1983 Mercury Colony Park station wagon was big, blocky and heavy but could carry a family to Walley World

Last week we showed you the rear corner of a station wagon that could have been one of several such cars in the days of mammoth people haulers. Many of you suggested it was a big General Motors wagon, and indeed it looked the part, but our car of the week was a 1983 Mercury.

 

To be specific, it was a Grand Marquis LS Colony Park wagon in the days after stagecoaches and Pullman cars but before SUVs and minivans.

We knew the taillight could be confusing, so last week we gave this clue: “It’s probably not what you thought it was when you first saw it.” Readers said that helped.

Chosen from the correct entries was the name of Robert Blake, of North Augusta, who wrote:

“You were being a little sneaky and subtle with this week’s photo. I jumped on it immediately as one of the badge-engineered mid-1980s GM full-size wagons, but then could not find any of the full-size Buick-Olds-Pontiac cars that had taillights that looked like it exactly.

“So I thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s a Ford product,’ and bingo! there it was. It it hit me: It is a Mercury. A Mercury Marquis Colony Park model, to be exact, since I could make out the script on the rear fender.

“Since there was virtually no difference in design for them for many years as you hinted in the clues, I could say the year could be anything from 1980 or so up to maybe 1986+.

“My parents bought a lime-green Marquis sedan with a black vinyl roof and the hidden headlights that the earlier years sported. These cars were big, lumbering, soft-riding interstate cruisers with cavernous trunks and a 429 V-8. Ours had the optional intermittent wipers before they became just a standard feature. It also came with a stereo FM radio that sounded amazing compared to the AM music in the previous cars we had.

“My dad never liked the car, said it wasn’t ‘friendly’ to him. I think it was just too big and not sporty like he preferred and I remember that it had a terribly wide turning circle, but I also recall that my mother loved to drive it.

“It was great for trips, and I fought with my sister in the back seat of that car on many a vacation. We could sit so far apart that we could not hit each other without leaning in.

My father got his way on the next car he bought, getting 1973 Cutlass Supreme.”

Thanks to Robert for his entry. We are accustomed to getting his correct submissions about the weekly car quiz, but for some reason we inadvertently omitted his past two entries. Sometimes submissions never make it to us, but this was our oversight.

Last week, for instance, Robert identified the 1954 Lincoln Capri, and he credited Bob, “a friend and member of our Waffle House breakfast posse in North Augusta. He recognized it and named it right away.”

The week before that, he correctly pinpointed the 1964 Chevrolet Impala SS, but we failed to record it when he wrote: “The roof lines of the 1963 and ’64 cars were the same but the side trim on the ’64s was positioned just below the door handle vs. the ’63 side trim being much lower. … The 1965 Chevrolet was so popular it set industry sales records.”

We appreciate Robert sticking with our weekly quiz even when we neglected him. We will keep a keener eye out for everyone from now on when we’re going through the scads of emails we receive each week. Let’s hope we left no one out of this list of other readers identifying the Colony Park:

AUGUSTA: Walker Mobley Jr. said: “Best guess for the puzzle this week is a photo of a mid to late 80’s Chevrolet Caprice or Pontiac Station Wagon. The chrome bezel around the taillight lens and the placement of the backup light lens in the unit is the kicker for me. As always, keep these coming.”

Gary Engen wrote: “I believe you have photo of a 1984-86 Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park Wagon. Perhaps it’s a 1986 model. The Mercury Colony Park is a full-size station wagon that was offered by Mercury between 1957 and 1991 as their top-of-the-line model and a popular automobile for middle-class families during the ’80s era until the vans and SUVs were developed in later years.

“It was distinguished by that woodgrain paneling on the body sides and tailgate, a feature also associated with competitive station wagons of the day. In 1971, I purchased a new Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon that also had that make-believe wood grain on the exterior. That Olds also had a three-way tailgate and a third seat in the rear, as does the Mercury you pictured.

“The third seat in my Olds faced to the rear, and the Grand Marquis had unique dual sideway-facing third row seats that some said could seat four additional people (well tiny toddler people, maybe). Anybody with a leg that reached beyond the lower seat cushion had some pretty serious legroom deficiencies to deal with.

“I kept my Olds Vista Cruiser for nearly 14 years, driving it and family throughout the USA (with a St. Bernard dog) and several years in Europe. Great adventures and memories.”

John Hayes said: “I think this week’s car is a 1984 Mercury Colony Park station wagon.”

Lowell Fritsche wrote: “I am going to go with a Chrysler Town &Country minivan. It has to be around 1982 somewhere. They were all made the same, so its tough to get the year. I thought maybe you were going to try to trip us up with the Ford Carousel with your hint.” (Editor’s note: The Carousel was a 1973 Ford concept vehicle that was never sold, but it resembled the minivans pioneered by Chrysler after Ford fired Lee Iaccoca and he moved to Chrysler.)

“But the little C in the picture tips it to Chrysler for me. A friend’s mother had one up in Indiana. She was in bad health and never used the van. She kept in a garage for years, and it just came out maybe two or three times a year. After she passed away, he brought it out and it was essentially brand new. You could not see any wear on it except for dust. One of the grandsons ended up with it. I sure hope he kept it nice.”

CANTON, Ga.: David Anderson wrote: “Well, sir, your clue was spot on. This was not what I initially thought it would be, a 1980s GM full-size wagon. The taillight proved to be too short for that application, thus identifying this as a sixth and final generation of the Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park station wagon. It is mostly just referred to as the Mercury Colony Park.

“The Grand Marquis sedan went through its final updating in 1979, and the body style continued for the Colony Park, especially from the angle of the teaser shot, with only subtle exterior updates until its demise after the 1991 model year. I can say that it is not the 1979 model year, because that year had decorative reflector lenses on the tailgate that look like extensions of the taillights.

“These wagons are the last of their kind, for the minivans and SUVs were taking over that market segment faster than all of the manufacturers could roll them out of the factory. I was in the heyday of my child-rearing days in the ’80s, with one child born in 1979 and then two more in 1984 and 1988. I never owned a wagon in those days as I moved from a Buick Century sedan to an Astro minivan in 1987 and then into a Suburban in 1997. It was only four years ago that I moved back down into my current Cadillac CTS wagon from that Suburban. I am not aware of any American manufacturer today offering anything close to the traditional wagon or with any plans to offer one in the future.

“The more maneuverable and versatile minivans eventually put the nails in the coffin of the traditional family wagon hauler represented by this Colony Park. These wagons served the family well for many years, but for me, having that minivan third-row seating so that no child had to physically sit next to the other, touching one another, breathing the same air as the other, was a blessing. The bonus was I still had plenty of storage for family vacations behind that third seat. That was something the traditional wagons could not offer.

“This week’s Hollywood connection is that Dean Martin in the Matt Helm movie with lovely Stella Stevens, The Silencers, drove a customized 1965 Mercury Colony Park. The interior was, of course, fitted with his spy stuff, and being that its Dean Martin, it also had a fully stocked wet bar. In one scene, Stella pours him a drink and hands it to him while he’s driving! I wonder if any state back then had any open container laws on the books yet?”

EDGEFIELD, S.C.: Marion Traxler said: “This week’s car somewhere around a 1978 Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon. I think they used the same body style from 1977 to 1989.”

EVANS: Jerry Paul said: “The vehicle of this week appears to be a 1987 Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park station wagon.”

Bill Harding wrote: “I’m certain that it’s a Mercury Colony Park, but what year? They looked pretty much the same from 1979 through 1991. I will just take a wild guess, and, taking a hint from George Orwell and a song by Randy California’s rock band – Spirit – I’d say it’s a 1984.

“Coincidentally, 1984 was the year that Chrysler introduced its line of minivans and Jeep introduced its four-door Cherokee sport utility vehicle. These two classes of vehicles are what caused station wagons to become essentially extinct in the United States.

“Minivans were car-based and easy to both drive and load. Sport utility vehicles were good for the weekend getaways and off-roading. Station wagons? They now were pre-hearse transportation for the elderly.

“1984 Mercury Colony Parks were powered by V-8s of 302 or 358 cubic inches, paired with Ford’s four-speed automatic overdrive transmission. 1984 became the Colony Park’s best sales year for the 1979-91 series, with over 17,000 sold. The Colony Park, which had debuted in 1957, lasted through 35 model years.”

Jeff Keevil knew it was a Grand Marquis wagon: “This is about a 1985 model of the sixth-generation cars. You were right about not being what I first thought. I went right to the GM products of that era in my search. Some looked awful close, but that back window just didn’t match. I stumbled onto a Ford product and noticed the rear window trim was similar to the picture provided. That led me to the Mercury.”

Terry Benton said: “I know this is a long shot, but maybe this week’s photo is a Mercury Colony Park wagon. Probably an ’85 or ’86. My first thought was a GM product, but your clue made me look in a different direction.”

Wayne Wilke said it was a 1986 Grand Marquis Colony Park station wagon: “This week’s was a toughie. Right off the bat, the photo looked like an an early ’80s full-size Chevrolet faux woodie wagon that a next-door neighbor had had. The Chevrolet’s taillight was similar but the backup light lens was in the middle sector instead of the bottom sector. I then checked Pontiac, Olds and Buick wagons of the period, and none was a match.

“Then I stumbled on a photo of the Mercury Grand Marquis wagon and the search was over.”

GROVETOWN: Ruth and Jimmy Sapp wrote: “Jimmy’s first guess was that this week’s car is a Pontiac Safari wagon, but I dug around and found that car had the back up light in the middle section of the taillight, not the bottom section. So my guess for this week is a Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park station wagon, probably of 1985 or 1986 vintage. It will be interesting to see what it really is!”

HEPHZIBAH: Theo Hammontree rarely misses, and he didn’t this time, either. He said it was a mid-1980s Colony Park.

KEYSVILLE, Ga.: Glenn Widner said: “It appears to be taillights of a Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park station wagon. About a 1985 model year, but the sixth generation of this model didn’t change very much from year to year. 1991 was the last year for this big automobile.”

MARTINEZ: Eddy Marsh said: “Today’s car is a Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park station wagon. It is probably between 1981 and 1987. Most all these years in the early to late ’80s used the same taillights.”

Cheryl Cook seemed to be the only player who got the year exactly right: “It seems to me to be a 1983 Mercury Colony Park station wagon. Manufactured from 1957-91, it was a top-of-the-line wagon, rivaling the Ford Country Squire. The ’83 was in the sixth and final generation before the Colony Park became part of the Grand Marquis model line. Nothing like a great station wagon when you have four little boys who go everywhere with you.

“We had a 1976 Ford LTD station wagon that was gorgeous, a dream to drive; loved it! My boys loved it, too, bouncing around back and forth, like it was a moving playground. Nobody used seat belts in the ’70s, right? Thank God they survived it all. I’m a very good driver.

“My husband traded it, took it away from me, for something smaller. After many months of reminding him how much I loved and missed my LTD wagon, he had no choice but to get me a 1978 Ford LTD wagon.

“Thanks for the memories”

RIDGELAND, S.C.: Chris Jeselnik identified it as a 1979-86 Grand Marquis Colony Park station wagon: “Same as Ford LTD but a more luxurious model, fell between the Ford and Lincoln.

“This was the platform by Ford that LTD, Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car were produced on until, I think, 1991, when they went to the Panther platform that went away with the last Crown Victoria, Town Car and Grand Marquis models around 2010 when they stopped producing Mercury.

“My wife’s aunt had one.”

THIS WEEK’S QUIZ

Do you know the make, model and year of this car? We might tell you that this bird growls.

Enter through our online form at chronicle.augusta.com/whatisit, or e-mail glynn.moore@augustachronicle.com or call (706) 823-3419.

Tell us your name, city and stories you have about a car like this. If you call, please spell your name.

You have through Tuesday. Entries will be printed Friday. Thank you.

– Glynn Moore,

staff writer

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