Perhaps SCM should be in the soft adventure business. But rather than offering a chance to parachute off mountaintops attached to a safety-line, or fly a Russian Mig with an instructor who will keep you from nosing into the ground, we have something even better.
Last year, my former editor at Automobile Magazine, Joe Lorio, announced that he had purchased the car, or actually station wagon, of his dreams: a 1968 Mercury Colony Park.
When I was last in Detroit, Lorio proudly showed me the wagon and mentioned in passing that he was thinking of selling it. At that very moment, a devil popped up above my head, like the one that cajoles John Belushi in "Animal House." The evil creature, born of my dark gearhead side, forced me to buy the wagon. On the spot. I don't know what came over me, and I didn't mean to do it.
And I promise I won't keep this glorious booty all to myself.
But first, here's Lorio's epistle about his wagon:
"I had been looking for a '60s station wagon for about four years when I found this one on eBay. After it failed to meet reserve, I called the seller and went to see it in Ohio. The seller was an old guy who lived deep in farm country. The road he lived on was lined with corn on both sides.
The car had been bought new locally by a Mrs. Alton George. She traded a '57 Thunderbird for it. The dealership sold the T-Bird on her behalf, to a Ford executive, Jim McDonnell ("a very fine, honest and religious man," according to a note from the dealership). I have all the paperwork. Mrs. George drove it about 2,000 miles a year for about nine years.
Supposedly the car was always kept in a heated garage.
After Mrs. George passed away, her daughter kept it stored for a while; eventually the old guy I bought it from convinced her to sell it to him. It had been sitting, so he put on new tires, belts, hoses, battery, gas tank, et cetera. I suspect he also did some body work at the very bottom edge of the rear fenders. He too kept the car in a heated garage and drove it infrequently. The car had 20,000 miles when I bought it.
I've driven it less than 1,000 miles and haven't really had to do anything to it. I changed the oil a few times, put in a new battery last summer, and had the brakes bled when I first got it because the brake light was on. That's it. It had never failed to start or mechanically misbehaved. The car is dead stock and a thus a complete late-'60s time warp.
The most fun I've had with it was driving kids from my son's kindergarten class on field trips. (Six-year-old Tommy loves to ride in the way back, and when he finds out I'm selling this car, it's not going to be pretty.)
I think the spec is nearly ideal. No power window to break or air-conditioning that never works. It does have dual, center-facing third seats (a wagon essential), power steering, power disc brakes, automatic (yes, all these were options), deluxe interior (in a very '60s bronze color with brown carpeting and dashboard), split front seat with dual fold-down armrests, dual power seats, tilt steering wheel (seems stuck; I haven't wanted to force it), heavy-duty suspension, deluxe seat and shoulder belts (for eight), remote mirror, AM radio, and limited slip.
The engine is the base 390, 2-bbl "Marauder" V8, the transmission a 3-speed, and it has front disc brakes. $1,121.13 worth of options, on top of a $3,760.35 base price, plus $51 destination made for a grand total of $4,932.48
And now it is yours."
In fact, now it belongs to the entire family of SCMers, most of whom I am sure are already chomping at the proverbial bit for their own chance to slide, and I do mean slide, behind the wheel. Help us get the car from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Portland, Oregon, hopefully in less than the 22 months it took the Fiat to cover approximately the same distance. We're calling this campaign "Wagon Ho."
We also assume, perhaps foolishly, that this big lump of American iron and steel will take more kindly to the highway than the Fiat did, and not leave a trail of Hansel-and-Gretel-inspired Italian-built broken parts behind it.
With "crossover" being today's trendy way of saying "station wagon," what better way to experience the spiritual roots of, say, the Mercedes R-class (I can sense the shudders running through Sindelfingen already) than to spend a few hours behind the wheel of a 1968 Mercury.
Our Senior Editor Paul Duchene is coordinating the drive; he can be reached at email@example.com. All drivers and navigators in our campaign will receive an official SCM shirt and hat, as well as a generous assortment of Meguiar's car-care products. Along with, of course, a priceless experience.