Vintage Review: Car Life’s 1967 Mercury Cougar – Finesse In Fabrication

Car Life was suitable impressed with the newly released 1967 Mercury Cougar, calling it a ‘finished product… done with subtle discernment.’ Testers praised the model, as it had an identity of its own; offering more refinement than its corporate sibling, the Mustang.


Much of the appeal relied in the multiple Cougar personalities available; from cuddling feline companion, to aggressive pavement pounder. With ample room in-between. On the platform itself, Mercury had done its homework: a 3 inc. wheelbase increase over the Mustang’s, which added some needed cabin space. Full length had gone up 6.7 in. total, providing a bit more of road presence. Meanwhile, interior noise was kept at bay thanks to 123.5 lb. of sound deadening material. It all added to a more upscale feel on the model.

Attending said luxury intentions, the Cougar came standard with Nylon carpeting, courtesy lights, bucket seats and a floor mounted shift lever. Beyond that, the option list was extensive: from A/C, to either AM and or AM/FM radio, to tinted glass, and more. No electric windows were available at all, though (The Cougar’s thin doors precluded that). As the review notes, ‘the option listing permits the owner to develop a factory assembled car to his taste.’

Depending on the type of feline you wanted, at launch 3 engine options were available, all V-8s. The standard was the 289, with 9.3:1 compression and 2- barrel carburetion. The alternatives were the 289 with higher 9.8:1 compression, and the 390 with 10.5:1; these two with 4-barrel carburetion. Besides the standard 3-speed, a four-speed manual was available; as well as Power-assisted drums or discs, and optional power steering.

Staying in the performance area, a GT Performance Group package improved handling. For the committed, the one to order was the Performance Handling Package; it came with higher rate springs, larger anti-roll bar, heavy-duty shock absorbers and quicker steering.

Car Life mentions a last and more exotic route; to purchase a plain-Jane Cougar, and then check out Shelby’s catalogue. In Car Life’s words, a simple Cougar was ‘a tent to cover many different sorts of automobiles, fancy, cool, cushy and competitive.’

Car Life’s reviewers had little time to test the 289 3-speed automatic and 390 3-speed manual, providing just general impressions. Not surprisingly, the 289 automatic was the choice for daily driving; ‘not physically demanding, yet brisk and flexible… for freeway maneuvering.’ Winding roads were another matter though, with the car ‘not well-suited’ for the task.

On the 390 GT, the Ford 3-speed got some quibbles under usage. Besides that, its suspension was referred to as ‘very stiff,’ with peculiar handling quirks. It got the nickname ‘rear axle steering,’ the result of the powerful mill coupled to a live axle on leaf springs.

Car Life spent more time behind the wheel of the 289 4-speed, which suited better those who wished for a comfortable cruiser. Against the 390 3-speed, the 289 lacked in acceleration and handling, but on a turnpike drive, the Cougar was appreciated: ‘It would travel at 75mph, at a relaxed… 2700 rpm, yet deliver smooth, air-conditioned ride…’

To sum it up, there were many permutations of the Cougar: ‘If a buyer exercises a much finesse in making his purchase… he’ll own a car that, like a well-tailored suit, fits perfectly.’

The XR-7 version would debut in early ’67, and by year’s end, the Cougar would comprise about half of Lincoln-Mercury’s total sales.


Further reading:

Curbside Classic: 1968 Mercury Cougar- Mercury’s Greatest (Only?) Hit