- The Washington Times - Friday, August 22, 2008

On Aug. 28, 1978, almost 27 years to the day before Hurricane Katrina savaged New Orleans, the local Lincoln-Mercury dealer delivered a new Mercury Grand Marquis to Elmo Davis.

The two-tone green Mercury had a base price of $7,290. Mr. Davis treated his car to a life of leisure and by April 2005 the odometer had yet to record its 28,000th mile. That is when the car was offered on the electronic auction block on the internet.

Jeff Weatherholtz was at the computer in his Annandale home when he saw pictures of the Mercury along with a detailed description of the car. The beautiful car brought back memories to him of the popular television program “Hawaii Five-O” which aired from 1968 to 1980 in which the hero drove a black Mercury. “I want that car,” Mr. Weatherholtz remembers thinking. His was the successful bid and then, since green has never been one of his favorite colors, he began worrying about the color.

His anxiety was for naught because when the 4,342-pound car arrived, “I was more than happy and thrilled to learn that it had a sunroof,” he said. He had overlooked that feature on the Internet. The glass sunroof is tinted as is the windshield.

Mr. Weatherholtz discovered that the sunroof on his car was installed by the American Sunroof Corp. in California through an arrangement with Ford Motor Co.

The big Mercury is supported by 15-inch wheels mounted on a lengthy 124-inch wheelbase, all of which combine to provide a cushy, luxurious ride.

“It’s great in a straight line,” Mr. Weatherholtz says, “otherwise the handling is poor.” Occupants of the car can tell that it is “Ride Engineered” because it says so on a dashboard label.

The original owner loaded the car with accessories including power operated:

cSeats.

cBrakes.

cAntenna.

cSteering.

cSunroof.

Other surprise and delight features on the car include an automatic temperature control and a tilt steering wheel.

The cruise control is operated by switches on the two spokes of the steering wheel. The AM/FM radio also can handle an 8-track tape recording.

The unique two-tone color combination on the outside is carried into the cabin which is upholstered with two-tone leather sears and door panels. Closing each door is made easier by using the green leather pull straps. Both front seats are equipped with headrests and pull down armrests.

The steering wheel, carpeting and dashboard are all green, highlighted by plastic wood trim. Dual pin stripes separate the two exterior colors and sweep up and over the roof. “It’s gorgeous to look at,” Mr. Weatherholtz enthuses.

Rear seat passengers are swaddled in comfort with a pair of speakers on the package shelf and courtesy lights on both sides of the compartment. The doors are so long that the right one has two ashtrays, one for the front seat passenger and one at the rear of the door for back seat smokers.

Both outside mirrors can be adjusted remotely and the windshield wipers have an intermittent function. Surprisingly, the Mercury does not have a rear window defogger.

At the rear of the Grand Marquis a pair of backup lights flank the W-I-D-E Mercury label.

Above the grille at the front of the car is a distinctive stand-up hood ornament. Beneath the expansive hood is an enormous 460-cubic-inch V-8 engine that delivers 202 emission-controlled horsepower. A four-barrel carburetor feeds fuel to the massive powerplant. “It needs that big engine to move the big car,” Mr. Weatherholtz says. He adds that to date the engine is smooth and reliable. Even with all that power the speedometer is capped at 80 miles per hour because that is the way things were in the late 1970s.

Mr. Weatherholtz takes satisfaction in the knowledge that he may have saved his Mercury by purchasing it and having it trucked out of New Orleans less than four months before the Hurricane Katrina-soaked levies broke and flooded the area.

In the three years that he has owned the Mercury he has driven it less than 400 miles The odometer now has recorded 28,319 miles in the last 30 years.

“There was a time,” he observes, “when cars like this roamed the earth.”

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