Just Privately

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

Pampered all its life and almost perfect – the only thing that doesn’t go is the dashboard clock.

And on old cars clocks seldom go, let alone such luxury kit as power-adjustable mirrors. “Old?” Rick sounds a little taken aback when I call the Mercury Marquis he has for sale an old car.

“Yes, I guess it is. It’s 31 years old now.” The notion had never occurred to him.

Nor would it when you consider the history of the 1977 high-end model from Ford America’s mid-luxury brand (Mercury sits between Ford and Lincoln).

Rick imported the car 20 months ago, bought from a deceased estate in the US. “It was only driven by an old guy,” he says. “He drove it to the doctors, to the diner and to the shopping mall. And that’s about only where it went.

“We’ve got hand-written records with the car with the original documentation and servicing records.”

The Detroit area owner – the car’s only owner before Rick – had the Mercury serviced religiously every six months.

“And do you know what it did between services? Sixteen miles! “He had the oil changed; the filters changed every six months. “The car is absolutely mint, it’s unbelievable. “It had been garaged all its life, in an air-conditioned garage.”

Rick spotted the car on eBay and bought it from the same dealership which had sold the Marquis originally.

How the car came to be available is a story in itself. The American owner’s wife had become sick and he asked the waitress who had served them at their favourite diner if she’d look after them.

His wife died and when he died, he left the Mercury, two other cars, and some real estate to the waitress.

“The Mercury was one of the cars she decided to on-sell,” says Rick. What attracted him to the car when he saw it advertised on the internet was that it was “a big, cruisy tank that would be good for towing a caravan.

“When I started the process of importing it, I didn’t want anything quite so good.” But then there was the attraction of the Mercury’s incredibly low mileage – just 7000 miles in just on 30 years.

“So I knew no-one had had their head under the bonnet to muck things up.” But when the car arrived here, it was “a bit too good to put the dogs in and tow a caravan with.

“It can’t do what a four-wheel drive does. On our land we need a 4WD for towing, so we decided to do something with the Mercury – get it out of mothballs, sell it and get a decent four-wheel drive.”

So, the big Mercury is for sale. The Marquis was one step from the top of the 1977 Mercury range, just below the Grand Marquis which had a bigger motor and more kit, including leather.

Mind you, you could option up the model Rick has for sale – the Brougham – with Grand Marquis equipment.

Rick’s Brougham has cloth upholstery – “the back seat looks like it’s never been sat on, never been used” – and an AM/FM stereo radio, cruise control, remote-control mirrors, remote boot release, power windows, power steering.

It’s a four-door sedan and runs a 400-cubic-inch V8 driving the rear wheels through a C6 automatic transmission.

When not in use the headlights are hidden behind body-coloured blinds that drop down into the front bumper when the lights are switched on.

“Everything works on it – apart from the clock.”

Because it was garaged in a controlled atmosphere, the chrome and door rubbers are perfect.

When Rick bought it in Detroit the Marquis had covered 7300 miles, by the time it got to California that was 10,000; now it has covered 13,600 miles.

The only things that had to be replaced were the original crossply tyres, one of which blew. They’ve been replaced with Cooper rubber.

What’s it like on the road? “It floats, especially on our Northland roads, but it’s unbelievable how well it corners for such a big big tank.

“You don’t get thrown around in the corners. It leans over and you lean with it. “People think you can’t drive a big car fast, that they don’t handle.

“I guess this thing is pushing 2.5 tonnes, but it just seems to sit on the road.” If the car doesn’t sell before March 2, the Mercury will be at the Kerikeri Classic Car Show in the Bay of Islands.

The March 2 show raises funds for the hospice and last year attracted 250 cars. “We’re expecting 300 this year,” says Rick.

“This car will be there on March 2 if it’s not sold.” If he doesn’t get the prices he’s asking, Rick says he’ll probably keep the Mercury and use it.

Among its tasks will be towing a vintage fibreglass caravan Rick is restoring. He’s trying to get that ready to have the Mercury tow it in the Kerikeri show. They’ll make an impressive sight.