(ED: Sometimes a CC comment can be so interesting that a dedicated post becomes necessary. Please join me in welcoming Junqueboi’s first official article on CC! TK)
I was probably four or five when I first spotted a ’69 or ’70 Cougar (CC here) though the window of my mother’s Mark III Lincoln. The sequential turn signals were mesmerizing.. I was probably six or so when I figured out what I was looking at…and from that point on, everything was about the Cougar. My half-brother drove a white ’69 XR7 for a few years although I don’t ever remember riding in it. I probably stared rust holes in it though.
In school, I’d always write “Cougar” somewhere on my assignments and all over my notebooks and some desks had “XR7″ carved into their tops. I daydreamed about pulling up to school in my 1969 or 1970 Cougar XR-7 convertible and outrunning all the upper-classmen in their cars..
When I was in junior high, the lady sometimes that took care of me after my mother had passed thought she’d be nice and took a “Jordache” sweatshirt and wrote “#1 Cougar” across the back of it for me. It was a sweet gesture but I was mortified…no way in hell would I wear a “Jordache” anything to school. However, my stepmother forced me to wear the thing despite me telling her I’d get beaten to a pulp. So, I snuck a jacket into my book bag and immediately put it on when I boarded the bus. I sweated my balls off but never got my face kicked in that day.
So my father bought a rusted out ’67 Cougar when I was in 10th grade, dangling it out in front of me: “keep your grades up and this will be your car.” Well of course that never happened and the car disappeared. I did have a keychain that said “Cougar” on it though & I brought the keys to class with me as if I had a car.
At the end of the school day, I grabbed “my” car keys and book bag & rode home on the “cheese-wagon” with the 9th and 10th graders while my peers drove themselves home. We lived in Illinois at the time. I eventually decided a ’71-’72 Thunderbird or ’67 Mustang would be a good “second car” if my “dream Cougar” never came to be but the Cougar was way out front.
My father then bailed & moved himself to his hometown in AL toward the end of my 11th grade year, buying some property & deciding he’d open a used car lot. He’d occasionally fly up, throw my stepmother a bone, buy some beater at a dealer auction and drive it back to AL.
During this period, I got a learner’s permit and was “allowed” two very short trips in my stepmother’s awful beige Concord with her of course in the passenger’s seat scared senseless. I literally only operated a vehicle twice and both trips were supervised, covering probably less than a couple miles.
However, on one of his return trips, my father must have miscounted because he bought three cars instead of one. The solution was that the future -ex would drive car#2 and…uh-oh. I was handed the keys to a rusty light blue 1978 Pontiac Firebird Esprit and told to “stay RIGHT behind me.”
That morning, I woke up in Illinois after no doubt dreaming of Mercury Cougars. Late that night, I went to bed in Alabama still not believing I had just driven a car for the first time in my life by myself, covering over 700 miles, most of which was I65. It took about two hours of driving before my legs stopped shaking from excitement and the shakes returned in heavy traffic due to multiple lane closures in Louisville, KY but I did it.
And from that day forward, I was in love with a certain ’78 Firebird, a rusty car that nobody would buy from Miller Auto Sales and one that would become my first car the following year. The ’69 and ’70 Cougar will always be amazing cars to me but the longing to own one vanished the day I met that Firebird back in 1988.
The closest I’ve come to owning my fantasy car would be a rather rough ’67 Mustang coupe (ED: ’68 shown) currently sitting in the shop. My “first love” did not survive but I am about to head home in a different light blue ’78 Firebird in a minute. Good times.
This is great! It’s amazing how a car (or pickup) can become the center of a young man’s universe. Where I went to high school in Illinois, there was also a guy who wrote or scratched “Cougar” on anything he could find. I’m not aware of his having a “Jordache” sweatshirt. 🙂
Welcome to the other side. I truly enjoyed this and it would be great to see more.
Great story,I’m a 67/68 Cougar fan since I was 9 when I saw a new Limefost green 67 near the USAF base not far from my grandparents.Those sequential turn signals and hideaway headlights did it for me,there was more to come when I saw inside a turquoise 68 for the first time,all that matching leather and wood I was hooked.I never got a Cougar,the only Mercury I got my mitts on was a secretary’s special 6 cylinder Comet.In 2000 I went out with a guy who has a black cherry 68 with a 302 4 barrel auto,I finally got to drive my dream car and it was awesome,the best American car I ever drove,no make that the best car I ever drove.I had my hair dyed black cherry and wore matching nail polish to match the car
The centre of my 15-year-old universe in 1988 was the Jaguar 420G (weird huh!). I even wrote a 70 page story in 1989 about a teenager buying one and fixing it up. As soon as I got my first car, a Mk I Ford Escort (UK model), the longing for a 420G ended (probaby to my parents’ immense relief!).
Anyway, I digress, that was a great article Junqueboi! Sounds like your younger years may not have been all that easy at times…glad you came out the other side and can tell us about the cars! I agree with Jason, it’d be great to read more from you!
Not weird at all! I too had (still have) a thing for the 420G. Someday, someday…
Did you see the link I left for you on the Blue Bird for sale up here?
Hey Philhawk: hmm… I don’t think I did…I do remember someone posting a link to a Yellowbird I couldn’t afford though. Actually, I will be making another 700 mile trip to Arkansas to bring back a ’77 Skybird in the upcoming weeks.
The center of my pre licence universe was a 58 Bonneville Sport coupe. This is very odd when you find out that this was in the early 90’s, I already knew I’d be “inheriting” a mint 87 Fiero GT, and I had never and still have never even seen one in person.
One day I will own one, heck, one day I’d like to drive one at least!
I will join the “great story” chorus, a really enjoyable read. I got my Cougar-itch scratched in high school, because my best friend Lowell owned a tired, rusty blue 68 Cougar. He got lucky when someone rear-ended it, because somehow it was not totalled, but ended up with new rear quarter panels and a new paint job on the back half that made it look wonderful. I drove it quite a few times and really enjoyed it – it had a completely different personality than my 67 Galaxie 500 convertible with its 2 bbl 390.
When I was in law school, there was a female student a year ahead of me who drove a Sky Bird. It is the only one I ever remember seeing, as I don’t think they sold all that well.
I can relate to a couple things in this column:
1) I too was smitten with Cougars, though it was on account of my dad’s ’73 convertible. Not the best looking of the originals, but I like it just the same. And yes, when I was little I was fascinated by the sequential turn signals… the return of that feature is one reason I bought a 2010 (and then a 2012) Mustang.
2) my uncle had a beige Concord. In fact, I can’t remember if I ever saw a Concord in person back then that wasn’t beige or white.
on another note, is it just me or does the arse end of the Firebird look terrible without the factory spoiler?
I wouldn’t exactly say terrible, but since my 1980 Formula Firebird had the spoiler, it did seem that cars without the spoiler were simply unfinished. Otoh I’m glad my car didn’t have those honeycomb wheels, what a pita to keep clean.
I should add that my brother’s first new car was a pale metallic green 1968 Cougar, a much nicer car than the 1974 counterpart that replaced it.
jz78817, I’ll agree these Firebirds and Camaros do look a bit naked without the spoiler. My first Firebird did not have a spoiler and looked particularly awful because the rear leafs had been rearched and the car sat high in the rear.
I also agree that these Snowflake wheels are a bear to keep clean. It’s a big reason why older cars with full stainless steel wheelcovers appeal to me.
My father had a ’67 Cougar, purchased new. I was 3 but one of my earliest memories was standing in the driveway trying to lift the covers off the headlights. To this day, I am a sucker for anything with hidden headlights and a fully lit tail (like my ’87 Sunbird GT or my ’90 LeBaron convertible). The Cougar was only around a year, traded for a Torino Squire.
I have a Concord memory too–my driver ed car was a ’78, baby blue with a dark blue vinyl top. It was much better than the alternative car, a ’79 Nova.
x2 on the “fully lit tail” 🙂 The Cougars had it going on at both ends!
Great read! I laughed out load on the Jordache #1 Cougar. Thank you Junqueboi! Please give us some more write-ups.
The Cougar was also one of my earliest automotive lust objects. When I was a little boy, my Pop had a 1968 Cougar XR7. It was dark green, no vinyl roof, styled steel wheels and tan interior. It was so sharp! I loved that car, and was mesmerized by the sequential turn signals in the tail lights. Pop let me turn them on and then run around behind the car to see them. I also loved the hidden headlights, and would turn them on and off over and over, and run around front to check them out. I even remember the rumble of its engine–it had the 302 4-barrel.
A 1968 Cougar is definitely at the top of my list of “some day” cars.
(Please write your own CCs! I might enjoy them.)
Great story! I was totally nuts over the ’65 Cougar when it first came out. I begged my father to take me to the local Lincoln-Mercury dealer to see it. That wasn’t going to happen, you see my father being a GM exec. was not going anywhere near a L-M dealer. I walked the mile and a half to the L-M dealer to see the Cougar. A nice salesman let me sit in it, he even gave me a key chain with a view finder on the end of it that when held up to the light revealed a slide image of the new Cougar. That became my prized possession which I carried everywhere for months after.
Completely off topic but when GM announced the end of Pontiac all of the 2009 models should have been given an updated version of those honeycomb wheels. That would have been sweet (or at least the GXP versions.)
Year One makes a nice line of updated snowflakes that will should fit G8’s and do fit 4th gens.
I was just thinking last night how a set of gold 17″ snowflakes would look on a spice red 06 GTO…
Here is a 4th gen with the 17″ Year One wheels
Yeah, a great read for me, too. I look forward to reading a Junqueboi COAL series since so many of the cars you’ve mentioned in your posts are quite interesting to me.
Great story! I can definitely relate, as when I was in 10th grade my automotive fantasy was the Cadillac Brougham. Every paper I submitted had the word brougham written in not-so-great cursive, my attempt to mimic the classic script found on these beautiful cars. I would always look at pictures of them online, literally drooling over the pristine ones such as Matt Garretts collection(if you havent seen his collection, check it out! he has some beautys). I would browse craigslist all the time looking for broughams for sale around me, and begged my dad to take me to go look at the ones nearby. He would always laugh and joke about my strange brougham love, never taking me. However as 10th turned into 11th grade, and 11th into 12th, my love never waned, and he finally started taking me seriously. Using the money I made from a part time job, I was able to buy my dream car last December, a 1990 Brougham. While it may not be the most practical car for a HS senior, it never failed to brighten my day, and still to this day when I go into the garage I have to stop and admire it.
Anyway, enough about me. The original cougar was a beautiful car, and hid its mustang roots extremely well. I’d say that this was the best mercury ever, and if not at least one of the best. handsome, sporty and classy, a winning combo to me!
Being asked to wear a Jordache sweatshirt with “#1 Cougar” written on the back must have been pretty horrible!
I liked the stories Junqueboi. I also had a thing for Cougars, especially the 67-68s. Do tell us about the Lincoln Mark III some day.
Great story. I too lusted after a Cougar. But in my case it was a 87-88 Cougar. Sadly the ones from the 60’s and 70’s never did anything for me. In the case of the first gen, it looked to much like a Mustang with hidden headlights and the 1970’s versions just looked like bloat(like most 1970’s cars) or looked like a gussied up Ford Futura.
Congrats on your first cc Junkboi. Hope to hear more from you beacause we have similar tastes in cars . I too like both the second gen firebird and the first gen cougar. That shot of the interior of the esprit instantly conjures up memories of my friend’s. trans am.
I’ve related this story before, but this post warrants a re-telling. In 1968 my father decided to trade in the VW Squareback bought in a sudden fit of fiscal responsibility. I don’t know how or when, but at the ripe old age of 5, I had become infatuated with the Mercury Cougar. We went to Kroehle Lincoln Mercury in Youngstown, Ohio, where they had a Cougar in the showroom. For the length of the negotiations, that Cougar was my plaything. Much to my horror when the talking was finished, we had a brand new Mercury… Montego!
My 5 year old self could not understand why we did not get a Cougar; to me it was the perfect car. To my then 55 year old father who still had other teenage sons (yes, I was an “oops” baby) a Montego made a lot more sense. He tried to assuage me with little tokens of Mercury Cougars; the ones from Hot Wheels and Matchbox only stoked my fire further.
Oddly, as an adult, I have never sought one out for myself; although I have had other hi-po Mercurys (Fox bodied V8 Capris, mostly). I think that actually having one would ruin my idealized image of what the car would be like and I’ve never wanted to cross that threshold.
The other car that I fell in love with (and have ever since) are the Henry Haga designed Firebirds. The Camaro of the same period, not so much. In 1978 when one of my older brothers was looking for a new car, I steered him into looking at a Formula Firebird (Trans Am’s more erudite brother); but he balked at the price. He came home with a brand new Mercury… Zephyr!
I really fell in love with the 1982 reboot of the Firebird, but what really sent me over the edge was an incredibly attractive and smart blonde Clevelander who said she would just love to drive one… Geozinger’s checking account to the rescue! I ended up with a 1983 Trans Am WS6, just to impress the young lady. Alas, it didn’t work out with her, but the car *was* a lot of fun. Until it broke. Which it did. A lot…
Glad to see we have similar tastes. I knew there was a reason why I liked your posts!
I’ll echo everyone else in saying I enjoyed your story.
” He’d occasionally fly up, throw my stepmother a bone….”
Was that wording an intentional double entendre? It made me laugh anyhow.
I’m trying hard not to paint a mental picture of this BOC! Ewww.
Back when I was in high school in the late 70’s, I had two classmates who had 1st-generation Cougars. There were a total of three actual Cougars involved, since one of the classmates totaled his red Cougar and then almost immediately replaced it with a nearly-identical white Cougar. The other guy had a black one with a vinyl top and a sunroof. Bad combination! I remember him ripping off a scrap of the vinyl in order to get the damn sunroof closed. A sunroof was a pretty rare option on an American car in the late 60’s. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another old Cougar that had one.
And by the way, great story!
I just sold my own ’68 Cougar about 2 months ago. I owned it since 1990. I bought it from a guy in my college auto shop class for $300 sans drivetrain and with a rough, rusty body.
I did a half-assed “restoration” on it and it became my daily driver and weekend drag racer for 9 years until the cheapie rebuilt engine finally gave up the ghost. By then I had another car ( 85 Mercury Topaz- a hand-me-down from my dad ) so getting it running wasn’t an immediate priority.
For the next ten years I struggled mightily to restore it properly, but never got anywhere. Between my own occasional bad luck, a father obsessed with gardening, a mom fixated with keeping up appearances around the household, and several other car projects, my time and energy was always directed elsewhere. Finally this year I decided to cut my losses and put the carcass up for sale.
Despite no drivetrain and rear quarters full of rust and Bondo, I still got $1000 for it. I told the buyer everything it needed and he agreed to my asking price. It’s now in his capable hands.
These are some pictures I took earlier this summer when posting my Craigslist ad:
You had alluded to no longer owning the Cougar a few weeks back and it made me a little sad. I totally relate to your situation though — my father threatened to haul off & crush the first car I put together (using a enginess Skybird shell + the drivetrain and interior out of my first car “the Firebird”)…
The new owner of your car paid $1,000 which is some consolation: there’s a good chance he will bring it back. I was young, stupid, & desperate to keep my father from destroying my car so I let my dream go for $100 and fought back tears as the ignorant owner drove it off his property.
I saw it a month later spray-bombed flat black, emblems, door handles, and all. A few months after that it showed up across the scales sans drivetrain at my father’s scrapyard. I was operating the crane at the time (thank goodness) and gently set it over to the side & removed the remaining undamaged parts from it before I flattened the carcass.
Much of the interior is stashed in the shop attic & will hopefully find its way into another ’78 Firebird someday.
$1000 isn’t much today. The derby guys will pay more than that for a solid car.
That’s a truly sad story about your Firebird, Junqueboi. It’s bad enough that you had to basically give the car away to try and “save” it. You got to witness it’s rapid decline, and not only did it ultimately suffer the same fate, you had to be the one to actually haul it into the crusher.
It’s not letting me post pics for some reason. I’ll try one more time before I give up.
Screw it- I give up. The internet f—ing hates me tonight I guess.
What a great story, Junque! Your childhood sounds like it was tough at times, but you made it on through and now here you are! My 20 year old nephew has a Cougar infatuation much along the lines of yours. So now, he owns a 1970 with the 351. Nice car. I want to think that the sequential tail lights hooked him, too.
Looking forward to a continuation of your story. It was a fun read.
Can’t wait until you get to the Colonnades!
Have always appreciated your comments jb. They are obviously about cars that you probably wrenched on and didn’t just read about. I am sure you have spent a fair amount of time with skinned knuckles. Keep the comments and the stories coming.
Thanks for sharing, Junqueboi! Reading your comments in other posts always had me thinking there was a story a little bit different than most that needed to come out sooner or later. I hope you write more, it was a good read! Thanks.
Welcome to the club of those CC readers that had their comment turned into a post. It’s the CC Draft. Welcome!
A Skybird on CC…what the….hey what’s MY name doing on the main page? I’m beyond flattered Paul. I gadda get off my tocus, buy a scanner & capture some photos of my childhood that include some very special cars that made me the monster I am today. Seriously: thank you sir.
That’s a wild Skybird by the way: one of the earlier ’77 models — I don’t believe Fisher T-tops were available on the ’77 so this is an interesting find!
I took those Skybird pics at the Maple City Cruise Night Show back in August; the Cougar was at the Galesburg show last month. When I read your comment on the “first car” post, I knew I had to do something with them 🙂
Please write more. And, welcome to the CC Writers’ Guild!
Jason, NZ Skyliner, Philhawk, jpcavanaugh, GN, Mr. Mann, ottomobill, ohwonesten, Anthony S., calibrick, Leon, Carlo, geozinger, BOC, Mike, ChrisXR7, wstarvingteacher, Jim Klein, and that guy who runs this site:
your kind words mean a lot to me and I appreciate you taking the time to post your comments and stories. This site is like “Car Talk” on NPR: you don’t even have to be a “car person” to thoroughly enjoy it.
JB, you are my automotive soul brother!
I too love early Cougars (I had a 69 about 20 years ago) and I also have a 78 Firebird.
Great story about a great car btw, and I agree, it needs a spoiler or its a chick car, lol.
Excellent story! My father married his secreatary in 1973 and along with her came her 1967 Firebird convertable. During my high school years the Firebird sat in the garage next to my father’s 72 Corvette-both cars were strictly off limits and I lusted after both cars for years…Finally my dream came true..when I graduated high school my father tossed me the keys to the Vette and said you have two hours and it better come home in one piece and with a full tank…he then added if the law calls then I will claim the car was stolen…When I turned 30 the Firebird had followed my Father/Step-Mother to Florida…while the wife was out playing golf my father backed it out of the garage..tossed me the keys and we had a Father/Son ride to get ice cream. When we got home the “Mrs” was is in the driveway with a look of disapproval but I was spared a comment…so Dreams To Come True!
My brother is 11 years older than me – imagine how i felt when a bright red 1974 SD-455 Trans Am pulled up in my driveway! At 8 years old I thought that car was the ultimate! It was a 4-speed, buccaneer red with black vinyl top (rare) and black custom vinyl buckets. I think he regrets not having that car today as it is worth some huge money. But when you are 19 you’re not thinking about a car’s worth 40 years from now! All I can remember is my head getting pushed back into the seats when he would take me for a ride. That car was so fast it was insane.
Great story!! The good thing is, both Cougars and Firebirds are pretty affordable these days… would be a good time to pick up a nice example of each of them. You should get one!
I’m getting to this party a bit late, but as I’ve mentioned on here before my first-ever car as a teen was a white ’71 Cougar convertible. Much like the one in the photo, only this one’s a show car and mine was a rustbucket. I bought it in ’76 and went to the boneyard due to severe frame rot in ’77. That’s right: an American car, and not a cheap one, was so rusted that it was ordered off the road by the cops after only six years after it left the factory. Because I bought it used, not new, I did not qualify for any of the “Rusty Ford” class-action lawsuit payoff. That’s all a teenager got back then for his $1400 worth of working-at-the-carwash-blues: two summers, then straight to the glue factory.
But I did manage to drive its tired 351W cross-continent twice during my brief ownership, and it’s surprising how many people I know still remember that car despite being in my life for about 14 months, more than three decades ago! And I have lots of good memories — although, looking back, the experience did pretty much put me off Fords.
I freely admit that the 1967-70 Cougars were a lot better looking than my ’71. Not only did the exterior’s looks take a big nosedive — with that silly, Edsel-esque vertical grille and the taillights lowered down to tailpipe level — but the niceness of the interior also took a hit. The cockpit of, being the non-XR7 base model, really didn’t have too much about it that said “personal luxury car.” Nothing you couldn’t get on a Mustang by ticking a couple of option boxes. Certainly not at the trim level of the pale-green 1st gen in the photos here, with its detailed door panels, its padded instrument cluster (!) and its steel horn rim. The ’67s made a buyer feel like they were somebody special. The ’71s made a buyer feel like they overpaid for a Grande.
I never knew about the Esprit firebirds till I saw this….
But all the interest in your love of the old school cougars, and no mention of From Dusk til Dawn??? I knew of the ’67 XR-7 but after seeing the Gecko brothers’ stolen and dusty ride carrying them on the lam thru the southwest…THATS the moment I really ‘got’ the original Cougar. The gritty yet just right look of that one seals it. Its covered in filth yet rocking torq thrusts….CLASSIC. Great story, Junque.
69 unfinished Cougar!!!.
My step dad bought a 69 at the end of 68. By the end of 69 he bought a 70 Nova with a straight 6 for himself, I had stolen the Cougar so many times that he decided to give it to me.
I was thrilled to death. This Cougar was red/no chrome with a 351 Cleveland which had the good head setup with the extra water jackets. I had already added a monster 4 brl. My best friend was a magical mechanic and fabricator, we ran that car against everything out there at the time and never lost a dime. Those were the days man, go find one and buy it. It even beat all the xr7’s through 73. I went into the Marines then.
My story is similar, I got obsessed with Cougars when I saw my brothers friends 67. The band teacher had a green 68 I had eyes on all through junior high, as a jr in high school I bought it from him in 78. I still have it, it’s the Cougar used in the opening scenes of Dusk till Dawn