Home » This Dirt-Cheap, Pristine Mercury Sable Wagon Is Oddly Satisfying

This Dirt-Cheap, Pristine Mercury Sable Wagon Is Oddly Satisfying

Gg Mercury Sable Wagon Ts
ADVERTISEMENT

Every so often, the internet digs up some gold. This 1988 Mercury Sable GS Wagon from Victoria, British Columbia just hammered on Bring A Trailer for $2,350, and my God, is it ever a thing of beauty. Sure, it might have the odd dent, but it sports a mere 120,000 kilometers on the clock, which works out to about 75,000 miles in freedom units, and it looks pretty much as good as a late-’80s family car survivor will get.

A Porsche or a Corvette or a Supra is made to be preserved, a high-end performance car designed for special treatment. A normal family car like a Mercury Sable? Forget about it. Cars like this slowly lose the war of attrition until one day, we all wake up and realize none of them are left, and that an entire world of everyday cars got turned into Maytags before our very eyes. However, this one beat the odds, which makes it all the more charming today. After all, anyone with money can buy a nice old performance car, but a pristine regular car? That’s something you have to find and earn.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Under the hood of this Sable sits a three-liter Vulcan pushrod V6 cranking out 140 horsepower and 160 lb.-ft. of torque. Remember when those were respectable numbers? Hitched to a four-speed AXOD automatic transmission, it won’t set anyone’s hair on fire, but it’ll probably get you where you need to go, so long as the transmission held together. These early AXODs didn’t have a great reputation, but that didn’t stop this Sable from surviving.

1988 Mercury Sable Gs Profile

At first glance, it’s hard not to notice how brown this Sable is. It’s a neutral color, and arguably the tone of the real 1980s — wood-paneled basements, smoking indoors, the exact opposite of the high-rolling Miami lifestyle. While Crockett and Tubbs were hunting down criminals in a Ferrari Testarossa, millions of North Americans were living in cities and towns that weren’t on the international map, living perfectly average lives. While the aerodynamic styling and full-width light bar of this Sable felt like the future, the spec stood firmly in the present, right down to the whitewall tires.

ADVERTISEMENT

1988 Mercury Sable Gs Interior

Slide behind the wheel of this 1988 Mercury Sable GS and you’re greeted by the reassuring fakeness of an unconvincing woodgrain dashboard, almost blending in with an all-brown dashboard. Over the past 36 years, this grain has gone from mildly upscale to chintzy to charming, a statement of moderate antiquity. It wouldn’t work in a modern office or in a new car, but on a mid-size wagon from the late 1980s, it managed to do just right.

Front

There’s just something so satisfyingly anachronistic about this Mercury Sable, a bit like seeing a functioning Blockbuster Video location or meeting someone who still texts using T9. It’s a cared-for example of a genre of car that was largely used as an appliance, schlepping kids to school and sports practice before being traded in on a newer model, where it would then repeat the cycle with a new family until it was old and depreciated enough to be a first car instead of a family car, and that’s when the fun really started.

1988 Mercury Sable Gs Rear Three Quarters

ADVERTISEMENT

Some kids were born on third base, and their parents bought them something modern and luxurious and safe. Some kids benefitted from an inheritance program, getting a grandparent’s old car that was low-mileage and well-maintained, or they held down a paper route since they were 12, their parents pitched in, and they bought a one-generation-old Civic or Corolla. Then there was the tier of us below that. If you didn’t come from money but had just enough scratch to barely afford a car in high school, you’d probably be driving something older and American, whether a Taurus or a Cavalier or a four-banger Mustang. And you know what? A set of wheels was a set of wheels.

1988 Mercury Sable Gs Lightbar

It was enough to get away from whatever you needed to get away from, discover whatever you needed to discover, and create a few memories your parents didn’t have to know about. These days, seeing a great example of a car like this feels like a reminder of personal growth. An admission that the problems of yesterday were small and that you’re thankful to have come so far since then. Granted, that’s when cars like this were largely janky, but the jankiness was part of the adventure. Sure your AXOD automatic might check out, or your cooling system might overheat, or you might encounter some electrical gremlins, but those were all good excuses to stay out a little longer. In a turbulent era of hand-me-downs and bargain-basement Craigslist cast-offs, cheap used cars like this Mercury Sable wagon gave us a little breathing room. Heaven knows we needed it.

(Photo credits: Bring A Trailer)

Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.

ADVERTISEMENT

Relatedbar

Got a hot tip? Send it to us here. Or check out the stories on our homepage.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
51 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
lastwraith
lastwraith
27 days ago

Maybe it’s just me, but I always think of Robocop when I see this vintage of Taurus/Sable.

ColoradoFX4
ColoradoFX4
27 days ago

We had a number of Taurii and Sables as a kid, but the ’87 Taurus LX wagon will always be my favorite. The digital dash seemed so futuristic, and it was the first car we had that was equipped with such luxuries as a cassette player and automatic climate control. It was a good car, and lasted a while too, all the way to 360k miles (the AXOD made it to 200k before needing a rebuild).

Would love to have this and schlepp my own kids around in it.

AlfaWhiz
AlfaWhiz
27 days ago

It’s a brown wagon, so it’s a very J… I mean very Autopian kind of a car.

Myk El
Myk El
27 days ago

I’d like a good sized wagon like this manufactured with modern niceties, like hybrid powertrain, pairing with my smartphone and backup camera. I mean a non-luxury brand, on a mid-full sized vehicle platform, no AWD, no SUV/CUV higher ride height.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
27 days ago

In the passage of automotive plastic time: fake wood begat fake nickle plating begat fake carbon fibre begat fake polished ebony…

What’s next? I’m rooting for fake snakeskin.

Hamish48
Hamish48
27 days ago

big ass station wagons – official vehicles to every hockey Mom in Canada. Bonus points if you had sticky paper wood paneling on the sides.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
27 days ago
Reply to  Hamish48

This was in Victoria. Not hockey, sailing school. Toss the Sunfish on the roof rack and go!

Fordlover1983
Fordlover1983
27 days ago

3 time Taurus owner here (2 ’92 3.0 sedans and an ’88 3.8 wagon). No complaints with any of them. Put over 250,000 on each one. I’d love to find another wagon. I have a dream, and a pile of ’91 SHO parts in the barn. I figured I’d have to look in the Desert Southwest to find one that’s not cancerous. Who would have expected one in BC?

MikuhlBrian
MikuhlBrian
27 days ago
Reply to  Fordlover1983

A SHO wagon would be fun, I’ve seen several conversions. For something like this, I’d go a different route. Keep the Vulcan, and drop in a manual trans from a SHO or a Vulcan powered Probe or Tempo/Topaz. SHO suspension parts, but keep the exterior and interior as stock as possible.

DadBod
DadBod
28 days ago

I was schlepped to school in one of these. One of the carpool moms had a brand new one, and something was wrong with the emissions system because it smelled like rotten eggs. It stuck with me because this particular mom never said a single word for an entire school year.
Also my mom bought a first gen Taurus in blue on blue, the only Ford we ever had. It was pretty awesome, I gotta say. It was an American car with exactly what we’d been looking for.

Ffoc01
Ffoc01
28 days ago

NOOOOO!!! I’ve been trying to find one of these (or a Taurus wagon), in this color for years.

I’ve loved these cars since I was a kid and my family loves Christmas Vacation.

I want nothing more than this wagon, with a woodgrain wrap (I already have a guy) and a 20′ tree strapped to the roof, parked in my front yard for the holidays.

Back to Marketplace

Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
28 days ago

Attempting to yank off the oil plug: Come quietly, or there will be… trouble!

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
28 days ago

A used 1st-gen Taurus wagon became our family hauler when we had our third child, and it was a mighty good car. Made it to 178K (no transmission problems), at which point I decided it would cost too much to get through another inspection. So I donated it to a charity that would actually fix cars and give them to families in need.

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
28 days ago

My wife and I bought my father-in-law’s 89 sable sedan off him in 1993. Even four years later (and 8 years after initial release), it seemed like a highly modern car. Compared to what I was driving previously (malaise Cutlass), it was a world apart. Smooth, quiet, comfortable, powerful, good handling, and got decent mileage. I felt like an actual grown-up driving it to my first post-college job.

I got a serious throwback looking at that dashboard pic – ours was the exact same color combo inside. It really was a highly functional and well-designed interior.

M. Park Hunter
M. Park Hunter
28 days ago

I was in high school when the Taurus / Sable debuted. It’s hard to overstate what a paradigm shift this was at the time. Kinda like Chrysler’s “Forward Look” cars of the mid 1950s. Suddenly everything else on the market looked a decade out of date. The aero styling really took over and within a few years all cars were jellybeans – we still live in the world these cars created. Less remembered was the well-designed control scheme. Tactile, sensibly-arranged buttons and rotary knobs for everything that were consistent across most FoMoCo products. Doggone, I miss that. Quality, in general, was good by ‘80s standards, though cars from 2000 have been vastly better.

Last edited 28 days ago by M. Park Hunter
Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
28 days ago
Reply to  M. Park Hunter

This….one thousand percent. They really seemed to copy a lot from the Audi of this era, and took it a step further. I don’t think you can underestimate the overall risk that Ford took with all of this, as it was a car aimed squarely at middle America. They really got it right.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
28 days ago
Reply to  M. Park Hunter

It’s almost shocking how competent the Big Three could be when they decided they actually wanted to care about something and put in some real effort. But, they usually ended up forgetting whatever it was they just did well and then going back to mediocrity for the next project

Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
28 days ago

I’ve had three first generation Taurus’ (Taurii?) as commuter cars, and they were good cars. Comfortable and completely vanilla. Invisible to cops. Why do I want this thing?

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
28 days ago
Reply to  Phil Layshio

Tauruses.

It’d never be Taurii with 2 is in any case. us -> i and the only time you see ii is when you already had one i to start with.

So for example you’d get Taur-us -> Tauri but Pri-us -> Prii.

Of course those are made up but if they did pluralize Latin style, only Prii would have two is.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
28 days ago

Both taurus and prius are real Latin words. The nominative plural of taurus is indeed tauri but for prius it is priora. The declensions aren’t entirely determined by the endings of the nominative singular forms.

VanGuy
VanGuy
28 days ago

Toyota ran some poll to determine the correct plural of Prius. “Prii” won, but only with about 25% of the vote.

Last edited 28 days ago by VanGuy
Jim Head
Jim Head
28 days ago

There was nothing charming or satisfying with the gray Sable wagon we had when I was a kid. It was garbage. Underneath the dash was a rats nest of wires. No remote trunk release, so you had to shut off the engine to open the trunk and use the key. EGR valve kept failing, and the engine constantly loses power while accelerating. Rattled like hell. We got rid of it after 4 years.

ES
ES
28 days ago
Reply to  Jim Head

repeated EGR failure and power loss under acceleration: bad cats maybe?

lastwraith
lastwraith
27 days ago
Reply to  Jim Head

A lot of cars didn’t have a trunk release back then. Luckily, keys were just keys. You could almost always cheaply copy them and just detach the 2nd key if you needed to pop the trunk with the engine running.

Or, if you happened to own a beater ’88 Buick Regal, you could simply remove the key from the worn ignition at any time (running or not) and use it for the trunk.
Ask me how I know….

Hondaimpbmw 12
Hondaimpbmw 12
11 days ago
Reply to  lastwraith

On GM cars of that era, the square head key (retained by the lock cylinder or not) was for the ignition. The trunk key has a round head. And, of course, inserted with the notches down, not up as Ford did.

lastwraith
lastwraith
11 days ago
Reply to  Hondaimpbmw 12

I would normally agree, but my Regal did not have 2 keys for whatever reason. It was just the one key that opened everything and the ignition was so worn that you could remove it while the car was running.
Safe….. No. Convenient, yes.

But yeah, I eventually had a Pontiac Bonneville a few years newer than the Regal that had the traditional 2 key (oval and square) GM layout. And my first car was a Chevy Caprice with the 2 keys, come to think of it. For all I know, the Regal was a unicorn due to malfunction alone. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
That was just one of its many delightful oddities. It also had an ethernet cable holding the hood down when I got it.

Last edited 11 days ago by lastwraith
Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
28 days ago

Under the hood of this Sable sits a three-liter Vulcan pushrod V6 cranking out 140 horsepower and 160 lb.-ft. of torque. Remember when those were respectable numbers?”

I remember!!! And many people buying these were coming out of crap cars built in the malaise era.

So that level of power and fuel economy you got in in the Taurus/Sable was a HUGE improvement over what was previously available. They were like spaceships compared to most vehicles sold just 10 years prior. And had high tech features like fuel injection, electronic ignition, an electric engine cooling fan that only came on when needed, a FOUR speed automatic, FWD, aerodynamic halogen headlights, electronic AM/FM stereo, keyless entry and a handling/ride that was a vast improvement over past models.

The tech, performance and efficiency leap is almost comparable to going from an early 2000s ICE vehicle to the Tesla Model S that came out 10 years later.

LTDScott
LTDScott
28 days ago

Yeah, this replaced the Fox LTD/Marquis which was only good for 120 HP out of the same basic 3.8L that the Taurus could be optioned with. So 140 HP out of a 3.0L was indeed an improvement.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
28 days ago

Well said. I was there then too, and it’s hard to overstate just how revolutionary these cars felt compared to other stuff out there. And the wagon was the more futuristic variant even…that back end is still striking today, but back when it came out, it was literally like nothing we’d ever seen.

And the interiors really showed Ford’s effort IMO. My parents were driving GM stuff then, and the malaise era mojo was still quite strong there, sadly.

Last edited 28 days ago by Jack Trade
But youve seen it run
But youve seen it run
28 days ago

Yes. This 100%.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
28 days ago

I remember when my mom got a first-gen Taurus L wagon as a company car in ’87. After the drudgery of her previous ride (a Topaz LS), it was a revelation. L-spec Tauri came with black bumpers as standard, but hers was specced black, so it looked like the Vader family carpool hauler, with a glorious red interior. The Caravan she got next felt like a step backward.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
27 days ago

Fast forward to today and you can be certain, absolutely certain, that your children WILL DIE if you put them in one of these. Just seeing one on the road could kill them! /S

Maymar
Maymar
28 days ago

BC’s collector plates are just awful, although something period correct would basically be the current plates.

I’d be tempted to ditch the whitewalls as they seem anachronistic, but it’s probably a hint as to the prior owner and how it survived so clean for so long.

Lucas K
Lucas K
28 days ago

I don’t know what it is about my neck of the woods, but Vancouver Island is a secret wagon hot spot. I picked up a manual E46 wagon and my current B6 Passat 3.6 4motion here. A quick search on marketplace shows a super low mileage(and in my opinion over priced) Lancer Evo wagon and an Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagen for sale in Nanaimo. I’ve also stumbled across a few well priced Taurus wagons in surprisingly good shape in the $3000 CAD range. I shouldn’t be revealing all this but someone should buy these wagons so I don’t.

V8 Fairmont Longroof
V8 Fairmont Longroof
28 days ago
Reply to  Lucas K

What’s in a Nanaimo bar? ……………………………………………………………Bikers and hookers! I’ll let myself out.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
27 days ago

Not true! There are also drug addicts and alcoholics too!

Max Headbolts
Max Headbolts
28 days ago
Reply to  Lucas K

Lancer Evo Wagon, forbidden fruit here in the US, link? Please?

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
28 days ago

I have a love-hate relationship with the first gen taurus/sable (and their sister the continental) and worked on about a million of them.

This one has the 3.0 so it is less likely to have major issues, the AXOD is probably the first thing to go but since the 3.0’s weren’t powerhouses it might be just fine.

Other than that, this thing is so low-spec there isn’t a ton to go wrong. No A/C or power windows/locks (?!?) but still has a tachometer?

First thing I’d do is see if the subframe bolt recall was done on it. If not, I’d get a hole saw and replace those first, along with the bushings since you are already there.

At least it isn’t the 3.8L, those were garbage.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
28 days ago

Sables had a tach standard; from what I’ve seen US ones had A/C standard too, but figure it was either a credit option to delete or maybe Canadian examples didn’t have it standard. Though it does have a rear defroster and wiper, which was an option, unless that was specced as standard on Canadian examples.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
28 days ago

Ah good point on the Canadian/U.S. spec differences, probably didn’t “need” A/C in British Columbia in 1988.

LTDScott
LTDScott
28 days ago

No cruise control either. I don’t think I’ve seen another early Taurusable without it.

I was a Ford tech for 4 years and used to perform the subframe recalls on these. Thankfully I did so while living in San Diego, so while the recall was only for cars sold in the rust belt, most of the cars I actually worked on weren’t rusty.

Paul B
Paul B
28 days ago

A/C was optional on most cars in Canada back then. There was a $750 “luxury tax” to pay on top of the price of the option.

This meant A/C ended up being a $1300-1500 options. That’s $3500 in today’s dollars.

James Carson
James Carson
28 days ago
Reply to  Paul B

My Taurus was loaded, ac, power everything. Beyond being utterly boring it was an okay car. It ate brakes like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Traded it in on a Volvo 850 wagon but that’s another story.

Giulia Louis-Dreyfus
Giulia Louis-Dreyfus
28 days ago

For some reason I really loved these as a young kid. I thought the design was really cool, specifically the Sable version (not the Taurus version) for the front light bar paired with the rounded back.

I remember fairly vividly the day my mom decided to buy a new ’92 Taurus wagon (close enough) in part due to my enthusiasm.

Bucko
Bucko
28 days ago

I convinced my mother to test drive one of these wagons in 1985 after the rave reviews by Car and Driver. We were a die-hard manual transmission family, and by some miracle the local dealer had a wagon with the MT-5 and some sort of 4 cylinder engine out of a Topaz, I think. Brand new, the engine stumbled just trying to idle. I think we drove it for 5 miles and brought it back far less impressed than Car and Driver. I recall the dealer calling us for 6 months trying to get us to buy that car.

I found a six-month old Audi 5000 turbo quattro wagon with 20,000 miles on it for 1/2 of MSRP about 2 years later (unintended acceleration courtesy of 60-minutes killed the value of all Audis for several years). That car solved the wagon itch and ran great for 200,000 miles. Despite the Audis being galvanized, Michigan’s war on cars won the battle and eventually there was no keeping up with seized calipers, rusted fuel lines, and a rusty tailgate. I still have fond memories of that Audi. Not sure I’d feel the same way about a 200,000 mile 198x Taurus wagon.

Robot Turds
Robot Turds
28 days ago

These cars were CRAP. A housemate owned one that had only 40,000 miles. After 6 months of owning it the head gasket blew. He spent $2,000 getting that fixed. Shortly afterwards one of the rear brake calipers seized up. And then the transmission grenaded. He wound up junking it.

LTDScott
LTDScott
28 days ago
Reply to  Robot Turds

He likely had the 3.8L V6 then. The 3.0L wasn’t half as bad when it came to popping head gaskets as the 3.8L was.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
28 days ago

I would be tempted to take a look if one was near. However auctions of cars aren’t the ideal framework for buying anything. The whole excitement of competition gets people to excited.

Beasy Mist
Beasy Mist
28 days ago

“The old front-wheel-drive sleigh”

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
28 days ago
Reply to  Beasy Mist

Needs wood paneling though Ed…

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
28 days ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Plenty of wood on the dash.

51
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x