(first posted 7/19/2016) I’ve spoken before about the seemingly mythical beast that was the 1977 Mercury Cougar wagon. Available in either base or Villager trim, it was the latter that was produced in greater volumes (8,569 vs. 4,951) and the latter of which seemed to be the only survivor, with some Villagers still making the rounds at classic car shows. Well, like a photographer spotting the Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot, Daniel Lucy has uploaded these shots to the Curbside Classic Cohort of what appears to be a base 1977 Mercury Cougar wagon!
I find these perversely cool in a tacky, bloated 1970s way. Affixing the Cougar name to a wagon smacked of name debasement in a fashion far more offensive than, say, an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera or Ford Mustang II. After all, a wagon – with optional third-row seating – was a complete 180 from a sporty or plush personal luxury coupe. There was nothing especially luxurious about these nor was there anything remotely sporty. I could understand if a Cougar wagon resembled a proto-Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake, but to simply slap a formal front clip on a Torino wagon? Sacrilege. Perversely cool sacrilege.
Look at that high beltline, too! And people criticize today’s cars for their small glasshouses. At least parking sensors were invented – could you imagine parking this boat? It’s funny that this was considered an intermediate: this was the zenith (or nadir) of that size class, almost 20 inches longer than its predecessor and packing only V8 power (351 and 400 cubic inch V8s). The Big 3 were reeling from emissions standards and skyrocketing gas prices and these not-so-mid-sized mid-sizers would soon be extinct. GM led the downsizing charge with the 1977 B-Body, shrinking a range of zaftig full-sizers to what had become “intermediate” dimensions. Just a year later, GM downsized their intermediates and Ford introduced the Fairmont/Zephyr twins, leaving the Cougar looking like a relic.
Of course, by 1978 the Cougar wagon experiment was over. The Zephyr wagon no doubt cut into Cougar wagon sales, but intermediate Mercury wagon sales had never amounted to much and scarcely broke into the 5-digit range most years. Meanwhile, Oldsmobile was selling almost 4 times as many Cutlass wagons.
Even the Cougar sedan – which actually received new sheetmetal all-round, instead of being a Frankenstein’s Montego – was hardly a strong seller. The XR-7 coupe was the real sales sensation of the range, where its size and proportions played to its favor in a style-conscious segment.
While the Cougar wagon was a misguided application of an alluring name, guzzled gas, handled poorly and wasn’t terribly space-efficient, I am ever so glad Daniel Lucy found one in the wild. Unlike Nessie or Big Foot, it seems they do exist.