One of the many things I love about Chicago is that admission to the Lincoln Park Zoo costs absolutely nothing. Of course, donations are welcome, but it is one of only a handful of free zoos in the entire United States. In fact, I went there just the weekend before last. There are so many creatures to see and observe, all beautiful and unique in their own ways. After making a beeline for the penguins (my favorites), I usually walk the short distance to the Kovler Lion House to see the big cats. Though the Lincoln Park Zoo doesn’t have any cougars, I’ve always been fascinated by large felines. Their combination of power, balance, ferocity, elegance, and grace has always intrigued me. In my mind, the very first Mercury Cougar embodies all of these qualities, in one way or another.
In terms of styling, the first Cougar was peak Cougar. That’s not to say this nameplate was a one-hit wonder, and there were certainly other attractive Cougars that followed, but to my eyes, its first two model years were the high-water mark. It’s just such a graceful, well-balanced design – especially in profile. The horizontal character line along the lower body accentuates this car’s 190.3″ overall length to great effect. Combined with the arches over the wheel wells, the “shoulders” on the rear quarter panels, and the pleasingly chunky C-pillars, it is still a very clean, handsome-looking car. From the front, its face with its vertical “whiskers” and hidden headlamps are the very picture of a predatory snarl. Its tail, with its vertically-ribbed, sequential taillights, mirror and perfectly complement the look of the front, in a stroke of artistic brilliance.
This cat also had power to spare. The GT package included a four-barrel, 390 V8 with 320 hp (gross). Weighing about 3,400 pounds, it had reasonably quick acceleration, especially with the optional four-speed manual. Cougar GTs accounted for about 7,400 out of about 151,000 total Cougars that year, which was roughly 5%. (By contrast, 27,000 XR-7s were sold.) The standard Cougar, weighing about four-hundred pounds less than the GT, was no slouch, either, for the times, with its 200-horse, two-barrel 289 V8. The idea of an upscale ponycar probably appealed to many who considered a Mustang or Camaro a bit too “youthful” for their tastes. Being in my forties, a new car like the original Cougar would appeal to me now.
I had spotted our featured car this past May on the Saturday morning of the three-day, Memorial Day weekend. I was headed out of town and running an errand to buy a gift for friends, when I saw this candy blue, ’67 Cougar GT being gassed up. My rental car already had a full tank, but with my Canon in the footwell of the back seat, I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to photograph one of my favorite cars of the late ’60s from one of its best model years. Its owner was a nice gentleman who allowed me more than a few pictures, but he seemed a little like he was in a hurry, so I didn’t press him for even a brief interview of any kind. Suffice it to say, just getting these few snaps of this beautiful cat was a real treat… and just enough to tide me over until my next jaunt to the zoo.
Wrigleyville, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, May 27, 2017.
- From Paul N. :Curbside Classic: 1968 Mercury Cougar – Mercury’s Greatest (Only?) Hit; and
- From Tom K.: Curbside Classic: 1969 Mercury Cougar – Premium Ponycar.