Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Donald Robichaud - 1969 Ivy Green Mercury Cougar
Pity the poor Mercury-Lincoln dealers back in the mid-1960s.
Flush with acres of Continentals, Park Lanes and Montclairs, not to mention a few assorted econobox Comets, these folks could only stare in hopeless exasperation as eager prospects flocked down the road to the nearest Ford store.
The new Mustangs had arrived.
The birth of Lee Iacocca’s baby had resulted in a severe case of mass automotive hysteria and ushered in an era of pony-car madness. Suddenly, every North American manufacturer was chomping at the bit to cash in on this latest car craze.
But Ford’s long-suffering Mercury retailers would have to wait nearly two-and-a-half years after the Mustang’s ground-breaking introduction before they could add some sporty car spice to their meat-and-potatoes lineup.
When the Mercury Cougar finally arrived in the fall of 1966, it was one of several fresh entries into the pony-car race, including the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird and Plymouth’s clean-sheet second-generation Barracuda.
Mercury took a decidedly different approach with the Cougar. Early advertising touted its luxury car leanings with the tag line, “The Fine Car Touch inspired by the Continental.” Also promoted was the Cougar’s comfortable ride and equally plush bucket seats.
The new “Cat” was built using a Mustang chassis, but its wheelbase had been increased by about seven centimetres. The extra distance created a far more hospitable environment for rear-seat passengers and added to the car’s passenger-friendly ride.
Visually, the Cougar was a pleasant piece. Along with its must-have long-hood, short-deck styling, the car featured unique hidden headlights that remained cloistered behind the front grille until pressed into service. But the real knockout feature was the car’s sequential rear signal lights that strobed in the appropriate direction whenever the stalk indicator was flicked.
Unlike the Mustang, the Cougar was available only with V8 power. The base engine was a 200-horse, 289-cubic-inch unit, while a 225-horsepower, four-barrel-carb version was available as an option.
If this wasn’t enough, the optional GT package featured a more muscular 390 cubic-inch V8 stuffed between the Cougar’s shock towers. Midway into the 1967 model year, Mercury introduced the Cougar XR-7, complete with full gauges, woodgrain interior trim, leather seats and other fancy bits.
First-year sales of more than 150,000 Cougars proved the public was hungry for a ponycar with a little more flair and substance than the rest of the field.
For 1968, the Cougar received the new 302 cubic-inch V8, as well as the horsepower-abundant 428 and racing-oriented 427 cubic-inch V8 options that cranked out 335 and 390 horsepower, respectively.
That year also saw the creation of one of the rarest of Cougar models, the XR7-G. The “G” stood for racing legend Dan Gurney. This model included a special fibreglass hood complete with scoop (non functional, though) and racing-style locking pins, fog lamps, special alloy wheels and interior trim. Only 619 XR7-Gs were shipped from the factory and, of those, slightly fewer than 200 went to Hertz to be used as rental units.
In 1969, the mildly restyled Cougar family grew to include both a base and XR-7 convertible. You could still order the big-block 428 motor, but the raunchier 427 was trimmed from the order sheet. A new 351 cubic-inch-engine series became available that year, with output ranging from 250-300 horsepower.
The hot setup that year became the Eliminator, with its wilder colours, look-at-me decals and striping plus a rear-deck spoiler. All of these items might have worked on any other pony car, but the Eliminator package only served to make the sleek, sophisticated Cougar look decidedly undignified.The Cougar remain basically unchanged through 1970, although the 390 V8 had finally disappeared from sight.
Sales, however, dropped as pony-car buyers shifted to more high-performance offerings that were being heavily marketed by the competition. This seemed to be the signal for Mercury’s product planners to turn the Cougar into a true boulevard cruiser.
Although the 1971 version continued to used the Mustang’s platform, the car became significantly bigger, stouter and pricier, with more luxury touches included as part of its standard features.
But for four solid years, the Cougar represented a softer, more eloquent interpretation of the pony-car revolution and gave its proud owners a taste of how future “personal luxury” cars would evolve.
These days, the Cougar is rapidly gaining in popularity among collectors who consider its unique and tasteful styling and plenty of on-tap power to be a cut above the Mustangs, Challengers and Camaros of that era.
It’s funny, but those are the exact same reasons the original Cougar became such a sales success in the first place.
Malcolm Gunn is a feature writer with Wheelbase Communications. He can be reached at wheelbase.ws/mailbag.html. Wheelbase Communications supplies automotive news and features to newspapers and websites across North America.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
“I love the smell of Rubber in the morning. It’s the smell of Victory.”
By Donald Robichaud
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Enjoy the pictures.
By Donald Robichaud
Friday, July 4, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
I removed the back seat of the car to vacuum and detail around the rear seats. I noticed some surface rust due to moisture and started to peel the carpet back and on top of the insulation I noticed a corner of brown paper and realised that it might be the build sheet. I carefully lifted the carpet has high as I could with out removing the seat and I was able to pull it out.
I then went looking for the drivers build sheet. I was not so lucky. The drivers build sheet was against the floor pan of the car with insulation over it. When I tried to lift it but it disintegrated in my hand . I assume the fact that if had been against the metal for so long dried up the paper.
I also found coins dating back to the date of the car . I especially like the 1969 penny and the 1970 quarter. Just had to share with you car guys.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Thursday, June 5, 2008
The 428 CJ formed the basis for the fiercest production Cougar, 1969’s Eliminator. The ongoing Detroit horsepower wars were nudging the Cougar further from the luxury realm, and this package included a blacked-out grille, side stripes, a spoiler, and a number of garish color options. Underhood, the Eliminator used Ford’s 290-hp 351 Windsor as its standard powerplant, with the 428 optional. The CJ could propel the big Cougar down the quarter-mile in under 15 seconds, despite 1969’s restyling that saw the car’s proportions grow.
A convertible model was also introduced for 1969, an attempt to broaden the appeal of a no-longer fresh car whose sales were waning. Three more model years saw the Cougar continue to grow in size as its sales shrank. Engine options in 1970 included a list of classic Ford mills: the 351 Cleveland, the Boss 302, and the 428 CJ.
Mercury discontinued the Eliminator model for 1971, though a 429-ci CJ rated at 370 hp was offered. 1972 and 1973 saw engine “choices” shrink to just one, the 351. Just as in the rest of the muscle car market, these last Cougars were neutered by pollution regulations, so the big cat trod a new path more defined by luxury than power.
With a large national club and an enthusiastic membership, more advice is readily at hand. If you are uncertain about a car’s authenticity, there are plenty of resources available—try starting at Marti Auto Works (martiauto.com), which offers production reports for all FoMoCo vehicles produced from 1967 to 1973.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Sunday, June 1, 2008
- Pluses of the 1969-1970 Mercury Cougar:Clean long-hood/short-deck styling
Pleasant combination of performance and economy with small-block V-8
XR-7s are Milestone cars
- Minuses of the 1969-1970 Mercury Cougar:Less distinctive styling and somewhat lower appreciation potential than the 1967-1968
Some electrical headaches
Rocker panel and floorpan rust
Thirsty and nose-heavy
- Production of the 1969 Mercury Cougar:2-door hardtop: 66,331
XR-7 2-door hardtop: 23,918
XR-7 convertible: 4,024
- Production of the 1970 Mercury Cougar:
2-door hardtop: 49,479
XR-7 2-door hardtop: 18,565
XR-7 convertible: 1,977
Wheelbase, inches: 111.0Length, inches: 193.8 (1969), 196.1 (1970)
Weight, pounds: 3,219-3,408