Unlike so many other neighborhoods, which have seen their identities become much more anonymous through the gentrification process, South Boston, or “Southie” as it’s known to locals remains one of the most well-defined of Boston’s many neighborhoods. Historically, Southie has been a blue-collar neighborhood primarily populated by large Irish Catholic families (including my own direct bloodline).
Southie of course is also a neighborhood infamous for being the epicenter of the Irish Mob, the Winter Hill Gang who controlled it from the early-1960s to the mid-1990s, and their most notorious leader, James “Whitey” Bulger. For better or worse, Whitey and his network contributed to Southie’s ever tight-knit sense of community over the years. Yet even Southie has not been immune to Boston’s ever-extending gentrification.
Within the past two decades, Southie has seen a large influx of young working professionals of all ethnic backgrounds, considerable revitalization of its public buildings and historic triple deckers as well as new construction, numerous trendy restaurants and bars opening up where 20-something professionals can’t help being found until last call, and most significantly, an almost exponential skyrocket in property values.
Southie may look and feel dramatically different than it did several decades ago, but thankfully signs of Southie’s faithful old guard remain alive and well today — whether it be indicators such as the groups of senior citizens who congregate among their lawn chairs and Dunkin’ coffee at Castle Island or coming across a car like this elderly and decidedly “old Southie” Mercury Grand Marquis.
This particular example hails from 1985, the seventh year overall of the Panther platform and this body, and the third year following the car’s first minor facelift and official renaming to “Grand Marquis”, regardless of trim level due to the 1983 addition of the smaller Fox-based Marquis. This particular car is a base model, lacking the LS trim’s loose pillow gathered velour upholstery in favor of less plush but still soft cloth Twin Comfort Lounge Seats. I would’ve photographed the interior but didn’t want to overstep my bounds, even if I do have Irish blood and Southie roots to stake claim to.
Originals are kind of a Southie thing, and I’d like to think that this Grand Marquis has resided in Southie its entire life. Given its nature and appeal, coupled with the steadfast loyalty to their neighborhood amongst born and raised South Boston locals, I’m optimistic this is true.
Photographed at the intersection of East Broadway and Farragut Rd, South Boston, Massachusetts – September 2019
Remarkably good condition for an east coast car.
Unusual to see a GM with those wheel covers. They must be stock for the base model.
Very unusual indeed to see one with the standard wheel covers. They were called the “Deluxe Wheel Covers” and were standard on both the base & LS, but the vast majority of GM’s came equipped with either wire wheel covers or the turbine-style alloys.
The Deluxe covers look awful in my opinion, and probably existed solely to prod customers to buy an option package to get rid of them.
I’m very impressed at this car’s condition — not just for being a 35-year-old New England car without visible rust, but also it shows no scars from street parking, which given its setting, is probably where it’s often parked.
I think those MGM wheelcovers were repurposed from the Thunderbird from around 1970 or so. I never liked them much on either car.
I believe you’re right!
A similar style of wheel cover was also used on the Grand Marquis during the mid-1970s.
Someone clearly takes pride in their car and the right front hubcap is probably inside being hand-washed and polished. While I’ve been coming around on the Caprice and other B-Bodies over the last few years, I’ve always liked the box Panthers, perhaps because I’ve never had to drive one regularly. My choice would be a wagon but this is quite good too.
After living in CA for many years I’m by nature always trying to decipher every personalized plate I see. This one isn’t but in the third pic I saw the plate and my brain thought it was but was puzzled that the car was apparently owned by a 50year old Single White Female.
A very nice well kept example and one of my favorite Panthers. I actually like this better than the boxy LTD of the period. There is a subtle broughamy style without being over the top about it, perhaps because it’s a base model.
I even like the color combination, although a full dark blue vinyl top may have looked better on this one than the half top landau look.
I agree with Jim above that the missing wheel cover is probably getting a proper hand wash in the kitchen sink right now. As well kept as this car is, I would think he, or SHE (if Jim’s SWF reference is correct ;o), would have obtained a wheel cover to replace the missing one. Unless they’ve become unobtainium.
I was about to correct you guys about referring to this as a “GM”. But after another post or two…..I figured it out!
Had me guessing too!
I have a feeling that car spent the last 33 years, from 1985 to 2018, in a garage. Now that Great Uncle Pat is too old to drive, car is passed down to his 28-year-old hipster great nephew Jason and his wife Crystal along with their infant and teacup dog. Both never had a car before, just got out of grad school, moved to Boston and need a car for “weekend trips”. They’ve never even opened a hood much less checked or changed oil. One month in and Jason has already lost a wheel cover to a curb.. After this winter, the Grand Marquis inside and out will gain about 15 years of wear from a combination of street parking, road salt, and general neglect. By next summer, the A/C and fuel pump will die, and the car will end up at a pick-a-part lot after Jason and Crystal move on to a $149 a month lease on Kia Forte.
Sad ending that reoa
That is cynical! (but may be true)
The license plate does kind of rule out an elderly original owner unless they recently returned from Florida or some such, otherwise surely it’d have an ’80s green-on-white Mass plate?
One of my aunts had a Caprice when she lived in Framingham, it was stolen shortly before she moved back to Vermont and the inside joke in the family was that it was a Boston taxi for years after that.
Not necessarily, because many of the rattier green plates will now result in a reject sticker for MA state annual inspections. I’ve unfortunately see some sadly have to give up their green plates as a result.
These are solid and dependable cars. Their technology is old school 1970s.
When the Panther arrived in 1979 it didn’t find a welcome within the auto market and failed sales expectations repeatedly to a point where Ford was realistically killing off the Panther for the extended Fox mid-sized cars. When Ford replaced the aged Torino based intermediate line of Fords and Mercurys, they used the Fox bodies and named them after the cars they would be replacing – the LTD and the Marquis.
But the economy rebounded, giving the Panther a new lease on life by 1985. So the Ford Panther was renamed the Crown Victoria and the Marquis became the Grand Marquis. Ford seemed to have hedged their bets. Besides, the revolutionary Taurus and Sable was being readied by this time and there was a need to be prepared if they failed.
Ford was fourth place in US sales during the early 1980s and facing disaster. Although Chrysler had to ask for a bailout from Washington, most auto journalists were expecting Ford to follow suit. Both auto makers released home runs with the minivan and the Taurus. Both makes discovered that the 1980s were to be a great decade of success for them. GM, on the other hand, when from 60% of the US market and plummeted to half that within the decade.
The Panther had a run from 1979 to 2012. Hard to believe now that it nearly didn’t make it to 1985. These were solid unexciting cars that were continually improved during their run. A Mercury Colony Park wagon? An amazing benchmark. The Lincoln Town Car? A classic. A Mercury Marauder or a Ford Police Interceptor? Solid cruisers that ruled the roads for a generation. It is amazing that they had such a tough start during the Malaise Era.
Wow – baby blue! I don’t recall many of them painted like this. These were from the era where the Crown Vic gave them a run for their money in sales numbers. I am not sure why my mother ended up with a CV that year instead of a GM – I recall it was that the Ford salesman made her a great deal at the end of the model year on a really nicely equipped car.
I will be the outlier here – I far, far, far prefer the way the 2nd gen versions drives.
I owned this exact model and color purchased brand new and driven 200K miles. Color was called Spinaker Blue. Wheel covers frequently fell off and I made many trips to used cap shops. After 3 great Delta 88s switched to Merc because full V8 was less than ugly disastrous GM fwd 6 cylinders. Drove mine for years to Southie where I worked.
Class car haven’t seen it yet and I live in Southie 💚☘️
Very cool post – I love the tie-in between this area’s history and likening this Grand Marquis to a holdout. It’s a beautiful specimen of a Mercury, to boot.
The missing wheel cover reminded me of a ride in a friend’s Olds. The car had been well cared for when my friend bought it, but as late 60s car in the early 80s, it was cheap wheels. My friend enjoyed thrashing the big 455 and I enjoyed riding along. Sorry preservationists.
One particular over exuberant corner in downtown Tulsa sent the left front wheel cover into the oncoming lane of traffic. By the time we got turned around to recover it, a truck had flattened it beyond recognition.
A few blocks later, we found ourselves at a red light next to a similar vintage Olds nowhere near as nice looking as my friend’s. The side we could see had a single identical wheel cover on the rear. My friend yelled that he’d give the other driver $10 for his one wheel cover. We both pulled over and the deal was struck. Turns out the other Olds had only the 4 single wheel cover we bought, so both cars drove off with 4 matching wheels.
My story has absolutely nothing to do with this GM. Just comes to mind whenever I see a nice older car missing a single wheel cover.
The missing wheel cover was lost after being chased by some of Whitey’s thugs in 1988. Boston traffic allowed this car an escape as Whitey’s boys got stuck 4 cars back at a red light. Knowing that they were marked men, the owner parked this car in a rented garage to escape detection. Now that Whitey is dead, there is no reason to keep paying on that rented garage. Cars in Boston don’t spend 35 years on the street and still look this good. Just a guess on my part.
Great find and interesting history. Seems like old neighborhoods either go up or down but rarely stay stable. That’s the way of the world, I guess.
The thing I remember from having occasion to ride in other families’ GM’s in my childhood was the silver-faced guages, which is one of the few noticable differences with CV’s. I thought the guages looked really fancy and upscale.
It would be nice to think this car has been a 30 year constant defying time on the street in Southie but there is no way it has been parked on a curb in New England all its life. Apart from the hubcap, it looks really pristine. I hope it is normally in a garage and just happened to be parked there that day.
I like the IAFF sticker in the back window. May be either an active or retired firefighter
This is a great find. Panthers of this generation used to pop up regularly at various Carlisle Car shows for sale – generally in mint condition. But this has been happening much less frequently over the past 2-3 years.
The Panther cars weren’t initially a huge success. Ford’s effort at downsizing was initially less convincing than GM’s. It seemed as though GM jumped in enthusiastically with both feet with its 1977 full-size cars…while Ford had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to the downsizing party.
These cars gained traction in the mid-1980s, particularly when GM switched its B- and C-bodies to a smaller front-wheel-drive platform. It was the 1980s success of the Panther platform – which had been fully amortized by this point – and trucks that really restored Ford to financial health, not the Taurus and Sable (which were not nearly as profitable, despite their sales success).
I Got A 1991 Model. I Had It Since I Was 17 And Now Im 28. Its Still Running.
My grandpa’s last vehicle was pretty much this exact car, but the blue was a little darker. Rode like a old Cadillac. Not even joking, this thing was amazing. When he passed in 1991 it got auctioned to some people in SLC. Good car.
I love a good Panther sighting. This one looks absolutely sunny in its bright blue with contrasting dark blue top. Not often you see a base model sporting those 70s Marquis Brougham wheel covers and lacking the rubber surrounds on the bumpers. Nope–just little rubber biscuits for bumper guards for the base model. Being a 1985, it would be the final year of Ford’s fairly awful throttle body fuel injection. Started and ran nice and smooth, just not much pep.
I had a 1982 LTD Crown Victoria in Medium Red Glow, luxury decor trim interior, and turbine spoke aluminum wheels. 1982 was the last year for the dreadful VV carb, and I had smartly replaced that lump with the proper Holley 2-barrel which was the direct replacement. Ran 300% better after that swap, with no real noticeable drop in the fuel economy. I still miss that square-shouldered honey to this day.