(first posted 8/4/2014) I was certain we’d had the Fox-based Cougar sedan covered, but as it turns out, that wasn’t the case! So thanks to AGuyInVancouver for posting such a well-kept example for me to share with all y’all. It’s not only an example of Ford slowly getting its engineering house back in order, it’s also a great reflection of their marketing machine’s ineptitude during the last years of the Better Idea era.
Now, we’ve covered the ’67 T-bird many times before and its transition into a genuine bloat mobile during the late sixties. But I’d argue the early ’80s Mercury Cougar, despite its downsizing, embodied an equally shameless degradation of a nameplate, begun with the addition of sedans and wagons in 1977, and completed with the 1980 model’s newly chaste, domestic proportions. Imagine if there were a 1983 Celica wagon, based on Camry mechanicals (maybe it’d have been quite good, but certainly not sexy). Perhaps Mercury could’ve reverted to the Montego nameplate if not so bent on maintaining the feline theme, with Lynx, Bobcats and Cougars everywhere!
At least the ’80-’82 Cougar wasn’t a bad car for its time, embodying the Fox-Zephyr’s efficiency and wieldy proportions in a less bare shell. Next to the Montego and ’77-79 Cougar it ultimately replaced, and compared to the likes of the early ’80s Olds Cutlass and Pontiac LeMans, it had little to apologize for (and its rear windows even rolled down!). By the time center high-mount brake lights were mandated, people were already ditching these cars for the sleeker alternatives now on tap (including the new Sable), so the clunky aftermarket unit on this car shows its owner was quite happy with their car during the latter half of the decade. Even better, those white walls and bumper caps show continued pride in ownership today.
It makes sense, too: this is actually quite an impressive sight in 2014, being a mere hood ornament and polishing away from looking truly new. I’m sure it gets plenty of compliments from passersby. While the performance of this fully stock example wouldn’t impress anyone now, it has plenty in common with the Mustang up until about 2004, mechanically. Imagine dropping a 5.0 high-output into this sled; then it could finally live up to its name!