Mercury isn’t a nameplate that springs to mind when discussion turns to the greatest muscle cars. The now defunct division of the Ford Motor Company was better known for its plush full-size automobiles that rivalled those from Buick, Oldsmobile and Chrysler.
But in 1958 Mercury put some serious muscle on the road in the form of the 430 cubic inch (7.0-litre) Super Marauder V8 engine that was available across the Montclair line-up - station wagon, sedan, coupe, whatever. It was the first American engine to boast 400 hp and it’s super rare.
The beauty of any gathering of vintage vehicles - whether it’s a Sunday afternoon show ’n shine, a cruise night at the local A&W or the used car corral at an automotive flea market is that you never know what’s going to turn up.
On the first weekend in May 2013, at the first ever Lindsay, Ont. Automotive Flea Market, there was a 1958 Montclair two-door hardtop with the Super Marauder engine. Painted in Autumn Beige over Golden Dust, the asking price was $67,500.
Very few ’58 Mercs were sold with these engines - some sources say less than 100 - and even fewer have survived - perhaps no more than 10 or a dozen.
For many years this Montclair was in the Chicago collection of Jerry Capizzi, but was sold by RM Auctions in April, 2008 for $55,000. The RM catalogue said, “This new engine, available only on the Montclair, was developed by Bill Stroppe to assist Mercury in shedding its stodgy public image and enabling the company to contend in the NASCAR racing series for its second season.”
The 430 cubic inch MEL (Mercury-Lincoln-Edsel) engine was constructed from 1958-65, but only in the first year of production did it make 400 hp. After 1958, compression was reduced from 10.5:1 to 10.0:1 and peak output fell drastically, to 345-350 hp.
The Super Marauder V8 used an aluminum intake (cast for Ford by Moon) with three two barrel Holley 2300 carburetors and wedge-shaped combustion chambers. It could be ordered with any available Mercury transmission in 1958 - three-speed manual, three-speed manual with overdrive, or this car’s Merc-O-Matic three-speed pushbutton automatic.
The seller is Wayne Copeland, well-known local dealer and appraiser of vintage vehicles. He says the exterior is all original except for the upper Autumn Beige colour, which he believes is a repaint.
The car is heavily optioned, with power steering, push-button automatic, white wall tires, dual exhaust, Town & Country radio, factory clock, fender skirts, tinted windows, twin outside mirrors and an aftermarket Continental kit.
Only 44,090 miles are showing on the odometer. The matching two-tone interior is all original and the bench seats, front and back, have been protected by the clear, heavy gauge plastic that was fashionable back in the day.
With all that power, and a weight of more than 4,300 lbs., the Montclair needed big stopping power and featured power assist brakes with 11-inch drums on all wheels.
No 1958 Monarchs with the 430 V8 were built by Ford of Canada in Oakville because the Canadianized Mercury was not produced that year. Monarch production resumed in 1959.