I have been a full size wagon driver since 1988.
My first was a 1978 Buick Estate Wagon with the Olds 403. An excellent car with lots of power.
In the early 80s GM decided to drop all the reasonably powerful V8s and stick wagon buyers with the 307 in the poor attempt to get better economy from the big cars.
I have owned 3 late 80s GM wagons. A 1989 Buick Electra Estate, a 1990 Olds Custom Cruiser and a 1989 Caprice Estate. All suffered from a underpowered, inefficient engine.
I purchased a 1988 Country Squire based on price. It would run circles around the GM wagons and get 23 mpg on the road. I have owned Ford or Mercury wagons ever since.
I currently own a 1991 Colony Park. It has been an excellent car and has required only minor repairs. Ford quality then was superior to GM or Chrysler. The Ford wagons cannot be beat.
I own a 1991 Colony Park and it is great fun to drive. It has 175.000 KLM and works like a clock. Purchased 5 years ago, recharged the A/C, opened up the injectors for more hp.. dual exhaust, full load leather in that rust color, still get comments about the car. A KEEPER.
I have just bought an 88 Country Squire, and it's great... except for the tranny... it's slipping in overdrive and the low end of 3rd, but still moves me around... in style haha.
Had a transmission put in one of these Grand Marquis once - I think it was about $750.
Regarding the 307 vs the 302 - I have never had a late-eighties 307, just the early eighties one, which supposedly had some very minor differences which gave it slightly more power. But I have never had a motor I liked more than the 307 - a fine blend of torque and fuel economy, well suited to the high gearing and relaxed motoring of eighties Oldsmobile Delta 88s and Buick LeSabres. Sure, I liked owning a '73 Cadi with a 472, a '69 T-bird with a 429, a '69 Riviera with a 430, but the difference is a Delta 88 with a 307 would be practical for use in today's impecunious world.. they generally got around 20 mpg or a little more on the highway.
So would the 302 of course, but I'm just surprised that the above poster so strongly preferred them over the 307. The Grand Marquis's I've owned seemed a little underpowered compared to my Delta 88s. Rock solid, lovely cars, but not so powerful.
I purchased a 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis wagon with the 351 Cleveland off the show room floor. It was a great car, but I sold it to my sister in 1983 and purchased a Cadillac coupe.
About 3 years back, I wanted another Colony Park, so I found and purchased a fairly low mileage unit from an estate. The car has the power window and lock problems it seems everyone has experienced, but my main complaint, compared to the 1991 model is the ride. The 1991 rode like my Towncar (s) but this 1991 has a horribly harsh ride. I changed the shocks and replaced the tires with standard Michelins. Still no better.
Any one else experienced this problem, or any ideas? I intend to keep the car forever because of its versatility.
Regarding the Ford Country Squire and Mercury Colony Park wagons with the 302 engines.
Have a Ford CS LS with 225,000 miles with towing package (heavy duty everything, dual exhaust, and higher numerical axle ratio) --- this Ford is a runner and still runs great. Bought a Mercury Colony Park GS without towing package --- this car did not have the pickup or speed of the Ford. Added heavy duty shocks and springs and changed the rear axle ratio.
These two wagons run very well, get good highway mpg, and ride very well.
Ford and Mercury sedans and wagons with regular suspensions are too soft and tend to roll and wallow. When shocks are worn or not heavy duty, the cars may tend to take bumps pretty hard.
The 89 through 91 Fords and Mercury cars and wagons were built on the same platform as the Lincoln Towncars. Same engine, same suspension, same transmission. Any of these cars with dual exhausts had a heavy duty suspension, different axle ratios, along with heavy duty radiators and alternators, and oil coolers on power steering and transmission.
My grandparents '89 Town Car had dual exhausts, and from the way I remember that thing bounding up and down on country roads I can't imagine it had a heavy duty suspension.
Just to review suspension 101: springs compress when you fall into a pothole, and the shocks push them back out again -- and act as dampeners so that the spring won't continue to oscillate after the one pothole!
Heavy duty shocks will always lead to a rougher ride, because they return the car back to height faster and you feel more of every pothole, but, no wallowing on country roads :-)
I didn't understand this at first, and bought heavy duty shocks thinking they were simply more durable or higher quality, didn't realize that meant stiffer dampening.
Heavy duty springs also lead to a rougher ride for more obvious reasons.
So if you're cruising on smooth, well-maintained highway... light duty springs and shocks both are what you want.
A perfect world is a high-end modern sports car that has variable air suspension, softens for the highway, stiffen for the city streets or for Pennsylvania, hahaha. But that has its own issues with price and reliability!
Don't forget that these components wear out too. Springs really do become softer over long amounts of time, an engineer would use the term "creep" and plastic deformation; and shocks can have internal seal breakdowns if hydraulic, or simple leaks either way and become less stiff -- and soon afterwards altogether shot!
In my own 1990 Colony Park, I've just ordered heavy duty cargo coil springs -- they're nonlinear, and are supposed to be (and I'm making these numbers up) soft say for the first inch or two, and as they compress further, stiffen up. A crude form of a variable suspension if you will.
I've also ordered heavy duty sensa-trac shocks for heavy loads and trailer use.
I'm not towing trailers, but whenever I add oh more than 600# to the back of my wagon, the suspension starts to bottom out around tight turns and over speed bumps.
The original springs have surely gone soft: 600# is only 4 passengers, and these wagons theoretically were rated for 10 people! This way I should be able to put 1000# of tools in back no problem :-)
Acceleration however... either a different rear differential (will kill gas economy), or more likely, pull the 220hp engine out of an Explorer!
"suspension 101: springs compress when you fall into a pothole, and the shocks push them back out again -- and act as dampeners so that the spring won't continue to oscillate after the one pothole!"
Not quite right. The spring decompresses as the wheel enters the pot hole, then it compresses back to normal as the wheel leaves the pot hole. However, since that corner dropped a little bit and there is a rebound effect, the spring compresses beyond the point of normal ride height which initiates the bouncing motion. That jump up is mitigated by the shock absorber as it pushes oil through a small passage.
"purchased a 1981 Mercury Grand Marquis wagon with the 351 Cleveland"
Your '81 Mercury would have had a 302 or 351 Windsor engine; the Cleveland was not available in North America after 1974.