Curbside Musings: 2003 Mercury Marauder – Delayed Reaction

2003 Mercury Marauder. Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois. Sunday, June 21, 2023.

My older brother is six years and change older than me, and as is the case in many households with children of the same gender, hand-me-downs were the norm in the Dennis family.  It wasn’t all bad.  I have previously written here about how I was subjected to wearing his bell-bottomed trousers from the late 1970s into the mid-’80s, and how I hated it at the time.  (Today, I wear boot-cut and flare jeans almost exclusively.)  I emulated other styles of his with glee, to varying degrees of success.

My dad was quite a bit older than my mom and was already in his mid-40s when I was born.  He was effectively retired by the time I graduated from high school.  I loved him very much, though there were certain things about Dad that I found personally unrelatable.  In addition to being a generation older than most of my peers’ dads, he was also a west African immigrant, very studious and busy with his university lesson plans, and not at all what mainstream media depicted as the norm for the all-American father.  I later came to realize that his differences were positives in many ways, as my dad was also had the wisdom of extra life experience, in addition to being innately intuitive, highly empathic, and capable of meaningful conversation.

2003 Mercury Marauder. Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois. Sunday, June 21, 2023.

I’m also the child of a mother of European descent, and resemble neither side of my extended family in any obvious ways outside of a passing facial resemblance to my maternal grandfather, as well as being his height in my adulthood.  All of this meant that when I was growing up, my older brother became almost like a de facto father figure to me in many ways, and the closest thing to a hero with whom I could truly identify and try to emulate.

He was the Camaro to my Vega, and the epitome of teenage manliness with his taste for alternative rock, cool clothes, and in beautiful women.  I wanted so much to be like him and told myself that, someday, I would be.  When I had finally hit adolescence, I found myself recycling many of his ideas, years after he had entertained them.  Six years can seem like an eternity to a youth, and a sizeable percentage of a child’s life up to any given point.

2003 Mercury Marauder. Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois. Sunday, June 21, 2023.

By the time my brother had moved into more international, upscale attire, I had begun rocking his former style of distressed, bleach-splotched jeans (which I’ve seen on some youths recently), bolo ties, and even some of his old t-shirts he had left behind from when he had gone off to college.  Teenage fashion can change with lightning speed.  I don’t think my peers necessarily saw these outfits as being outdated (my brother always seemed very cutting-edge), but mine was definitely recycled fashion.  I was even playing and enjoying much of his old music.

When the reborn Mercury Marauder arrived for ’03 looking like Darth Vader’s police car, I had a strange sense of déjà vu.  “I’ve seen you before,” I said to myself as I remembered the well-liked and dearly departed, rear-drive Chevy Impala SS from 1994 – ’96.  The funny thing is that the age gap between the last SS and the first Marauder was about the same as between my brother and me.  And all the basic ingredients between the two cars were the same.  Take a full-sized sedan built on a platform that dated from the late ’70s, give it all the powertrain and suspension goodies from the police editions, paint most examples monochromatic black, affix a throwback name to it, and sell it to the public.

2003 Mercury Marauder brochure cover, as sourced from the internet.

In the case of the new Marauder, it was powered by Ford’s 4.6 liter V8 with 302 horsepower and 318 lb.-ft. of torque.  With its standard four-speed automatic transmission and 4,100 curb weight, it was able to go from 0-60 miles per hour in 7.5 seconds.  This was a full second slower than the ’94 Chevrolet Impala SS whose concept it had borrowed.  The quarter mile arrived in 15.5 seconds at 91 mph, per Car And Driver.  According to Consumer Guide, the example they tested was capable of just over 22 miles per gallon on the highway, and was closer to 17 in their test loop, though no one was buying one of these for economy.  The Marauder had a sport suspension and a 3.55 limited-slip differential, as well as an aluminum driveshaft.  The interior came equipped with front bucket seats, a center console, and a floor shifter.

2003 Mercury Marauder. Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois. Sunday, June 21, 2023.

A total of just over 11,000 Marauders were built between 2003 and ’04, with most of them (71%) being first-year models.  (This was against almost 77,000 Chevy Impala SSs produced between 1994 and ’96.)  The ’03 was initially offered in a Black, with Dark Blue Pearl and Silver Birch becoming available later in the year; Something like 90% of the ’03s were black like our featured car, and that’s the paint color I most closely associate with them.  Another 3,214 Marauders were built for ’04, with 1,237 finished in Black as the most popular color, edging out 997 painted in Silver Birch, and 980 in Toreador Red.  I think I’ve seen a few in the silver color, but not the red or the blue, that I can recall.  (Maybe I had thought any red or blue ones were Grand Marquises with aftermarket paint and accessories if and when I had seen them.)

About its name, I get that Lincoln-Mercury was looking for something butch and manly to call their reborn muscle car, but “Marauder”?  It may have “roamed about and raided in search of plunder” (thank you, Merriam-Webster), but it seems Mercury never found that plunder with such low sales and brief tenure.  I can somewhat excuse the appellation for the original Marauders of the ’60s and 1970, when Mercury was on an alliterative roll with their M-themed model names, such as the Meteor, Montego, and Montclair.  In the early Aughts, though, wasn’t there something else they could have come up with?  “Meteor” might have worked slightly better on this car, given the meaty, two-ton presence of this car.

2003 Mercury Marauder. Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois. Sunday, June 21, 2023.

My initial impression of the latter-day Marauder was that of a “me-too” Impala SS, though I loved that Ford had thought enough of GM’s idea and still had a RWD platform in production so as to have been able to bring it to production.  (The Marauder show car from 2002 was a two-door convertible.  Let that alt-world coolness sink in for a second.)

Even in the six years between when my brother and I had taken the same classes with the same teachers, there would invariably be at least one of them who would call me by his name.  I don’t even think we looked (or look) that much alike outside of sharing a general sort of family resemblance.  Twins we weren’t; My younger brother and I looked much more similar as kids.  Ultimately, my older brother and I had carved out our own, individual personas, like the Impala SS and Marauder, even if one had a six- or seven-year head start over the other.  Hopefully, not that many people thought of me as an also-ran version of my brother because, in the end, there was room enough for both of us to exist at our high school, even if at completely different times.

Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, June 21, 2023.