Curbside Classic: 1980 Mercury Zephyr Z7 – Another CC Bites The Dust. But There’s Plenty More In Reserve

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I was bopping down 19th Avenue, about ten blocks from our house, when I came across this scene. Oh oh; the Z7 is getting hauled off; must have broken down. But wait; it’s being unloaded, and the rear bumper is damaged. And I can already see the front end is even more damaged. And its owner, head is looking mighty glum, despite her BF’s attempts at consoling her. Is it coming home to die?

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This fine Zephyr Z7 coupe (I’m guessing at the exact year) showed up here about six months ago, and it soon succumbed to my ever-eager camera, parked across the street that particular day. These aren’t exactly common anymore, but I’d put off writing it up because Jim Cavanaugh already did a fine CC on its badge-engineering mate, the Fairmont Futura.

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Well, that and the fact that my backlog of cars to be written up just gets longer and longer. One of my resolutions is to write them up right after I find them, while the energy is still fresh.

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But now it’s worse for wear. The very bummed-out owner tells me that her car, which she bought about six months ago, was the “filling” in a “sandwich” accident. And it looks like the front end got the worst of it. You know whose fault that is, usually.

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That does look a bit nasty. Of course, anything can be fixed, and with a bit of creativity, this might not be all to bad with some junkyard parts. And how many Zephyr front clips are out there? I hate to see such a nice condition car taken from out streets. But fear not, dear readers, there’s still a few other CCs around. Right close by, actually.

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I step back across the street to get a profile, and before I have a chance to zoom out, another CC worms its way into the picture. It’s not really necessary; there’s already another one in the shot back there!

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Zoom out a bit, and snap….damn; another intruder! Can’t a guy peel off a shot without everyone having to shoehorn into the picture? Are CCs that emotionally needy?

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Can’t win. So I’ll go back to the older pics, and look for a few clean shots there. The Z7 has lots of distinctive details, including this fine hood ornament. Maybe that was bad luck?

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Must have gills, or whatever one calls these. If the big brother Continental MarkV has three, surely the Zephyr rates two; Lincoln-Mercury’s version of the Buick porthole status ladder. Except Buick is one brand, not two.

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The Z7 was of course the distinctive “basket-handle” roof version of the otherwise rather plain and boxy Zephyr. It’s been shown pretty convincingly that this roof line was obviously being considered for an early Fox-body  Thunderbird (and Cougar, I assume), but Ford chickened out, kept the fat-boy T-Bird/Cougar around another year, and then graced us with the quite ugly versions for 1980.

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The Zephyr two-door sedan arrived in 1978 with a rather odd insert covering up part of the rear window; a pretty ridiculous attempt to distinguish it from the Fairmont sedan. My father must have bought his red stripper two-door Zephyr in 1979, because that panel was standard on 1978 Zephyrs, and then optional.  His 1968 stripper Dart two-door was still in good health despite ten years of the daily commute from Towson to Johns Hopkins Hospital in downtown Baltimore. No visible rust, and the 170 inch slant six was still perfect. He probably just had a hard time accepting that at least some American cars were still good to go after a decade and over 100k miles. Well, he had picked just about the most durable vehicle of the times.

I have no idea what led him to a Mercury dealer; but perhaps its because he knew what he wanted: a four cylinder, with the four-speed stick. Maybe the Ford dealer didn’t have a Fairmont thus-equipped  handy.

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My father’s interior was all-red (this one is obviously a later mix-and-match). And he had the much more attractive Plain-Jane two-spoke wheel with a little round hub in the middle. I’ve always rather hated this style Ford wheel, despite having one in my Turbo Coupe. With manual steering, the four speed stick, and the Lima 2.3 four, it was the closest approximation of an American  Volvo ever. Hardly brilliant, but a capable enough basic car, and surprisingly tossable if not exactly brimming with power.

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This one has the 85 hp 200 inch (3.3 L) six, that actually was rated at three horsepower less than the 2.3 four (88 hp). Very odd. But it had more torque, and was almost always teamed up with the automatic. The 139 hp 302 was available in 1978-1979, to be replaced by the feebler 115 hp 255 V8 in 1980.

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 Aw, honey; don’t be so glum; we’ll find you another one….

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It’s not like there aren’t other old cars around here. Maybe one of the neighbors will sell you one.