(first posted 3/25/2013) Mercury, that recently-departed Ford division, never really had an easy life. From the beginning, in 1939, it vacillated between fancy Ford and cheap Lincoln while never really finding its place. But still, there were some neat cars built during its seventy-two-year existence. Perhaps the best of them was the 1967-70 Cougar.
The original ’67 Cougar (’68 CC here) definitely was a hit. Though clearly derived from the Mustang, it still had an identity of its own and was, in your author’s opinion, better looking. The plusher interiors, sequential taillights and electric-shaver grille all enhanced the Mustang underpinnings, and the flossy XR-7 model took the American Jaguar look to its best-developed form.
While the 1968 models were only slightly changed from the inaugural ’67, the expected two-year refresh resulted in a bigger, more ornate Cougar for 1969. For some reason, it wore its extra bulk better than its Mustang cousin, perhaps because it was a more luxury-oriented model. But that same year, the Mustang started ripping off the Cougar formula with its plush Grandé model.
Frankly, a pet peeve of mine is how every time Mercury had a rare hit, Ford would steal it and in the process screw up the Mercury version’s success. Let’s review: 1958-64 Park Lane? 1965 LTD. 1967 Marquis? 1968 LTD Brougham. 1967-68 Cougar XR-7? 1969 Mustang Grandé. And Ford wondered why Mercury had trouble in the market–it was the classic “can’t see the forest for the trees” syndrome. Arrgh!
But I digress. In addition to new sheetmetal, the 1969 Cougar added a convertible version. Offering a soft-top just a few years before the convertible market would crash and burn was a bit odd, but I imagine it was not too difficult to wrap the Mustang top’s mechanism around the Cougar’s flanks. The real question is why one wasn’t included in the 1967-68 lineup.
The top-of-the-line XR-7 was continued; like the standard Cougar, it included a drop-top model. Extra features included a rim-blow steering wheel, light group, electric clock, leather seating and unique wheel covers. Continued was the Jag-inspired, faux-walnut dash that featured a standard tachometer and trip odometer. XR-7 coupes ran about $300 dearer than the base model, and convertibles $200 more.
The rarest ’69 Cougar body style was the $3,578 XR-7 convertible, with 4,024 assemblies. The base $3,365 Cougar convertible was slightly more common, with 5,796 finding buyers. Base Cougars included rocker moldings, wheel opening moldings and dual upper-body pinstripes as standard equipment. In all likelihood, most went out the door with plenty of options.
All XR-7s got standard bucket seats, but Brougham creep was starting to make inroads, as 1,615 Cougar hardtops came with bench seats. Selected options included power steering ($99.80), a sunroof (with mandatory vinyl roof, $459.80), power windows ($104.90) and speed control ($71.30).
The standard powertrain for all Cougars was a 250 hp 351 V8 with an Autolite two-barrel carb mated to a three-speed manual. There were several optional engines available, as were HD three-speed, four-speed, and Select-Shift automatic transmissions. Engine choices included a 290-hp 351; a 290-hp 302; a 320-hp 390; a 390-hp Cobra Jet 428; and a 360-hp 429, all with four-barrel carburetion. The most valuable ’69 Cougar is the Boss 429-equipped version: Only two were built.
And since we’re talking power, of course I have to mention the Cougar Eliminator, Lincoln-Mercury’s version of the famed Boss 302 Mustang. In addition to the standard 302 V8, Eliminators received a two-speed rear axle, blackout grille, hood scoop, sport stripes and front and rear spoilers. The Eliminator was continued for the 1970 model year.
As previously mentioned, the 1969 model bulked up a bit versus the ’68, growing 3.5″ in length, to 193.8″, with the 111″ wheelbase remaining unchanged. A curious new feature was a Buick-like sweepspear stamped into the sides. Hidden headlamps were carried over, but the cool electric-shaver grille was replaced with a less distinctive horizontal affair.
The rear end was less tampered with by the designers, with the sequential full-width tail lamps being only slightly restyled, and the license plate moving down into the bumper. From the back, there was no mistaking a Cougar for a Mustang!
All told, just a bit over 100,000 Cougars came off the assembly lines in 1969–almost 14,000 untis below 1968’s total of 113,726, despite the addition of a convertible. That pales in comparison to the over 299,000 1969 Mustangs sold, but it was not bad for L-M’s premium pony car. I wonder how many of the 22,000 Grandé buyers in 1969 would have gotten a Cougar had the Broughamy Mustang had not been offered?
Jim Backus photo: avelyman.com
I’m sure many Lincoln-Mercury dealers were happy to see younger folks visiting their showrooms to look at Cougars, Comets and Cyclones. It must have been a bit of a break from Thurston Howell III-types buying Continentals and Lou Grant-types buying Montereys and Marquis Broughams.
It is interesting to note that although all the pony cars could be loaded up with options and made into mini-Cutlasses and Park Lanes, there was but one direct competitor to the Cougar in the luxury pony car market: the Dodge Challenger.
It had come a bit late to the party, three years after the Cougar’s introduction, but the Challenger was originally meant to be Mopar’s Cougar. It had a longer wheelbase than the Barracuda, and offered a plush SE version with an overhead console, formal rear backlight and other amenities. Though it’s hard to tell these days, what with most if not all of the Slant Six and SE Challengers turned into High Impact-painted, striped and bespoilered fake R/Ts (please don’t call them “tribute”– they’re just fakes).
The Cougar continued in much the same fashion for 1970, albeit with the expected annual face lift. The base Cougar, the XR-7 and the Eliminator package all returned, but it would be the last year for the true “pony” version. After the 1970 models, Cougars would begin to change.
Just like the Mustang, in 1971 the Cougar began its descent into larded-up Broughamdom; as you can see, this ’72 model is even closer to the Mustang Grandé than was the 1969-70 model.
By the late ’70s it was a plush, anemic boulevard cruiser with not one speck of sportiness. Except for the mini-Mark V XR-7 model, the 1977-79s were LTD II corporate clones, with even a four-door sedan and Villager station wagon!
I found our featured Mercury convertible almost a year ago in downtown Davenport, in almost exactly the same location as the Land Rover Series I wrote about last summer. It was very clean, and looked pretty good in sky blue with navy interior. It was a good thing I stopped, as I haven’t seen it since.
Mercury did not have too many greatest hits: the 1939 original, 1949 Eight, 1965 full-size, 1969 Marquis and 1967 Cougar are about it. A shame that Mercury did not maintain its identity through the years, instead becoming a Ford trim level for all intents and purposes. But cars like this Cougar show us what could have been–and what was, for a while at least.
This article shows that full size pictures make sense!
Great find. I used to love to be behind one of these as a boy just to see the sequential tail lights work.
Same here. This was my ultimate dream-car from age 4 to 17 (when I got my first car — a Firebird).
Me, too…even added them to my ‘88 Fiero!
My first love was the original Ford Mustang. By the time I was out of diapers I knew where they all were in the neighborhood. The first neighbor to bring home a new car I coveted (and still do) was a green 1969 Mustang Mach I.
As I got older and started walking to school I would often pass a neglected 1967 Cougar XR-7 with the Rally wheels. It seemed to me every bit as sexy as my first love, the Mustang. In fact I grew to love it more because of the interior. Looked so European with the full instrumentation, toggle switches, wood and real leather. It even had some warning lights overhead IIRC, like a Thunderbird.
It was the first of many cars I would leave a “If you want to sell your car please call me, I’ll take great care of it” notes on the windshield. The car had the 289-4V engine and dual exhaust something most Mustang didn’t have. Mach 1s were too expensive.
I never got that car or any Cougar. Oddly except for the 67-68 XR-7s there are no Cougars I would want. I didn’t like the falling contour line on the side in 1969. That was the beginning of the car getting too soft looking.
Me too! The 67/68 was the best looker a black cherry 302 4 barrel auto is top of my wish list for American cars.I even had my nails painted and hair dyed black cherry.The 69s were starting to lose their way(and looks) although there were some brutally powerful tyre burners.Detroit would often get a car right first time then tinker with the looks.I’m also in full agreement with fake cars not tributes,let’s have a few secretary’s specials please.Just try telling anyone more 6 cylinder Challengers were made than hemis or 440s and they won’t believe you.Try finding a Challenger 6 at a car show!
Slant 6 challenger?! I think I’d rather have a 65-70 Barracuda w/ a Slant 6 and a four-on-the-floor.
“Just try telling anyone more 6 cylinder Challengers were made than hemis or 440s and they won’t believe you.”
Usually some butt-clown who wasn’t even yet born at the time, and hasn’t picked up a single piece of research literature ever.
+1. For this one reason I would like to have the 74 Charger that was owned by my college roommate’s family. Slant 6, 3 on the column, bench seat, not a single option, and bright red. I would love to crash the Mopar shows with that car. Chrysler was known in those years for having a buyer demographic that skewed lower income than GM or Ford, and I always had the sense (just from what I would see out and about) that Chrysler sold a higher percentage of strippers than the others did. That Charger was one slow car, and I cannot imagine that a Challenger six would be any better. Not that pleasant to drive, really.
Funny to say this point, when I was in high school, every Dodge Coronet was said to have a 426 Hemi in it. When I got hold of the production stats I found that perhaps a couple of hundred a year were actually built and sold, mostly to racers. Indeed the humble Slant Six equipped many of these cars, but not as many as the ubiquitous 318 V-8.
You’ll never see a Classic Cougar with 6 cylinders at a car show!
By now, someone has probably told you that there were never any factory 1967-73 six cylinder Cougars made – a V8 was standard in all of them. Anyone claiming they once owned one needs to read some more about these Cougars.
Irony must be recognized to be appreciated.
Love the ads more than the car. That shot of the cougar in the driver seat…Imagine photographers, models, animal trainers, all scrambling around, trying to get the shot before kitty says, “Yeh, I got yer sign of the cat right here.”
And must have been some low-level shlub from the company, who’s gonna get yelled at if he returns the car shredded or soiled.
I had to laugh when I saw the cougar sitting in the driver’s seat, too. Although I must say, he looks quite comfortable.
The cougar’s name was Clancey — I think his owners were also his handlers. He worked for Lincoln-Mercury until he died in ’74 or so.
Thanks! IIRC they used his voice in the TV spots into the 80s.
Easily done when your script has only one line of text!
The original ‘spokes-cat’ for Mercury was indeed Chauncey. When he died, he was replaced by Christopher, who some of you will remember as the Cougar kitten pictured in the brochure page for the 1968 XR-7.
The 1967-68 was styled virtually perfectly, without a single bad line or angle on the car – a rarity. Pity the poor 69 that had to follow it. Perfection so rarely has a second act.
I just noticed something odd on that 69 – the taillights continue the “electric shaver” theme with all of the thin vertical ribs, but the grille is all horizontal. I agree that stylists should have maintained the vertical ribs on the grille, and probably the painted center nose section as well. The front of the 70 tried to fix the mistakes, but they went overboard on the size of the nose and the huge chrome thing pasted onto it.
Taken on its own, the 69 (and 70) Cougar is a nice looking car. I think I prefer these to the 69-70 Mustangs, at least the notchback and convertibles. The interiors are certainly mini-Mark III. 100K of anything from Mercury was a good result in those years. Once the 71 came along, they lost me for good. It is also interesting that there were no 302-powered Cougars. This was probably a good idea, given the car’s placement.
My neighbor with the 64 Avanti eventually (some time around 1976-ish) bought an old 69 Cougar with dull silver-blue paint to drive as a beater/go-to-work car, certainly in an attempt to reduce the Avanti’s exposure to northern Indiana snow and salt. Sadly, I never gave much of a look at it, as I was such a huge fan of the 67-68.
+1 The ’67-68 was a hard act to follow; as the ’69 proves. Too GM-ish, and not original enough. Bland, but reasonably nice.
I always thought the first 3 Cougars represented a place where GM didn’t tread, and after the 1963 Galaxie are my favorite Ford products of all time. Weird as it sounds, or maybe because my mom loved her ’73, but I like the “Too Small to be a Grand Prix” Personal Luxury 71-73’s too.
But the original ’67 is so timeless, so elegant, so much the promise of what Mercury could have been. But not only Mercury, but Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and to an extent Chrysler lost the plot on this segment of the market.
All of them at some point offered a model that exuded various levels of this charisma, and then larded them up with tuft pillow velour…..
I still think the ’69-’70 Cougar looks like what Buick would have created if GM had let them have an F-body.
While a 351 V8 was standard in the 1969 Cougars, most of the base 1968 Cougars came with 302 2bbl V8’s. However, Ford found themselves with an over-supply of 289’s early in the 1968 production schedule, so some early 1968 Cougars with base interiors(excepting the GT-E model) got those until the supply was exhausted.
Just a couple of notes. The 2-speed axle never saw production, it was a 1969 concept called the “Streeper”.
The only non-Boss 429 was the 370HP Cobra-Jet version in 1971. 1969-70 big blocks were the 428 CJ with or without Ram-Air.
Interesting. Thanks for the info!
Although Mercury didn’t follow through with the mechanicals, they used the term in advertising.
Maybe readers can help ? I had a 69 (orange) 428 CJ / 4 Speed mercury Eliminator that I let a friend borrow in PA. USA back in the early 70’s. He said the engine locked up in PA and he left it at some off the road auto repair shop. It had Oklahoma, (Muskogee) Tags on it. He was drunk when he left it. I have not seen or heard about my car since then. Just gave it up for lost. Would be great to know if anyone would have any info about this. Thank you in advance.
I needed to consult Google about the “rim-blow” steering wheel. Never knew such a thing existed.
Briefly popular on FoMoCo products. My dad’s 70 Mark III and 72 Mark IV had them. PITA, really. When you want to blow a horn, you want to pound the heel of your hand into the steering wheel hub. Trying to cram your thumb down onto that stiff, narrow strip in the rim was just not an ergonomically-friendly action. If I recall, on one of dad’s cars, there were some places around the rim that were easier to get horn action than others. I never actually owned one, and from my limited exposure, wouldn’t want to.
The biggest issue with the rim blows was durability. Cadillac used it for 1969 only and for a long time it was quite common to see non 69 Cadillac steering wheels on the car as a replacement. The biggest issue was that the contacts would either break or shift with the weather rendering it inoperable or occasionally (and more humorously) the horn would go off out of the blue. Sometimes at night after the temperature dropped below a certain degree.
I’m fortunate that my ’69 Fleetwood rim blow still works, but do admit that i’ve seen loads of ’70 s/wheels or separate “easy” buttons mounted under the dash.
Lots of FoMoCo products in the 1970s had the rim-blow horn, including our 1971 LTD and 1977 Lincoln Town Car. I also had two 1969 Cadillac ambulances which were also equipped with the same. I didn’t realize that Cadillac only used it for one year.
You always ended up honking the horn about a second or two late (with the expected ‘why are you honking at ME’ glares).
Once the rubber hardened up with age, or with cold weather, forget about even trying. During the final 10 years of having the LTD, I had a miniature pushbutton switch on the top of the steering column, which was fine so long as you were driving straight-ahead at the time!
The rim blow was also on Mopars. A friend had a Dart with manny steering and a rim blow wheel. Not a good combo.
AMC also copied the silly Rim-blo wheel fad. My ’70 AMX and ’70 Javelin came with them as standard equipment (and they still work!). AMC dropped the rim-blo in the mid 1971 model year. It had to be expensive to make, and did not always cooperate. Not sure whose brain-child the wheel was, but give me a good old center horn button any day!
Also, WRT the Eliminator, the 302 Tom mentioned was the Boss 302, and it’s torque-challenged demeanor meant it really wasn’t at home in the heavier Cougar body.
Nice analysis and great street find, Tom. For me, the 67-70 Cougars were what Cougar was all about. Everything else later was just a reaffirmation that Ford and LM had lost their way with the car, like they were wont to do in this time period.
It never occured to me that Cougar was a direct competitor to the Challenger and Barracuda but it makes sense now. You wonder what a modern day Cougar would have been like if it had been brought back as a competitor to the new Challenger. I think that body style would have done ok. Not great, but ok.
Of course, it would never have happened. There could be no hit on sales of the Mustang. Best to let a whole division go under then cut into Ford…
The Cougar always has a wheelbase that was a couple inches longer than the mustang. Based on a quick search, the 69/70 Cougar and Mustang do not use the same replacement top. It must just be that they decided to add the conv for the 2nd Generation since they thought it would sell.
My wife owned two mercuries when I met her. The one I liked was the 64 marauder that has appeared in CC and a Topaz which is best forgotten. I regret that Ford screwed up the planning with the car (and Fords too) when they made them so obese. My best memories are of the 49-51 with the 283 that one of my high school friends drove around and the 47-48 model coupe of another that shared the basic lines with the eight above.
They had a fat model throughout the sixties that I never considered and everything the “mercury girl” (a mercury icon that I liked better than the cat) had for sale was just a Ford. My high school friends with Mercuries had my envy. Not much so much since. The real shame is that Ford could have split their lines with the big ones being Mercs and the hot ones and utility ones being Fords. Seems to be the way they started and it seemed to work.
I have a ’68 XR7 coupe needing a full resto. It’s my old college car. Between the past ups and downs of my career, and my aging parents’ over-reliance on me, I could never find the time to do anything with it. With all my other automotive projects, and my family ties, the Cougar just isn’t happening, so I’ve decided to sell it.
If anyone’s interested in buiyng, e-mail me at email@example.com for all the details.
Maybe Overhaulin’ will come callin!
Do you still have it ? Let me know Thanks
can you send photos if you still have it, this may be what i been been looking for.
Having gone through with aging parents what you are currently going through, and if it’s financially possible, might I suggest just keeping your Cougar for now. Worst case you have to store it for awhile longer until you have more time to work on it. Not to be morbid about it, but the aging/elderly parent issue is a finite one. At some point you’ll have your time back, at least as far as that goes.
My sister in law had a ’67 XR-7 that I fondly remember, a really nice dark green coupe with black upholstery. She just couldn’t get along with American cars, though, so it went on a Peugeot 404. Wish I’d had the money to buy it from her. The interiors on the ’69 Cougars were much more pleasant than the ’69 Mustangs. I found the dual cowl dash layout of the Mustangs claustrophobic. As far as the cars pictured here go, I’ll happily take that dark green ’69 XR-7 convert, preferably with a 2 bbl 351. Plenty of power for me!
My younger brother’s first decent used car was a ’69 Cougar with the 351, in black with a dark red interior, which I drove a few times. Sharp car. Unfortunately for those who may have seen the film “On her Majesty’s Secret Service”, which featured a similar vehicle, Diana Rigg was not an option.
Brother joined the Coast Guard and for whatever reason didn’t take the car with him, and the Cougar ended up sitting neglected in my parent’s driveway. A couple of Western PA winters and it went from showroom-ready glamour queen to rustbucket bomb in a shockingly short amount of time, and that was that.
Oh, hey, I forgot, I’ve got a (not great) shot of Brother’s Cougar, dwarfed by the ‘rents behemoth ’71 Colony Park wagon.
“In life, the first act is always exciting but it is the second act – that’s where the depth comes in.” And that’s exactly how I view the ’69-’70 Cougar, a luxurious refinement of an already classic design. Bland? Not at all. Reasonably nice? Well, stunning, in my view. But then, inasmuch as a ’70 XR-7 was my second car, I guess I could be just a teeny bit prejudiced.
In 1972, having just come out of graduate school, my ’64 Pontiac LeMans was growing long in the tooth. Since my parents were by that time well-entrenched in the Lincoln-Mercury family of fine cars, we were regulars at Lynch L-M in Santa Monica, always prowling around their showroom and lots (and service department). And there it sat one day, a recent trade-in, a dark metallic ivy green ’70 Cougar XR-7 hardtop with matching leather, all of about 12K miles on the clock, a 351 Cleveland V-8 under the hood (what a rocket!), shining like a jewel, and replete with power windows AND a rare sunroof. It was the epitome of a mini-Mark III. If ever I experienced instant car love, that was it, and I didn’t leave the lot that day until it was all mine! Not being any kind of a negotiator, but also realizing that this car did not grow on trees and would likely be gone the next day, I wound up paying their asking price, $3250. A lot of dough in those days, but my first career job allowed me to faithfully pay my $69 a month car payment. That car received more TLC than any pet. I was so smitten, I would wash and detail it every week, and go out to the garage at night to visit it. I would stand endlessly behind it with the sequential turn signals going, enthralled with this unusual light show. But my “baby” had a major flaw, terrible carburation issues, delivering about 9 mpg in the middle of the first gas crisis, my mechanic finally swapped in a ’73 carburetor that essentially solved the problems and improved the mileage. Regards the comments about the rim-blow steering wheel, never a problem by me, it always worked perfectly. Interesting note about the XR-7 leather upholstery, though, the rear seat, which was basically unusable except for stowing packages and gear, was all vinyl. Not particularly noticeable, but it always bothered me somewhat.
Nice find and writeup, Tom, I have not seen one of these in eons, even in sunny southern Cal. Once the Cougar began its descent into boulevard cruiserdom/broughamdom and Ford copycatism, it lost me completely. But of all the cars I’ve ever had, this is the one that I would have again, hands down.
The sunroofs were really rare! Except on the 68 Hertz, they were on most of them but THEY were rare too. I never had a problem with the Rim-Blows either, even 30+ years and NOT restored.
They were expensive used car in 74. I looked at a 69 XR7….a 71 Demon 340 was cheaper. Demon was faster, but nowhere near as nice. I think there was leather on the rear seat, but only on the very top portion, at least that’s how the 69s were.
Don, if you’re in SoCal you’ve got to go to Fabulous Fords! April 21st at Knotts Berry Farm……….2000 cars, half are late model Mustangs, but there’s plenty of other rare, fast and fun other cars too.
Hey, Don – Lynch L-M did an excellent carburetor rebuild on my Dad’s 71 Lincoln sedan while he was visiting me back in the day. They also did good work on my grad school neighbor’s 71 dark green Cougar. That was a fine dealership. Sad to drive down SM Bl with it gone, with Lincoln sales, such as they are, now done through SM Ford.
Hi Don : You are basically correct regarding the XR-7 leather interior. While the front buckets were all leather ( except for the sides – where vinyl was used for strength ), the rear seat was all matching color vinyl. But the top edge, just behind your shoulders was leather. It was used there so as to replicate the same soft, plush pleats as found on the front edges and seat backs of the bucket seats.
But you’re right – the whole back seat should have been leather. But don’t get me going on other ‘short-cuts’ that L-M inflicted on the first generation Cougars.
The standard engine in the Eliminator was a Windsor 351 4 bbl. 390 optional in 1969. BOSS 302 optional 69 and 70. The 428 CJ, rated at 335 HP was under rated from the factory. NHRA rated it at 400 HP if I remember correctly. One oddity is the 70 428 CJs were all Q code, the Ram Air being an option. 428 CJ Ram Air are R Code typically to most Ford guys and the Mustang guys get confused. The 69 Ram Air CJ Cougar is R Code.
One day I would like to get my hands on a 68 GT-E especially with the 427E motor.
Mercury it used to mean something way back in the dark ages a Mercury got more trim and a bigger flathead except here ALL Fords got the Merc engine so after 49 none were assembled some were privately imported including Cougars but by 1970 those got too fat like the Mustang and local cars were getting V8s stuffed into them and interest for me anyway shifted from unobtainable US pony cars to available faster nicer local hot coupes.
I may go against the grain but the 69 is my favorite of the early Cougars. I like the Buick like body sculpting more than the 67/68s mini Tbird body sculpting and I like the lack of split grille(I think it looks more cohesive with the rear). The 67/68s are a little too delicate looking for my liking and the long hood short deck motif somehow looks more exaggerated on them, which I’m not too fond of. The 69/70s look better proportioned to me, even if it does take some pony car out of it.
Minor nitpick with the article though: “I have to mention the Cougar Eliminator, Lincoln-Mercury’s version of the famed Boss 302 Mustang”
Mercury’s version of the Mach 1 Mustang would be more accurate as the eliminator had the same powertrain pallet(although the Boss 302 was optional) and an overall similar appearance package to the Mach 1
Oh and here’s my friend Justin’s 1969 base(ignore the photo date, the pic was actually taken in 2009). The guy he bought it from had an attic full of 69 specific Cougar parts!
Your friend Justin’s 1969 looks quite like this, which is sailing on the sea when writing this one from the outside doesn’t it? If it was with manual gearbox and red interior, I really would be intersted to know, if we are talking of the same car…?
Very close, his had black interior with the C6 auto though, plus, I didn’t want to bring anyone down since we’re purist patina fans here, he repainted it Vista Blue, swapped in an XR-7 interior and modified it quite a bit – hey I pleaded he leave it cream colored at least!
I’ve really had an itch to find one of these for myself lately, yours looks great!
Yep, was going to say the same thing about the Mach1/Eliminator analogy. There was a separate model designation for the Mustang (Boss 302) but not the Cougar (still an Eliminator).
I did a watercolor for a woman in the national club, a real BOSS 302. In spite of a car rag article with a ragged B2, back in the day, they were pretty fast! We could discuss the Cougars Trans Am successes and the drag racing, but there was a serious campaign at Mercury to give the Cougar/Cyclone street cred.
Thanks for the clarification on the Eliminator. I am not a Cougar expert and had to do a lot of research on them. The Eliminators do have a lot of the look of the Boss 302 though–stripes, spoilers and the bright Grabber colors.
You are not alone. Since I was four years old, my eyes have never seen any vehicle as beautiful as the ’69 and ’70 Cougar. My much-older brother drove a white ’69 XR7 and I remember staring out the window at it when he would come over. I don’t remember ever riding in it though (we were not close).
Despite my obvious GM-gravitation, I will always keep these Cougars on “my” aesthetic pedestal. I see these much the same way I see (and favor) the ’67-’68 Mustangs to the ’64-’66 versions — perfect in every way.
I hadn’t thought about the Mustang analogy but I feel the same way about the 67-68s being better looking than the 65-66 in the same way the 69 Cougar was.
Interestingly the Mustang somewhat foreshadowed the Cougar’s path by one styling cycle ahead: The 67 Mustang saw a refinement of the original (69 Cougar), the 69 Mustang got bigger with a fairly major styling departure from the original(71 Cougar) and finally, the 71 Mustang showed a much larger car with little identity with the original concept(74 Cougar)
My sentiments exactly. I worked a a Ford/Mercury dealership in the late 1960’s and an ordered XR7 came in with a 429 C6 in it and it was a huge hit around the dealership,EVERYONE wanted to drive it! Sad day when the buyer that ordered it came to pick it up. Frost green(?) with white vinyl top and white interior. Whatever ever happened to that car is something that would haunt a Cougar guy!
I have a very distinct memory of a 6-pack-equipped Cougar at a car show back in the 1980s – from memory it appeared very original (it had an oblong cast aluminum air filter top, open sides, that fit over all of the carbs and said ‘Cobra’ on the top IIRC). It was on top of a big-block too.
Was this a custom job? It was really unusual which is why I remember it (like the time I saw my one and only Boss 429 in the flesh on an engine stand at a car show in Indianapolis).
Not a factory 6 pack, only 4BBL at best on Cougars. But the Ford/Mercury parts catalog was full of speed parts. That sounds like the typical 63 Thunderbird Sportster 390/3 deuce set up.
But I did have a ride once in a dark green 68 427 (W code) GT-E……..dual quads (fits under the same air cleaner you saw), solid lifters, headers (yet stock appearing)………wicked! (different GT-E below)
I had a class show winner (not Best of!) a very nice driver. I’ve judged at local/CA and National shows. 69 Sports Specials, Ski Package, 71 429CJs, Hertz XR-7Gs are really cool too. I like em all!
Tidbit: all Cougars 67-70 used the same trunk lid.
Just wondering if you were looking at a 4 carb Weber IDF set up. I believe this was available in the Shelby GT350 289 motor, but cannot vouch for any big block Ford engine. Hopefully a Ford fan can come aboard and verify what was available in the options book and also done by the engine tuners of the day.
There were factory Tri-Power 390s and 406s. They were available then and Holley makes a new set up.
Keith Kaucher did a rendering about how he imagined a Cougar Eleminator 2. There also others pictures he did who are posted at
http://www.mustangevolution.com/mustang-news/mustangs-illustrated-interview-with-automotive-designer-keith-kaucher/ and on his website. http://www.kaucherkustoms.com/
“Except for the mini-Mark V XR-7 model, the 1977-79s were LTD II corporate clones, with even a four-door sedan and Villager station wagon!”
To be fair, though, the XR7 was clearly the main sales focus, especially in 1978-79, with the LTD II-based Cougars kind of an afterthought. XR7s were produced in far greater numbers than the LTD II-based models. The Villager wagon was offered only in 1977; why Lesney chose to make a Matchbox model of it is anyone’s guess. It wouldn’t surprise me if more examples of the Matchbox were built than of the real car.
This situation repeated in 1981-82, when there were XR7s based on the T-Bird, and “regular” Cougars (including a wagon in ’82 only) based on the Fox Granada.
“Mercury did not have too many greatest hits: the 1939 original, 1949 Eight, 1965 full-size, 1969 Marquis and 1967 Cougar are about it.”
Don’t forget the 1986 Sable. 300K sold that first year!
Really fine and extensive article, thanks Tom.
I’d include the 83 Cougar in there too. Those sold very well in the first styling phase. As good as the Aero Tbird anyway.
My uncle has had a ’70 Cougar convertible for about 35 years. It’s white with maroon interior, buckets and console, 351/auto. I can’t remember for sure, but I don’t think it’s an XR-7.
I’ve always wanted to see someone with the ambition and skill to create a convertible version of the 1967-68 Cougar.
I often wonder why Ford didn’t do it,
There are several owner modified 67-68 Cougar convertibles.
Thanks Tim,beautiful cars who knows maybe they could have saved Mercury
Does anyone else see some ’66 Toronado in the flanks of the ’67-70 Cougar?
Yes a bit, here too….an early AMC Javelin prototype.
Good one. I would not have made that connection, but it’s a strong one.
I’ll take any Cougar up until the awful 1980 versions we talked about here a while back. I know after 1973 they were really just a gussied up Torino Elite, much like the Montego was a gussied up Gran Torino, but still, many fond childhood memories.
“Man’s Car” sounds so dated now; was that ad from a manly magazine like Golf, Sports Illustrated, or Field & Stream? The sort one finds in barbershops?
There was a ’69 Dodge brochure called “The Man’s Guide to Supercars,” and one for the ’66 Imp called “A Man Meets his Match” that could’ve been the template for Don Draper. Really, ads today are just as gendered. Full-size pickup marketing might as well be for Viagra. 🙂
Why? maybe it’s old for advertising, but many “manly” men today still refer to a car as being a “girl’s car” or a “gay” car. All in an effort to demean and debase the car and it’s driver.
At least back in the day they took the positive road. Mercury felt it necessary to UP the masculinity factor on such a “pretty” car, from what I understand there were quite a few women purchasers for the time. Manufacturers court women buys, but at the same time don’t want a majority.
Of course I think those “manly” men are insecure and absurd. Let ’em buy 4X4 F250s……..big lesbians like them too (kidding!).
Good points, Tim and 73impCapn I bought my 2000 New Beetle TDI at the time based on a fine and positive review from Brock Yates in Car and Driver. I liked the Freeman Thomas styling and I especially liked the TDI motor, a very sophisticated motor. As time marched on I noticed how all the car mags started to call it a girlie car. I don’t get it. It pays homage to one of the all time classics; it gets me 52 miles per gallon, it seats me comfortably and it goes on and on and on. Labeling cars for girls is silly and usually points at some shortcoming with the one doing the labeling. There’s something rather satisfying watching my fuel gauge needle move at glacial speeds while the rest of the world frets over the latest gas price increase. And to me, that’s what it’s all about.
At no time would I have pictured a Cougar as being labled a chick car or secretary’s car. But then again, what do I know!
The flower vase on the dash might have something to do with it…
But I get your point although I will admit that by far most of the New Beetles that I know of personally are driven by women especially younger women. I suppose the car and make in general is susceptible to that like the Cabrio we talked about a month ago or so. It would be interesting to see real sales demographic data on it…
I once owned a 1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse GST convertible (true story) that has been alternates thought of as a girl car and a rice rocket.
As for Mercury back in the day, Hawaii Five-O, one of my all time favorite shows and Jack Lord, one of the all time cool cats on TV, drove black Mercurys.
I am not sure who I would fear more an angry redneck in a 4×4 or an angry lesbian in one.
Like GM, Ford could never really figure out where cars should be positioned. The result was just as you suggest, if Merc had a success Ford dealers quickly wanted something similar. It worked the other way too, with Comets and Cyclones and a few other models Merc had no business selling.
Still, there was a market for a car that was a step up from a Ford. In the years when Lincoln was an actual Caddy competitor, there was ample room in the middle for Merc ; but there was no discipline. No sense that certain cars are Fords and certain cars are Mercs and never the twain shall meet.
Mercury even published booklets for it’s dealers to try and educate them as to how to deal with new types of customers that the muscle cars were attracting.
The 1969 XR7 had a supporting role in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, as the car driven by Tracy (Diana Rigg), the love of 007’s life.
CA Guy and Tim B., apologies for the late response. Lynch L-M was a regular stop for my dad on his annual new car introduction excursions, with me enthusiastically tagging along. I still recall marveling at the big Lincoln shield and Mercury head dealership sign on their lot next door, long before the big red and black corporate signs appeared. The showroom was actually two rooms, the Lincolns displayed on the left side and the Mercuries on the right. My dad purchased their ’71 Lincoln coupe there, and had all their L-M cars serviced there regularly. I vividly recall the introduction of the ’67 Cougar at night there, searchlights blazing and a real live Cougar in a cage next to the cars, shades of Cal Worthington! Sad to know it’s gone, but guess I should have expected it. I haven’t been that way in a long time, after my mom passed away in 2003 I have avoided coming in to L.A. as much as possible.
Yeah, Tim, now that you mention the leather on the top of the rear seat, I think you are correct, that rings a bell for me. All the more puzzling, you’d think that would be the spot most vulnerable to sunlight deterioration on leather, both on the hardtop and convertible. Thanks for the reference to the Fabulous Fords, I’m about two hours away, but sounds like it would be worthwhile.
The 1969 cougar xr7 convertible was my first car, purchased in 1972 when I was 16 years-old. I believe the baby blue Cougar pictured here is THE car. I sold the car in 1977 to raise the necessary funds to purchase an engagement ring. I have now been married to the same girl for 38 years but wouldn’t mind taking a looking at the baby blue gal I traded away for my wife.
I purchased the Cougar in Maryville, Missouri and last saw it in the mid-80’s in Clarinda, Iowa. The Iowa plates on the car in the photo and the unmistakable interior have me convinced this is the one.
If there is any information regarding whereabouts I would sincerely appreciate notification
Just noticed that the left rear quarter side marker and Cougar script are both too low on the body. The quarter should be above the lower body line with the Cougar script above it.
It’s not unusual to see ’69 MY Cougars with’70 front fenders (with a large recessed side marker lamp), due to lack of the availability of ’69 service parts. How do I know? In 1985, my sister bashed the front end of my moms ’69 into something, destroying the right grille and fender (also hood, radiator support, grille center, etc. IIRC, the drivers fender was already obsolete, so my sister was inadvertently lucky in her clumsy driving.)
The car was almost totaled because ’69 fenders were already obsolete, but it occurred to me that ’70 fenders if still available from Ford Parts & Service Division would only need the body shop to cut out the rectangle of metal from the damaged fenders and weld it into the ’70 replacement parts.
The repairs were so done (al other parts being available) and my mom drove the cat daily (in Michigan) until 1993, when she sold it.
(It was one of about 1,200 built with a bench seat; the rarest varient that year.)
Takes me back to 72-73, when my friends parents came home with a new Cougar. I remember the feeling I had as I realized that all the auto makers had lost their minds and turned the most beautiful cars ever made into these huge, hideous beasts. I honestly didn’t think things could get any worse-then came the Mustang ll.
Now I can see the beauty in most of these 70s rides , up until the down-sizers of the late 70s-80s. Great read and pics, Tom!
These Cougars are beautiful. I was born in 66 and never really thought about import cars till I was a teenager. So still, after all these years, I don’t really get how the “European” design comes into play on cars. Is it just advertising to get you to look? That’s just as likely to make me look the other way. I love American cars, no matter how crappy they were in the 70s. I have owned an Audi (never again – would walk first). two Nissans – pathfinder and Frontier. My wife had a Suzuki Kizashi, which was a pretty neat little car. I have looked at them but never really fell in love with them like I do wiht what people call “crappy” American cars.
The second image makes reference to European and I just don’t see it. Looks like a Cougar. What Euro car looked like this? Maybe that’s why I don’t care for imports – I’m looking at the wrong cars.
I always had the same disconnect, European how? BUT I think for my generation European car = German car, and that’s not what it meant in the 60s. Think British, like Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Bentley and suddenly a lot of American “European influenced” cars begin to make more sense.
In the Cougar’s case I think it was the level of luxury and the execution of it in what was a small car by American standards, but pretty typical for a large European saloon. It wasn’t a blatant tracing paper clone like we’re used to now (Fusion Martin) but the similarities were there.
I think part of the Cougar’s so-called “Europeanness” could be due to the ’67-’68 XR-7 dash with its wood and instruments.
A little like this XJ6
For sure, but all Cougars were pitched for their Europeanness, not just the XR-7, which was in fact a mid-year addition to the Cougar line. The standard Cougar and GT instrument panels were much more American in execution
The cutest part of the early Cougar interior has to be the little rolltop-door cubbyhole in the optional console. It was replaced by a clock on the XR-7.
Funny, I saw one of these on the highway two days ago, and pointed it out to my son. It looked to be the same year as the one featured the opening photograph. I wish I had paid more attention to it to see whether or not it was a convertible, but I passed by it too quickly. It was black, shiny, and looked to be in very nice condition, perhaps a restoration. After passing it I lamented briefly about not being able to get behind it and see the sequential brake lights in action.
A convertible for the inaugural 67 and 68 years was considered and at least one was built by the factory for evaluation….However. Mercury wanted to maintain build quality and having only one body style helped them meet that parameter. it was decided to hold off on a convertible until the first restyling. I had Black Cherry 68 XR7 back in the day. Had a white leather interior and Black Oxford Vinyl roof. 301 4V. Mercury Spec wire wheel covers w/ thin line whitewall tires, AC and all the XR7 goodies Bought it in early 71, Traded it for a new loaded Audi Fox in 74 (I know, but it was right after the first gas crisis, you had to be there. Sweet car. When asked which of the cars I have owned I would want back, first. it is this Cougar.
I also don’t see any real “European” styling, just the fake wood dash and pleated bucket seats. This being the late 60’s and early 70’s the coupe of choice would have been a Jaguar XKE. Actually it’s more like a 1950s or early 60’s Aston Martin at least, in concept. Yes I know it’s quite a stretch, but I think that the early Mustang was the poor man’s mass market DB coupe. I don’t mean that as an insult. Most of us will never be able to afford an Aston or Jag, and those Mustangs, and that Cougar are quite attractive. Especially when they don’t have all those muscle car cues so graphically overplayed.
Actually a real argument could be made that the 1967 DBS could have been inspiration, it wasn’t far off from Mustang fastbacks in shape and the horizontal bar grille could very well have inspired the 1969 Cougar’s one year only horizontal grille.
Ford later fully aped the DBS nose for the 1973 base Torino, so designers seemed to look to it for inspiration.
William Towns cited the Camaro as his inspiration for the DBS. Not so obvious, but an influence nonetheless. Ah… the to-ings and fro-ings of transatlantic stylistic interplay.
Source? While I do see some Camaro like curvature to the bodysides, the timelines would seemingly conflict, given both the Camaro and DBS both debuted in 1967.
Classic and Sportscar, Oct 1992 ‘William Tells’ interview and article by Martin Buckley
“I was influenced by GM when I was doing the DBS so I suppose you can see a bit of the Camaro in the rear wing shape.”
Long story short; Towns was employed by AM for interiors only. When he saw the Touring proposal (below), he asked to come up with his own proposal which turned into a crash program.
Timing: started work on idea Oct 66. Clay model completed one month later. First running DBS May 67.
Oct 66 would coincide with early viewings of the 67 Camaro.
Ah that makes sense, Aston Martin probably didn’t have that lead time I’m used to with the big three, they’d be able to come up with a design while Detroit was still finalizing theirs.
Neat, the DBS was always my favorite classic Aston Martin, now knowing it’s American d sign influence, I know why!
The Cougar was a favourite of mine since its debut in 1967 when I was in grade 7. I had a model for every year of Cougar including a 70 Eliminator in orange of course.
Came close to buying a 67 or 68 Dan Gurney Special (a Texas car) when living in British Columbia. The owner had some mechanical work done and was running low on money. Headed for the oil patch near Dawson Creek, he was going to let the car go for $1,500. Because I had just bought my new 79 Mustang Cobra, the bank was not going to give me any more funds. The Cougar was sold to a high school kid in Prince George and who knows what happened after that.
50 years ago it was completely acceptable to advertise “Mercury, The Man’s Car”. Today that is viewed as very dated and sexist. In an Era where we are supposed to be so all inclusive of everyone’s perspective, why don’t we have a man’s car today?
Any full size pickup ad is aimed at men, with deep voice overs and implication that “real men drive big trucks”. Even if never haul anything but gym bags.
“Mercury. If you don’t buy one you are, like, totally gay and stuff.”
You know, I was trying to make a comment on how weird and juvenile Mercury’s marketing was but rereading this the next day I think I’m the one who came off weird and juvenile. Apologies if I offended anyone.
Anyway, still seems like a terrible tactic. “Hey, let’s dissuade half the population from buying our product!”
This is the interior of my 1970 Cougar. It’s the Pauline Trigere edition
I like that. About 7 years ago a Hyundai dealer near me (of all places) had a Pauline Trigere Cougar on their lot; baby blue with the black/white houndstooth roof and cloth. 302/Auto combo, fairly rough around most of the edges, and an asking price of $8,995. I remember it was well north of 100k miles, and therefore it seemed even more ridiculous than the outward appearance was next to new Elantras and Sonatas. Cool car, though, as my best friend ran through two MN12 cats when we were younger. Thanks to Google, you can see what it looked like (just add rust and neglect):
My neighbor across the street had a Cougar convertible the same color as the top pic, baby blue with a white top. It didn’t last long, she was a terrible driver, and wrecked it by running off the road while putting on her make up (People ratted her out to the police). It was replaced with a dark blue Mustang, a ’70 I would imagine.
IMHO, Ford’s styling had become very bad at this point, and this era of Cougar was one of the very few (dim) highlights in a lot of bad looking cars. I thought almost all the malaise era cars were boring or worse, but Ford in general had the worst looking domestic cars. The other companies fixed their styling a long time before Ford did. I like most of their cars now. Well, make that I don’t find them needlessly repulsive as I did for decades.
The generalization in the article about bench seat Cougars predicting broughamization isn’t correct. AFAIK, bench seat Cougar production steadily dropped from several thousand in 1967 to about 1600 in 1969, which was the last year of bench seat production until the 1974 reboot.
All of my favorite things combined on one album. Ironic that it was named Middle ‘Cyclone’ though.
That original Mustang based Cougar was very stylish and distinctive – Ford should have done more to keep that upmarket pony-car alive – it was a unique niche from all I have gathered.
The Capri replaced “Pony car Cougar”, was a Mustang twin 1979-86.
The ’74 Personal Lux, true mid size BOF Cougar was a hit also, and Ford dealers demanded their own, too. Got Elite, then the cheaper T-Bird.
The most beautiful Bond woman…and the only one he married…drove a 69 Cougar in, On Her Majesties Secret Service. Saw that movie on TV in my very, very formative years. It made me a Cougar (and Diana Rigg) fan for life.
Posted November 24, 2017 at 7:23 PM
Maybe readers can help ? I had a 69 (orange) 428 CJ / 4 Speed mercury Eliminator that I let a friend borrow in PA. USA back in the early 70’s. He said the engine locked up in PA and he left it at some off the road auto repair shop. It had Oklahoma, (Muskogee) Tags on it. He was drunk when he left it. I have not seen or heard about my car since then. Just gave it up for lost. Would be great to know if anyone would have any info about this. Thank you in advance.
This I my 2nd post. PLEASE help if you can with any info on this. Thank you in advance.