Junkyard Gem: 1979 Mercury Marquis 2-Door Sedan

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As the creator of the now-much-overused term “Malaise Era” (which I say started in 1973 and ended in 1983, full stop), I have a certain affection for the big two-door Detroit cars of the late 1970s. When such a car is built on the very first model year of Ford’s long-lived Panther platform and I find one in a junkyard, I must document it. The 1979 Mercury Marquis is such a car, and this one was found in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard last month.

Since Ford built the Grand Marquis all the way through the demise of the Panther platform— and Mercury itself— in 2011, it’s easy for us to forget that the model name started out as just the plain old Marquis, back in the 1967 model year, with the Grand appellation used for the car’s top trim level. While today’s Junkyard Gem has some of the features of the Grand Marquis and Marquis Brougham trim levels for 1979 (notably the padded vinyl landau roof and power windows), it lacks the huge chrome lower-body moldings of those cars. Instead, it’s a regular Marquis 2-door sedan with a big load of expensive options.

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That landau roof has suffered greatly from its decades beneath the vinyl-disintegrating California sun.

The Panther platform was a big technological upgrade from the late-1950s-vintage chassis technology of fullsized Fords of the 1960s and 1970s, and it stayed in front-line service in much the same form through 2011. Though its ride and handling were much improved, the 1979 Marquis was quite a bit smaller than its predecessors, and that caused some grumbling among Mercury shoppers.

Some ham-handed junkyard shoppers really tore up the interior of this car while extracting a few bits and pieces, but we can still admire the Pine Green pleather of the glorious Twin Comfort Lounge front seats.

You had two engine choices when buying a new ’79 Marquis: the base 302-cubic-inch (5.0-liter) Windsor V8 making 129 horsepower or the optional 351-cubic-inch (5.8-liter) Windsor V8 rated at 138 horsepower. This one appears to be the 351, the same engine as had been swapped into the pizza-delivery Mercury

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I drove in the middle 1980s.

New cars sold in California around this time had these giant emissions-numbers stickers on the side glass. Later, they went on the underside of the hood. Those HC and CO numbers were nasty compared to the clean-running gasoline engines we have today, but at least the early smog-preventing technology helped make the air in Los Angeles less horrible than it had been a decade earlier.

There was a lot of anti-import-car sentiment going around in the late 1970s, and this Mercury really was made in America (Missouri, to be exact) for sale in America. However, Ford was also selling German- and British-built cars in the United States at that time, not to mention Japanese-built pickups. For that matter, what about the Made In Argentina For Argentina Fords of 1979? Or the Made In Australia For Australia Fords?

All the lichen and moss buildup indicates a car that sat outdoors for years, probably decades. It wouldn’t have been any great trick to restore this one, but the cost would have outweighed any conceivable future resale value.

Even though it’s smaller on the outside, it’s bigger on the inside!

Now with computer-assisted design.

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