2003 Mercury Marauder

The 2003 Mercury Marauder is the latest incarnation of Mercury's musclecar sedan, the first such car in Mercury's lineup since the early 1970s.

In 1963 Mercury hopped into the full-size musclecar ring to compete with the likes of the Pontiac Catalina, Chevrolet Impala, and others. It was based on a Montclair or Monterey and had a host of big block Ford engines such as the 390, etc. Focus was on Lincoln-like luxury at Mercury prices with big block Ford performance.

By 1969, the car had grown in size just like any other large American car. Engine sizes ranged from 390 to 429 cubic inches. Having arrived on the market a little late compared to the offerings from other car manufacturers, the initial Marauder had a small loyal following but was never a huge sales success.

The model was cancelled in the early 1970s and was mostly forgotten as demand for a large muscle-car sedan completely disappeared... until the Chevrolet Impala SS showed up in 1994 and rocked the big-car world. Produced from 1994 to 1996, it completely dominated the segment of the market, as Ford's Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis had to make do with somewhat anemic 4.6 liter single overhead cam V8 motors versus Chevrolet's grunty 5.7 liter LT1 Corvette-derived V8.
Nonetheless, the SUV market was booming and Chevrolet chose to abandon the large car market to boost truck production, cancelling the last rear-wheel drive sedan platform it had and leaving Ford the only manufacturer to offer such a vehicle. Around that time, an all-black SS-like Crown Victoria concept car was put together and by the early 2000s, an aftermarket tuner was offering upgrade packages on Crown Victorias including items such as superchargers, all black paint with blacked out grilles, etc.

In 2003, Ford decided to go ahead and produce this car as a hopped up version of the current Mercury Grand Marquis, resurrecting the Marauder name.

The 2003 Mercury Marauder is based on the Grand Marquis model. The visual difference is obvious right off the bat, with a blacked-out grille and bumper-incorporated foglights. From the side, the Marauder-specific 18 inch 5 spoke rims give it away. Out back, the dual polished exhaust tips poke out from underneath a embossed bumper.

What really sets this car apart from the garden variety Grand Marquis is what's under the hood. The 2002 Mustang Cobra engine was used with slight modifications, allowing it to develop 302 hp, a little less than the 320 hp seen in the lighter Mustang but supposedly due to cam profiles favoring better low end torque, already sparse in a small double overhead cam V8 engine such as this one.

The power is fed to a strengthened 4 speed automatic through a higher stall speed torque converter (about 2500-2700 RPM), allowing the engine to flash up to a stronger portion of the torque curve during heavy acceleration. Also in the interest of brisk acceleration, a differential gear ratio of 3.55:1 was used in place of the regular Grand Marquis ratios, which topped out at 3.27:1 in that car's "performance package". The power reaches the ground via the aforementioned 18 inch wheels shod with 245mm rubber at the rear (235mm up front, with the same aspect ratio, giving the car a slight rake).

Twin 57 mm throttle plates feed the engine through Ford's most efficient intake manifold, designed by Roush. The 91-octane-fed engine then exhales through a true dual exhaust with 2 catalytic converters per branch, with an H-pipe installed midway to the rear to help with exhaust scavenging. The result is an aggressive exhaust note that fits the image of the car.