If a Mercury Marauder is not the first car that comes to mind when you think about hot rods, that’s understandable. Although the first two generations made their mark on the street and the track, the third generation didn’t make much of a splash. But when you see the technology, performance, and luxury that make up Ed Myer’s 2003 Marauder, I bet you’ll start thinking about them in a new light.
Ed is a Ford guy, and he’s especially a fan of Ford’s Modular V8. While he was doing some research on the engine, and what cars it was available in, he learned about the third generation Marauder. “I found the Marauder,” Ed told me, “and thought it looked cool. I started to learn about the rarity of the vehicle, and from that moment on I knew I had to get one.”
It only took about two years from the time Ed started his research to when he was able to get his Marauder, which he did just 18 months ago. After the purchase, Ed discovered that most of the car spent most of its life in the South. It was purchased from a dealer in Dalton, Georgia, and then the owner first registered it in Tennessee, then Texas, and then North Carolina. Ed is the second owner of the Mercury.
The 2003 model had 144,000 miles and was in very good shape when he got it. “Mechanically, the interior, the underbody, everything – was in pretty good shape,” Ed told me. “Still is.”
The Marauder had good service records for things like oil changes and multipoint inspections. About the only shortcomings Ed noticed were that the transmission and the rear end hadn’t been serviced at all. Still, Ed said the Mercury ran great and was clearly well taken care of.
The main thing that turned Ed into a Marauder fan is the dual overhead cam (DOHC), four valve per cylinder (4V) engine. The engine family is known as the Modular engine and came in V8 and V10 configurations, with single and dual overhead cams, and 2, 3, and 4 valve heads. It’s been in Mustangs, Lincoln and Mercury cars, and various FoMoCo trucks and SUVs.
The 4.6 liter, DOHC 4V V8 that’s in Ed’s Marauder debuted in the 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII. Originally equipped with two intake ports per cylinder, it was redesigned in 1998 with single intake ports. It has single exhaust ports as well.
Equipped with port fuel injection and electronic ignition, the V8 in Ed’s Marauder was factory rated at 302 hp and 318 lb⋅ft of torque, which is pretty healthy for 281 cubic inches. Those Mercury numbers are about as high as any of the normally aspirated versions Ford produced.
Ed likes the modular engine a lot. If there’s a weakness to it at all, Ed says it’s probably the bottom end, which consists of an aluminum block with cast iron rod and cranks. But he feels that as long as the engine isn’t boosted in any way, it’ll last. And he’s probably right since he also owns a Lincoln Aviator with the same engine and it’s got 210,000 trouble free miles on it.
Ed’s V8 is largely stock, but he’s done a few tweaks. He’s installed a set of underdrive pulleys, a larger throttle body, and a new K&N air intake system. The air intake is a mashup of K&N’s Mustang Cobra and Marauder kits. The piping is from the Marauder kit, and the larger filter assembly is from the Cobra.
The exhaust system is stock, but still breathes very well. It consists of a complete dual exhaust using 2¼” pipes with an H-pipe. The pipes exit out 24” long chrome tips from Megs that are 3½” in diameter. Ed told me the Marauder’s exhaust piping is larger than other Panther platform vehicles, and as a result, there’s very little restriction on the exhaust side. Most importantly, “It creates a nice sound,” he said, “You can hear it, but it’s nothing unpleasant.”
The modifications Ed made have resulted in a noticeable improvement in the Mercury’s power output. K&N says their Marauder intake provides an extra 17 hp. With the larger throttle body and new pulleys, Ed thinks he’s added even more and he went to the drag strip to find out.
The Marauder has been to the drag strip once, running mid 14 seconds in the quarter-mile. Ed’s main goal in taking it to the strip was to get some real-world baseline performance figures. The published quarter-mile and 0 to 60 times for Marauders vary widely, and he wanted to see what his car could do. Based on his times, Ed’s calculated that he’s making about 30 extra horses, putting the total output at 330 horsepower.
That power is sent through a standard 4R70W four-speed automatic transmission. Ed says the 4R70Ws are pretty stout from the factory – they’re rated for 700 Newton-Meters (516 ft-lbs) of torque.
Knowing that the transmission had never been serviced by the original owner, he did a full servicing of the trans, including new check balls, fluid, and gaskets. But, as Ed noted, “Any time I do service work I try to do a little upgrade.”
So he also added some performance upgrades from Superior Products: a Shift Kit, which provided new springs and several valves, and their Tuff Plate, which is thicker than the stock unit and has several enlarged passageways.
Ed’s very happy with the results. “When it makes the shifts,” he said, “they’re much quicker, but nothing too harsh. When I’m light on the throttle the shifts are nice and smooth, but when you get on it and let the pump build pressure, it shifts nice and firm.”
Mercury equipped Marauders with a 2500 RPM stall speed converter. While that is the highest stall speed Ford installed in any 4R70W, Ed is frustrated by the fact that the converter lock-ups so quickly, it usually offsets the stall speed. He’s looking at two ways to address that.
Ed plans to talk to a Marauder tuner he knows about adjusting the torque converter control so that it doesn’t lock up as much. The point at which lockup occurs can be adjusted because it is controlled electrically via a solenoid on the 4R70W. That should let the 2,500 stall speed work as it should – keeping the engine closer to its peak torque. The second option would be to get an aftermarket converter.
Right now, the transmission drives a solid axle rear end with 3.55 gears on a limited slip differential. But Ed’s assembling the components to rework the rear. He’s planning on increasing the gear ratio to 3.73 and replacing the current LSD with something better, maybe something from Auburn.
The overdrive 4th gear in the transmission will still keep engine RPMs reasonable while Ed is cruising. Currently, with the 3.55 gears, the Marauder spins at about 1800 RPM at 65 mph. Ed calculated that the 3.73s will only increase that to about 2200.
Let’s face it, if you’re going to have a unique, high tech engine like a DOHC 4V, you need a unique, high tech suspension to go with it, and the Marauder delivers. The rear suspension uses air bag springs and a Watts link system.
The air spring system features a compressor under the hood, a control module, and a solenoid on each bag. A ride height sensor automatically raises and lowers the rear, adjusting for any weight changes from passengers and/or luggage.
Ed’s done several suspension mods, but, he says, “I’ll never get rid of the air bag suspension in the rear. I’m kind of a sucker for air suspension.” So the bags are still there, but Ed’s upgraded the rear anti-roll bar and replaced the stock control arms with billet aluminum pieces.
“It handles pretty well,” Ed said, in what I’m sure is an understatement. “I’ve been quite happy with it. The ride quality is still there but it stays planted. It brought the rear in check and made the car feel a lot tighter. Now you give it some gas coming out of a turn and it’s nice and flat. There’s no tendency to want to break lose.”
The factory independent coil over shocks and power rack and pinion steering are still doing the job in the front suspension. The stock power assisted disc brakes sit underneath Mercury five spoke chrome wheels at all four corners. The wheels feature the Marauder logo, the head of the Roman god Mercury, in their center caps.
The Marauder’s body is in excellent shape, with no rust at all. The paint is also in great condition. “A car with 17 year old paint,” Ed told me, “is going to have some blemishes. It’s got swirls and chips and whatnot, but it’s not too bad. I haven’t had to do anything to it – just the occasional waxing now and then.”
The black exterior paint is the most common color for Marauders, especially for the 2003 models. But the Mercury was also available in silver (the second most common color), dark red, and blue (the rarest, with only 328 ever made).
The interior is in nice shape as well. It’s completely stock except that all the light bulbs have been converted to LED and Ed installed a billet aluminum plate on the driver’s side floor mat so his heel won’t create a worn spot. (The plate was made by a fellow Marauder owner.) The Marauder logo is also embossed in the front seats.
The Marauder has a nice set of gauges with a tachometer, speedometer, coolant temperature and fuel gauges in the dash. There’s also a pair of factory installed AutoMeter brand gauges in the center console – a voltmeter and an oil pressure gauge. (Interestingly, the oil pressure gauge isn’t a live gauge. The factory oil pressure sender is either fully open or fully closed. The unit’s voltage doesn’t vary with oil pressure. The gauge is basically telling you that you have oil pressure, or you don’t.)
Put it all together and the end result is a hot rod that’s a great combination of performance and luxury.
“You get the special DOHC V8 that makes 300 hp,” Ed said. “You get the plush leather seats. You get some luxury amenities. It creates a nice luxury ride but keeps it all together enough to be a performance car. It’s interesting how that all works together. It’s really impressive.”
And it’s unique. Mercury was hoping to lure younger buyers to their showrooms with the 3rd gen Marauder. They succeeded to some degree – the buyers were youngER, but not really young. But sales were far below the projected 18,000 cars per year. For the 2003 and 2004 model years combined, Mercury sold only 11,052 Marauders. Ed’s got the uniqueness of his car documented, with a certificate from Ford showing that it was vehicle number 3,545 out of 7,093 black Marauders built in 2003.
Ed told me the story of someone who bought a 3rd gen Marauder brand new, had it trailered from the dealership to his garage, and never took it out on the road.
That’s not what Ed does. He’s got his Mercury out on the road every week. “I drive my car,” he said emphatically. “It’s not sitting in a garage. It was meant to get driven.”
Ed’s still learning about the car show and cruising scene in New Jersey. Most of the shows he’s attended so far are in the northern end of the state. He’s hoping to find more of the traditional “cars and coffee” and beach cruising events closer to his home in south Jersey.
Aware that he’s got a very unique car, Ed doesn’t plan to do anything radical to his Marauder. “It’s a special car,” he said. “I try to keep it so it still looks factory.”
With just over 11,000 made, it’s by far the rarest Panther platform car, so they’re getting hard to come by. Recently, Jesse James and Cleetus McFarland both featured Marauders in their work, and that’s generated more exposure for the brand. The car’s original sticker price was around $35,000, and Ed says you can still get a low mileage black one for about $15k, with the less common colors being more expensive.
And I was very surprised to find out from Ed that it’s pretty easy to find parts for them. He told me about a company, ADTR (adtr.net), that was started by a Marauder owner because he noted a lack of performance parts for his car.
The Marauder might not have been a big hit in the early 2000s, but Ed loves his, and he loves the history that goes along with it.
“One of the reasons I bought that car,” he told me, “was not only because of the engine. but the fact that it’s rare, I wanted to be able to preserve another example of this car – keep another one on the road and not in a junkyard. I’m quite happy with it.”
Photos courtesy of Ed Myers
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