Curbside Classic and Automotive History: Good Lord! The 1972 Mercury Marquis and its Flirtation With Infamy

 Mercury 1972 Marquis fq 2(All pictures of the ’72 Mercury used for this history were submitted to the Cohort by 625C2)

The original (and superior) version of Hawaii Five-O was broadcast on CBS from 1968 to 1980.  Encompassing 279 episodes during that time, the show was an excellent vehicle for enhancing tourism to the 50th state as it brought an otherwise unfamiliar place into everyone’s home.  It also served as an excellent platform for Ford Motor Company advertising.

If one watches old episodes of the show, Ford’s product placement was deliriously blatant.  However, observant eyes will notice that Danno, Chin-Ho, and Kono (or Ben or Duke) drove the latest full-sized offering from Ford in each season.  However, there was one exception.

1968 park lane h50

Jack Lord drove his original ’68 Mercury Park Lane from the first show in 1968 (he drove a ’67 Park Lane two-door in the pilot episode) through the end of Season 6.  That’s quite a long time.  However, diligent research has shown that Ford had tried to correct what they viewed as an unsavory situation.

jack lord mad

Various accounts reveal Lord to have quite the strong and insistent personality and he wasn’t averse to taking career risks.  As an example, after appearing as Felix Lieter in the original James Bond film, Dr. No, he insisted on being billed equal to Sean Connery in the next installment.  The production company scoffed at the idea, thus jettisoning Lord from that role.

However, from the beginning of Hawaii Five-O, Lord’s creative energy was welcomed if not his fanaticism about the choice of vehicles used by various characters, be they regular or one time appearances.  He was also adamant they drive Ford products.

 68 park laneimage source:  www.imcdb.org

The ’68 Mercury met with Lord’s approval due to a variety of reasons.  The color was appropriately menacing; the four-door body style was expected for law enforcement; the upscale Park Lane trim reflected McGarrett’s higher salary grade; and the overall shape of the car projected a sophisticated litheness that Lord believed his Steve McGarrett character must possess.  Lord, a serial owner of Cadillac’s, quickly developed a fondness for this Mercury and Mercury’s in general.

Incidentally, this Mercury still exists and has been restored to its original condition.

Mercury 1972 Marquis f

Yet as time marched on, the producers and Ford Motor Company felt the need for Lord’s character to enter into the Sensational Seventies.  As the ’68 Mercury Park Lane was now four years old, various parties felt it was time for an upgrade.  In keeping with the black Mercury theme, a ’72 Marquis was brought to the set for the beginning of Season Five.  Executive producer Leonard Freeman was present for the unveiling of the new ’72 Mercury.

With the entire crew being present, one forward-thinking cameraman turned on a camera to film the entire episode.  Here is the transcript:

Lord:  “Leonard, what the hell is this?  Is McGarrett getting a different car?”

Freeman:  “Yes, Jack.  The current Mercury is four years old.  That is ancient for a car; the new has worn off this decade, so we need to keep contemporary.  Besides, it will be your new ride to and from the studio, as per your contract.”

Mercury 1972 Marquis badge

Lord:  “I’m not real worried about what I’m commuting in.  Lenny, my concern is two-fold:  first, we have umpteen shots of the ’68 doing various things and some of these shots are recycled between shows like some of our local character actors.  Using this car will compromise our continuity as you’ll keep plugging the ’68 into stock shots; do you really want McGarrett to leave in a ’72, be shown en route in a ’68, and arrive in a ’72 model?  I doubt it.  Second, the look of the car is great, but it just doesn’t fit.”

Freeman:  “What are you talking about?  And who is in charge of this show, anyway?”

Lord:  “Leon, I’m looking out for you, bruddah.  Think about it from a consistency point of view…

Mercury 1972 Marquis fender

“McGarrett has a slim waist line and a good head of hair.  The ’68 continues that theme.  This ’72 is a great looking car and is a bold statement from Mercury.  If I didn’t already have seven Cadillac’s, I would really take a look at one of these for myself.  However, it is too front heavy in appearance to continue the theme of McGarrett’s physical fitness and athleticism; this Mercury would make a great car for, say, Wo Fat or some other mafia goon, but not a cop.  It’s got a certain Greek temple aura and charisma about it.  By no means a negative, it just doesn’t fit.”

Freeman:  “So what you are saying is…..?”

Lord:  “It isn’t svelte enough, Len.  Besides, what is it about this thing?  You slam on the brakes and it bobs back and forth for three minutes after it stops.  I might as well be riding in that canoe you keep showing in the closing credits.

Freeman:  “That bobbing, as you call it, is what produces such a wondrous ride in these Mercury’s.  I bet it rides smoother than a Mercedes.  Besides, it also adds a certain dramatic flair.  Think about it:  You are chasing some bad apple, and after a ferocious car chase they wreck and you come screeching to a halt.  Why, that gentle swaying will help emphasize how hard you worked to capture the bad-guy as well as insinuate how fast you were going.  It’s a win-win.”

Lord:  “Leonard, I don’t care if you could cut a diamond  or perform circumcisions in the back seat, the look just doesn’t work.  Let’s wait a year or two.”

lord with mercury

And so they did.  In 1974, Steve McGarrett was assigned a brand new Mercury Marquis Brougham.  In comparison to the ’72, it was a touch more windswept and, arguably, lithe in appearance.

But Jack Lord was right in his assessment of the 1972 Mercury Marquis.  It looked great but it did come across as a little too disproportionate for the on-camera needs of McGarrett’s car.  However, in a sly move, the show did keep the ’72 Marquis offered up by Ford as they hated to refuse a $5,000 car they could put to good use.

 

It was used as a stunt vehicle for the McGarrett character as seen in this video clip.  This clip also reinforces Lord’s concern about compromised production values when various cars were used.  The eagle-eyed among us will notice the ’68 Park Lane, the ’74 Marquis, and a ’72 Marquis all make appearances in this chase.  Lincoln fans will also revel in the appearance of a one-year only style ’74 Continental in this clip plus the ardent anti-brougham legion might ultimately cheer out loud.

This clip literally has something for everyone.

Mercury 1972 Marquis r

When looking at this ’72 Marquis, it falls in line with what your author has opined previously.  Mercury was likely at its most autonomous and stylistically creative from around 1966 or 1967 to around 1975.  The styling was an obvious combination of both Ford and Lincoln, but without coming across as a bloated Ford or dehydrated Lincoln.  It was pure Mercury.

Mercury 1972 Marquis side

This ’72 Marquis Brougham is a wonderful example of how Mercury was on top of its game in 1972.  Sales were healthy with over 38,000 of the pillared hardtops such as this one being sold; the Marquis Brougham line, in its four distinct body styles, sold over 91,000 copies.  The slightly less plush Marquis sold over 23,000 copies.

A little known fact is this platform, also used by the full-sized Ford, is Ford Motor Company’s second best-selling automotive platform of all time – second only to the Model T.  So, yes, these hit quite the sweet spot and there was a definite appetite for them.

In the extensive research performed for this article, one common critique of automobiles from this era kept coming to mind.  It seems so often the words “whale”, “boat”, “barge”, or “land-yacht” are derisively used to label cars such as this Mercury.  So let’s explore this in more depth, as seen in the table below.

 

Example Curb Weight, lbs Length, in Spread, lbs/in
1972 Mercury Marquis Brougham 4436 225 19.72
1968 Mercury Park Lane 3992 220 18.15
1974 Mercury Marquis Brougham 4853 226.7 21.41
2014 Dodge Caravan 4510 202.8 22.24
2014 Ford Taurus 4054 202.9 19.98
2014 Dodge Charger SXT 3996 199.9 19.99
2014 Honda Odyssey EX 4470 202.9 22.03
1996 Buick Roadmaster 4211 215.8 19.51

 

When reviewing this table, it is useful to keep a few key elements in mind:

  1. The ’68, ’72, and ’74 Mercury’s had huge (and heavy) V8 engines of 428, 429, and 460 cubic inches (7.0, 7.0, and 7.5 liters), respectively.
  2. The Charger and Taurus are base or mid-range models with a V6.
  3. The Odyssey EX is one of the lighter versions available.
  4. The Buick was thrown in as a wild card.

While this is enough fodder for another article unto itself, my point is a ’72 Mercury Marquis Brougham wasn’t the porky monstrosity some might think.  Rather, it was faithfully fulfilling a customer driven mission during the heights of the Great Brougham Epoch.

It is also lighter per inch of length than is a new Taurus.  Additionally, the Mercury is undoubtedly a shade wider, thus yielding an overall density less than the Taurus.

Mercury 1972 Marquis int

Automotive tastes wax and wane throughout time, such as the personal luxury coupe and full-sized van crazes.  The brougham contingent is no exception.  However, to accurately gauge this Mercury, one has to look at this Marquis not through the prism of time but through the lens of the year of manufacture.  1972 was still before the pinnacle of all that is brougham.  Plus, there was obviously a market for them given the sales figures and how 73.5% of full-sized Mercury automobiles in 1972, regardless of trim level, were equipped with a vinyl roof.  This Mercury is a reflection of its time, much like obtrusive consoles and huge wheels are today.

Since the beginning of the automobile, there is one force that has been in affect regardless of time period and it’s an element with which this Marquis has an abundance:  comfort.  Say what you wish about cars such as this Marquis, but the manner in which it will coddle ones posterior generally isn’t a complaint.

So while Jack Lord passed on using a ’72 Mercury Marquis, did this Marquis truly lose out on earning a spot in history?  I don’t think so.

Mercury 1972 Marquis emblem