Modified Mustangs & FordsFeatured Vehicles
1969 Mercury Marauder X-100 - Black Widow
Because It's Black and Could Have Made a Widow Out of the Owner's Wife
Though most of us will recall the period as being the heyday of ponycars and musclecars, the back half of the '60s also saw the advent of personal luxury coupes-great, honkin' motherships of cars, with equally great engine displacement.
Mercury would not be denied entry into this growing market, if you'll pardon the pun, and thus was created the '69 Marauder, having the nose of a Marquis but a tail like no other. The sporty spearhead of the Marauder lineup was the X-100, seldom seen at all these days, and even a rare beast in 1969, as reportedly only 5,635 were assembled at Ford's St. Louis assembly plant-about a third of total Marauder production-this in a year when Mercury built more than 180,000 fullsize cars.
Don't be fooled: The Marauder was actually smaller than its four-door Marquis sibling, "smaller" being a relative term, of course. The Marauder rode on a 121-inch wheelbase, which was, in fact, 3 inches shorter than the Marquis' wheelbase. Its massive rear haunches-a product of the flying buttress-style roofline, what Merc called a Tunnel Roof-and fender skirts definitely add visual bulk. Yet, despite this expansiveness, the X-100's proportions were not unpleasant, in a gargantuan kind of way. Which is a conclusion our feature car's owner, Ed Zukusky, arrived at after a lengthy search for a nostalgic yet affordable replacement for the powerful road machines he had owned in the '60s and early '70s.
Back in the day, Ed's proclivity had been for cars on the large and muscular side, like his 409 Impala, Chrysler 300, Charger R/T 440, and Torino GT. But when he began his search a few years ago for something similar, he was shocked by the fiscal exclusivity of musclecar values.
Once Ed decided he liked the imposing looks of the big two-door Merc, he then had to find one. Helping him out was a longtime friend, Roger Papp, who had been restoring old cars for more than 15 years. Whenever Ed or Roger would find a Marauder for sale, they would have it professionally inspected. Many failed inspection, but then one was found with fewer than 50,000 miles, one that the seller professed "just needs the paint buffed to be ready for show." On the basis of its description and photos, they decided to skip the inspection.
Ed bought it and had it shipped to Roger in White, Georgia, where it was quickly discovered that one rear quarter-panel was done up in primer, the rest of the paint was "way beyond buffing," and one entire front fender had been scraped while taking the X-100 off the trailer. In all its ebony massiveness, Roger immediately began referring to it as the Black Widow. Ed, who at that point had heard Roger's description of its condition but still hadn't seen the less-than-pristine Merc, said, "If the car is what you say it is, my wife will be the widow after she shoots me for buying it." We kind of like that line.
On the positive side, this X-100 was solid and original (it had been a Colorado/California car), not needing major work but rather a good going-over, trim-parts acquisition, and new paint job. It was the trim parts that proved most challenging-not surprising given the rarity of the Marauder X-100 and the subsequent lack of aftermarket interest in reproducing any parts. Yet Ed and Roger persevered and got some surprising bargains along the way, apparently from people who simply wanted to see a '69 Marauder properly restored.
To Ed, an undeniably desirable part of the project was the Merc's N-code 360hp 429. Far more important than horsepower in this application is this engine's elephantine 480 lb-ft of torque at just 2,800 rpm. This is the kind of grunt needed to get an X-100 weighing in the vicinity of 4,300 pounds underway-especially if equipped with the 2.80 highway gears, as is Ed's (those same gears, however, do permit an impressive top speed). Luckily, the 429 ran extremely well, so the engine compartment was restored and detailed without pulling the big-block. This involved soda-blasting the entire underhood area; then having Roger scrupulously detail the entire compartment back to factory colors and condition. Ed has since swapped on some engine chrome, apparently to Roger's chagrin.