Remember when minivans didn’t all have left-side sliding doors? Today’s Nice Price or No Dice Mercury Villager remembers. Let’s see if a slathering of luxury and extremely low miles will mean you let that missing portal slide.
For a while there, a few decades ago, Cadillac used the advertising slogan “Cadillac Style.” At the time, it felt like the company didn’t really even know what that was supposed to mean. The brand has gone through several iterations since then — none any more or less successful than then the last — and today the marque’s purpose still remains something of an enigma.
Along the way, however, Cadillac has managed to poop out some interesting cars and trucks, and one of those was the 2005 CTS-V that we considered at last Friday. A brutal Rock ‘Em-Sock ‘Em Robot of a car, The CTS-V married a Corvette V8 engine and manual transmission with a solidly engineered RWD chassis that could put those elements to good use. The black-on-black 2005 CTS-V that came under our auspicious gaze had modest miles and was priced at a non-luxury arena $12,900. For many of you, that price solidified the Cadillac’s style and earned the car a 59 percent Nice Price win.
When it comes to cars, luxury, it seems, comes in all forms. Heck, at one point in time you could even buy a fancy-pants version of the plebeian Austin Mini. That car, the Riley Elf, offered a full leather and burlwood-trimmed cabin, as well as — luxury of all luxuries — a standard-fitted heater.
Minivans have not escaped this sort of fancification either. Honda has long positioned the top-of-the-line Touring edition of its Odyssey minivan as a near-luxury product. The target audience for this model is not snooty families whose kids don’t spill Cheerios everywhere or leave Crayons on the upholstery on hot days. No, the Touring is instead aimed at grandparents — those rare seniors who seek a bit of luxury when participating in the active lifestyle that AARP ads suggest, but who also need the space a minivan affords for when the grandkids come to visit.
The 1998 Mercury Villager Nautica we’re looking at today is another example of an upscale van. This one is also a blast from the past since it offers both some old-school features that are cool and one feature that is notably missing.
There’s an interesting history behind the Villager’s development. It was the result of a joint effort between the Ford Motor Company and Japan’s Nissan Motor Company. Mercury received the Ford version while Nissan sold the near mirror image as the Quest. Nissan did most of the heavy lifting on the design of the van, and in fact, the chassis is a development of Nissan’s Maxima platform while the engine is a version of that car’s VG30E 3 liter V6.
Areas where Ford stepped in included the Mercury’s unique design elements — grille, tail lamps, etc. — as well as in arguing over dashboard switch identification. Ford, it seemed used words while Nissan liked pictograms. Some sort of happy median had to be found.
The base Mercury Villager wasn’t all that fancy. Once the checkbox was inked for the Nautica option package, however, it certainly did step up its game. That package included leather seating surfaces with special sailing ship embroidery on the back, Nautica-branded cabin mats, and exterior badges, along with — are you ready for this — a luggage set.
This Villager seems to have lost that luggage. All the other Nautica amenities seem to be there, though. There are two truly amazing aspects of this van. The first is that awesome digital dashboard that’s like a chef’s kiss of ’90s kitsch. The second is that this van only has 27,319 miles under its belt. Either it’s really miserable to drive or somebody planned from the start that this would be worth something way down the road if only they could keep it off that very same road.
Actually, there are probably at least five reasons why this Mercury was so little used, and now we get to benefit from that lack of use in its present wonderful condition. Being a ’98, this Nautica gets to wear a teal two-tone paint scheme. The original run of vans was only available in white over blue. That paint looks to be in great shape, as do the alloy wheels and even the plastic headlamp lenses.
The hits keep coming on the interior too. In there you’ll find lovely-looking upholstery and decent-appearing plastics. You also get A/C controls for the front and back and a multi-disc CD changer in the console. The 160 horsepower V6 is paired with a standard four-speed automatic with a column shift that affords plenty of space between the seats.
Speaking of seats, there are three rows of them here, with the first two offering captains chairs with armrests. From the looks of it, each of those seats gets a cup holder, something that was fashionable at the time.
One thing you will notice missing on this generation of Villagers is a left-side sliding door. That would come on the second generation, but on the first, not even luxury accommodations could buy you that. On the plus side, that’s one less opportunity for carjackers.
The title is clear and the Carfax report provided by the seller shows a history of three owners with one of those having owned the van for more than 22 years. The asking price is $8,900 or about eight times what most other Mercury Villagers are going for in the classifieds. That being said, none of the others offer this condition nor as few miles under the belt. Fewer still are the fancy Nautica, which, if you’re buying a Villager, is the one you want.
However, that’s not to say this is a deal. That’s up to you. What do you think, is this Villager worth that $8,900 asking as it sits? Or, does that price just take the wind out of its sails.
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