We all love to laugh at the early domestic subcompacts–Pinto, Vega, Gremlin and all the rest–but I have to admit having a soft spot for them. In particular, I have always liked the Pinto station wagons, especially the Squire. For some reason they always seemed more attractive to me than the sedans and hatchbacks. But the really rare one these days is the badge-engineered Mercury Bobcat, with its mini-Marquis schnoz. So of course I had to share this tidy example currently on the Bay of E.
While the Pinto was introduced in 1971, the Bobcat didn’t come along until 1974, and that was only for the Canadian market. With the 1973 gas crunch and 1975 recession, land-yacht landlocked L-M dealers apparently complained loudly enough for the little Merc to debut in the U.S. halfway through the 1975 model year. Like pretty much every Mercury after 1971 or so, it was a slightly restyled Ford.
Despite its obvious origins, I always sort of liked the Bobcat, though I remember seeing only one as a kid. A friend of my father’s had to borrow his brother’s car for a few days, and it was a mint green Bobcat sedan (same color as the one above) with the standard wheel covers and (I think) whitewalls. Mike didn’t think too much of it and couldn’t wait to get his ’82 Delta 88 coupe back, but I thought it was cool. Back then (also true today, by and large), most cars I hadn’t seen before were instantly cool and interesting.
Despite the late start, the Bobcat hung on right up to the Pinto’s end in 1980. Naturally, they didn’t sell quite as well as the Ford version, but I imagine they were a useful tool to upsell L-M customers into a Monarch or, later on, a Zephyr. I can just imagine Jerry Lundegaard telling a customer, “For just a few dollars more a month, you can get this beautiful Monarch Ghia instead, and we’ll even throw in the Tru-Coat!”
But what is that chrome blanking plate on the fender? For those of you familiar with these cars, that is where the radio aerial would have gone. Yes folks, this is a radio-delete car, which is somewhat at odds with its styled steel wheels, chrome trim rings and sporty red paint.
The interior was a bit nicer than the equivalent Pinto, in keeping with its slightly higher price. This was the base interior, but it still looks rather nice for a late ’70s subcompact, with its multi-color vinyl buckets, and ample plastiwood.
As you can see in this shot from the ’77 Bobcat brochure, a very Broughamy “Alpine” tufted plaid interior was available for a bit extra. Yes, in the ’70s you could get real interior colors. And that Alpine interior was available in orange with black dash and carpeting too!
But no one bought one of these wagons for their passenger capacity. The draw was the ample cargo area. Just look at that back seat. It looks even smaller than the back of the ’73 Volvo 1800ES Mom used to have, and I was five when they traded it in!
This car is currently listed on ebay (original listing with lots more pics can be found here), being sold out of Virginia. According to the seller the paint is all original except the right front fender, and the car sports just over 69K miles. With options like factory A/C, power steering and power brakes and automatic transmission, it is odd that the original owner did not want a radio. Imagine that today!
The seller mentions that the car has a few dents and dings, but that he would leave it as is. I tend to agree, as they’re only original once, and I’d rather see a well-loved original than an over-restored classic that lives in a trailer and never sees the road. One thing is for sure: This would be an excellent car to take to car cruises, as one can only look at so many Mustangs and Camaros before going into Over-Restored Muscle Car Dementia (ORMCD), which can only be solved by looking at vintage four door sedans, wagons and trucks.
Here’s hoping the new owner gives this baby the care it deserves!
All pictures are from the original ebay listing, which can be found here.