Baldus and wife Julie in Ft. Wayne
Go West, Young SCMer
It’s one thing to try and cross the USA in a Fiat that pees like a spaniel when you shout at it, another in a bulletproof ’60s Mercury wagon
By Paul Duchene
SCMers have risen to the occasion and are heading west with publisher Martin’s latest foible—the ex-Joe Lorio 1968 Mercury Colony Park station wagon. It might be the best in the world, as the 21,000 miles it has traveled are about 100,000 less than most others whose wheels are still turning.
Initially, some of us (OK me) felt the program smacked of a Really Great Idea that two old friends might have at the end of a long and liquid dinner (“Wouldn’t it be great if…” etc.), but that pales in the light of day. After all, we can all anticipate the entertainment value in crossing the U.S. in a Fiat that’s about as durable as an ice sculpture and pees like a spaniel when you shout at it. But a mid-’60s Mercury wagon is about as bulletproof as American hands-on technology ever got. Where’s the fun in reporting on a car that started, ran, and stopped whenever you wanted it to?
Think about it, all the rest of these have gone to their maker with 150,000-plus miles on them. That’s 80,000 in mom’s hands and another 70,000 teaching three kids to drive through high school and college, the wood appliqué sides concealing close calls with stationary objects. The final leg was often completed as a “divorce special,” as in, “I’ll take the house, you get the car.” (Mine was a red ’65 Galaxie 9-passenger, which I’ll bet is still running someplace).
With so few miles, our target car must have been hiding behind the door when life went by. It sounds like a nice enough car, too, and middling equipped: ps, pb, tilt, posi (no a/c or pw) with a base 390-ci V8.
This trip will be a rude awakening, with snow likely as it winds its way through Chicago to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Sioux Falls, IA, Rapid City, SD, Bozeman, MT, Spokane, WA, and then perhaps Tacoma, before coming home. (We still need a driver from Rapid City to Bozeman, by the way, contact me at email@example.com.)
Rob Graboske took the first 190-mile leg from Royal Oak, MI, to Fort Wayne, IN, handing off to Hugh Baldus when he arrived. He was delighted with it and notes he averaged 16.4 mpg, the wagon used no oil, and it started every time.
Some tips for future drivers include: “The car is very nice to drive but has a few quirks,” he reports. “The neutral safety switch is very sensitive to shifter placement. The gas gauge is not the most accurate. It showed 1/4 of a tank but only took 12 gallons. The steering is vague (big surprise), and there is a noticeable clunk from the rear of the vehicle when coming to a stop.”
Hugh Baldus took the leg from Fort Wayne to Chicago and Tim Hanson, and he was also enthusiastic about our Colony Park.
“The condition is unnatural—even the hood pad is clean,” he says, noting that the clock doesn’t work, the horn honks sometimes, and there’s a high-pitched chirping sound from some errant pieces rubbing together, or squirrels mating under the dash.
Hugh is applying decals advising other drivers that the SCM pilots are on a mission from, well, Keith, and Warren Tracy of the Busted Knuckle Garage has supplied goodies to go along with SCM items and Meguiar products winging their way to our dedicated volunteers.
Judging from weather reports, we’re going to need some chains before long as Tim Hanson heads out of Chicago to connect with Paul Katz in Minneapolis/St.Paul. Good job we have posi-traction to go with our posi attitude.