V8 Survivor: 1981 Mercury Zephyr Wagon

The dawning of the 80’s drastically hurt the V8 market, to where smaller more efficient power plants were put into automobiles. Although this this Zephyr looks like nothing more than a cousin to the Fairmont, this clean well-kept wagon features a 302 V8! Although not the most powerful 302 from Ford, this wagon is still a bit of a sleeper. For $6,500 this sleek wagon can be yours. Check it out here on craigslist out of Rochester, Minnesota.

Taking a look in the engine bay reveals the 302 V8 in all of its glory. Equipped with headers, and a new exhaust, I bet this wagon has a surprising growl. The paint in the engine bay is decent, although there is a great deal of worn paint on the driver side of the bay. Taking a close look at the engine reveals that the water pump, and distributer look to be recent additions. 302’s have a great potential for power, so for some hopping the engine up may be of interest. Although 302’s are also very reliable and solid engines and this one has plenty of miles left in it at 83,700 miles.

Considering the mileage of this wagon, the interior is phenomenal. Any one that has ever had an 80’s era Ford product can tell you about sun fade and the various colors of red they had in their interior after a few decades in the sun. Thankfully this wagon has spent time out of the sunlight where the interior shows like new. The seats are excellent with no signs of wear, and the rest of the interior is very tidy. There is an aftermarket center console, as well as a steering wheel wrap, but otherwise this interior is original and fantastic.

Although this Zephyr isn’t as big as the “family trucksters” of the 1970’s this wagon is a reasonable size with plenty of cargo space, and a roof rack. The paint work is stunning and shiny, and the body is straight as an arrow. The factory trim is all in place, and there are even some mud flaps fitted to this classic wagon. Closely examining the images of this wagon, I cannot come up with any condition issues on the exterior. There is no rust to be seen anywhere on this wagon, and the fit and finish of the body panels is excellent. There could certainly be some minor issues like rock chips but otherwise, this wagons appears close to show room new. Although maybe not as stylish, or “cool” as some of the wagons from the 60’s and 70’s, this Zephyr is still a neat and uncommon machine with its tidy appearance and V8 heart. Would you jump on this V8 classic?


Fast Finds


  1. Luke Fitzgerald

    Wow – it survived

  2. Fred W.

    Can’t believe I’m admiring a Fairmont- I mean Zephyr. We must be near the end of civilization as we know it.

    Like 1
  3. Bill J.

    It’s a 289 that looks like it was thrown together rather sloppy work and what about the rest of the AC system?
    The body and interior appears real clean…..I built a 81 z7 non AC car back in 1990 with a 71 302…..I’m just not a huge fan of people building a car with half of the AC system just hanging uselessly out of the fire wall….sorry guys…its just my O.C.D kicking in…..

    • RichS

      The more I look at it the more I think it was a 6 cylinder car to begin with.

      Like 1
  4. Todd Zuercher

    Would much rather see the stock air filter, valve covers, Duraspark distributor and upper radiator hose in there. Nothing screams joe hobo’d like those universal flex radiator hoses.

    • RichS

      Agreed – it’s one thing if it’s a custom application but c’mon that isn’t an impossible to find hose…

  5. LimoDan

    A/C removal troubles me a little.

  6. RichS

    Not a 302 in the ’81, it’s a destroked version. 255 cubic inches.

    Edit: Ad says it’s a 289, definitely not original then. Probably a 6 cylinder car converted which would make the universal hose and deleted AC make more sense

    Like 1
  7. John T

    I had one of these bench seat wagons with the 200CID straight 6 and a factory 4-on-the-floor, actually a 3-speed with 4th as overdrive. Incredibly reliable and economical, this was one of the best daily drivers that I have ever owned. Sure would love to get one of these now!

    Like 1
  8. Jay M

    Would make a great stock appearing sleeper…

  9. Miguel

    I live in Mexico where the majority of the Fairmonts here 2 or 4 doors were V8s with sticks on the floor. If anybody wants some, there are here and they are cheap.

    • John T

      If you could find an agent, a dealer or someone to somehow legally bring these over the border (to Arizona or Texas?) they would be a lot easier to sell and they would probably sell quickly! Maybe even advertise them on BarnFinds!!

      Like 1
      • RichS

        Probably not enough money in it to make the importation worthwhile – looks like you have to jump through a LOT of hoops: https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/289/related/1/session/L2F2LzEvdGltZS8xNDkyNTYwMjY2L3NpZC9tU2t6R3Jnbg%3D%3D

      • Miguel

        Are you sure John? I mean we are still talking about Ford Fairmonts. I know they go like hell, but they still sound like a tin can when you close the door. Other than smog problems, as we didn’t have any of that stuff here, I don’t see why they can’t be brought over. They are over 30 years old now.

        Rich, this is the important part of that link “Cars that are more than 25 years old are exempt from EPA and DOT requirements. For more information about antique vehicles visit “Importing classic or antique vehicles/cars for personal use”.”.

      • John T

        Miguel, I am not sure because I am not in the business. All I know is that the asking price for the 1981 Mercury Zephyr featured above is $6500. That’s a lot of pesos! You would have to determine all the costs and crunch the numbers to see if it is worthwhile. Thank You and also to Rich for the interesting information.

  10. angliagt

    We bought a ’78 wagon in 1981.6 cylinder,automatic.
    Most reliable car we ever owned,& kept it for about 11 years.
    We would have kept it longer,but was totaled by a drunk driver.
    I looked at V8s,but they only got around 12 mpg.

    Like 1
    • John T

      My old reliable 1979 Mercury Zephyr 6-cylinder station wagon that I described earlier consistantly got over 20MPG on regular gas!

      Like 1
  11. MDW66

    One of my friends in high school drove a very similar car. It was the early 1980s and it was his moms car. They also had a great dane dog and the interior was full of dog hair. Haven’t thought about that car or the dog for along time! Thanks I think.

  12. Ron D.

    I have to agree, I think it had an in line 6, and they added the 289, an everything thing didn’t work right, so they give up.

    Like 1
  13. RichS

    Miguel, I didn’t say they couldn’t. I said that it probably wouldn’t be much of a money-making venture as they dont sell for much. I do know that while they could be imported into the US, that you cannot register one in California as the 30 year rule doesn’t apply. Everything 1976 or newer is subject to emission testing and vehicles that do not have labeling that says they meet Federal US or California emission standards can’t be registered here.

    • Miguel

      Yeah, California has always been a problem.

  14. Miguel
    • RichS

      Very cool – looks like the 2 door sport coupe didn’t make it down there. Really neat seeing the manual trans cars. I think the 4 doors definitely arent worth bothering with, the wagons and 2 door “boxtops” would be the only real draw I think. Out of your link, I like this one the best:


      ~$2600 in todays exchange rate, add whatever processing fees and such to get it across the border and registering it in a friendly state I’d be you’d be pushing $3500 (at least). Unfortunately, as cool as I think it is – you’d be hard pressed to get someone to give you much more than that.

  15. John T

    Thank You Miguel and RichS for your interesting comments. I had a hunch that California would be a problem due to super stringent emission standards which is why I mentioned Arizona and Texas as they are the closest border states to Mexico other than California. Just out of curiosity I checked the exchange rate and on Tuesday April 18, One United States Dollar ($1US) equals 18.59 Mexican Pesos, or conversely 1000 Mexican Pesos equals approximately $54 US Dollars. If my math is correct, that makes the $6500 Mercury Zephyr V8 Survivor worth over 120,000 pesos! I will let you guys with the knowledge figure out if it is feasible.

  16. Miguel

    Well, the exchange rate is closer to $18.00 right now. Paypal pays me much less though.

    Just as a side note, here in Mexico there were 2 versions of the Fairmont.

    The first was the normal one with the Fairmont rear lights.

    The other was called the Elite which had the 1981 Ford Granada front end with the Mercury Zephyr rear lights.

    You can see from the link I posted there are still quite a few available.

    I think for the effort though, there are more interesting cars to send to the US like the Dodge Kingsway from 1957 and 1958. That car has the Dodge front end but it is Plymouth from the dashboard back. We also had some DeSoto’s like that. The car is Christine with a Dodge front end. They are definately cool cars.

  17. John T

    I checked out your link and was fascinated to see how many are available. I still think that if it could be done legally and possibly in volume, you could make a bundle. I suppose if it were that easy then everybody would be doing it, But there must be a way. Maybe Barrett-Jackson or Mecum Auctions would have the knowledge.

    • Miguel

      John, I am actively looking for a Mexican 1984 Monte Carlo SS. It was a one year offering which featured a 350 V8, factory 4 speed on the floor, a Pontiac Grand Prix dash board and door panels. It came with power locks but manual windows. It is the only Monte Carlo ever to come out of the factory with a stick shift. The trick is finding one that somebody hasn’t messed with. So many people are destroying original cars turning them into resto-mods or some such nonsense that pretty soon there will be no original cars left.

      You can look this car up on the internet. There are a few pages with pictures.

      • John T

        Miguel, I did some research on the history of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo at wikipedia.org and sure enough they talk about the 1984 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS made in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico with a 350-V8 and the 4-speed just exactly like you described. Additional information was also available at http://www.montecarloss.com/MexicanSS.HTML where they say it was the fastest production car built in Mexico in 1984. This one is going to be incredibly difficult if not impossible to find. If you are looking in the U.S., your best bet would be in the southwestern states. You should also try the various auction sites such as Barrett-Jackson, Mecum, Auctions America, RM Auctions, etc. There is a TV channel in the U.S. called Velocity that features programs about rare and collectible cars. You can check them out at http://www.velocity.com and along with BarnFinds.com you can take a peek at my old favorite http://www.hemmings.com which is also a monthly publication. Other than that, you got EBay and CraigsList.

        GOOD LUCK!

  18. Nova Scotian

    The car looks rock solid. But the engine bay is crap. I wouldn’t buy it cause it looks like someone “messed” with its guts. Besides, it isn’t that great of a car IMHO. The color is top shelf, nice interior. This was considered a small car back in the day.

  19. Miguel

    John, actually I live in Mexico which is where I am looking for the car. I have found a few but they are nice enough for me to spend the money.

    I have a lot of connections with car collectors here so sooner or later I will find the right car.

    I think it will be a blast to drive.

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