1977 Mercury Marquis Base 400 V8
Affordable, reliable, nostalgic full-sized classic
This car is a classic full-size American car. It's long and wide, quiet and comfortable. In many ways it's very nostalgic of the way things used to be for American cars. But it's also a very old-time look and feel; even when new in 1977, it was an archaic design and a throw-back to an earlier era.
The suspension is very soft and the chassis is tuned for a soft ride and excellent isolation from bumps and vibration. One barely feels anything as even the roughest roads are smoothed by the compliant suspension.
Unfortunately it handles poorly. The steering is light, vague and uncommunicative. For many car drivers back then, this light, effortless steering was a sign of luxury and smoothness. But for someone accustomed to a modern car, it's disconcerting until one gets used to it.
The body wallows and rolls over rough pavement and corners. Lots of American cars from the 1960s and '70s were designed this way. But this car is a particularly extreme example of providing a soft ride at the expense of handling.
The car is good at highway trips at moderate speeds on straight, open roads. It feels very solid and stable at speeds. Bumps and cross winds don't throw it off its path. There's plenty of room to stretch-out inside. The bench seats are flat and not supportive. Unlike modern seats, they are not contoured at all. One makes the contours in the springs when one sits on the seats.
The trunk is deep, wide and very large. Very easy to load. The glovebox is also large and easy to use. This is good because there's no other storage inside the car, no map pockets, no trays, and no console.
The dashboard layout is simple and easy to use. There's minimal instruments, just a horizontal speedometer and gas gauge. Both are a bit small and difficult to read, but a typical style for American cars of the era.
There's no other gauges, just warning lights. There's not even separate lights for oil and coolant. There's one combined engine-fault light. If it comes on, it's up to you to figure out if it's overheated or if you've lost oil pressure.
The car does have ram-air style air-vents in the front kick-panels, under the dash. Pull 2 knobs and fresh air blows-in from outside, on the left and right sides under the dash. It's effective yet silent ventilation, much quieter than opening a window. This is one archaic feature that's very welcome. Cars used to have this, but they mostly had disappeared by the late '70s.
Mechanically this car has the base-model 400 CID V8, dual exhaust and FMX transmission. It's a smooth and reasonably powerful combination. It's more than fast enough to keep up with traffic. The 460 CID engine was optional. I have another '77 Ford with a 460 and frankly, the 400 (with some simple tuning) feels just as smooth and powerful as a 460.
The engine benefits from such careful tuning. The ignition timing specs are too conservative. I advanced the ignition from a recommended 8 degrees to 12 degrees, for a bit of extra power and fuel economy. There's no ping or detonation. These engines also benefit from an adjustable timing chain to advance the valve timing 3 to 6 degrees, although I have not done this yet.
The 2 barrel carburetor is an efficient design, but a bit small for the best power. An aftermarket 4 barrel intake manifold and carburetor will boost power. Again I have not done this yet.
The FMX transmission works well and shifts well. Most Marquis models come with the C-6 transmission that most people prefer (I own 2 other cars with a C-6). In my opinion the FMX is just as good or better, with more firm, positive shifts than a stock C-6.
The brakes are the base-model disc/drum arrangement. It works well, the pedal is firm and communicative, the brakes are easy to modulate and slow the car down well. There was an optional 4 wheel disc system, that may work even better.
This car is styled to look like a Lincoln Town Car of that era, but somewhat smoother and less - overstated. I like the classic looks, especially with the optional fender skirts. It looks long, low and elegant, but without the overdone, fussy details of the Town Car.
Mechanically it's very simple. It's a pleasure to work on the car because there's plenty of room under the hood for repair and service. All the components are easy to access, and nothing is hidden. There's no computers and minimal electronics so all repairs are very straightforward, quick and easy. Virtually all mechanical parts are available from any auto parts store, at reasonable prices. There's still enough of these in wrecking yards that one can find body parts on the Internet.
These cars are very robust and reliable. All the mechanical components were widely used in other Ford products and any bugs were worked out years ago, so mechanically these cars have a long and trouble-free life. The work I did on the car was just to replace regular wear items, and not to fix broken components. In fact most of the car's systems are the original 40 year old items and still work like new.
The car is also made from high quality materials. The 40 year-old interior, fabrics and vinyls, rubber door seals, and the exterior chrome and trim all looks like new, no rips, no tears, no rust etc. I've seen plenty of other old cars that did not hold up as well over the years.
I bought my particular car because it was a very well-preserved, rust-free and pristine original example of a reliable, cool old car. It's very rare around here to find such any old car in such excellent original condition, as most cars have rusted out long ago. When they are found, they're expensive. But this car was very cheap at $500.
This car is a base-model with few options, and does not have such a fancy interior or trim as the more upscale Brougham and Grand Marquis models. It has no power windows or locks, no power seat and no clock. There's no air conditioning. It does have cruise control, tilt wheel, rear window defogger, bumper guards and fender skirts, and AM radio, so it's not too plain. As was typical of the era, most American cars, even luxury models usually did not come as standard with many optional extras. One had to order them separately and pay extra for them.
I did not buy this car for daily transportation. Its poor handling, cumbersome large size and poor fuel economy make it somewhat impractical for daily use, especially for urban driving. Instead I bought it as a very affordable nostalgic classic car, for occasional pleasure use, for sunny-day cruising and the occasional show-and-shine. For this role, it does well, especially for the price I paid.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 7th September, 2017
7th Sep 2017, 14:11
The "ram-air style air-vents" were only present on cars that did not have factory A/C.
Sort of a poor man's air conditioner: "It's too hot in here." "So, open that vent."
7th Sep 2017, 18:28
This is my review, thank you for the comment about the air vents.
That makes sense, my air conditioned '77 Lincoln does not have these vents... but my old non-A/C Thunderbird has them.
They are a great idea and should have been included on all cars. Sometimes you want fresh air but don't need the cooling of A/C. And they draw air in from the insides of the front fenders, that would otherwise be unused space, even in a car with A/C.