Curbside Classic/Auto-Biography: 1971 Mercury Marquis Brougham – I’m Off To The CC Meet-Up, And I’ve Found The Perfect Car For The Trip

(our new COAL didn’t quite get ready to start for today, so if you’re desperate for something to read, I offer you this one first posted 9/27/2014.)

The Second Annual CC Heartland Meet-Up is in Auburn, IN, on Saturday, October 4th. Now you don’t think I would squeeze into one of those flying sardine cans along with 250 other packed-in folks who bulge over the armrests, cough incessantly, chat too much, have screaming babies or smell bad? No waaayyy. I’m going to be traveling in style, even better than first class: Brougham Class. And not just any old Brougham, but one that really typifies the breed in its greatest glory. By the time you read this, I’ll be wafting my way across the vast Western deserts and plains in this 1971 Marquis Brougham. That is, if I make it through the Cascade Mountains with my breakfast intact.

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I would really hate to sully this fine green brocade interior with my similar-colored regurgitations, as we tackle the winding McKenzie Pass early Saturday morning. I’m used to taking this driver’s delight road with a bit of verve in our Acura TSX, but I’m confident Ford’s racing experience at LeMans and such was put to best use in their finer cars during their Total Performance era. Or had that come to a close by 1971? I sure hope not.

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Well, even if the famous Ford-mallow shocks have gone a wee bit soft, and I can’t quite make it through the twisties as fast as in the TSX, I know I’ll make it up in the straights, thanks to the Marquis’ honking standard 429 V8. Even in the base version, it made a still-healthy 320 hp in 1971, and an optional 360 hp version was available for the more serious Brougham-sportsters. But for really dedicated performance freaks, like me, more is better, so it’s too bad Mercury didn’t see fit to offer the Ram-Air version; it would have made a genuine Euro-sport sedan, before that became a schtick. Hood scoops would have broken up the endless expanse of this hood nicely, and the bold “RamAir” badges in appropriate cursive font under a heraldic crest which included two rams would be a nice warning to all comers, as well as cop bait. Maybe it’s just as well.

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Well, if I can’t have 370 under-rated hp, I still had high hopes about its handling, since I assumed this particular Marquis Brougham came with the Holman-Moody-Lotus-Shelby (“HMLS”) competition suspension option, which turned this not-exactly svelte car into a genuine canyon carver. The give-away were the special Goodyear racing black-wall tires that came with package, since no other Brougham would be caught dead in anything other than white-walls. Porsche and BMW drivers in the know kept a healthy distance from any black-wall equipped Marquis.

Well, my hopes were popped when the HMLs script and heraldic crest featuring the likenesses of the four racing legends that collaborated on this utter transformation of the Marquis into a Marquis de Pista de Carrerras. And the somewhat less-rare de Sade option hadn’t been checked either. Well, what can you expect for $175 on the streets of Eugene? Plain old Marquis de Brougham was going to to have to be good enough for the job at hand. And I’ve got some left-over white latex house paint for the tires; can’t show up in Iowa in a Brougham in blackwalls.

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I had to face the painful truth: The ’72 LTD I almost bought last year just didn’t deliver the goods compared to this Marquis, what with its mere 400 CID V8 and Float-O-Matic suspension, even if it did have my favorite color combination and the brocade seats. And it just wasn’t nearly big and comfortable enough for me; I felt cramped and crowded, I hear these LTDs were just stretched Falcons.

This Mercury is something altogether different; a much bigger car in ever dimension, especially width, where it really counts. When you’re stretched out behind its wheel, it just makes you feel like a real…marquis! And isn’t that what it’s all about?

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I’ve finally come to appreciate what Jason Shafer has been drumming on about here for what seems like forever: there really is a huge difference between a mere Ford and a genuine Mercury. I mean, look at this rear seat, compared to the one in the Ford below.

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The poor LTD comes off like a taxi in comparison. I’ve studied these green brocade patterns very closely under a magnifying glass, and I can tell you with great certainty that the Mercury fabric has 38% more fine detail in its pattern, 48% less pattern repetition, and is decidedly more luxurious (slippery), as proven in the critical “sliding across it with one’s bare butt” test.

The seller of this Mercury was a bit hesitant when I insisted on doing that test right there on W. 13 th Avenue, but I always bring some baby wipes to assure the seller that I’m clean, and in Eugene, seeing a disheveled middle-aged man dropping his pants on the sidewalk is hardly worth a second glance. I just won’t consider buying a used Brougham without this critical test, nor should you, which makes buying one in the winter a bit of a challenge in certain parts of the country.

Ford invented its famous “panty cloth” Brougham fabric back in 1965 or so, and its pretty clear that the LTD’s fabric has been de-contented, with a decidedly lower percentage of actual panties in its fabric compared to the Merc. I slid a full 19″ further in the Marquis. Case closed.

Forget about checking anything else; these cars are built to last at least a century without any repairs or maintenance. If it slides; you’re good to go.

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It’s time to grow up and forget about all this Eugene dippie-hippie kumbaya bullshit: life is a zero-sum dog-eat-dog competition, all about accumulating maximum prestige. So why would I be seen in anything that doesn’t have a genuine Marquis Brougham heraldic crest on its side, to proclaim to the world that I am a man of substance, power and refined taste?

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No more stubby, tall, cheap, little boxy furrin’ cars for me! Or CUVs, God forbid; look at how silly this one looks compared to this real car. Or mere LTDs, for that matter. It explains why Stephanie just wouldn’t warm up to the LTD; women like to be seen in prestigious cars as much or more than men, but it has to be the real article, a genuine luxury car, not a cheap imitation brougham wanna-be.

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Yes, this Mercury Marquis is really all about her; given her uncompromising taste for the truly finer things in life, I just knew she would be bowled over. So why then isn’t she coming with me on this trip? The two big sofas would make fine overnight accommodations, and there’s plenty of room for a Porta-Potti in the back floor. And I even bought a cookbook for cooking our meals on the Merc’s big engine, “Manifold Destiny“. I can’t wait to wedge some some canned wienies and tater tots in between the big exhaust manifolds and engine, and give ‘er the spurs for half an hour before supper time. Yummm.

Trying to figure out what women really want is still a headscratcher for me even after 37 years of marriage. Whatever; I’ll make the best of it, alone. Good thing I like to sleep in the buff…all that sensuous brocade.  But you’d think she’d be worried about all the women hitting on me at truck stops when I pull in for the night in my mighty Marquis.

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A little over a year ago, just before the first CC Meet-Up in Iowa, I found a Chevy Caprice Classic Brougham that finally opened my hard little heart to Broughmance;  the perfect car for the trip out. And as all of you that made it to Iowa City will confirm, I arrived only about 20 minutes late, but then that was in a mere Chevy, the perpetual object of disdain by several of those in attendance (you GM haters know who you are). You’d think the Caprice still had a Powerglide. But I know the real reason: that Chevy had a bit of West Coast P-A-T-I-N-A. And that’s a dirty word with these uptight white-brief wearing Midwesterners.  I’m a sensitive soul, and the subtle barbs and put-downs (nobody would ride with me to dinner) stung.

OK; I survived, put on a good face, and licked my wounds all the way home in the Caprice (nobody would buy it out there on account of that patina).  Stephanie flew home alone, her expectations of basking in the reflected glory of my moment in the Iowa sun dashed. My T-level dropped through the floorboards. And you wonder why Stephanie isn’t coming this year? All because I came out in a Chevy, even if it was a so-called Brougham.

And here I thought that magic name was good enough, regardless of what it was affixed to. Ok; I’ve learned my lesson, and But I’m determined to be accepted in the cool CC in-group, just like any highschooler adult. Yes, it’s taken me a while for me to figure it out, but now I know what it will take with you high-falutin’ snobby Mid-Westerners to be treated like a real human being, not some scum-bag left-coast dirty hippie.

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Yes, this time in my genuine Mercury Marquis Brougham, I will win your hushed respect when I glide up soundlessly in front of the ACD Museum in this modern equivalent of a Duesenberg, and maybe even score a seat at the main dinner table. I am a relentless social striver, and will do whatever it takes, including six days of perpetual motion sickness.         Uh, oh; maybe Klockau will actually dare to drive his 2000 Lincoln Town car all the way to Indiana…and it’s a Cartier Edition too.  Oh jeez; now that would be a real prestige pecking-order problem. It’s a bit late to go find a triple-green Continental Mark IV in Eugene.

Naw; he wouldn’t do that….