by Jon Mikelonis

It's happened to you, we're sure of it. And perhaps the temptation was so fierce that you followed through with what you knew was a questionable decision. You saw it on eBay, Collector Car Trader, CraigsList, or even in the Penny Saver and just had to obey your passion as a classic Ford enthusiast. You want that bargain project car, despite acknowledged space and time restraints, the work-in-progress in your garage, or the 4 or 5 other lifeless hulks on your property. Here you go again, you just purchased another project with little to no project planning.

At FordMuscle we all brave this curse, and when we saw an Ebay auction close with zero bids for a 1972 Montego MX, our demeanor turned from senseless desire to obligation. The obligation to preserve a relatively unpopular kit of Ford muscle before CARB (California Air Resources Board) claimed it for a mere $500. Soon after the auction closed we phoned the seller and made an offer of $400 for the Mercury. The following weekend we were headed to Fresno, CA to rescue a car that was one step removed from the wrecker.

Project Objective
Whether you truly feel an obligation to save questionable classics from the wrecker or are just passionate about your favorite Ford model, the day will come when our hobby's tenacious appeal to emotion will challenge you. The sooner you accept the emotional aspect of our pastime, the better the chances that an unplanned project acquisition will not result in an overgrown yard ornament.

Unlike TLC's Overhaulin' where equipment, talent, manpower, contributed parts, and budgets are not an obstacle, at FordMuscle we approach projects from the perspective that you will be funding and wrenching-on your own car. This means, you'll be working at a reasonable speed while multitasking between other works-in-progress, including the greatest WIP called life.

FordMuscle's Project MX will take its' rank and file project car attitude a step further this time around by honestly accepting the outside factors which affect the progress and destiny of the home-built project car; time, space, mobility, and money. For these reasons, we will first be concentrating on avoiding project downtime since keeping a car drivable is not only good for all moving parts, but also allows you to break focus and shift quickly to other priorities without tying up your work environs. However, there will be a delicate balance to weigh out since one day, just like yourselves, we'll want more performance from our car, and we do not want to spend unnecessary dollars to simply get our Montego back on the road.

Montego Background
Let's take a closer look at what we will be working with. The midsize Mercury's were remolded along the Gran Torino lines in 1972. The protruding, chrome outlined grill was reminiscent of previous models and certainly gives the car a distinct and recognizable appearance. The most significant improvement to the Montego line for 1972 was the bold perimeter frame which at FordMuscle, we are always pleased to work with. Many will criticize the frame's added weight but aficionados will counter with the design's ease of service and tenacity.

The Montego was made available as a base model, MX, MX Brougham, and GT. MX Brougham models like ours included rocker sill, lower quarter panel, and upperbody moldings that run across the top of the fenders. Just over 25,000 MX Brougham 2-doors were produced, not exactly making them low-production classics. On the other hand, a general lack of collectibility in the 80's and 90's makes these cars real "head turners" today. Even the most serious admirer of 60's and 70's iron will have a problem identifying a 1972 Montego. Most collectible seem to be the Montego GT fastbacks which came optional with a 351C 4V or a 429 4V. The 351C could come mated to a four-speed as well, making it the most desirable of the GT models. However, a little known "cyclone" option was available for the less glamorous MX models like ours. A 1972 Montego MX with the "cyclone" option was equipped with the 351 and manual transmission. We have never come across one of these at FM but we do have a forums post in our archives from the original owner of a 1972 Montego MX with Cyclone option. If you would like to learn more about the more popular GT models see the Montego GT Registry which includes some pictures of the Woods Brothers 1973 Montego GT fastback.

Vehicle Assessment
A conclusive vehicle history seems to add a special dimension to a project car purchase. Interestingly, through two handwritten Bills of Sale and the original dealer-issued owners card we were able identify all previous owners of our Mercury. More importantly, FM was able to identify that our new project never left the California Central Valley. The MX was sold in March of 1972 by SouthGate Lincoln Mercury of Sacramento. After being sold in the year 2000 to a fellow in Antelope, CA, it traded hands once more to an older woman in Fresno. We bought the car from the titled owner's neighbor who picked up the Montego for $50.00 earlier this year.

California sunshine is tough on soft parts but it sure is gentle on critical hard parts. After inspection the only rust we found on our Montego was found at the lower corners of the rear glass. Preventing additional breakdown of this area will be a priority once we get the Merc in que. The car started easily, had a pleasant idle, and the C4 shifted crisply, but we did find water in the oil and steam from the exhaust. The 98,000 original 351C 2V was suffering from a blown head gasket or cracked head.

The upcoming updates on Project MX will demonstrate that picking up an
unexpected new project can be managed if your approach includes
acknowledging your specific constraints. In our case, we'll be using our project account sparingly and keeping in mind that it doesn't take much skill to simply deconstruct a car. It's building and maintaining a car within your means, while balancing life's other priorities, that takes discipline and tact. Watch for the next installment of Project MX where we'll be addressing and repairing the Montego's coolant laden engine oil and other moisture intrusion issues.




In This Article:
FordMuscle introduces our new Project MX. Somewhat sympathetically, we rounded up this 1972 Mercury Montego Brougham after it closed with zero bids during an Ebay auction. FM will be considering real-world factors such as workspace, vehicle mobility, time, and budget as we turn our scrap yard bound Mercury into a dependable daily driver.

When we pulled into the car owner's Fresno, CA shop, we were pleased to see that the Montego actually ran. Considering the $400 asking price we assumed a running vehicle was a bonus.

At FM we have found a lot of interesting ancillary items included in used car purchases. This time, it didn't take a forensics expert to piece together our Montego's history after thumbing through a packet of paperwork suited for a time capsule from the early 70's.

It's true what they say about California cars. The bumpers on this Central Valley car were left unpitted and held a nice luster. The undercarriage was dry and black. The car was being stored in an small rent-a-shed.

Good looking 15x7 steel slot mags? We buttoned the Mercury up, tied it down and were headed back to our garage in less than an hour. Believing that over-commitment is an excellent motivator, the discussion during the two-hour ride back was primarily about what direction our new project should take.


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