Hooniverse Wagon Wednesday – A Wagon with Six Different Nameplates


Welcome to another edition of Hooniverse Wagon Wednesday. The last Wagon Wednesday posting featured vehicles that I called The Worst Wagons Ever Produced. The reason why I took GM to task on those wagons was the fact that Ford was producing what amounted to a pretty good mid-sized wagon, with none of the shortcuts GM did. Presenting the 1978 to 1986 Ford (and Mercury) Fox Bodied Wagons.


In 1978, Ford introduced a vehicle on a brand new platform that was dubbed the American Volvo by the enthusiast press of the day. The Fairmont line was offered as a two and four-door sedan, a roomy wagon, and later on as a personal two-door coupe. Along with a new platform, these cars were offered with a myriad or engine choices, from a 2.3L Four, to a 3.3L Six, 4.2L and 5.0L V-8s, and later on a 2.3L Turbocharged four cylinder.

The Mercury Zephyr was a virtual clone of the Fairmont sold by Lincoln-Mercury dealers. The major difference between the brands was the grill treatment, quad headlamps instead of dual, and the tail light texture. Everything else you could get on the Ford was available as a Mercury.

In 1982, the Fairmont wagon was rebadged as a Ford Granada, which was marketed as a bit more upscale to the buying public. The face of the Granada was more formal, and the trim used on the interiors was a significant upgrade (at least for 1982). The engines were also shared between the Fairmont and the Granada except the 5.0L V-8 was no longer offered.

The same thing happened over at the Mercury Division, but instead of continuing on with the Monarch nameplate, The Cougar name was applied. This was not the first time Cougar was used on a Sedan or a Wagon, and it didn’t help sales. By 1983, the Cougar name was once again used on a Personal Luxury Car where it belonged.

With the tepid reception of the Cougar and Granada models, you would think that the series would be history. However they received new life with a tasteful face lift, and a new name, the LTD. All of the engines available on the Fairmont were included in the LTD family, along with the re-introduced 5.0L V-8 which gained fuel injection by this time. However, the 3.8L Essex V-6 was by far the most popular engine choice, and also gained fuel injection by this time.

Over at LM Dealers, the Marquis replaced the Cougar as the mid-sized sedan and wagon offering. Both of these revised Fox Bodied vehicles set sales records during the 1984 and 1985 selling seasons, often placing in the top ten of vehicle sales. And why not? When these cars were sold, they were among the most reliable Ford products to be offered in a generation. They were roomy, quiet, and were better handling cars than many other domestic sedans and wagons at that time.

They were the predecessor to the best selling Taurus and Sable models introduced in the Spring of 1986. The LTD and the Marquis were actually selling right alongside their new stablemates for the 1986 model year, but were gradually phased out when the demand for the new models began outstripping supply.

So, what would you give to have a roomy, reliable, rear-drive wagon like these Fox Bodied Wagons? They were unpretentious (unless you went with the Fake Wood, Wire Wheels, and Velour Upholstery), theoretically available with standard transmissions, available with four – six – or eight cylinder engines, had actual opening rear windows on the doors, and were the last vehicles to offer true vent windows (remember them?). Which model would you choose? The Ford Fairmont, The Mercury Zephyr, The Ford Granada, The Mercury Cougar, The Ford LTD, or the Mercury Marquis? Let me know….

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  1. If only Lincoln had offered a version, replete with faux spare tire hump in the tailgate and vogues.

        1. Nope, they open. In fact that open almost all the way backwards, which blasts air right at you, and is why I was confused about them being called "smoker's windows." Seems like they would be the exact opposite thing a smoker would want, but I dunno.

          1. Way way back when I was a smoker (1981-1988), I used the vent windows when having a smoke in friends cars that had them. The vertical-axis-pivot style of vent window could be used in blast-of-air-to-the face venting mode when wide open, but when cracked open just an inch, they sucked the smoke and ash out of the car.

          2. Yeah, I've never been a smoker so I guess that functionality of the vent window was lost on me.
            I rarely use them on my car to be honest.

        2. No, they were optional and could be opened up with a round black twist-knob on the door panel. The cars without the vents had a solid, undivided pane of glass in the front door (look at the Granada wagon at the top).

          1. Up to '83 they used the crank knob. '84 and up use a latch with a release button on the back side that you twist upwards to open.

        3. Usually vent windows hinge open on a vertical axis to allow outside air to be diverted into a (typically non-air-conditioned) car. The wide edge of the glass is pushed out beyond 90 degrees from the closed position, and it acts like a funnel while the car is moving.
          A smoker's window is more like the ones found on 80's Town Cars. They roll down, like most regular windows. Of course, all those cars had factory AC, so the purpose was not to cool off the interior, but to keep your beehive from getting windblown while you tossed your butts on the highway.
          A couple of the cars pictured above don't have them, so I presume the window treatment was an option. If it was a fixed pane, that wouldn't make much sense, because it is probably cheaper just to let the whole thing roll down as one piece instead of adding more trim and adhesive. There don't appear to be any clearance issues below, so why else would they reduce visibility and ATM access?

          1. Ah, the roll down vent windows do make sense as a smoker's window. Hands on the wheel = hands near the vent window for the smoke to get sucked out.

    1. Lots of parents smoked in the 1970s and early '80s. No-one worried much about secondhand smoke. Also, a fair number of cars still weren't equipped with A/C, so you really needed the vent windows (no-one called them smokers' windows) for ventilation.

      1. Even with A/C I used my vent windows fairly regularly. They are a nice alternative to the A/C when the mercury is in the 70s.

  2. The 5.0L engine was sadly not offered in the Fox LTD/Marquis wagon, but is obviously easy to swap in.
    And that '86 Marquis wagon photo was obviously a doctored '85 photo. The CHMSL ended up being mounted on the roof instead of on the hatch.
    <img src="http://www.ford-wiki.com/wiki/images/thumb/1/15/%2783-%2784_Ford_LTD_Wagon_%28Rear%29.JPG/250px-%2783-%2784_Ford_LTD_Wagon_%28Rear%29.JPG"&gt;
    I believe the Crown Vics had optional vent windows up until the 1992 redesign.

    1. My '95 F-150 has them, but I rarely use them. it's too damn hot in the summer (I used them for a whole week three years ago, while the A/C was out), and I don't smoke.

  3. It would have to be a Cougar wagon, just because of the oxymoronic name. I mean, really. A Cougar WAGON?

  4. They might have been the last cars to offer vent windows, but not the last vehicles. I know Ford kept them on the F-150 until at least 1988, probably up to the early 1990s. I think current big rig trucks might still have vent windows, not sure.

    1. Ford had vent windows on trucks through 1996. They were gone on the "aero" '97 generation.

  5. Actually, the Fox sedans/wagons weren't the last to offer true vent windows. You could order then on the Thunderbird and Cougar through 1988 and on the Panther cars though 1989.

    1. OK, so I should have said "one of the last vehicles to offer Vent Windows"……. You would think I would get a break after being on sabbatical….

        1. Thanks, but it hasn't all worked out yet. At some point,I will do a posting about it, but not right now. I still won't be posting as much as I once did… just occasionally.

  6. D…uh. Thanks man. Although I think you could get a three-speed column shifted Montego up until the "Cougar" redesign fiasco…I'll take mine with a 351 4V with dual exhaust and pie-pans please.

  7. Soo…this thread is about vent windows? Great. I grew up in then USSR and I remember there was considerable cottage industry producing -on the state owned machinery and during working hours of course – latches with metal fastening parts for Ladas which had these windows.
    They were sold in weekend car markets were whole second hand car and parts business took place in soviet union.
    Problem with original latches was that they were glued to glass and every idiot could break into car by holding burning cigarette against window and just waiting latch to fall (to floor), great Russo- Italian engineering right there.

    1. My Alfa Romeo is equipped with the same feature. I keep a tube of adhesive in the glove box for that reason.

  8. Oh God, how I want a Zephyr wagon with every Fox-body go-fast bit in the Summit catalog thrown at it.

  9. Fairmont/Granada were crap. That Fox platform was drenched in flop sweat. 'Better than a Citation' should not be taken as a ringing endorsement. The fact that most of the comments are focused on the vent windows should tell you all you need to know.

    1. While it was was long in the tooth by the time Ford retired it in 2004, the Fox platform was way more advanced than its competitors when it came out.
      Admittedly I'm a Ford flag waver, but the gigantic aftermarket and thousands of performance built Fox bodies out there contradict your statement pretty strongly.

      1. Yeah, look at the sales numbers and then look at how many recalls there were for the Fairmonts…and read some of the info out there about how the police loved their 5.0 powered LTD's in '85…hardly crap.

      2. I had to work on those piles of crap when they were new, and it was a solid embarrassment everywhere you turned. Ford would have cut corners on a circle. Cheap, flimsy and crude. Engines that could hardly idle, and wouldn't shut off without a five minute spastic wheeze. Right then, Ford was lost. And it's not like I hate Fords – I've owned five, and never a GM or Pentastar. I know lots of people bought lots of Mustangs, and I'll be happier if I never have to be near one ever again. There are good old days, those weren't them.

    2. It was a solid, versatile platform with decent underpinnings for late-'70s Detroit. But the early Fox variants were pretty half-baked. Yeah, the Fairmont had Mac struts, but it also offered the ancient 200 ci Falcon six as its volume powertrain, which you could get with a three on the tree. The interior was garbage, the doors and body felt flimsy and cheap and build quality was non existent (Couldn't tell the difference between a Fairmont and Zephyr? Well, neither could the guys on the line…I still here stories about these cars being delivered with the wrong badges).
      But that idiotic horn on the turn signal stalk made it European, right? American Volvo? Right. My dad, who was still in the final days of GM loyalty before a series of company A- and X- cars finally banished the General from our driveway, couldn't stop talking about how junky the Foxes were every time he got stuck with one at the airport rental counter. Never mind that his Malibu Classic was so cheaply made that the rear door windows were fixed. But I guess if a brand new Zephyr broke down and stranded me in the Nevada desert, I'd despise these cars too. In short, these cars helped pave the way for my folks' 30 years of continuous Toyota ownership.
      The later Foxes weren't bad, though. The first Fox Mustangs and Thunderbirds were total dogs and the Granada hit the market with a thud. But the LTD/Marquis had most of the kinks worked out (although it was still blatantly a Fairmont), the Mustang got incrementally better every year starting in '82, and the aero T-bird/Cougar/Mark VII were pretty sharp.

      1. jeez, I had forgotten about how you had to push IN on a stalk to sound the horn, what a silly gimmick. I understand that the Fox platform had good bones, but all the Fairmont/Zephyr cars were unrelentingly stodgy and boring, even the Zephyr Z7 coupe which came out looking like a '77 T-Bird that shrank in the wash.

    3. To be fair, the Fox platform got to be much better after quality became job 1. OTOH, I'm currently driving an 80 Cougar XR7, and man oh man, let me tell you. The early ones sure didn't age well.

  10. The only one I saw was a red and wood grained early 90s Vickie. She traded it for the Mini.

  11. I remember fondly driving a `84 or so LTD sedan with the 3.8 V6. It would chirp the tires, and was fun in the twisties. Lost a few hubcaps that way.

  12. When I went to driver's ed as a callow youth, among the cars in the school's stable was the then-spanking-new Fairmont, along with a few dozen others of various make and model. The Fairmont was ALWAYS the last car chosen, and I found out why when I got my turn. What a steaming pile of crap… it even made the Mazda GLC look good. Painfully cheap in every regard. The turn signal return clicked with every revolution of the steering wheel. The window regulators were stiff and slipped. Slow, balky, ugly inside and out, and uncomfortable no matter how or where you sat. Feh.
    My teen nightmare scenario from then on: I'd grow up to be an accountant in some far-flung dystopian suburb, forever doomed to get lost in endless cul-de-sacs in a beige Fairmont 4-door.

  13. my first car was a hand me down 80 fairmont wagon. It was used when my parents bought it, then given to my sister, then finally to me. By the time I had it it was 12 years old and pretty worn out. The 200 six would foul the middle plugs constantly, the alternator was failing, it would stall while going around corners (especially in the mornings) resulting in a sudden loss of power steering. I got really good at slamming it into neutral and restarting it without losing any momentum. My friend Clint named it Swamp Thing. I drove it into the ground in short order. It did not have vent windows.

  14. I wasn't there, but I can't help but be fascinated right now about how things must've looked back then. (No idea why, I just am, starting from the last few weeks; this'll pass, I presume.) The new downsized Chevrolet fullsize Caprice/Impala was just introduced and very warmly received, and this was also very popular. I imagined it used to be that these two were absolutely everywhere at the time, and then you probably have the odd AMC Pacer sticking out like a sore thumb cute…thumb?!

  15. Interesting have an 88 Bronco with vent windows that I use fairly regularly and they seem to seal back up just fine.

  16. We had a 1979 Mercury Zephyr. When these things came out, they were virtually everywhere overnight. We saw them used as taxis, police cars, as well as numerous private cars like our own. They were cheap, roomy, and not that ugly by the standards of the day.
    As quickly as they rose, they fell. Ours wouldnt start in cold weather, and the revving necessary to keep the engine alive once it caught was no doubt a contributing factor to the cracked exhaust manifold. Our mechanic knew the automatic choke thermal spring mechanism was filling with soot, but didn't know how to stop it. As we were working through this, we noticed the number of other fairmonts and zephyrs on the road dropping drastically. They were all scrapped almost overnight.
    When ours developed an electrical fault in the headlights that no one could find, we tried to give it away. 70k miles, no rust, perfect interior (except for the cowl shake, but that's another story). No one would take it. I think we got something like $25 for it at the scrapyard.

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