The Cars of Dallas – Sue Ellen’s Mercury Colony Park

A reader contacted Paul recently, curious about the then upcoming premiere of the Dallas sequel.  While his curiosity was aimed at the cars used in the original Dallas TV series, it did give pause to think about how the automotive landscape has changed since the original show’s 1978 debut. In many ways 1978 was a simpler time.  Come along, then, as the vehicular mood is set before we reminisce about a Dallas weekend from a simpler time…

Sue Ellen Ewing sat in the leather driver’s seat of  her burgundy Colony Park, which was parked in the lot outside Beau’s Discount Liquor and Cigarettes in downtown Dallas. It was the weekend of her annual camping excursion with J.R. and she was busy rounding up supplies for the trip.  She had just finished stashing several bottles of liquid supplies from Beau’s throughout the wagon’s huge interior.

Her next stop was to pick up the Airstream trailer she had purchased the week before. This would be her first time pulling a trailer.   She was certain the big Mercury was up for the task as J.R. had mentioned something about a 460 V8 under the hood. He could be a real son of a biscuit eater at times, but she did trust him when it came to cars.

Two hours later she was headed back to South Fork with the Airstream in tow. From behind the wheel of her comfortable and powerful Mercury, she might have forgotten completely about the trailer in back if not for her fellow motorists. “A lot of people must like the Airstream,” she thought, “because they all keep honking and waving.”

She arrived home to find J.R. in the kitchen talking to Courtney, their young, blond, and busty housekeeper.  Sue Ellen noticed that Courtney’s hair was messed up and she seemed to be startled–even embarrassed–when she entered the kitchen. There’s something fishy here, Sue Ellen thought. Her suspicion grew as she studied J.R., that worthless lying son of a……

Sue Ellen was happy on the way to the campground, despite J.R.’s insistence that she do all the driving.  Big Dick’s was their favorite campground with lots of area to park the Airstream.  Throughout the trip, people in passing cars smiled and waved their approval of the Airstream, and she reciprocated in her characteristically southern and genteel manner.

When they arrived at the campground, J.R. suddenly became talkative.

“Sue Ellen, we need some wood for a fire, darlin’.  How about you just take that chain saw  back there and go find us a little something.  I see a nice tree that’s fallen in the woods down yonder.  Why don’t you be a good girl and go get it.”

“J.R.”, Sue Ellen said, “those woods are way down yonder.”

“Now darlin’, there’s a log chain in with the spare.  Why don’t you use your Mercury to pull it out, darlin‘, and then you can split it up for some firewood.”

J.R. was getting perturbed, but not nearly as perturbed as Sue Ellen.  She thought again how J.R.  was such a son of a female cur.  One of these days, she thought, somebody is going to pop a cap in you and everyone will be asking, “Who shot J.R.?

J.R. told Sue Ellen to scurry along as he needed to go to the office to check in.  Sue Ellen figured he meant “check out” as they had been there once already and a tall, busty red-head was behind the desk.

She eased the Mercury down to the woods and attempted to hook onto the tree.  About that time, a young, muscular man, perhaps 25 years of age, approached Sue Ellen, who hadn’t seen him there in the woods.

“Hi, ma’am.  My name is Rick. This is my parents’ campground.  Could you use a little help?”

Sue Ellen perked up.  “Yes…yes, I sure could,” she said in her naturally breathy voice.  They hooked the log chain to the hitch of the Colony Park.  Sue Ellen was thrilled by the ease with which Rick and the big 460 eased that log out of the woods, and even more as she  watched Rick masterfully work the chainsaw.

Before they loaded up the Colony Park, Sue Ellen turned to Rick and asked, “How can I possibly thank you?” As she and Rick looked intently at each other, Rick spoke.

“Well, before I fill her with wood , how about a tour of your Merc?”  Sue Ellen eagerly obliged.  She was genuinely happy to tell Rick about  her wagon’s spaciousness and smooth ride, and she hoped she could get him talking about suspensions and parts for a while; after all, Rick excited her a lot more than Cliff Barnes ever did…

By the time Sue Ellen and Rick were finishing off a bottle of Wild Turkey, there was a knock on the window.  Sue Ellen jumped, startled.  It was J.R.!

…..So in some regards, things on Dallas may not have changed much since 1978.   The Colony Park was discussed here recently.  So let’s look a bit closer at the 1978 models.

For 1978, Mercury built 16,883 wagons in the Marquis line.  There is no breakdown for Colony Parks specifically, although it was a $547 option on Marquis wagons.

What did Sue Ellen’s Colony Park cost?  The base price for a Marquis wagon was $5958 with the 460 V8 costing $271.  To pull a trailer, it would be wise to have the traction lock axle ($63), four wheel disc brakes ($300), the cross country suspension ($26), and towing package ($138).

The dual facing rear seats shown above were a $186 dollar option.  The interior was available with all kinds of heart-warming and tush comforting goodies, depending upon one’s willingness to spend money.

So was $7489 plus unknown options a good deal for a Colony Park in 1978?  Think of it as $33,500 today.

The Colony Park disappeared after 1991.  Mercury disappeared after 2010.  A moderately optioned Taurus will now run you $33,500.  Do you think times have changed?