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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.