was mildly updated for 1974 with a more intense update for 1975. It remained unchanged through its end in 1978, when it was then downsized to the new Panther platform in 1979.
The name “Marquis” replaced the entry level Mercury Monterey for 1975. Mercury sold 28,212 of the base Marquis sedans in 1976. For all derivatives of Marquis riding the 124″ wheelbase, they sold approximately 98,000 cars, excluding wagons. In addition to the standard 400 cubic inch V8, one could still obtain a 460 cubic inch (7.5 liter) V8 to help pull around your 4500 to 4700 pound car.
Does this sound heavy? It’s comparable to a new Honda Odyssey minivan.