Most of us have had the experience of losing a rental car in a big…
Raiders of the Lost Car: The Mercury Marauder X-100
Twenty feet of personal luxury, a 429 V-8 under a seemingly mile-long hood, and one of the coolest names ever to emblazon a trunklid: The Mercury Marauder X-100. It may not have lasted long, but it shouldn’t be forgotten, either.
The year was 1969, and Mercury had just rolled out a new Marquis—bigger and bolder and more slab-sided than ever. This was also the year the Ford Torino Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler dominated NASCAR. Ford’s Total Performance advertising and product strategy trickled down to the Lincoln-Mercury Division, and the Marquis—basically a Ford Galaxie 500XL with a new grille, although the marketers wouldn’t admit it—wasn’t up to snuff.
There was a precedent for this sort of thing. The late 1960s were the thoroughly excessive days of the personal luxury coupe, where a hood seemed as long as the rest of the car combined. It was all arrow-straight bodywork and chrome-lined menace, vinyl roofs and fender skirts, puffy leather bucket seats, and the finest wood veneer (nevermind that sometimes it was plastic). And, most importantly, stoplight-melting power when you truly needed it. Luxury with straight-line muscle—why not have it all? What could be more American than that?
Enter the Marauder X-100. Or, rather, re-enter the Marauder, as 1969 brought back a name used from mid-1963 to ’65. The new Marauder was a two-door Marquis with the most minor of nips and tucks. Three inches shorter in wheelbase, five inches shorter overall. With 121 inches between the wheels, however, it was still massive. It weighed in at 4,500 pounds. The Marauder X-100’s 429-cubic-inch V-8, was equipped with four-barrel carburetion, 10.5:1 compression, and a three-speed SelectShift automatic (mounted on the floor console with a hoop-like shifter straight out of the Star Trek bridge). Its 360 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque were enough to send all 4,500 pounds of Mercury land-yacht fury hurtling towards 60 mph in just 7.8 seconds, according to Car and Driver. (A two-barrel, 390-cid, 290-hp engine was standard.) Top speed: 126 miles per hour. There would be little shock to find that a few laws of physics were broken in the process.
In addition to the big-block engine, the $700 X-100 package also gave you fender skirts, bucket seats, center console, three-spoke steering wheel, and Goodyear Polyglas H70×15 bias-belted white sidewall tires on five-spoke aluminum wheels. It also included an unmistakable rear trunklid and deck painted in matte black or another contrasting color, from the buttresses down to the taillights, an option Mercury called “Sport-Tone.” And for another hundred bucks or so, you could add two more options: four-wheel disc brakes and “competition” suspension.
It was everything at once. It was huge engine, full-size stability, and leather-clad cruising comfort. Indeed, the brochure for the 1969 Marauder X-100 boldly proclaimed: “In Case Luxury Isn’t Enough.”
And for a car that portended pre-’70s excess, the Marauder actually wasn’t too bad to drive. With heavy-duty shocks, upgraded Goodyear tires, and stiffer shocks, the X-100 was extremely controllable, as Car And Driver wrote in its December 1968 issue. Floaty? Sure. Lethargic, numb, light steering? Of course. What did you expect? Even a 429 couldn’t elevate the Marauder against the damning-with-faint-praise of reasonable competence, as the review concluded, which also commended it as “fashionable transportation.”
And fashionable it was. Find one in all black with the heavy lidded headlights and you’ll look like a battlecruiser menacing your way through midday traffic.
Mercury built 121,668 Marquis models in 1969, from two-door convertibles to four-door sedans and even the Marquis Colony Park wagon. And in that scrum, 14,666 Marauders made it through that first year of production, with only 5,635 X-100s in the mix. The next year, the Marauder sold less than half of that.
After using the name in 1963 and 1969, the division would revive the Marauder for a third time in 2003, with another two-ton boat that looked the part but wasn’t terribly quick. None of them lasted long or sold in huge numbers. (Curiously enough, a 1969 Marauader can be had for about the same price as a 2003 model.) And when the last Marauder went away, so did any semblance of uniqueness in the Mercury brand.
Maybe it was little more than a rebadged Ford Galaxie XL with some chrome and a nameplate that suggests pillaging and looting. But the Marauder is certainly more interesting than the Galaxy. Weird, rare, and intimidating, the Marauder X-100 remains a strange offshoot of the muscle car family tree.