Malaise Era Six: A Lemons Wish List of Slow, Unsteady Fords

By: Eric Rood
February 24, 2020

We’ve shared specific Lemons Wish Lists for both Chrysler and General Motors in the past. So it seems due to dump on the Ford Motor Company. We could do a general Ford list, but considering the treatment we gave for Chrysler (late-model vehicles) and GM (weird hatchbacks), we figured Ford deserved similar specificity. Considering Ford was the last of the Big Three to downsize their model line in 1970s, there could only be one option: Fords of the Malaise Era.

Indeed, Lemons’ own Judge Phil coined the phrase “Malaise Era” when talking about a 1979 Ford Granada. Opinions vary on the Malaise Era’s real date range, but we’ll stick with the original era, 1973-1983, that Phil/Murilee defined. Without further adieu, we present six Malaise Era Fords we’d love to see in Lemons.

1977-1979 Lincoln Mark V

Go big and/or go home. The last of the monstrous Personal Luxury Coupes was came with a 230-inch wheelbase and all of modern life’s amenities. Sure, you’ll need a weight waiver for the nearly 5,000-pound curb weight, but this whale can occupy two corners at once at some Lemons tracks. That’s gravitas. Even if you don’t purchase any of Lincoln’s vaunted Designer Editions, the cush Mark V remains an immensely awesome Last of Its Kind.

1973-1976 Mercury Meteor Rideau 500

Much like GM’s Acadian brand, Ford sold a line of cars—usually Mercury based—at Canadian dealerships under the Meteor nameplate. The last years of Meteor overlap the Malaise Era’s first half, although Ford of Canada had turned the name over to “Mercury Meteor.” In any case, the Montcalm and Rideau 500 could be bought throug 1976. After that, Canadians could buy the Mercury Marquis Meteor, basically just an entry-level Mercury Marquis.

1974-1976 Ford Elite

Initially part of the Ford Torino model line, the Elite represented one of Ford’s attempts to appeal to the Malaise Era shift from performance to luxury. Though one could order the Elite with Ford’s massive 460 cubic-inch V8, the Elite shared its platform with the contemporary Cougar XR7. As such, you could score one with opera windows, a fake Landau-style roof, and an interior fit for a Victorian sitting room. The Elite would be phased out after 1976 but serve as the basis for the transition-era 1977-1979 Ford Thunderbird.

Lincoln Versailles

When Ford finally downsized in the late 1970s, the Versailles represented part of that movement. Much like its platform-mate Ford Granada and Mercury Monarch, the Versailles was considered a mid-size car. Lincoln offered it with a fake continental-style trunk that put it its pseudo-bustleback style ahead of the Cadillac Seville. Ford offered the Versailles with a Windsor V8, either 302 or 351 cubic inches. It came originally with only a three-speed automatic, although retrofitted manual options are probably plentiful. Wikipedia points out that the Versailles was the first production car with clearcoat paint.

1980-1982 Ford Thunderbird

When Ford switched the Thunderbird to its smaller Fox platform in 1980, the company retained a boxy design for three model years. And like the Versailles, the luxurious T-Bird came with only an automatic transmission. That resided behind an optional inline-six for 1980-1981 before replacement by the 3.8-liter Essex V6 in ‘82. The standard V8 was Ford’s nearly forgotten 255 cubic-inch Windsor, although a truly filled-out options sheet netted the emissions-chocked 302. Of note: Ford’s ubiquitous five-button keyless entry doorpadd debuted on this Thunderbird in 1981.

1983-1984 Mercury Lynx RS

Around 1980, the Big Three finally began catching up to their imported rivals with economy car builds. The Lynx was the Ford Escort’s “upscale” cousin and both would remain fixtures for the majority of the 1980s. We’ve had a few early Escorts in Lemons but somehow never a Lynx. We’ll gladly take any of Mercury’s econobox, but those chasing true misery will hopefully find a turbocharged 1983-1984 Lynx RS. Believe it or not, that turbocharged 1.6-liter engine (theoretically) made 120 horsepower in a sub-2,000-pound car. You could dominate with that

What Malaise Era Ford would you bring? Or, perhaps, which one have you brought? We’ll always welcome another Ford EXP or a Mercury Zephyr, for example. Want more Lemons ideas? See a whole bunch of Lemons Wish Lists below.

Lemons Cars We’d Like to See, Part 1
Lemons Cars We’d Like to See, Part 2
Late-Model American Cars We’d Like to See
Lemons Cars We’d Like to See, Part 3
Six More Cars On Our Wish List
Still More Wish List Cars
Weird GM Hatchbacks for Lemons
Even More Wish List Cars
Five American Cars With Imported Engines
7 Cars for Class C Domination
Late-Model Chryslers Tailor-Made for Lemons
5 Crapcan Repeats Always Welcome in Lemons

Related Topics