The 1967 Mercury Cougar is a car that I often inexplicably forget that I’m in love with. I intermittently find myself reexamining its clean, vaguely European, almost un-Ford-like lines, and wonder why I’ve never actively searched for one of my very own. It’s tight, trim, right-sized, and mechanically unimpeachable; in other words, it says all the right things. Regardless of my personal relationship with this first and best of the Cougars, I noticed something for the first time the other day when I glanced at this picture, which coincides with February 2021 on my homemade car calendar.
Like many other cars of the world, the Cougar found some influence from another gorgeous car that flits around the margins of my consciousness – the Lancia Flaminia (and its Florida forebear). There’s no mistaking the outline enveloping the backlite that continues down around the peaks of the rear quarters, framing the trunk lid. It’s more pronounced on the Flaminia, but the Cougar makes good use of the theft. I love them both. Mercury did NOT copy the unique rear windshield wipers, which is probably for the best, mechanically and aesthetically.
This particular Flaminia was the subject of a recent Craigslist ad that someone linked to the Antique Automobile Club of America forums. (It’s since been deleted, in case you were interested.)
This was the ad:
1960 Lancia Flaminia, ran good when parked. Have new glass for passenger door and 2 extra doors and parts. Needs a battery, tires fixed, paint, passenger door fixed and drive shaft rubber connectors. V6 runs good and interior was in great shape when parked, should still be very nice. This car needs nothing major besides paint, just some love. This is what the Italian politicians (and mafia probably, lol) used to be driven in. I can get you the actual miles but I listed 50k miles as a guess. Asking $7500 obo. Make an offer if you’re serious. No tire kickers please.
Flaminias for sale are rare, but this one has financial ruin written all over its Pininfarina-penned flanks. The temptation of further pursuit was ephemeral – I’ll let someone with bottomless pockets and Italian car ownership history take the hit this time.
In the time-honored tradition of old car advertisements, the owner seems to whimsically underestimate the probable extent of rehabilitation, even pulling out the oft-maligned “ran good when parked” tag. Nevertheless, the pictures render the buyer to blame if they don’t know what they’re getting into. In the scheme of things, this is one of the more honest ads I’ve seen. I hope the car found a good home.
Back to the Cougar. Nothing else about the Cougar evinces a particularly Italianate influence; in fact, as has been pointed out many times in many places, the prototypically English Jaguar seems to have been Mercury’s general benchmark. They landed a bit wide of the mark in that regard, but the early Cougar is still one of the most fascinating cars to emerge from Ford’s styling department. It’s awfully hard to tell that it was sired by the Mustang; both cars have completely different characters.
As a strict comparison exercise, the Cougar and the Flaminia occupy different orbits; rear-drive architecture, a design feature, and a roughly similar footprint are about all they have in common. They also have four tires, five if you count the spare. But it’s always fun to remember that the world of auto design has always been pretty small, and this website regularly celebrates common design language that is “hidden in plain sight.” Perhaps my sidelong glance at a calendar and the resultant design connection can remind you of some spectacular cars you’ve temporarily forgotten.