The cars we loved.
Big cars appear to be on a comeback trail. Chalk it up to the euphoria of cheap gas, but large cars from The Big Three are selling well. The only missing element is a big American Coupe. Oddly enough it’s the Europeans who still embrace the concept (at a steep price). A S-Class Coupe or a 6 Series might seem like no compromise cars today, but in the late ’60s the big coupes of Ford, Chrysler and GM ruled the day.
As muscle cars began to loose some of their luster due to the insurance industry catching up to front office marketing trickery, the solution seemed to be make the cars bigger and move the muscle car engine into it. The results were varied but big roomy comfortable coupes for grownups were the immediate result.
Larger than the personal luxury cars like the Thunderbird or Monte Carlo, the big luxury sport coupes would follow the mold of the Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Wildcat. During all this post muscle car activity, one company was trying to re-invent itself before the dust settled.
Mercury was positioning itself as the premium performance-luxury brand under Ford. By 1969 Mercury had the dashing line up of rear wheel drive coupes starting with the intermediate Cougar on up to the full sized Marauder X-100. As the flagship car of the Mercury line up, the Marauder X-100 essentially was a variation of the Ford Galaxie 500XL coupe. With its 360 hp 429 V8, the X-100 offered more power than the standard Marauder, enough muscle to move this up to 4500 pound car to 60 mph in the mid 7 second range!
A smaller lighter muscle car was faster, but the Marauder buyer was looking for comfort and kit. It had plenty of standard and optional appearance items to allow buyers to go all out to further distinguish their car from the base Marauder or more tastefully optioned X-100s.
Loud cosmetic items like two tone paint could look downright odd on a car with fender skirts. Fortunately, those skirts were optional, but when added they made the Marauder look like a granny’s Pontiac Bonneville. For those who skipped that option, the X-100 could look rather intimidating with its special 15′ Kelsey-Hayes “MagStar” aluminum wheels on Goodyear performance rubber. Then of course there were those fake side air vents that could have been a opportunity to cool the rear drum brakes.
The sporty look continued inside with bucket “comfort lounge”seats (one of three seating options), a console and a space age shifter for the SelectShift automatic transmission. The main reason for getting a car like the X-100 besides the acceleration, was the comfort and stability that a 121 inch wheelbase could provide.
The X-100 was available for only two years and in that time Mercury was able to move over 8,000 units. Two years was just enough time to squeeze as many sales as the market could bear considering that the rapid fire pace of smog and EPA rules would kill the muscle car and later the big lazy coupes that inspired them.
In fact the Marauder name would fade after 1970 and not come back until 2003 (as a sedan). With today’s efficient engine technologies the EPA barriers are not so daunting, so why are there no big American coupes in today’s market? If sales of the Impala, Charger and Taurus are encouraging, perhaps Ford will step out first with a coupe version of the Taurus.
Chevy had a good run with the Impala coupe during the ’70s and ’80s, so I imagine there might be a pint up demand there also. As a business and marketing ploy, it’s Dodge who seems most likely to make a big personal luxury coupe (the Challenger does not count). For now those with a hots for a Marauder sized coupe will need to save up for that S-Class Coupe or a 6 Series in the sky.