Greg's List: Mercury Cougar
By Greg Warner
For 1967, Mercury officially enters the "Pony Car" arena with the introduction of their "Cougar" models. The Mercury Cougar was designed to be a sport/luxury vehicle intended for the pony car market and to compete in the USA with not only it's Domestic, but even its European counterparts of the day. It immediately gained acceptance and was even extremely successful in the racing circuits of the day with involvement of greats like Dan Gurney, Bud Moore (NASCAR), Parnelli Jones, Ed Leslie and former Carroll Shelby employees Nels Miller, Mark Waco and Bernie Kretzschmars, who worked together on a "Cougar" race team for famed Indy car owner Bob Estes, racking up a record six wins in ten races for 1967!
Back to the details . . . The Mercury Cougar (after extensive study results were compiled by means of corporate and public surveys) was designed as a slightly larger-sized vehicle, more luxurious in options and offerings than the Ford Mustang, on which it was based (Mercury designers worked to combine all the best qualities of the Ford Thunderbird and Mustang models). The targeted market was a younger, upscale, well-educated, more discerning, "married with family" buyer of the day and ultimately geared toward the male ego. The 111" wheelbase was 3" longer than that of the Mustang and overall length was some 6.7" longer as well. The Cougar also weighed approximately 200 pounds more than the average Mustang, but possessed a softer more comfortable ride in stock form. The Cougar still had the characteristic short rear deck area and long hood area in keeping with the "Pony Car" styling cues! All early Cougars were of the two-door, notchback-style, coupe design and a convertible was added in 1969, and continued for 1970, culminating in the end of the first generation of the "Pony Car" year models. The Mercury Cougar would only be available with a V8 powertrain (of several various displacements from 289 c.i. to 428 c.i over the 1967 to 1970 year models) and coupled to a 3-speed or 4-speed manual transmission or 3-speed automatic transmission.
1967 and 1968 were virtually the same except for larger displacement engine offerings for 1968 and some subtle styling changes(i.e. federally mandated side-marker lamps for 1968). The signature fender to fender (with center divider), "electric razor" looking grille, with closely-spaced, vertical chrome inserts and concealed headlamps was all a part of the more sophisticated look and functionality, as well as the rear, nearly body-wide, sequentially flashing turn-signals/tail-lights which were borrowed from the earlier Ford Thunderbirds. Crisp bodylines and angular styling, gave the car a unique, aggressive, "tough guy" look. The sportier "GT" package offered more performance upgrades (like 390 c.i. big-block engine) than the base model Cougar and the even more luxurious, "XR-7" package, was offered and comprised of a competition styled cluster, "Walnut" wood grained dash/console areas and steering wheel inserts, leather/vinyl covered seats and a leather, automatic shift-control handle. An extra-special, XR-7G option ("G", for the racing legend Dan Gurney) was offered and came with all sorts of special "performance" goodies like, then popular, racing-style hood pins, a center hood- scoop, and even some "Lucas" fog lamps. A mid-year (1968) introduction, "GT-E" option saw the use of the 7.0L, 427 c.i., and even later-on, the 428 c.i. Cobra Jet "Ram Air" engine, which was intentionally under-estimated at 335 hp. Some 150,000 total units were produced for 1967 and in 1968 those numbers dropped to about 113,000 units (only about 619 of which were XR-7G's and about 602 were GT-E's, only 244 with the 428 c.i. C/Jet engine).
1969 Mercury Cougars saw the introduction of the convertible model to the lineup and some other subtle styling changes, along with even more engine offerings. A wider and longer wheelbase meant added weight. The grille had now changed to horizontal fins instead of the vertical style of earlier (electric shaver) models. Some optional enhancements, to the front-end area, included a spoiler and Ram-Air induction style hood scoop. An "Eliminator" performance package was offered for the first time which included a 351 c.i. with 4-bbl carburetor, or optional 390 c.i. with 4-bbl carburetor or even 428 c.i. "CJ" (Cobra Jet) or 302 c.i. "Boss" motors. The Eliminator was detected visually by the "blacked-out" grille area and further enhanced by standard front and rear spoilers, special striping and better performance/handling suspension package. However, the awesome "XR-7G" and the "GT-E" options were both dropped for 1969. Production dropped again to about 100,000 total units for 1969.
1970 saw the final year of the "first-generation" Mercury Cougar and only a few changes from the 1969 version. The hood now contained a center "tooth" which divided the new grille area in two. The black, grille/headlamp covers had reverted back to the vertical "electric-shaver" style fins. Inside the car we saw some new interior patterns and a federally-mandated, lockable, steering-column to "help" deter theft (however, as always, the thieves quickly figured out how to circumvent that minor setback to their craft) . The 351 c.i. engine was now available in both the standard "Windsor" with a 2-bbl carburetor and the new "Cleveland", 300 hp (with 4-bbl carburetor) versions. 1969 and 1970 convertibles were produced in small numbers and today are very prized among collectors. Total production for the 1970 year model dropped to about 72,000 units, as the musclecar era was being heavily scrutinized each coming year, until they all but eliminated performance as we knew it!
Trivia question: What song by Lulu, topped the Billboard Pop charts in 1967?
Answer: To Sir With Love
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