2003 Mercury Marauder

What started out as a “barn find” of sorts regarding performance parts on a 2005 Ford Crown Victoria, lead me unknowingly on a path of automotive performance obsession. This is the story of my 2003 Mercury Marauder, and how it became what is known today as, one of the baddest Marauder’s around…

The Beginning
The madness, if you’re so incline to call it that, started in the spring of 2015 when I was told about some performance parts on a Marauder clone at the junk yard my step father owns. Without hesitation, but with much skepticism, I made my way down the path to where one heavily totaled black 2005 Ford Crown Victoria lay. The car was as you can see almost unrecognizable, the front was so mangled that the frame came up about 16 inches, header tubes were crushed as flat as paper the timing cover was cracked and the dashboard had been shoved forward obliterating the center console shifter. I inquired about what happened but as usual no one knew, the car was picked up at a wholesale auction in MA. The car had several upgrade:

  1. Addco Sway bars (The front was bent beyond repair)
  2. Accufab plenum, modified for the panther platform
  3. BBK 75mm throttle body
  4. Heinous rear control arms
  5. Aftermarket rear spoiler (marauder style)
  6. StainlessWorks headers
  7. StainlessWorks cat-back dual exhaust
  8. BorlaPro XS mufflers
  9. An upgrade 31-spline locking differential geared in 3:73

I was told the car had bigger injectors and was probably “built”, meaning internal upgrades – but I didn’t see that to be true. I walked away with items 1-5, the rear diff., I was told, had been spoken for. The headers were not salvageable and i was told the cat-back system had been sold already. I was pretty excited with what I got, especially for the price! I took my new toys home and installed them, however the car died when I tried to drive it. As I would soon learn I needed a tune for the car, something I was not familiar with. I spoke with several people and in the end I opted for an MPT tune and an SCT X4 tuner. This inquiry lead me to meet Thomas Smith, a well known panther enthusiast. The car I found in the junk yard was his, and upon further discussion the parts I listed above are about all it had done. The car was involved in a single vehicle crash (itself), it drove through a house. The details of that accident are not something I will discuss however.

I eventually made another trip to the junk yard to try and salave the headers, it was futile. I was able to get the rear diff however, and an employee also showed me the StainlessWorks cat-back had actually not been sold. Apparently the eBay auction was never fulfilled, and thus i obtained a sweet exhaust system. With all these new toys in hand, I scheduled the install of the exhaust and installed the tune. The car sounded great and handled even better, hwoever there was just one problem – it still looked like something your 90 year old grandfather would drive. So I took to craigslist and found a set of nice Shelby GT500 SVT wheels with tires and my boss graciously picked them up for me while he was in bangor one day. Now the car was like it was on rails!

The car still had it’s landou top and chrome trim, and I had always wanted to remove the ugly landou top. I started taking it off, and I am really glad I did. There was rust on the roof, quite a bit I might add. Once the top was removed I picked up a heat gun and removed the chrome mouldings along the doors. I found a welder to patch the roof and weld the holes shut left by all the screws. My dad and i then used some bondo to raise the paint level to match the clear in the spots that were grinded down. However a few days later I noticed the roof had warped badly from the welding, so I had this repaired properly at Dryden in Arundel. I had the marauder style spoiler installed as well while it was there. I picked the car up when it was done and painted it myself at home, a process which I will not attempt myself again. The job came out terrible – it wasnt even good from 20ft! But i had a good experience and learned a lot.

After all this work and a siginificant amount of money, I wanted more! I took to the PantherBB forums for help and received a lot of invaluable advice. This lead me to start a 4v build/swap thread. A member on those forums, massacre (Rob), was intrumental in my success. I received advice on all the parts to source, he set my expectations, provided links to specific parts, and more. Once I started buying parts I realized one criticial dilema – I didnt know how to time the motor and neither did the local machine shop. However Rob came to the rescue, and offered to drive up when ready and time the motor at no charge. I couldn’t be more lucky in this build!

Snowball Effect
I had grand expetctaions of my new motor build, my thourhgt ptocess consisted of buying and utilizing the best parts. Countless hours were spent researching parts, builds, processes, failures and recommendtations. I hate to say this but there were moments where I put the project before everything else, except work; my job always came first. I decided on using the Teksid block for my build, the articles I read eluded to this block being the best mod motor block Ford produced, supposedly capable of sustaining 1400HP. These blocks were part of the 96-98 Lincoln Mark VIII 4V motor, and I knew just the place to find one – my step dads junk yard. After a reasonable price was negotiated I picked the motor up a week later, in hind-sight I would have been better off buying a Teksid off the mustang groups and having it shipped in. The motor teardown process was difficult and quite messy – I was’t properly prepared for any of this.

Once the motor was torn down and parts seperated I was left with a very dirty Teksid block, that I would later discover needs to be bored .030 and honed. I dropped the block off for service and had it back a few weeks later. My next task was to source the heads I wanted, and based on my research the DB heads would be acceptable but DC heads are the bees knees in the 4.6 4V world. After a few weeks I located a set of DC heads out in Utah which I paid for and had shipped in. These heads were used of course, but received some slight damage in shipping so they were decked .004. During this time various other parts were purchased for this build such as:

  • ARP Bolts
    • Head studs
    • Cam bolts
    • Crank bolts
    • Rear watts link bolt (super rare)
    • Flywheel bolts
    • Side bolts
  • Roller rockers
  • Hydraulic lash adjusters
  • Gaskets
  • Marauder intake manifold and bolts
  • 8 bolt flywheel
  • 1998 Cobra intake camshafts
  • Forged eagle H beam rods
  • Forged probe flat top pistons
  • Forged 8 bolt crankshaft
  • Powder coated valve covers
  • On3 COT delete
  • Custom rear HCM (head cooling mod)
    • The mod wasn’t needed with DC heads but I wanted to be extra safe on this one
  • StainlessWorks 4v headers
  • Stainless exhaust manifold studs

With all these parts amassing I did what I could, I was excited and this was something very new and very fun for me! I received assembly manuals from a friend of mine, he sent me the proper torque spec manual for the Mark VIII (the Teksid block) and the motor assembly for a Marauder. Because I always wanted a Marauder and this project was that similar to a Marauder motor, I found myself looking at them more, But the idea of buyone one now seemed like I would have wasted money on all these parts, so I tucked that dream away for now and pushed forward. Then one day while browsing Facebook I found someone selling a Procharger, I wanted it! But the price was just too steep for a sued unit with no supporting compenents neccecary. I asked the seller if he by chance had a Marauder for sale with a blown motor, and much to my disbelief he said he did. I asked for a price and pictures, he said the price was firm but the pictures told the story of a super clean car in need of a new owner. I scheduled a weekend day to visit the car and potential put a down payment on.

The next weekend my dad and I made the trip from Maine to Massachusettes, it was a cold March Saturday, cloudy and dreary. We arrived on time and the car was sitting outside under a foot of snow. I was immediatly concerned with the quality but I went towards the car with unjudged expectations, to which I was rewarded with a clean example of Mercury’s 2003 Marauder. This car had no flaws, no dents, literally no rust anywhere. There were some bolt on upgrades but nothing significant:

  1. JLT CAI
  2. Php spacers
  3. Kooks headers with cat-back
  4. Metco DSS

I was pleased with what I saw, and in that vision was a world of potential for a dream car. I made the deposit and planned to come back the following weekend…

Organizing the car pickup was a little difficult with no guarentees of anything. I didnt have a trailer or a truck capable of hauling a 4000lb vehicle. I reached out to a friend, Keith Gorham, and his dad graciously allowed us to use his Ford F250. The next step was to source a trailer, so a phone call to U-haul with a little bit of convincing and we had ourselves the car trailer. It was a nice sunny Saturday and the trip consisted of Keith, dad and myself, I wanted my dad to drive as he had more experience hauling loads like this. The purchase was seemless and loading the car was pretty easy, so we headed back to Maine right away. Once home we unloaded the car, returned the trailer and thanked Keith for his assistance.

The next step I wanted to take was the registration of the Marauder, I wanted to get all that done sooner han later just i ncase there were issues. Well as it turns out there was a title issue, and I had to get in touch with the heir to the car – Paul Casey III. I didn’t have his number, I searched high and low for this information. I finally found an old email address of his via a acrhived post on MercuryMarauder.net and I gave it a try. Sure enough my phone rang about 10 minutes later and it was Paul. I learned that he inherited the car from his dad he sadly passed away a few years prior. I learned a lot about the car, in particular it’s history in the Marauder community: I bought a piece of history. Unfortunatly with such things as this people move on, things change, and the history is forgotton. The car had over 500 time slips at NE drag and other drag strips accross the eastern seaboard. In addition this car was known as the “Burnouts accross america” car for having done burnouts in 40 states, it is important to note there is an unprecedented amount of melted rubber in the rear wheel wells. I spent some more time digging on the forums after, trying to find Paul Casey’s (deceased, hereafter “Paul”) wife but alas I had no success. I knew the car had more history but I had no way of obtaining it unfortnatly.

The next phase of this project was to get the Marquis back to stock and sell it. This was quite a task, as all the upgrades and effort had to be undone, and then I had tosource stock parts for as cheap as possible. Keith was here for me again, without hesitation this man and his buddies came over two nights and helped with the hard stuff; I am very grateful for their efforts. Once the car was back to stock it went up for sale – eventually selling 5 months later for half the book value. With the Marquis back to stock it was time to move forward full steam ahead with the Marauder build, and so we (Keith and I) attempted to pull the blown motor from the Marauder – we did not succeed! The crane I had bought, a Harbor Freight special, did not have a long enough boom to reach properly over the motor. My step dad however had a solution, but it was a feat in itself. We borrow his OTC 10000LB crane, this thing was a beast. Loading into the truck was a three person task, it weighed around 500lbs and was 6ft 6in tall. That night Keith and I made a second attempt at removing the motor. We worked into the night in the cold air, most of the process was smooth however there were times of great furstration; by 10PM we were rewarded with a pulled motor and no damage to anything, except for a stripped wire from the oil pressure unit.

I began disecting the blown motor over the following week, tearing it down to an empty block. I discovered the oilpump had failed due to a combination of UDP pulleys and 284,000 miles, all 8 main bearings had spun and the block was cracked. I sold the heads and other Marauder specific parts for what I could and junked the rest, except for the oil pickup tube – I definitly needed that! With all the parts now in my possesion the 4v build picked up speed, and within a couple of weeks Rob was on his way up to help. Rob and his friends showed up one Saturday morning, they bolted the heads on and did the timing of the motor, and not just factory timing but he degreed the cams. This looked like a complicated process, but he attested it was very easy once you do it several times; I suppose that is accurate for almost any task however. When Rob left I had the most concerning build proccesses, for me at least, completed. I began installing the roller rockers, headers, intake, and all other parts of the build. Within a couple of days I was ready to swap the motor into my new Marauder and turn it over!

Swapping the motor in proved not to be a beginners game. Keith came over and we started in, however when we were done we realized e didnt install the metal plate between the transmision and the block and Keith was out of time, and clearly out of motivation – certinly understandable. I enlisted the help of an aquantance, a trade for my SVT wheels for the motor install; this trade favored me more than him. A week later we pulled the motor (again), installed the sheild, and moved forward. The process went smooth and seemless, between myself, Keith, my aquantance and his helper, we were installed. The moment I was told to try turning the car on was one filled with many feelings: fear, excitement, anxiety, stress, motivation. I supposed I had all these feelings for many reasons, most of which should be obvious to any reader or builder. However when I tried to drive the car there was no response! I would learn that I improperly installed the torque converter, destroying the transmission pump. I was disapointed in myself, but I also knew that I didn’t know any better either and I was told this was a common mistake for first time DIY’ers. We pulled the transmission and delivered it to Robinsons Transmission in Buxton. They changed the pump out and flushed the entire transmission. That week we installed the transmission at night and gave the car another go, and sure enough my project moved! This was exciting! We took the car for a test drive, howevr I had issues with the car in overdrive (OD), so I scheduled service at Robinsons again and drove the car without OD enabled. As it turns out a solenoid that helps control OD was full of debris from the pump damage previously described, once that solenoid was changed everything ran smooth, and I could begin enjoying the car problem free.

Summer Fun
I had received a tune from Pete at Performance Dyno and installed that on the car, with so many improvements I figured whatever tune the car had would not be sufficent. The car was scheduled for a dyno tune but not for several weeks as he was busy. While I waited I had asked for a modification to the email tune he sent me, but when I applied that tune shortly before leaving work I discovered the car would no longer drive properly. We worked on some stuff over the phone but nothing worked, it was like the PCM was trashed. We discovered the “stock” tune, the one that was on the car but not an OEM tune, would work fine so we left it alone until dyno day. I arrived at Performance Dyno on a sunny Saturday, the weather was beautiful and my car was being taken in right away. ALmost immediatly they were having trouble after flashing new tunes on the car, but after about 30 minutes they figured it out – someone had installed a 4R75W transmission in this, it wasnt the factory 4R70W for the 2003 year. Once this issue was identified they did the dyno tune, the car made 344WTQ on 87 NA! I did kickc myself later though for running 87 when I should have put in 91 or 93. I suspect the car would have made north of 350WTQ on 91 or 93, but regardless those are some good numbers for an NA car – so good that some folks at MercuryMarauder.net displayed their ignorance in their replies. I worked with Pete on a tune modification a few weeks later to help the transmission shiftfs, but it just wasnt the same so I ended up going back to the “stock” tune rather than bug Pete constantly. Let me admit here that Pete is an amazing tuner and knows what he is doing, it was just that I suspected something was different with my transmisison and I respected him enough to leave him alone; I didnt want to take up his time from paying customers. I would later learn the car had a tune from Injection Engineering in GA, not Mo’s Speed Shop as I had always suspected. This explains why Mo couldn’t find Paul’s tune or purchase on file.

With the car %100 I decided it was time to enter a couple of car shows, I scheduled the car to appear at the OOB annual car show and the Oxford Plains Show Shine & Drag car show. The first show, at Oxford, was fun however we were terribly late and I think this contributed to my losing against a farm tractor (the Marauder sits in specialty classes). The next show as OOB and as a long time spectator to these it was neat to be a part of the show for once. There were some very clean cars in my class but they were bone stock, I thought for sure I might earn a trophy for all my hard work and money. The car received a lot of compliments and questions, but no trophys. Regardless I had a great time, and would return but with better expectations for myself. I continued to drive the car in the fall, and one cold morning my Check Engine light appeared. I was a little concerned, but continued my drive to work that morning. WHen I arrived to work I checked the PCM and found a code for insufficent coolant temps – apparently this is the by-product of not running a thermostat! As the season ended I put the car away in my garage for the winter, but things were about to ramp up.

Booooost! & The Casey Legacy
Winter does wonders to a man with free time and a fast car begging for more power… The car wasn’t even away for 3 weeks when I purchased a complete Mustang Eaton swap for not a whole lot of money. I thought for sure I would be building the cheapest eaton swap, but I would soon learn this is not possible. As I began to buy up the missing pieces I came accross a post on the Marauder facebook page – someone selling some Marauder parts. I inquired about a rear OEM spoiler as I had been looking for one for about a year but $400 was just too unreasonable. The gentleman acknowleged that statement and had one available – it was silver and he sold it to me for a song and a dance. This man, Casey, inquired about my car. I told him the short version of the story and that it had been Paul Casey’s old car – he acknowleged he had heard of me. I asked if he knew Pauls wife so I could at least pass on the message that the car is in good hands – this was important to me as I knew she cared for this man so well and they shared a passion for this car – something told me she didnt know what happened to it. Much to my surprise he knew of his wife, Georgeann, and they were even friends on facebook. Casey gave me her Facebook name which was not her maritial name which was why I couldnt find her, so I sent her a freind request but a couole of days later she still handt accepted it but had posted a picture on her page which meant she was ingoring me! So I sent her a message that contained my number and within SECONDS of sending that message my phone was ringing from a number in NH. I answered the phone to hear one overly excited Georgeann Piece Schnider, Paul Casey’s wife.

The conversation was frequent and joyfull. I felt as though I had reunited a lost puppy with its owner, she was so happy to know the story and see some live video of the car. I would learn that my instict was accurate, the car was taken from her and she didnt know where it went. Paul’s son, the 3rd, had convinced Georgeann to give him the car for free in exchange for his signature so she could sell the house she inheirited and couldnt pay for – he extorted the car from her. This was sad to hear, nothing is more disgusting than family taking advantage of ones sposes death foe their personal gain. Goergeann shared with me the story of the car, all the details of its history and all of Paul’s fond memories. I told her I would come visit once it’s warm out and the supercharger build was done.

As I resumed the supercharger installation I was quickly realizing I was in over my head, there were many custom parts to be made such as brackets and hoses. I had all the pices but I lacked all the skill needed to make this work. I send a message to someone that shared a love for this cars, someone I met online and was local to me, James Nightingale. This man was willing to help and refused any payment I offered him, I thought “no way..” but sure enough he was just a passionate car guy like myself with a heart of gold. James came over several times investing over 50 hours into the installation and doing a majority of the work. We shared lots of laughs, beer, food and conversation. I had made a genuine friend, something I deem rare in todays world. The blower installation was pretty easy as was the alcohol injection system and other components, though I won’t ever forget the changing of the fuel pump – poor james got blasted in the eyes and face with gasoline! I thought for sure he would walk away from this but he didn’t, he wiped his face and lunged forwarded!

I think it was the beginning of April that the blower project was done and the car had a tune from Mo’s Speed Shop, their email tune process was very refined and efficent – the service was top notch. There were no problems with the tune but I did have an electrical issue I have yet to resolve, something I would chase through the summer with my spare time, that I believe it be a bad positive cable between the battery and the starter. The car has been running all summer with no problems (except for the darn resistance issue), we even took the car to Provincetown MA for a weekend get-away, and then to RI to finally reunite the car with Georgaeann on her birthday. Upon leaving her birthday party we left in Paul Casey style, leaving pitch black marks for about 50ft; you could see the excitmenet on her face as we sped off. I would later take the car to only one car show that year, the Oxford Wicked Pissah 2 show with which I would win first place in my class.

As of November 2017, I sold the car in pursuit of a Lotus.