During WWII, the B-26 Marauder gained the reputation as a Widowmaker due to its high-speed landing demands. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Mercury Marauder should be less unsettling to one's spouse, but is its price too demanding?
They say that beauty is only skin deep while ugly goes all the way to the bone. That's possibly why yesterday's 2002 BMW Z8 - a car so pretty that a kick to the nuts wouldn't distract a beholder - came away with a narrow 54% Crack Pipe loss. The reason is that while sharing the M5's engine and being so damn attractive, the Z8 has a reputation for some ugly handling traits resulting in its not being the Ultimate Driving Machine. Or, maybe it was just too freakin' expensive.
Today's car is a mere tenth the price of that BMW, and arguably is a tenth as attractive as well. That being said, this 2003 Mercury Marauder is still one hot Panther. The B-26, owing to its extremely high wing loading, was a handful to fly, but it did prove faster and more agile than the similar appearing B-25 Mitchell. Once upon a time the second generation of Ford's panther platform mates, the Ford Crown Vic and Mercury Marquis
de sade, could be told apart from a distance. The Ford rocked a six light greenhouse while the Merc was a four. Additionally if on the car's roof there was mounted a light bar, you could be pretty sure it was a Ford underneath.
However with plans of Mercury's demise likely forming in Dearborn's board rooms, by the time the mid-level brand's last gasp of performance arrived in the form of the Marauder, it was pretty obvious Ford wasn't even trying any more. Aside from a bespoke grille and badging, this is a Crown Vic in shape right down to the fluted tail lamps. There is a MARAUDER embossing in the rear bumper cap, but aside from that, it looks like its off the last taxi you likely hailed.
Not that it's a bad thing, and Ford did a good job of making the Marauder look appreciably evil, and should be applauded for giving the high-po model to its red-headed stepsister, Mercury. Not all Mercury Marauders were painted black, but this one happens to be in that most common hue and is darker than the inside of a well digger's ass. The seller claims this two-owner Colorado car is rust-free and that black paint does shine like a new pair of shoes despite 8 years at altitude. On the downside, he does say that the windshield has more pits than a Proactiv commercial, but is willing to change it out for a nominal fee. Also demonstrating a life on the highway is a clear bra (why can't they all be?) and front bumper that show why it's never a good thing to be tasked with taking point.
Inside, the voluminous interior is resplendent in grey leather/vinyl and at least 5 different textures fighting for attention across the dash and doors. The seats in front are yo mama is so fat wide - so much so that they leave no room next to them for the seatbelt latch which instead has to poke through the squab like the head of a curious turtle. The backseat is equally generous and the whole interior shows little obvious wear despite being Rocky Mountain high.
Under the hood lives Ford's DOHC 4.6-litre V8, borrowed from the Mustang and making good noises through its dual exhaust. Back in 2003 American V6s didn't make 300 ponies like they do today. Back then it took eight pots to get that kind of power, which is what this eight makes. Plus two. Managing all that horsepower is an 4R70W 4-speed automatic (upgraded to the beefier 75W in ‘04) with a simple console-mounted slider shifter - no slappy paddles or manumatic baloney for this big Merc. Anybody worth his Applebee's earlybird special knows that the Panther cars sport a coil-sprung live axle in back, and here the Blue Oval boys have fitted that with mondo-big disc brakes in order to provide practical physics demonstrations on inertia and energy displacement (hint -think heat). Showing those off are a set of factory chrome alloys wrapped in wide meaty beaty big and bouncy rubber. Other mechanical mods include relocated shocks, an aluminum driveshaft and a 3:55 LSD borrowed from the Crown Vic Police Interceptor.
The seller says all of those bits work great, despite the car's 100K-plus mileage, and it's hard to fault the minimal wear it has with that many turns of the odo. They say the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long and Mercury (or truthfully, Ford) burned through their capacity to build Marauders after only two years and 11,052 units. That makes them twice as common as yesterday's Bimmer, but still reasonably rare, and as a trip down to your local Mercury dealership will prove, they ain't makin' any more of them.
In 1949 K.C. Douglas and Robert Geddins wrote a little ditty called Mercury Boogie later changed to Mercury Blues, a song covered by the likes of the Steve Miller Band and, possibly most famously, David Lindley. This Marauder is the spiritual successor of the cars that song immortalized, and could be the last Mercury to be considered so before the folks at Ford tried to mold the brand into ‘something for the ladies.' Much like its namesake WWII aircraft, it's not for everybody, but with a price tag of $9,495, it could be bought by almost anybody. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to determine whether that's a screamin' deal, or, if for that much this Marauder gives you the Mercury blues.
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