I recently had a chance to shoot a couple really cool muscle Mercs and didn’t even have to leave my home base of Evansville, IN to do it. I had met their owner about five years ago at a small local cruise-in. I don’t actually get to go to those very often since I’m usually on the road, and when I am home I’m too busy trying to catch up on things before I leave again. But this particular one was a fund raiser, I happened to be in town, and a friend of mine had really put the arm on me to attend.
I recall driving my ’56 Lincoln and was just hanging out and chatting with people when this black ’64 Merc Park Lane Marauder pulled in. I think I stopped whatever conversation I was in mid-sentence and made a beeline to that car. I don’t actually recall ever seeing one before, and I just thought it looked incredibly sharp.
It was completely stock; jet black hardtop with a white interior and a factory 4-speed. Being a Park Lane, it was Mercs highest trim level so it was pretty decked out. 1964 was also Merc’s 25th year of existence so it had a few additional 25th Anniversary touches too.
There were very few 4-speed Marauders produced and most of them came with 427’s, but this one had an ultra-rare 390 Super Marauder engine with special large-valve heads and unique cast exhaust manifolds. There were probably fewer than five cars like this one made.
The owner, Tom Lantz, had found the car in Montana and although it needed paint and interior, it was a solid car. He took care of the cosmetics but hadn’t touched the engine which was still running strong at about 78k miles.
I fell in love with the car and enjoyed talking to Tom. I could tell he was a pretty serious performance Ford guy, and his attendance at this cruise-in had definitely made my day.
I pretty much lost track of Tom and that car till I got an email from him earlier this year alerting me to the fact that he had just completed another monster Merc that he thought I might get a kick out of. He was right.
Tom had just finished building a ’64 Comet Cyclone lightweight drag car powered by a 427 SOHC engine. And not just any 427 SOHC engine; this was actually an aluminum block CanAm engine cranking out somewhere around 800 HP. This car was true to the factory lightweights from back in the day in every respect, and he had finished it in Ford’s “Peacock” turquoise paint color. Needless to say, I was sold!
I just need to figure out where to fit it into the production schedule, and fortunately a window opened up a week or so ago. We had tentatively set up the shoot for Tuesday but as we got close, the weather forecast was calling for rain both Monday and Tuesday. I got nervous and asked Tom if he’d be OK with Wednesday since the forecast looked better then.
Luckily Tom was flexible with his own schedule, and he was OK with the change. Of course it never did rain on Monday or Tuesday and by then the forecast for Wednesday had started to look iffy. Naturally, Thursday was going to be a beautiful day. Yeah, sure it was.
I just didn’t feel I could play “Casey at the bat” and let another day go by because we had to leave on Friday for another shoot, and if Thursday’s forecast turned out to be wrong (I know, what are the odds?!?) then we’d be completely screwed. So we decided to roll the dice and go for it on Wednesday.
Tom and his daughters drove both cars up from town that morning to the shoot location which was near my place. It was really something to see those cars roll up together. We set them up in front of a lake as a backdrop and got right to work.
The temperature was in the low 90’s as was the humidity, and it wasn’t getting any nicer as the morning went on. Things were going pretty well tho, and we completed the walk-around’s on both cars by lunch time. Ben still needed to get about a half hour’s worth of b-roll of the cars before we went out to do the driving shots, so Tom & I blasted out to Subway to pick up lunch for everybody and got back just as Ben was finishing up.
We scarfed down lunch, but the weather was clearly changing on us. Dark clouds were rolling in from the south, and you could hear thunder in the distance. The thunder got progressively closer and when I started to see the lightning that preceded it, I knew we weren’t going to finish the shoot this day, and it was time to get these cars under roof.
We were only a couple miles from my place so we fired ‘em up and hot-footed it over there. I pulled one of my cars out of the garage and another out of my shed to make room for Tom’s Mercs and just as we pulled them in, the sky opened up. That was definitely a wrap for that day.
Fortunately the following morning was clear, Tom came back up to my place, and we spent the morning getting the driving footage with the Mercs to finish the shoot. (And by the way, they were both a blast to drive!) We wouldn’t normally get away with this because we’d be locked into flights and wouldn’t have had the luxury of a second day, but we really lucked out this time.
The cars were awesome, Tom was a great sport, and it’s going to be a killer episode.
I think the coolest thing for me was that both those cars were at my place overnight, and that’s something I could definitely get used to. When Tom showed up in the morning to finish the shoot, I was considering saying, “Mercs? What Mercs?”, but I didn’t think he’d buy it. Oh well, at least I had ‘em for a sleepover.