The 1963-1964 Mercury Marauder marked the first time the name Marauder was applied to a car -- after Mercury used the Marauder moniker to denote its brawniest engines in the late 1950s.

It's a handle that probably wouldn't be considered today: the safety lobby would surely condemn it as fostering reckless driving, while Mercury marketers would likely veto it as not reflecting the typical buyer's lifestyle. But Mercury was on the prowl even in those pre-Cougar days, and Marauder was perfect for what it was trying to accomplish.

The company's apparent goal was to recapture a performance image more or less abandoned after 1956. Significantly, that was the last year Mercury won a major stock-car race until 1963, when Parnelli Jones drove a new Marauder fastback to victory, launching a string of Mercury triumphs in NASCAR that would run well into the 1970s.

And racing -- or rather improved aerodynamics for higher top speed -- was the main reason behind the 1963 Mercury Marauder and its new-for-1963 Ford cousin, the Galaxie 500 Sports Hardtop.

After several years of a self-imposed truce, the Big Three had resumed open track warfare, and Dearborn's blocky period rooflines were a decided disadvantage in long-distance events on newer high-speed supertracks like Daytona.

Taking a cue from their own 1960-1961 Ford Starliner, Dearborn designers sliced the old boxy superstructure from their big hardtop body, raked the windshield to lower overall height about 1.5 inches, then applied a new roofline sloped more gradually to the rear deck. The result wasn't quite as smooth or slick as the Starliner, but it made a big difference on the track. Better still, it looked racy, yet somehow "formal" enough to appeal to Mercury's usual clientele.

Compared to Ford's prosaic Sports Hardtop handle, Marauder seemed a more appropriate title for this slicked-down hardtop coupe. Mercury must have thought so, too, for it nailed bold name-script onto its cars' front fenders. However, there was no mistaking the fastback Marauder with its "lesser kin," as other models wore the "Breezeway" roof, a fling with the retractable, reverse-slant rear window first seen on 1958-1960 Continental Marks.

Though undoubtedly conceived after the fact, the Mercury Marauder's semi-fastback roof mated handsomely with the big 1963 Mercury's reskinned lower body, marked by an attractive full-width concave grille, Lincolnesque chrome-edged beltline, and a reshaped tail with triple lamp clusters.

Like its sister division, Mercury initially fielded a bench-seat Marauder, in the Monterey Custom line, and a buckets-and-console version, in sporty S-55 trim. Sales were respectable for a half-year model at just under 7,300, though Ford did far better with over 135,000 Sports Hardtop Galaxies.

On the next page, learn about the continued inspiration brought to the 1964 Mercury Marauder.

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