I seem to be the Panther whisperer – the 98 Crown Victoria LX, the 93 Town Car, and now to complete the trifecta – my grandmother’s 2007 Mercury Grand Marquis LS. She and my step-Pap purchased it brand new from Lake Ford-Lincoln-Mercury in Lewistown PA, after getting the VIN (and a special discount) from her brother Jack who worked at the Ford plant in Edison NJ for decades. At the time, this surprised me – Pappy Ron was a GM man thru and thru; all his life he worked his way up the Sloan Ladder while simultaneously working his way up to a supervisor position at Standard Steel, with a new Buick or Oldsmobile in the driveway every few years.
Their favorite car was a 1992 Oldsmobile 88 Royale – they loved it so much that instead of trading it after 3 years, they kept it for 8. Which ended up being a mistake, as Olds quit making their beloved car in ’99. So they settled for a 2000 Chevy Impala LS from the former Olds dealer where they had been buying for ages.
And for the 7 years they had the car, they liked it but not loved it. I guess the Olds did have a special feel to it – but by the time they were ready to part with the Impala and move back up the Sloan ladder, Buick quit making the LeSabre. The whole sporty feel of the Lucerne/Lacrosse turned them off, as well as the rising price tag (Pappy Ron did well with his pension, but not “unlimited new car money” well). Uncle Jack to the rescue – along with his UAW/Ford retiree benefits – managed to find this nice, almost fully loaded Grand Marquis LS to solve their problem of what to replace the Impala with.
It was the nicest car they had ever owned – heated leather seats, EATC, wood accented steering wheel, the “Premium Sound” stereo, and much more trunk space for their golf clubs. Not to mention for the first time since the 80’s they had a V8 under the hood instead of a 6. Sadly Pappy Ron only got to enjoy the car for a year or so before he got sick and passed away from cancer. This left it in the hands of Grandma Zelpha, who always loved big cars and never shied away from using the accelerator.
So the years have flown by, and Grandma Z fits the stereotype of the little old lady who only goes to the grocery store and church – leaving the Marquis with only 56k on the odometer. But she’s 87 now, and after suffering a mild stroke in January, is ready to part with the vehicle. Since I was the one who took care of the car after my Dad died a few years ago, she gave the car to me knowing how much I loved it. And I do love it – those seats are really LayZBoy comfortable on long trips, and the seat heaters are going to come in handy now that I have moved north to Pittsburgh.
That’s not to say the car is perfect – it has been garage kept since new, but that didn’t keep the paint from flaking off (a common issue on Ford/Mercury vehicles of this era), and Grandma used the bumpers as guides when parking. But the way it drives and feels is night and day between my Crown Vic & Town Car – the steering is tighter thanks to rack & pinion, throttle control is better thanks to drive by wire, and the ride is still buttery smooth but nowhere near as floaty. Since this is a last gen, it comes with the refreshed gauge cluster that has a bit of a retro look to it – and the somewhat useful driver information center.
And it makes me somewhat melancholy to think that the vehicles (and the people they represent) and slowly fading away. My mom wouldn’t be caught dead in a vehicle like this, unlike my Dad and his Lincoln; but he even switched over to driving trucks by 2001. Buick is still around, but the days of getting a plush Park Ave with a bench seat have been gone for more than a decade. I’m honestly amazed Mercury hung on as long as it did given that you could buy almost the exact same vehicle from Ford (Crown Victoria) or Lincoln (Town Car) – but it did serve a purpose for a time of being just different enough to warrant the slightly higher price.
Pappy Ron was solidly middle class – he and Grandma liked nicer things and bought quality made products even if it meant paying a little bit more money. But they were not overly ostentatious – cars like the Buick Lesabre, Oldsmobile 88, and this Grand Marquis fit them to a T. But time kept on ticking into the future where bench seats, column shifters, and live axles are a big no-no – besides, everyone wants to stand out these days, whereas these cars just blend in.
I suppose that’s one of the reasons I love these vehicles, and a bit of what they represent – my favorite high school teacher called me an “old soul,” and it shows in my choice of music (doo wop & Motown) and cars. I hold no pretensions of sportiness, just like this Grand Marquis – just let me relax in split bench comfort, make miles, and enjoy the pleasant sounds flowing from the stereo. Mercury ads in the 90’s ans early 2k’s attempted to pass these off as sensible family haulers, with safety and comfort being reason enough that a young thritysomething should buy one. But let’s be real: anyone buying this car post 1998 was most likely to have grown up listening to The Andrews Sisters and thinking that dining at Hoss’s was a big night out. Even the Maurauder couldn’t hide the Brougham bones lurking underneath the blacked out trim.
The Merc will continue to have a pampered life here in Western PA – I have a 12 mile commute, and already procured a 1997 Mercury Mountaineer AWD for “winter beater” use to keep the Grand Marquis as clean (and rust free) as possible. Now you may be asking…what happened to the 93 Town Car I won? Well, I had to part with it when I moved from NC to PA – I could realistically only take one vehicle…and the Suburban was it since I had to move myself and tow a trailer with my possessions. Plus the TC had developed issues with the valve guide seals, the ABS quit working, and required more work that I thought to get the HVAC back up and running (the blend door motor, compressor, blower motor resistor, and the EATC needed to be replaced). The Suburban is gone too – two wheel drive in the hills of Western PA is foolish from what the locals have told me, hence the AWD Mountaineer.
But the Universe works in mysterious ways, and now I have yet another Panther to ferry me about The Steel City and its ‘burbs in comfort and (a bit of) luxury. I guess I’m just supposed to have these vehicles in my life one way or another – even if I don’t fit the stereotype. But I did just turn 30, so I guess a sensible Mercury fits the bill.