For most of the Rough Start finds, I’ve tried to keep at least a 20-year gap between what year it is and what year the cheap car target of the day is. I do that because most people tend to clamor for the older iron, the simpler electronics, the classic lines. But is that a smart call when you are on a budget and might need to incorporate a project into daily driver status more often than not, if not all the time? Probably not. Unless you really do your homework and know hot to efficiently spin a wrench, in the long-term it’s probably smarter to buy something newer and to save your pennies for what your heart truly desires. But can you have your cake and eat it too? Maybe.
A Mercury Grand Marquis usually doesn’t cross the radar unless you want to drive Grandma around on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It’s only saving grace to most is that it’s a Panther platform car…it’s not a plush Lincoln and they don’t give off the cool cop-car vibes that Crown Vics and P71s do. But that doesn’t mean they can’t rock. Mercury themselves attempted to build a big-body boulevard machine with the short-lived Marauder, and while it was a solid attempt, you couldn’t help but get the feeling that someone in the division tacked up a picture of a 1994 Chevrolet Impala SS on the wall and simply said, “Do that.” Not that the idea was a bad thing, but the whole mix of dark colors and monochrome seemed like a rip-off.
This 2003 Grand Marquis LSE, on the other hand, feels more natural. It’s been lowered, it’s got pipes, it’s got the newer tail light setup, and Mustang wheels all the way around. Added bonus: it’s a floor-shift car, so whether you’re happy with the automatic or have visions of six-speed fun looming large in your head, you’re set. Is there room for improvement? Sure…the 4.6L underhood has plenty of room to grow power-wise and a brake upgrade would compliment the power addition nicely. Visually, we wouldn’t change anything…it’s a mix of classy and mean that just seems to fit the Grand Marquis right.
The $5,200 price tag is over the Rough Start budget, but we’ll allow it because for all intents and purposes, the build itself is done and because the reliability that the big Merc will provide will be worth every last penny.