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Sleeper Station Wagon: 1978 Mercury Zephyr

I love what old-school naval personnel would refer to as a “Q-Ship.” A Q-Ship is a vessel with concealed weaponry, which is what this 1978 Zephyr Wagon has in abundance. Barn Finder Ikey H spotted this absolute barnstormer for us, so thank you for that Ikey. The Zephyr is located in Helena, Montana, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner is asking $7,800 for the Wagon, and once you’ve given the vehicle a bit of a look, you might find that it is potentially money well spent.

The Cream paint on the Zephyr is said to be fairly fresh, and it certainly does look good. The hood scoops are actually functional, but the owner is also including a standard hood which has been color-matched to the car. This can be used if the new owner prefers, but there will be a couple of changes required under the hood to make this happen. Apart from the hood scoop, what you are looking at is a subtle and unassuming family wagon.

The interior of the Zephyr also presents very nicely. It appears that the owner really loves his car because there isn’t much that can be faulted inside the car. Some of the plastic trim in the cargo area is showing a bit of aging, but if this is all original, then it is pretty remarkable for plastic from this era. That stuff has a strong tendency to dissolve over time, so hats off to this car. You also get air conditioning that blows ice cold, and a CD player with USB to pump out your tunes on the road. Of course, the array of aftermarket gauges tends to suggest that there might be something a bit special hiding under the hood.

If you believe that there is something special, then you are dead right. It isn’t clear which engine the Zephyr started life with, but whichever one it was, it’s now long gone. In its place is a 302ci V8 out of a Fox-Body Mustang. Now, why would you just drop that in without giving it a freshen-up? This one has had a bit more than that. The block has been stripped, surfaced, and then filled with forged pistons, GT40 heads, and an upgraded valve-train. There is also an RPM high rise intake, a Holley carburetor, headers, a dual exhaust, plus numerous other items. All up, this pushes power output up into the region of 400hp. Bolted to the back of that engine is an upgraded C4 automatic transmission, while you also get a Posi rear end and a disc brake conversion from a Ford Ranger. The owner says that the car runs, drives, and handles really well and that it does sound tough. Well, no surprises there. That high rise intake is also the reason why the car has been fitted with the hood scoop. The owner says that it would be possible to fit the standard hood, but there would need to be a different air cleaner to clear the standard panel. Personally, I don’t think that I’d touch a thing.

This 1978 Mercury Zephyr Station Wagon is anything but average. It is a car that would slip nicely under the radar if driven sedately, but it would come alive with a snarl if you gave it a bit of a poke with a stick. It looks like it would be a blast to drive, and I’d be willing to bet that it will find its way to a new home very soon. Will that home be yours?


  1. Nevada1/2rack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Unless the scoop is functional I’d take it off for an even more understated appearance-then lurk about the unsuspecting car populace searching out farty little boomboxes to lure into humiliation…
    Just kidding.
    But this would be a hoot to hustle groceries with.

    Like 12
  2. Sanityfactor@outlook.com

    Wheels gotta go….

    Like 6
    • Miguel

      The wheels can go back on a 6 cylinder Mustang where they belong.

      Like 11
      • Pete R

        Damn right Miguel!

        Like 0
    • JEFF S.

      What’s up with barn find listings lately. I live in Great Falls, MT and I am on Vacation in GA. The 50 Nash in GF and now this one 100 miles from home. I would of loved to go look at this one for sure.
      It will be gone before I get back home in Oct. I would put some old school Cragar Super Sport wheels on the beast and drive it to every car event within 500 miles.

      Like 3
  3. Will Fox

    I bet it runs good, but not nearly as good as the maroon Ford Fairmont sedan that runs 11 sec quarters at 115mph back east. He blows away Hellcats And Z28s all day long. look for it on Youtube. Its a hoot!

    Like 4
    • Bobby

      I had zero springs in the rear, cut springs in the front. Customized interior, no air ride back lol. This wagon I had went through some terrible things that I did as a kid…. I would LOVE to get another one and ofcourse, did it all the correct way.

      Like 0
  4. john

    you could get a 302 in 78

    Like 7
  5. chrlsful

    like the falcon to mavrick cum granada the fairmont/zepher R the 1st of the dwn-sized Fox-bodied autos to come out. The model ran to ’93 I believe (alto the selections w/in shrank to only the ‘stang).

    This is almost the exact vehicle I seek. Mostly to put in a SBF prepped as this one (351 in my case). Only a 40 hr drive away @ 2,500 mi.

    Return the hood’n wheels, keep da engine’n C4…

    Like 0
  6. Tiberius1701

    The scoop (From a carbureted Mustang/Capri Turbo or an ’82 Mustang GT) is there to clear the air cleaner. A set of wheels from the Mustang SVO would look perfect on this car.

    Like 8
    • CanuckCarGuy

      Why stop at the wheels, I was thinking the power train from an SVO would be a sweet update. Shed a few pounds while cranking out as much or more power than the 302…all while sounding like a 4 banger at a traffic light. Q-ship indeed!

      Like 2
  7. Bakyrdhero

    I think this thing is great! I don’t kind the wheels, they look better on this than the V6 Mustang.

    Like 5
  8. Eric

    Oh man, is this ever sweet. Only thing that would make it sweeter is a 5 spd on the floor and if it were a thousand miles closer to me.

    Honestly, I’m super picky about wheels- they make or break a car and I don’t mind them either. I like that he used all Ford parts, including the wheels. I agrre- I hated them on the 6 cyl Mustangs, but kinda like em here. I’m trying to think what might look better. You could run hubcaps to really continue the sleeper look I suppose. Torq thrusts wouldn’t look right. What would you guys think might look better?

    Like 3
    • Nevada1/2rack Nevadahalfrack Member

      Chromed-out reverse rims with baby moon hubcaps!
      Spend a lotta time cleaning them tho….

      Like 1
    • MarveH

      Powder coated steelies would be my choice in either body color or charcoal ( I know, I’m an anti-bling weirdo). I would also require five forward gears shifted manually. I have a completely balanced 331 stroker sitting on an engine stand looking for a home, a box-top Fairmont is on the list.

      Like 3
    • Troy s

      Black wheels like I remember seeing on the CHP Mustang 5.0, with chrome lug nuts and center cap, or maybe I saw those on some other car and have lost my marbles. Needs a 347 stroker to really sinch those new speed Kings. Cool ride that probably won’t fool too many people who know what to look or listen for.

      Like 1
  9. Rube Goldberg Member

    Never ceases to amaze me what some people will sink thousands of dollars into. I mean vintage wagons are hot right now, only due to the fact, there are such dismal offerings today for cars, but I doubt many want a wagon with some “lumpity-lump” motor that gets 8 miles to the gallon. Be the hottest ride in the Walmart parking lot, tho. The wagon part is cool, very few of these left, especially in this condition, and I think would be a quicker sell if it was stock .

    Like 1
    • MarveH

      Rube, there’s a butt for every seat. I don’t think the owner or buyer is running this as a daily. If someone wants a modern deprivation tank with plenty of techno-distractions there are many dealers where they can press hard on three copies of a sales agreement.

      Like 7
      • Eric

        Thank you. They’ll be signing those copies while they’re bent over the salesman’s desk as well. I’ll leave it at that and not elaborate. I’m 41, never bought a car from a dealer and never will.

        This car is hilarious- in a good way. I smiled as soon as I started reading about it. Why are guys asking why? There’s a ton of cars that are built where one should ask why. But, not this one.

        Like 3
  10. Shuler Mike

    My question would be why? It might move quick but it made for the laugh of my day.

    Like 1
  11. Maestro1

    This Wagon is a member of the Ultimate Sleeper Group. Somebody jump on this, I have no room, you won’t be disappointed. But be sure to look at the car’s Bones (underneath) before purchase among other visuals.

    Like 4
  12. Waltguy

    Okay I’m a certified wagon nut, but all these posts about engine swaps/upgrades baffles me. Aren’t GT40 heads worth about 1/3 of the asking price?

    Like 3
  13. W9BAG

    My Dad used to tell me that I never saw I didn’t like. This may be true, until the Zephyr/Fairmont. It seems to me, that they may have been designed by 7th grade drafting students: until I saw this one. An amazing example of American vision on what a true sleeper should be. The integration of the aftermarket gauges & sound system is superb. I would like to do the same thing with a Pinto Squire wagon. Really cool looking wagon !

    Like 2
    • Troy s

      My dad said something similar about me, even at a very young age. “Forget the pretty paint job show cars that’s his over there…” usually a worn out looking street machine wearing primer and possibly two different styles of rims, dumps underneath rattling about. Haha! Lots of laughs. Oddly enough I was in the 7th grade in ’78 and I don’t think any of us liked the looks of these at all, especially me, but I get your point. This one is nice.

      Like 2
  14. Karl

    Very interesting engine pull the motor and crush the rest!

    Like 0
  15. James

    I cannot figure why he kept the C-4 tranny when upgrading a lot of other items. Either a C-6 tranny or a 4 or even 5 speed would have been better especially on interstate highways to increase the gas mileage some what.

    Like 1
  16. Chad F

    oppositea Karl, crush the motor. (Put in the ThriftPower tricked out).

    James: C4 is least parasitic auto on engine power (2 me C-6 is a truck tranny).

    Return the hood’n wheels keep the tranny…

    Like 0

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