Mercury follows Impala formula for Marauder

LAS VEGAS — If the high-performance Mercury Marauder is a success, Ford Motor Co. can thank crosstown rival Chevrolet for developing the blueprint.

The Marauder, a version of the Grand Marquis scheduled to go on sale in May, got its first public viewing here last week at the Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show. The sedan is designed to appeal to the same type of performance enthusiast as Chevrolet’s 1994-96 Impala SS, which was spawned from the Caprice.

Drooling fans

Chevrolet introduced the Impala SS at the 1992 SEMA show as a concept and rushed it into production after muscle car fans drooled. The Impala SS had a strong but short run as General Motors killed the Caprice to make room for more truck production. Resale values of the 1994-96 Impala SS remain high.

Mercury bought two copies of the Impala SS and tore them apart to find ways to improve the formula, said Kevin Lambert, powertrain engineering manager for the Marauder.

“The stuff the Impala team did was pretty good,” said Lambert. “The problem was what they started with was a rough piece.”

The Marauder will have a 300-hp 4.6-liter V-8 that uses many parts from the Mustang Cobra motor. But the engine is unique. It uses special four-valve cylinder heads, Lambert said. Like the Impala, the Marauder has wide, comfortable leather bucket seats and a floor-mounted shifter for the four-speed automatic transmission.

Special touches include wheel centers and seats with the old 1940s Mercury “godhead” logo, oil and volt gauges in the center console, fat chrome dual exhaust tips and fog lights built in the front fascia.

The Marauder will debut with a sticker price of $29,995 to $32,000. Mercury hopes to sell 15,000 units per year, about the same volume as the Impala SS.

Supercharged Freelander

Other vehicles unveiled at SEMA included:

  • The Callaway Land Rover Freelander: This supercharged version of Land Rover’s small sport-utility may be headed to showrooms. It has a more aerodynamic front bumper with an integral skid plate and carbon fiber air ducts. The rear fascia has a center section for two fat exhaust pipes.

    The engine is a supercharged version of Rover’s KV-6, a 2.5-liter double-overhead cam unit that develops 250 hp. The Callaway Freelander will reach 60 mph in 7.7 seconds. Other upgrades include stiffer suspension and stronger four-wheel disc brakes.

    “The objective of the exercise,” said designer Paul Deutschman, “is to give the Freelander much more roadability.” The performance modifications don’t lower the vehicle, so it can still go off road, he said.

    Ford, Land Rover’s parent company, and Callaway are studying the possibility of producing 500 per year at Callaway’s Connecticut site.

  • The Chrysler 300 M Special: This is basically a European-specification 300M that will go on sale in the United States for $32,525 early next year. A free-flow dual exhaust helps bump horsepower from 250 to 255. The car has 18-inch wheels, lowered suspension, fast-ratio steering and a quicker-shifting four-speed automatic transmission. The outside mirrors have turn signals to alert drivers going in the opposite direction.

    “We wanted to give those buyers who already own a 300M some place to step up to,” said Mike Perugi, 300M brand manager. Only 8,000 will be made per year.

  • You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com

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