Kenny Brown Mercury Marauder S
YEEE—HA! Kenny Brown's 450-horsepower Marauder S brings all the fun to the party
By DUTCH MANDEL
Photos by Brad Stanley
KENNY BROWN MERCURY MARAUDER S
ON SALE: Now
BASE PRICE: $55,179
POWERTRAIN: 4.6-liter, 450-hp, 460-lb-ft supercharged V8; rwd, four-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT: 4230 pounds
0-60 MPH: 4.5 seconds (mfr.)
ALL CROSSED UP ON THE COMMUTE home in Kenny Brown’s obscenely potent Mercury Marauder S, hunkered down in its black leather seats, grabbing hold of a big American steering wheel, spinning tires and grinning wildly, a thought comes from deep left center. That would-be Darwin Award finalist guy, the (unfortunately fictional) one who slapped a JATO rocket to the roof of his car, lit it off and blew himself to another state of being, should have just climbed into this Marauder for a similar—if less terminal—effect.
Man, this thing has the goods!
Indianapolis-based custom performance converter Brown is not new to the bolt-in power game. Though this is a brutal beast, there is surprising refinement to the Marauder S, a refinement lacking in other tuned rides. The details are subtle—if the word subtle can be used in the same sentence as Marauder S. The high-performance supercharger works like a dream and looks like a dream, too.
Yet a question we asked around these offices on more than one occasion was this: Who would pay $55,000 for a rompin’, stompin’ Mercury? Not many people jumped up with a suitable answer. It’s all got to be about having something more than the next guy—and your own personal definition of “more.” Take a look at the other cars in this special section, and a Mercury for $55K is looking like something from the bargain bin.
At the heart of this Marauder is Ford’s 4.6 four-valve V8 engine that Brown considers short on low-end torque. Okay, then, his solution is to bolt a custom Vortech centrifugal supercharger that is coupled to an air-to-water intercooler to heavy up the air. The effort delivers manifold results: It boosts power and, Brown says, it increases durability and dependability.
Rounding out the powerplant massage is an upgrade to the fuel pump and injectors, the addition of a K&N air filter for better breathing and the harmonic tuning of a turbo-style pop-off valve. Brown says the aural tuning of this device, which relieves built-up inlet pressure on deceleration, can be made to sound whisper quiet or give off “a crowd-pleasing whoosh.”
The work, which doesn’t even take into account Brown’s desire to up engine displacement in future Marauder S versions, benefits from the company’s experience with modular four-valve Cobra motors and proves it with the tale of the tape. Brown advertises the horsepower at a “conservative” 450 to the rear wheels. Torque is rated at 460 lb-ft.
Brown also adds “sprint gears” (4.10:1) for quicker acceleration, and this model as tested also has an auxiliary tranny cooler—necessary for its high-performance, triple-plate aggressive lock-up torque converter. You don’t think this thing is meant to go? Fortunately, it has Baer two-piston, 14-inch rotor front brakes to slow it down.
This neo-Blues Brothers ride is intoxicating in an age of political correctness.
It does not suffer from traditional Detroit suspension wallow, an undulating seesaw that makes a broncobuster queasy. Brown minimized suspension compliance to the extent that occasionally it feels as though you’re riding on the bump stops. Go over a pothole and it’s—BAM!—a teeth-rattling buckboard. Do this a few times and you want to pull over to see whether the Pirelli P-Zeros have broken off the beads of the 18-inch alloy wheels. How much abuse can it take? Apparently, it can take plenty.
The interior gets some touches, all of which are subtle and appreciated. Brown adds a boost gauge to the driver-side A-pillar, which honestly does more to look cool than add to the driving experience.
To lend credence to its collectible nature, Brown adds a numbered dash plaque for the world to see. What the world doesn’t see is a dead pedal that we think is one of the least-expensive and best-spent add-on items. We have long sung the value of dead pedals in cars—and lamented their vanishing from serious driver cars—to get a better feel and sense of the car. We’re glad Kenny Brown feels the same way.
This is our first real exposure to XM Radio for any length of time, and not wanting to sound too much like a fawning convert, it’s tremendous once you learn its pros and cons. Pro: You get more stations with everything from music by decade (almost starting with the thrum of caveman drums) to talk radio chatter. Con: You don’t get local stations, so if you’re looking for after-work traffic conditions you’re out of luck unless you return to the old OEM receiver. Pro: Comedy XL or Laugh USA programs. Con: Comedy XL, and trying to drive while doubled up with laughter. Pro: Comedy XL. No better way to purge the crud from a dreary day. Con: Comedy XL. Trying to explain to your 11-year-old that he shouldn’t share this particular joke—or even the station’s existence—with his mother.... But then, this whole car is one of those things you don’t want to be sharing with the finger-wagging elements of polite society.
Something else we found out inadvertently about the Kenny Brown Marauder: It’s not California smog legal. This comes from a longtime reader who wanted to put one alongside his Mercedes C36. He said there was something incredibly tempting about having “a black-on-black haul-ass sedan that looks like a cop car.”
Unfortunately, he lives in the wrong part of the world to be one of the 10 lucky owners. That’s right, only 10 of these things will be built. Will that make it a collectible in the same vein as a Yenko or Copo Camaro? Probably not, but the speed is no less fun to have at your right foot. After going for his third drive of the day (he begged for more), one of my 11-year-olds, who as a coincidence was studying the Vikings, said, “Dad, this shouldn’t be called a Marauder.... It’s more of a Berserker.” Maybe that’s Kenny’s next project.
MORE IS ALWAYS MORE
It's hardly news anymore that the factories are making their own performance editions. Noting that their customers wanted something more than their standard offerings, the original equipment manufacturers have moved heavily into what used to be the exclusive realm of the aftermarket tuners. When it comes to cars that are already known for performing well, the prototype cited is usually BMW's M division.
Following that example, auto-makers may soon run out of alphabet to put on their performance models. Parallels today include SVT products at Ford, Mercedes-Benz cars hyped up by AMG, Chrysler's SRT range, the S cars from Audi (and the even more extreme RS cars), the R cars from Jaguar and Volvo, and upcoming V models from Cadillac. There are several others.
So what's a tuner to do? Where the major manufacturers may imagine they're horning in on the tuner's turf, the smart tuners are saying "More is always more," and treating these new high-performance factory editions as just another starting place for a hot rod edition.
In following days, you'll see how four aftermarket companies took cars most people would already consider powerful, muscular machines and pushed them into a more rarified realm of performance. Whether it's Kenny Brown turning a Marauder into a more vicious brute or Dick Guldstrand going beyond Chevy's Z06 version of the Corvette, the high-performance experts know the factory can never have the final say. As ever, the serious enthusiast is looking for something that goes beyond what his neighbor might buy off the showroom floor, and is willing to pay what it takes to claim exclusive bragging rights on the street, track or valet parking lane.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....