1983 Mercury Grand Marquis Sedan

As I walked to the train earlier the week, I saw an eighties Mercury Grand Marquis sedan idling on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. It stood out because of its size (at 214 inches these cars are more than a foot longer than a 2018 Lincoln Continental) and its new for 1979 squareness. Reason enough to write a (rare) Mercury blog entry (my only other one so far is about the 1986 Mercury Capri).

“A Lesson In Luxury”

For 1983, Mercury renamed all versions of the full-size Marquis to Grand Marquis and moved the Marquis name to the mid-size Fox platform. Other than the name change, changes for the Grand Marquis were relatively modest: there were new full-width wraparound tail lamps and a modified grille. New options included a remote locking fuel filler door ($24), locking wire wheel covers ($168), and a Tripminder trip computer ($261) which showed month/day/time, elapsed time, average speed, average MPG, instantaneous MPG, and gallons of fuel used. In their annual “Charting the Changes” roundup, Car and Driver once again made the ritual complaint that there was still no de Sad package.

The standard engine in 1983 was Ford’s 130 bhp 4.9 liter/302 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection paired to a four-speed automatic. Somewhat strangely to our modern eyes, the optional power upgrade was a carburetted version of the same motor with 145 bhp. These were not fast cars—with an almost 3,800-pound curb weight, 0-60 came in about 12 seconds. Mileage with the standard powertrain was 17 city/27 highway by the standards of the day (14/20 by today’s standards). With the 18-gallon fuel tank, Grand Marquis drivers could expect a range of 275 to 355 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $1o,718 Grand Marquis (about $26,900 in today’s dollars) included a coach vinyl roof, coach lamps, halogen headlamps, power brakes (front disc and rear drum), power steering, and P215/75R14 steel-belted white sidewall radial tires on 14-inch wheels with deluxe wheel covers. Inside, cloth/vinyl Twin Comfort Lounge seats with dual front seat recliners, a four-spoke luxury (the Grand Marquis brochure mentioned luxury a lot) steering wheel, an analog quartz clock, and an AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers were included. Standard items that Mercury proudly listed that do not impress in 2017 included a front stabilizer bar, seat belt warning chimes, and carpeted lower door trim panels.

Upgrading to the $11,273 LS added tinted glass, luxury cloth Twin Comfort Lounge seats, cloth-trimmed headrests, right-hand visor vanity mirror, map pockets in front seatback, luxury door trim with armrest woodtone inserts and courtesy lights, dual beam dome/map light, dual fold-down front center armrests, rear-seat folding center armrest, and the all-important LS badge on the rear decklid.

Exterior and mechanical options included the Traction-Lok differential ($95) and cast aluminum turbine spoke wheels ($361) which required P205/75R15 tires ($17). Interior options included manual air conditioning ($724), automatic air conditioning ($802), 6-way power driver’s seat ($210) or driver’s and passenger’s seats ($420), power door locks ($123), fingertip speed control ($170), and tilt steering wheel ($105). Audio options included a host of optional radios with 8-track or cassette player, a power antenna ($60), and Premium Sound System with two additional speakers in the front doors, upgraded rear speakers, and an extra power amplifier ($175 base/$145 LS). Leather seating surfaces ($418) were only available on the LS. All these options meant that a loaded Grand Marquis LS could quickly get close to the Lincoln Town Car’s pricing territory—I quickly priced one to $14,584 (about $36,700 in 2017 dollars).

The rear cover of the 1983 Mercury Grand Marquis brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The Grand Marquis sold well for Mercury in 1983—72,207 sedans, 11,117 coupes, and 12,394 Colony Park wagons made it one of the division’s best sellers—23% of sales in a year when Mercury also offered the Capri, Cougar, LN7 (remember the LN7?), Lynx, Marquis, and Zephyr.

The first-generation Grand Marquis sometimes shows up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. Make mine Midnight Blue Metallic, I think.

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1986 Mercury Capri

“Proof that getting there can be a fun experience in itself.”

Mercury made three attempts at the Capri. The first was an imported version of the European Ford Capri and was sold from the 1970 to 1978 model years as first the Capri and then the Capri II. The second was Mercury’s version of the Fox body Mustang and was sold from 1979 to 1986. The final version of the Capri was an imported version of the Australian Ford Capri and was 1991 to 1994. Sense a trend here?

For 1986, Mercury’s Capri had three engine choices and two transmission choices. Standard on the GS was the Lima 88 bhp (aargh!) 2.3 liter in-line 4 with one-barrel carburetor mated to a four-speed manual transmission. Power options for the GS included the Essex 120 bhp 3.8 liter fuel injected V-6 and the (wonderful) Windsor 200 bhp 5.0 liter V-8 with sequential fuel injection that was standard on the 5.0L. All three engines could be paired with a three-speed automatic transmission for an additional $510 (the V-6 required the automatic while the 5.0L came standard with a five-speed manual transmission with overdrive).

Mileage ratings for the various configurations ranged from 23 city/28 highway (21/26 by today’s standards) for the four-speed manual in-line 4 combination that I’m not convinced that anyone bought to 17/25 for the “big daddy” five-speed manual paired with the V-8.

Performance with the 2.3 liter paired with either transmission was ghastly — 0-60 came in about 15 seconds, which meant a Capri driver with the Lima engine would see only the taillights of Iron Duke powered Camaros and Firebirds (such a sad competition!). Moving to the V-6 paid significant performance dividends, dropping the 0-60 time by about 3.5 seconds. Of course, the V-8 was by far the best: even the automatic was in the 7 second range, while the manual could do 0-60 in about 6.5 seconds.

The base price for a Capri GS was $8,331 (about $17,800 in 2015 dollars). For that money, the Capri came fairly well equipped by mid-1980s standards: external and mechanical feature included halogen headlamps, power steering, power brakes, tinted glass, and the distinctive bubble-back rear hatch with rear-window defroster. Inside, power windows, interval wipers, tilt steering wheel, and an AM/FM stereo radio were standard.

Page from the 1986 Mercury Capri brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The more sporty Capri 5.0L stickered for $10,950 (about $23,300 in today’s dollars) and added the aforementioned V-8, dual exhaust, and P225/60VR15 tires on cast aluminum wheels.

Exterior options for both the GS and the 5.0L included a flip-up open-air roof ($315) or a T-Roof ($1,100). Inside, buyers could add air conditioning ($762), power door lock group ($182), speed control ($176), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette ($300).

Sales for the last of the second generation Capris were not at all good, but Capri sales had not been good for years — Mercury’s traditional problem wedged between Ford and Lincoln. By 1986, Capri sales were about 9% of Mustang sales.

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Fox body Capris sometimes show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds, but there’s definitely not a lot of activity, though I’ll say they are uncommon rather than unloved. Make mine Smoke Metallic, please.