Once upon a time in a world 40 years ago, the way to haul the herds through freshly minted suburbia wasn’t via sport utility vehicles, nor minivans. The new fangled concept of all things in one crossovers would have bewildered the average buyer in 1976. Only one thing got-er-done in Bi-Centennial ’76, and that was the wooly mammoth clad in wood known as the full sized Station Wagon.
FordMoCo long dominated the niche in sales performance, and to varying degrees, prestige. The Di-Noc slathered Country Squire was one of the first Ford products that didn’t mind its position as a member of one of the low priced three brands, being acceptable in Fields and at Country Clubs. How did the further upmarket Marquis Colony Park fare among the fancy precious cargo carriers?
Mercury made a full fledged fight to be taken seriously against premium players from Oldsmobile, Buick and Chrysler in the barge sweepstakes of the 1970’s. This full on assault on suburban driveways found both Ford and Mercury adding rather rococo design details where Chrysler, Ford and Oldsmobile tried their best to blend a tailored ethos to bulging bodywork that seem to be a requisite in the Seventies excess.
Frilly details like hidden headlamps with crested doors, bladed fenders with chrome crusted turn signals and a oh-so-requisite waterfall grille shouted “luxury for the full family.” Cornering lights, more lush vinyl interior appointments and huge swaths of woodgrain inside and out tried their damndest to make the Colony Park the Continental of wagons.
Within that, it’s amazing to think that these Dearborn Dirigibles , as bulky as they look, actually sit on a wheelbase 6 1/2 inches shorter than the contemporary GM Clamshell wagons. They also weigh 250-300lbs less than the more than two and a half tons of “fun” from Oldsmobile and Buick.
The big M and sister ships rode on some of the earliest of the “fuselage” design philosophy that sent bodysides bulging at the shoulder level, giving interior room a sense of cavernous only experienced in cargo aircraft before. With a passenger capacity of 10 in technicality, the actually slightly tidier Dearborn duty queens could brag about hauling the biggest passenger loads.
In terms of cubic inches, Ford continued to have a bevy of things to envy. The 460 V8 available in these beasts bested all the 454/455 units available in GM offerings, and the 440 unit that served as top dog at Mopar.
Of course, this was when all big block engines saw raw muscle cut by first the rating of engines by purely net numbers, then by emissions equipment to make the land yachts Americans better, and less polluting towards the environments they explored. By 1976, the once mighty 360 horse 460 was down to 202 horsepower. While still full of stump pulling torque, for the beastly size of the block, performance was merely adequate. 0-60 times sauntered by in a few ticks over 12 seconds, but why give the whole family motion sickness?
Efficiency was never the main goal of these efforts, and the Colony Park colonized resources like none other. Granted they were big enough to serve as oil tankers, it shouldn’t come as a surprise they consumed their fair share of Texas Tea for breakfast, afternoon socializing and as an evening cap.
It was rare that 10 miles would go by around town before it needed another gallon to drink, perhaps 13 or 14 once it settled into a 55 mph burble down the freeway, more often never carrying the full passenger and cargo capacity it was capable of pacaderming just about everywhere.
In a way, wagons this large were slowly losing their ability to be in charge, as the United States birth rate fell and divorce rate increased. Fewer families were composed of multiple births, as the ideal of 2 children meant there was less and less need for rear facing seats. General Motors went first, chopping their Full-sized wagons to what had become exaggerated “intermediate” portions in 1977.
Ford followed like a predator cat with their Panther wagons in 1979, and abandoned a field they helped create in 1992. These fat cats also fattened profit margins but were about to be as extinct as Wooly Mammoths. The 1969-78 Ford/Mercury/Lincoln full sized cars were one of the most successful final blow outs of the binge-eatin breed of automobile. As the sun sets on this example, we recognize the wisdom and folly of offering such a beast for breeders to carry their broods around in.