It snowed all day on Halloween this year in Chicago. In fact, not only did the snow accumulate, but it remained overnight for the first day of November. I’m guessing that few Chicagoans saw this coming from a couple of weeks prior, but it was still heartening to see families with young children in my neighborhood trudging through the precipitation on October 31st in costumes (including a giant, inflatable pink unicorn! sorry, no pictures of that…) for an activity that could more accurately be labeled “Trick or Sleet“.
Regardless, when I saw all the snow on the ground and in the trees a couple of Fridays ago, I expected to see a little salt on the sidewalks and streets, but I saw none. In the often-mercurial style of Chicago weather, by the time I had left the office for the day, all of the snow had melted and the resulting water had mostly evaporated.
With all of that said, there still seems to be a fair amount of Curbside Classics out and about in the cool, (mostly) dry fall weather here in the Windy City. Our featured ’84 Grand Marquis (two-door!) appeared that same Friday during rush hour. I have a special affinity for Mercury’s Grand Marquis, and for this generation of Ford’s Panther-platform full-sizers in general, as these were the last cars my late grandparents had owned in a series of four consecutive examples. Immediately following their two-car stint with Chrysler M-Bodies (a 1980 Lebaron sedan and an ’83 New Yorker Fifth Avenue), they next brought home a beautiful, ’85 Ford LTD Crown Victoria in Dark Walnut Metallic with red pinstripes and luxurious brown velour interior. That car was a looker and Exhibit A of how brown can look stunning on a car.
Grandpa and Grandma then switched to Mercury with their next purchase, an ’89 Grand Marquis in a tan color with a beige interior. The last Grand Marquis they owned was a c. 1998 model with a celery green exterior and interior. (Grandma loved that shade of green and often used to mention the DeSoto that she and Grandpa had owned that had been a similar color.) My grandparents’ last two full-sized Mercurys featured different expressions of Ford’s “aero” styling themes of the day, but of all their Panthers, the earlier ones with their chiseled-granite styling endure in my mind’s eye, hands-down, as the best looking.
Speaking of “granite” (and please pardon the pun in my title), I thought it was an especially fitting thing that our featured car was in traffic near the twenty-story “Center Building” (seen on the right in the above photo) of the BMO Harris Bank Building complex in the West Loop district in downtown Chicago. This beautiful structure, with its facade of brick and granite, seemed to perfectly complement the linear shape and details of our featured car. Even the vertical lines of the Mercury’s front grille seem to echo the colonnade on the face of the Center Building. Originally constructed in 1910, the Center Building appears as the most imposing and monolithic of the three buildings that comprise the BMO Harris Bank complex, much like the Grand Marquis carries exponentially more gravitas than any of the cars around it.
This dove gray Mercury is a rare bird, indeed. Something like only 13,700 two-door sedans were produced for 1984, being positively dwarfed in sales by the four-doors, at 117,700 units. Even the Colony Park wagons did better than the two-doors, with 17,400 moved off of Lincoln-Mercury lots that year. If it’s any consolation to FoMoCo’s perennial underdog marque, the two-door Mercury outsold its Ford LTD counterpart that year by about 1,100 units (roughly 8%). For added comparison and contrast, the barely-higher 19,500 sales figure for Chevrolet’s Caprice Classic two-door that year illustrates that the market for full-sized coupes had all but disappeared by the mid-’80s.
When my grandparents had owned their various Panthers, starting when I was elementary school-aged, no one could have convinced me that two-doors or the Mercury nameplate would be (basically or literally) extinct by my adulthood. While I, myself, have no desire to own a vehicle like our featured car, I can certainly appreciate its overall look, stance, and obvious and apparent pride-of-ownership. I miss the variety of seeing cars like this Grand Marquis interspersed with all the other diverse kinds of vehicles in traffic.
Lest I spend too much time lamenting the kinds of cars that are no longer common on most roads, I’m going to start taking a good look around at those I see parked in my neighborhood and try to find something I like about them. If I’ve learned anything about consumer tastes in popular vehicles over the past ten years or so, it’s that things can and do change very quickly. Like the mercury in my thermometer has dropped recently, so has the number of occurrences of sightings like this Grand Marquis.
Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois.
Friday, November 1, 2019.