Vintage R&T Road Test: 1975 Mercury Bobcat – More Like Fat House Cat

(first posted 1/14/2017)     The Bobcat was Mercury’s answer to the energy crisis. It wasn’t a very original answer, considering that it was just a Pinto with a big, chrome schnoz and better trim. But then that’s pretty much exactly what GM was doing with its Vega and Monza, although without the big car grille. But then this was something of a Ford trademark.

The Bobcat, even with a four cylinder and fours speed stick weighed fully 700 lbs more than a similarly-equipped Pinto in 1971. Admittedly, the weight wasn’t all due to being Bobcatted; the Pinto had a similar weight problem. it was the result of strengthening its body, which was widely criticized in its 1971 form as being very loosey-goosey, due to shortcuts in order to make aggressive weight targets. So Ford was largely undoing what it didn’t get right in the first place. For what it’s worth, the Vega had a substantially more solid body structure than the Pinto, and rode much better and quieter as a result. So Ford felt it needed to match the Vega, and in 1974, a number of major changes were made to that (fat) end. And then of course there were changes required due to safety, emission and the 5 mile bumpers, which were particularly huge in the Pinto and Bobcat.

All of this meant that now the Pinto and Bobcat were available with the 2.8 V6 as well as power steering. It was quite a change from the lightweight, tossable car it started out to be in 1971. As a point of comparison, the Bobcat was 19″ longer and weighed 900 lbs more than the Civic, with which it competed (very poorly) against, yet was less comfortable and not as efficient and fun to drive. The writing was on the wall: the Pinto and Bobcat were from another era when it came to competing against the new FWD cars.

0-60 in 15.4 seconds. That was slower than a 1971 Pinto with the base 1600cc engine. And its tested fuel economy of 17.5 mpg compares to the 24.6 of the 1971 version (C&D test).  But it was quieter, and rode softer. That’s what Mercury assumed small car buyers wanted. Maybe they weren’t quite on target.