COAL: 1985 Mercury Cougar – A.K.A. “Broken Windows”

(note: Mr. Pastor’s COAL series is not in chronological order. ED)          I was looking for cheap transportation.  It was the late 1990s and my wife and I had just plunked down too much money for a Chrysler Town and Country minivan to shuttle all the kids around.  I perused the transportation for sale section of the classified ads.  There it was: “For Sale 1985 Mercury, broken windows, runs good. $400.” 

You can sometimes glean information about a seller by reading their ad.  Someone who actually put “FOR SALE” probably did not sell cars too often.  In those days there was a charge for each letter in the ads. So the ad was about eight words long and one fourth of those words were unnecessary.  Oftentimes ambiguous ads with too little information are a waste of everyone’s time.  Other times you land a fantastic deal because the ad is written so poorly, no one else bothered to call.  I hoped this one was the latter choice.  I had replaced auto glass before, and because of the age of the vehicle I knew I could likely get used glass at a salvage yard.  I was trying to think of scenarios where a car (that had not been in an accident) would have multiple broken windows.  Vandalism?  Hail storm?  I called and got the address.

When I arrived in the subdivision I smiled.  In the driveway was a nice looking Cougar.

These Cougars were very similar to their Fox-body Thunderbird corporate cousins, but the nearly vertical backlight gave the car a completely different vibe.  I always thought they were cool and unique.  I was about to become the owner of one.  Bonus points for being an early model, I personally thought the mid-cycle refresh in 1987 made them look worse.

This one had a “For Sale” sign taped on the drip rail of the half-opened driver’s door window.  All the glass seemed to be in great shape.  Overall, the car seemed to be in good condition.  The body was straight and there seemed to be no rust. Florida cars, if they have any rust, usually have it on the hoods, roofs, and trunk lids because over time the paint can get baked off.  Unless it is a northern transplant, we Florida folks don’t get cars with rusty rocker panels, wheel wells, and rear quarters.

This car wasn’t the sporty XR7 version, but it did have the nice factory wheels and the interior was also in great shape with bucket seats and a center console.  “This window is broken” was the first thing the owner said to me, pointing to the driver’s door glass.  “You mean it won’t go up?” I asked.  “Yes, and when it rains the carpet gets wet.” he replied.  “Lots of options, including power windows, I thought to myself.

The Cougar was obviously garage kept for at least part of its life.  The dashboard was still soft and the plastics were not dried out.  This was a nice example.  The 302 (5.0 liter SFI V8) fired right up and idled smoothly.  A quick ride revealed no smoke or unusual noises and the transmission shifted smoothly into all gears.  We struck a deal, I got the title and the keys and was on my way.

I tested the passenger side door window regulator on the drive home, it worked just fine.  This was a quick purchase.  Typically, when I am looking at a car, I check all the fluids for level and condition, and have a look underneath to check for leaks and rust.  Incidentally, the components on the underside of the car should not be body colored, and if they are, it is a sign of a repaint, which means the possibility of a previous accident.

It was a great car, and was a pleasure to drive.  Wonderful cruiser, and plenty of power.  I did end up replacing the carpet, because of the mildew odor.  That was a bigger job than replacing the window regulator.  I didn’t keep it long though, another car piqued my interest.  But the unique, even daring styling of the ’83 through ’86 Mercury Cougar is one of the high points from Mercury in this era.