(first posted 3/5/2013) Pete Estes was a very annoying man. Pete, a short, rotund individual my Grandpa Albert’s age, had skipped school the day basic etiquette was taught.
Every once in a while, when I was at my grandparent’s house during my early teens, Pete would come poking down the road in his old red Chevrolet pickup. When you heard the squeal of his brakes, indicating his impending social attack, Grandma Iris would always jump up and announce that she had to do the dishes.
As she scurried into the house, and as Pete’s pickup could be seen coming around the embankment facing the road, Grandpa Albert always muttered something about Pete’s mother; on occasion, he might also mention Pete’s father.
Grandpa Albert–a person whose unvarnished honesty is still rarely appreciated–would watch Pete hop out of his pickup and take two steps before loudly saying, “Pete Estes, what the hell do you want?”
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Pete would never catch the annoyance in the greeting. Generally, his response was, “I was curious to see if you’ve spent the whole day on the patio, sitting on your keister. Looks like you have. You are the only person I’ve ever met who had a suntan on the tops of his feet. Hell, I think you’re even training your grandson in the tradition.” This was the general start of the conversation, the subject matter then moving on to fishing, the fishing club in town, the old men in the fishing club and more fishing. One thing I definitely remember about Pete was that he always rubbed the stump of his pinky finger on his left hand. I don’t know what had happened to his finger, but he sure missed it.
One day the conversation took this turn: As Grandpa Albert was walking Pete back to his pickup–most likely to make sure he was leaving–Pete veered a few feet off his path and stepped into the garden. He picked a pepper and took a bite. Grandpa Albert never said a word.
Pete mentioned how mad he had been earlier that day. I knew Pete had been widowed years earlier, but I thought he only had the pickup. Then he started talking about his Mercury.
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“I went out in the garage today to check on the Mercury. I hadn’t looked at it in a while. You know what some lousy cat did? It built a nest on the roof of my Mercury from the quilts I’d draped over it, and then that stupid cat pooped on the roof of my Mercury! Can you believe that?”
Grandpa Albert looked unfazed. “Really. Cats do that.”
“But this cat pooped on the roof of Elizabeth’s Mercury! I don’t even have a cat! It moved into my garage and defiled my Mercury! You know what I did?”
“I got the garden hose out and blasted its stupid fanny off there! You know, I would have shot it, but then that would have been a mess if I had hit it, and really bad if I hit the car instead.”
Pete waddled back to his pickup. After he left, I looked at Grandpa Albert and said, “I am surprised you didn’t call him on the carpet for getting in your garden.”
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Grandpa Albert smiled. “He’s been doing that for a while, so I planted some Habanero peppers this year. Pete thought it was a bell pepper, and he wasn’t about to admit to being on fire while standing there. You noticed he only took the one bite. He’ll be on fire again tomorrow morning. I bet he’s learned to leave my garden alone.”
Finding this old Mercury made me think of this story from many moons ago. It also reminded me of how people I knew growing up were so fiercely protective of their Mercurys.
People being so protective of their cars, especially their Mercurys, is quite admirable. It is almost enough to make one wonder what many of these people would have thought about Ford canning the Mercury name in 2010.
Yet in 1963, the Mercury brand was on the precipice of its true heyday, one I firmly believe began in 1965 and lasted until 1974. It was during this time that Mercury was its most autonomous in the styling department, which has been mentioned here and here.
The Marauder was introduced in the middle of the 1963 model year. Part of the 120-inch wheelbase Monterey Custom series, the Marauder was a fastback whose roofline mimicked the also new-for-mid-1963 Ford Galaxie fastback. To provide further distinction to your Marauder you could opt for the S-55 package. From what can be determined, the S-55 package consisted of chrome insignia and unique wheel covers on the outside, plus a console, extra padding and arm rests inside. Transmission choices were a no-extra-cost automatic and a four-speed manual–a four-speed Marauder definitely adds a dash of Jalapeno pepper to the batter.
So how many were made? If you are talking about the featured base Marauder, only 7,298 were manufactured, with another 2,319 Marauder S-55s produced. The base price for our featured ’63 Marauder was $3,083, a mere $8 more than a Monterey Custom four-door sedan. It appears the S-55 package added almost $570–no small percentage of the base price–to the sticker of the Marauder.
By 1963, Mercury had abandoned the eccentric styling exemplified by this ’60 model in favor of something a bit more contemporary–or not.
This Mercury still possesses some quasi-tail fins, an element that hadn’t been seen on full-sized Fords since 1961.
The roof, while gorgeous, looks like a skin graft from a ’63 Galaxie; Don’t red bell peppers grow in about the same shapes as green ones?
Mercury did have a way to go to reach the height of its autonomy. If the color didn’t give it away, could you really tell which dash belonged to the ’63 Mercury and which to the ’63 Galaxie? Ford does deserve credit for taking strides to make Mercury less quirky and more mainstream, and the dividends would start paying off in a few more years.
Yet, for 1963, this Mercury isn’t too shabby. Yes, its kinship to a Ford almost slaps you in the face (although it is more pronounced in these pictures than in person). In person, this two-owner Mercury has a lot of 1960s charm about it.
It’s got the effervescent 390 cubic inch V8 and an automatic. Mercury didn’t offer anything smaller in their 1963 full-sizers, and this example, with a four-barrel carburetor, is rated at 300 horsepower. Like a good Habanero, it adds a little extra spice to the Marauder. Even the air conditioner still works like new.
At 3,887 pounds, this Mercury weighs only about 200 pounds more than a 2013 Ford Fusion. Of the two cars, in which would you prefer to spend eight hours riding in the backseat?
While I never knew what model year Pete’s was, this example illustrates why some people were so fiercely protective of their Mercurys. For 1963, the Mercury was a red or yellow bell pepper–a lot like Ford’s green bell pepper, but with enough difference in appearance to stand on its own. It just makes you wonder if the burning that Pete later experienced from his Habanero went away for those people, and if it was part of why Mercury was put down with nary a whimper.