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Mercury Cougar

Mercury Cougar
File:94-97 Mercury Cougar.jpg
1997 Mercury Cougar XR-7
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
3,078,388 produced
Model years 1967–1997
Body and chassis
Class Pony car (1967–1973)
Personal luxury car (1974–1997)
Sport compact (1999–2002)

Mercury Cougar is a nameplate that was applied to a diverse series of automobiles sold by the Mercury division of Ford Motor Company from 1967 to 2002. While most examples were produced as two-door coupes, at various times throughout its production life, the Cougar was also sold as a convertible, four-door sedan, station wagon, and hatchback.

As was the common practice within the Mercury division, the Cougar shared its basic underpinnings with a Ford counterpart. At the time of its introduction, it was based upon the Ford Mustang. While briefly based upon the Ford Elite during the mid-1970s, the Cougar would subsequently become the Mercury counterpart of the Ford Thunderbird for the rest of the 1970s into the late 1990s. After its initial discontinuation, the Cougar emerged as a sports coupe counterpart of the Ford Contour "world car"; as such, it was sold outside of North America as the Ford Cougar.

For many years, the Cougar was important to the image of the Mercury division; advertising often identified its dealers as being "at the sign of the cat."[1] Female models holding big cats on leashes were used as part of Cougar advertising in the early 1970s.[2] In production for 34 years, the Cougar is second only to the Grand Marquis in longevity.

The car was assembled at the Dearborn Assembly Plant (DAP)—one of six plants within the Ford Rouge Center—in Dearborn, Michigan from 1967 to 1973, at the San Jose Assembly Plant in Milpitas, California from 1968 into early 1969, at the Lorain Assembly Plant (LAP) in Lorain, Ohio from 1974 to 1997, and at the Flat Rock, Michigan Assembly Plant from 1999 to 2002.

First generation (1967–1970)

First generation
File:Mercury Cougar.jpg
1967 Mercury Cougar
Model years 1967–1970 (1969–70 are the second body shape)
Assembly United States: Dearborn, Michigan
Edison, New Jersey
Milpitas, California
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door hardtop coupe
2-door convertible
Layout FR layout
Related Ford Mustang
Engine Script error: No such module "convert". Windsor V8
Script error: No such module "convert". FE V8
Script error: No such module "convert". Windsor V8
Script error: No such module "convert". Windsor V8
Script error: No such module "convert". Cleveland V8
Script error: No such module "convert". FE V8
Script error: No such module "convert". FE V8
Wheelbase 111 in (2819 mm)

The introduction of the Cougar finally gave Mercury its own "pony car". Slotted between the Ford Mustang and the Ford Thunderbird, the Cougar would be the performance icon and eventually the icon for the Mercury name for several decades. The Cougar was available in two models (base and XR-7) and only came in one body style (a two-door hardtop). Engine choices ranged from the Script error: No such module "convert". 289 in3 two-barrel V8 to the Script error: No such module "convert". 390 in3 four-barrel V8. A notable performance package called the GT was available on both the base and XR-7 Cougars. This included the 390 in3 V8, as well as a performance handling package and other performance enhancements.

The 1967 Cougar, with the internal code T-7, went on sale September 30, 1966.[3] It was based on the 1967 refaced first-generation Mustang,[4] but with a 3-inch-longer (76 mm) wheelbase and new sheet metal. A full-width divided grille with hidden headlamps and vertical bars defined the front fascia—it was sometimes called the electric shaver grille. At the rear, a similar treatment saw the license plate surrounded on both sides with vertically slatted grillework concealing taillights (with sequential turn signals), a styling touch taken from the Thunderbird.

A deliberate effort was made to give the car a more "European" flavor than the Mustang, at least to American buyers' eyes. Aside from the base model and the luxurious XR-7, only one performance package was available for either model: the sporty GT. The XR-7 model brought a simulated wood-grained dashboard with a full set of black-faced competition instruments and toggle switches, an overhead console, a T-type center automatic transmission shifter (if equipped with the optional Merc-O-Matic transmission), and leather/vinyl upholstery.

This was the only generation with covered headlights, which were deployed using a vacuum canister system that kept the doors down when a vacuum condition existed in the lines, provided by the engine when it was running. If a loss of vacuum occurred, the doors would retract up so that the headlights were visible if the system should fail.

The GT package, meanwhile, supplied a much larger engine, Ford's 390-in3 (6.4 L) FE-series big block to replace the small-block 289-in3 (4.7 L) standard powerplant. Along with this came an upgraded suspension to handle the extra weight of the big engine and give better handling, more powerful brakes, better tires and a low-restriction exhaust system. Introduced with the music of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass' The Work Song, the Cougar was a sales success from its introduction and helped the Lincoln-Mercury Division's 1967 sales figures substantially. The Cougar was Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year for 1967.

The Cougar continued to be a Mustang twin for seven years, and could be optioned as a genuine muscle car. Nevertheless, it gradually tended to shift away from performance and toward luxury, evolving into something new in the market — a plush pony car. The signs were becoming clear as early as 1970, when special options styled by fashion designer Pauline Trigère appeared, a houndstooth pattern vinyl roof and matching upholstery, available together or separately. A reskinning in 1971 saw the hidden headlights vanish for good, although hidden wipers were adopted. Between 1969 and 1973, Cougar convertibles were offered.

Not much changed for the Cougar in its second year. The addition of federally mandated side marker lights and front outboard shoulder belts were among the minor changes, but the biggest changes were under the hood and in performance for the XR-7 model. A Script error: No such module "convert". 302-in3, two-barrel V8 was the base engine on all XR-7s and early standard Cougars. Three new engines were added to the option list this year: the Script error: No such module "convert". 302-in3, four-barrel V8; the Script error: No such module "convert". 428-in3, four-barrel V8; and the Script error: No such module "convert". 427-in3, four-barrel V8. In addition, the 289-in3 engine was made standard on base cars without the interior decor group midway through the model year.

There were many comfort and performance options available for the Cougar. For 1967-69, a unique "Tilt-Away" steering wheel that swung up and out of the way when the driver's door was opened (and the ignition was off) was offered, and from 1971, a power driver's seat. The most unique option of all appeared in 1968: Ford's first factory installed electric sunroof. It was available on any hardtop Cougar, but rarely ordered on early cars.

Mercury was serious about the Cougar being the performance icon for the company. The XR7-G, named for Mercury road racer Dan Gurney, came with all sorts of performance add-ons, including a hood scoop, Lucas fog lamps, and hood pins. Engine selection was limited only to the 302, 390, and 428 V8. A total of 619 XR7-Gs were produced, and only 14 Gs were produced with the 428 CJ. The 7.0-L GT-E package was available on both the standard and XR-7 Cougars and came with the 427 V8. The 428 Cobra Jet Ram Air was available in limited numbers on the GT-E beginning 1 April 1968.[5] Conservatively rated at Script error: No such module "convert"., the 428 Cobra Jet could produce much more (Script error: No such module "convert".) from the factory. A total of 394 GT-Es were produced, 357 with the 427 and 37 with the 428.[6] The GT-E came with power front disc brakes as standard.[7]

The third year of production, 1969, brought several new additions to the Cougar lineup. A convertible model was now available in either standard and XR-7 trim. These highly anticipated soft tops proved quite popular and today are considered, by many, among the most desirable of the '67-'70 production run. On the exterior, the grille switched from vertical bars to horizontal bars. Taillights still spanned the entire rear of the car and retained vertical chrome dividers, but were now concave rather than convex. Body sides now featured a prominent line that swept downward from the nose to just ahead of the rear wheel wells. A new performance package appeared and several disappeared. The GT, XR-7G and the 7.0-L GT-E disappeared, but the 390 and 428 V8s remained. 302 engines were dropped, except for the "Boss" version, available only with the Eliminator package. The new standard Cougar engine was a 250-horsepower 351 Windsor. A Script error: No such module "convert". 351 Windsor V8 was also added to the engine lineup. The Eliminator performance package appeared for the first time. A 351-in3 four-barrel Windsor V8 was standard under the hood, with the 390 four-barrel V8, the 428CJ and the Boss 302 available as options. The Eliminator also featured a blacked-out grille, special side stripes, front and rear spoilers, an optional Ram Air induction system, a full gauge package including tachometer, upgraded "Decor" interior trim, special high-back bucket seats, rally wheels, raised white letter tires and a performance-tuned suspension and handling package. It also came in a variety of vibrant colors, such as White, Bright Blue Metallic, Competition Orange, and Bright Yellow. Only two Cougars were produced with the Boss 429 V8, making them the rarest Cougars ever built. Both were factory drag cars, built for "Fast Eddie" Schartman and "Dyno" Don Nicholson. A little known 1969-only model was the Cougar Sports Special. The Sports Special package included unique pin striping, "turbine" style wheel covers and rocker panel moldings with simulated side scoops. Décor interior and performance suspension were available for the Sports Special, as were any of the optional Cougar engines, other than the Boss 302. Somewhat oddly, no badges or decals denoted the Sports Special option on either the interior or exterior.

For 1970, the Cougar appearance was similar to the 1969 model, but numerous changes were made inside and out. It now sported a new front end which featured a pronounced center hood extension and electric shaver grille similar to the 1967 and 1968 Cougars. Federally mandated locking steering columns appeared inside, and high-back bucket seats, similar to those included in the '69 Eliminator package, became standard across the board. The aforementioned new nose along with revised taillight bezels, new front bumper and front fender extensions, and larger, recessed side markers updated the look on the outside. The Script error: No such module "convert". 351 "Cleveland" V8 was now available for the first time, though both the Cleveland and Windsor engines were available, if the buyer selected the base model two-barrel motor. The 390 FE engine was now dropped, and the Boss 302 and 428CJ soldiered on. The Eliminator continued with new striping, revised colors, and the four-barrel 351 Cleveland replacing the four-barrel 351 Windsor as the standard Eliminator engine. The upgraded "Décor" interior and styled steel wheels, standard '69 Eliminator equipment, were moved to the options list for the 1970 Eliminator. No Eliminator convertibles were factory produced in either 1969 or 1970. Unusual options for the 1970 Cougar were interior upholstery and vinyl top in bold houndstooth check patterns.

Total production: 1967: 150,893 1968: 113,720 1969: 100,069 1970: 72,343

Second generation (1971–1973)

Second generation
File:1971 Mercury Cougar.jpg
1971 Mercury Cougar
Model years 1971–1973
Assembly United States: Dearborn, Michigan
Body and chassis
Body style Two-door coupe
Two-door convertible
Layout FR layout
Related Ford Mustang
Engine Script error: No such module "convert". Windsor V8
Script error: No such module "convert". Cleveland V8
Script error: No such module "convert". Super Cobra Jet V8.
Wheelbase Script error: No such module "convert".

For 1971, the Cougar was restyled, weighed less, and had only a one-inch-longer wheelbase than its predecessors (112 vs. 111 - which was similar to GM's intermediate-sized two-door models, such as the Olds Cutlass). The front end now featured four exposed headlights; the disappearing headlights were eliminated. The center grille piece was now larger, sharing its appearance with the 1971 Mercury Cyclone. The rear featured a semifastback with a "flying buttress" sail-panel. The convertible returned, as did the XR-7 and the GT package. The Eliminator package was dropped, but the Ram Air option remained. The engine lineup was revised for 1971, as well. Now only three engines were offered—the standard Script error: No such module "convert". 351 Windsor two-barrel V8, the Script error: No such module "convert". 351 Cleveland four-barrel V8, and the Script error: No such module "convert". 429 Cobra Jet four-barrel V8.

File:1971-1973 Mercury Cougar XR7.jpg
1971-1973 Mercury Cougar XR7

By 1972, the climate had begun to change as the muscle car era ended. No longer able to use gross power numbers, the manufacturers had to use net power figures, which dropped the once-mighty figures down substantially. Engines were shuffled around a bit with the 429 engine option no longer available. They were now the standard Script error: No such module "convert". 351 Cleveland two-barrel V8, or the Script error: No such module "convert". 351C four-barrel Cobra Jet V8. Other than that, the Cougar remained a carryover from 1971. Only minor trim details were changed in 1972. The big-block engines were gone for 1972 and 1973. The days of performance-oriented muscle cars were coming to an end.

Aside from minor grille and taillight changes, 1973 would be largely a carryover year for the Cougar, but it would mark the last year of the Mustang-based Cougar, and the end of Cougar convertibles. (A light blue/white Cougar XR-7 convertible was actually the "last" convertible built by Ford Motor Company.) An automatic transmission and power front disc brakes became standard, though a 4-speed manual transmission was still available as a rarely ordered option. Many changes were scheduled for the 1974 models. Power figures continued to change, as new federal/EPA regulations began their stranglehold on the V8 engines. The new figures continued to fluctuate, but engine options remained unchanged from 1972. The standard engine continued to be the Script error: No such module "convert". 351 Cleveland two-barrel V8. Optional was the Script error: No such module "convert". 351 Cobra Jet V8. The following years changed to the Thunderbird/Torino chassis.

Total Production: 1971: 62,864 1972: 53,702 1973: 60,628

Third generation (1974–1976)

Third generation
File:Mercury Cougar XR-7 2-Door Hardtop.jpg
1975-76 Mercury Cougar XR-7 2-Door Hardtop
Model years 1974–1976
Assembly United States: Lorain, Ohio
Pico Rivera, California
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupe
Layout FR layout
Related Ford Torino
Ford Elite
Mercury Montego
Engine Script error: No such module "convert". Windsor V8
Script error: No such module "convert". Cleveland V8
Script error: No such module "convert". 385/Lima V8
Wheelbase Script error: No such module "convert".

For 1974, the Cougar was shifted from its Mustang, ponycar origins onto a new platform and into a new market as a personal luxury car. It now shared a chassis with the larger Mercury Montego/Ford Torino intermediates and was twinned with the new Ford Torino Elite. The wheelbase grew to Script error: No such module "convert". and became practically the only car to be upsized during the downsizing decade of the 1970s. These years marked the end of the "luxurious Mustang", and the beginning of the Cougar's move towards becoming a "junior Thunderbird" and eventually a sibling of the Thunderbird. TV commercials compared the Cougar to the Lincoln Continental Mark IV, the most notable featuring Farrah Fawcett in a 1975 TV ad.

The Cougar was being marketed as an intermediate-sized personal-luxury car to compete against GM's Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and Buick Regal, in addition to the Chrysler Cordoba while the Elite competed against the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix and the Dodge Charger. Almost every GM division had an entry in this market by 1974, and the market was too large to ignore. The new Cougar paid homage to its smaller predecessor with a three-piece grille up front, topped by a new hood ornament which featured the Jaguar-like silhouette of a creeping Cougar. The car's Montego heritage was fairly evident from the back, however. In between, it had acquired the sine qua non of the personal luxury car in the 1970s: opera windows. This body ran unchanged for three years, and during this period all Cougars were XR-7s.

The Cougar was also restyled inside due to the switch to the larger intermediate body, but maintained the front fascia look from 1973 with a new styling feature including a rectangular opera window in the rear C-pillars. The Cougar also began to share the look of the Thunderbird and Continental Mark IV as the years progressed. The base model and convertible were dropped this year, but the XR-7 moniker soldiered on as the only model in the Cougar lineup.

Engine offerings from 1974 to 1976 included a standard 351 in3 V8 and optional power plants included the very rare Q-code 351 "Cobra Jet" V8 (1974), plus 400 and 460-in3 V8s. The manual transmission was dropped in favor of the automatic.

Interior offerings during these three years included a standard bench seat with cloth or vinyl upholstery, an optional Twin-Comfort Lounge 60/40 bench seat with center armrest and cloth, vinyl or optional leather trim; or all-vinyl bucket seats with center console.

In 1975, the Cougar XR-7 continued to add more luxury features as it moved upmarket. But with more features, the Cougar was gaining in weight, as well. Compared to the 1967 version, the 1975 version weighed a full 1,000 lb (450 kg) more. Despite the added weight, the buying public wanted the Cougar, and sales figures reflected that fact. For the performance fans, however, a high-performance rear axle and 'Traction-Lok' differential continued to be on the option sheet. The standard engine continued to be the Script error: No such module "convert". 351 Windsor two-barrel V8 with the Script error: No such module "convert". 400 two-barrel V8 and Script error: No such module "convert". 460 four-barrel V8 optional. Visually, the only change from 1974 was the addition of two rectangular openings in the center section of the front bumper.[8]

The 1976 Cougar entered its last year largely unchanged from 1975. A new body for the Cougar was coming in 1977, so nothing else major was done to the Cougar. Only some minor trim pieces served to differentiate this year from last. Engines continued unchanged, as well. The high-performance axle and Traction-Lok differential were dropped this year. Twin Comfort Lounge reclining seats, with or without velour cloth trim, were the only major change for the interior.

In spite of the Cougar shifting market segments from performance coupe to personal luxury car, the sheetmetal of this generation remained in use in stock car racing during the mid-1970s. In use by Wood Brothers Racing, a Mercury Cougar was the winner of the 1976 Daytona 500. Other teams, such as Bud Moore Engineering, would continue to race this generation of Cougar in Winston Cup through the 1980 season.

Total production: 1974: 91,670 1975: 62,987 1976: 83,765

Fourth generation (1977–1979)

Fourth generation
File:Mercury Cougar (Les chauds vendredis '10).jpg
1977–79 Mercury Cougar
Model years 1977–1979
Assembly United States: Lorain, Ohio
Pico Rivera, California
Body and chassis
Body style Four-door sedan
Four-door station wagon
Two-door coupe
Layout FR layout
Related Ford LTD II
Ford Thunderbird
Engine Script error: No such module "convert". V8
Script error: No such module "convert". V8
Script error: No such module "convert". V8
Transmission C4 automatic
FMX automatic
C6 automatic
Wheelbase Script error: No such module "convert".

In 1977, radical marketing changes came to Ford's intermediate lineup, although under the skin, mechanical changes were few. The Montego name was discontinued, and all the intermediate Mercury vehicles became Cougars (Ford renamed its Torino line the LTD II). There were now Cougar sedans, complete with opera windows, a lower-line base coupe, and even a station wagon (standard steel-sided version or the "woody" Cougar Villager), which lasted only one year (1977). The top-of-the-line XR-7 continued as a separate model, with unusual simulated louvers applied in front of its opera windows and a new rear style that was meant to evoke the larger Lincoln Mark coupe. This year, the Elite name vanished from the Ford lineup and the Thunderbird was downsized onto its chassis to become the XR-7's corporate twin. This association between the two cars would continue for two decades. In keeping with the general trend of the times, the old Torino chassis was discontinued after 1979 and all Ford and Mercury intermediates went over to the smaller, lighter Ford Fox platform for 1980.

File:1977 Mercury Cougar Villager.JPG
1977 Mercury Cougar Villager Wagon

Customers to Lincoln-Mercury showrooms were surprised by the all-new Cougar this year. New sharper and straighter styling that mimicked the Ford Thunderbird and Lincoln Continental Mark V replaced the "fuselage look" of earlier Cougars. The Cougar now shared its body with the Thunderbird, which was downsized to the intermediate bodyshell this year from that of the Continental Mark IV and shared the Cougar's Script error: No such module "convert". wheelbase, putting the T-Bird squarely in the intermediate personal-luxury car market as opposed to its previous higher-priced segment of that market shared with the Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado. This move would join the Thunderbird and Cougar together and would last until their demise in 1997. The lineup was also expanded to include a sedan and station wagon. This was because the Mercury Montego had been discontinued and its models were absorbed into the Cougar lineup as a result while Ford Division renamed the Torino as LTD II. The base Cougar returned, as well, for all three models, but the XR-7 came only as a coupe. The Cougar Brougham was available as a coupe or sedan, and the Cougar Villager was available as a station wagon only. The engine lineup changed for this year, as well. The base engine was the Script error: No such module "convert". 302 two-barrel V8 on all coupes and sedans. The station wagons had the Script error: No such module "convert". 351 two-barrel V8 standard. The Script error: No such module "convert". 351 two-barrel V8 and Script error: No such module "convert". 400 two-barrel V8 were optional on all models.

For 1978, the base model two-door (Model #91 and Body Style 65D) and four-door (Model #92 and Body Style 53D) sedan stayed the same. The Brougham was discontinued as a separate model and became an option package on the base Cougar. The base model started at $5,009.

XR-7 (sport-luxury package) sales continued to skyrocket. This package (Model #93 and Body Style 65L) was only available in a two-door hard top coupe. This model included power disc brakes and steering, 15-inch wheels, rear stabilizer bar, walnut woodtone instrument panel, Flight Bench seat, "XR-7" trunk key-hole door, "COUGAR" decklid script, large hood ornament, and sport-styled roofline with back-half vinyl and rear opera side windows and louvers. Some XR-7s had the Rally Sport Tach and Gauge package (only 25% of all Cougars came with this option). XR-7 models started at $5,603.

Two new decor packages became available, the XR-7 Decor Option and the Midnight/Chamois Decor Option. This latter package came with a half-vinyl roof, padded "Continental" type rear deck, and Midnight Blue and Chamois interior with Tiffany carpeting. This was Mercury's take on the special designer decor options used in the Lincoln Continental Mark VI. Engines continued unchanged, as well. The Cougar XR-7 would set an all-time sales record this year.

Few changes were made in 1979, as Mercury prepared to downsize the car. A new electronic voltage regulator and a plastic battery tray would be the biggest mechanical changes for the Cougar. The standard engine continued to be the 302 V8 with the 351 the only optional engine available, as the 400 was discontinued. A redesigned grille with body color inserts and a revised taillight assembly were the only exterior body changes.

Total Production: 1977: 194,823 (XR-7 124,799) 1978:213,270 (XR-7 166,508) 1979: 172,152 (XR-7 163,716)

Fifth generation (1980–1982)

Fifth generation
1980–82 Mercury Cougar XR-7
Model years 1980–1982
Assembly United States: Lorain, Ohio
Body and chassis
Body style Two-door coupe
Four-door sedan
Four-door station wagon
Layout FR layout
Platform Ford Fox platform
Related Ford Thunderbird
Ford Fairmont
Ford Granada
Mercury Zephyr
Engine Script error: No such module "convert". Windsor V8
Script error: No such module "convert". Windsor V8
Script error: No such module "convert". Lima I4
Script error: No such module "convert". Essex V6
Transmission Five-speed Tremec T-5 manual
Three-speed C5 automatic
Four-speed AOD automatic
Wheelbase 104 in (254 cm)
105.5 in [9]
108.4 in [9]

For 1980, the Cougar was radically downsized and the model lineup was reduced solely to the XR7 coupe. Sharing its body and 108-inch wheelbase with the Ford Thunderbird,[10] both vehicles adopted the Fox platform; the Cougar now shared its underpinnings with the Zephyr and Capri. In a move that would prove disastrous, many styling elements of the 1977-1979 Cougar were re-used in the smaller car; the XR7 was available with a faux-Lincoln style trunk, louvred opera windows; the Cougar XR7 was largely distinguished from the Thunderbird only by its grille, exposed headlamps, tail lamps, and trunklid. The interior relied heavily on electronics with digital instrumentation and trip computer functions available; the electronics were common with the Thunderbird and Lincoln models. The XR7 had two available engines, both shared with the full-sized Mercury line: a 119-hp 4.2L V8 and a 134-hp 4.9L V8; both engines were paired with an all-new 4-speed overdrive automatic transmission.

File:1982 Mercury Cougar GS wagon.jpg
1982 Mercury Cougar GS wagon (Ford Mustang wheels)

For 1981, the Cougar lineup expanded to three models, largely to fill in for the discontinuation of the Monarch. The Mercury counterpart of the redesigned Ford Granada, the two and four-door Cougar were built on a 105.5-inch wheelbase. Unlike the XR7, the regular Cougar coupe did not have opera windows. Alongside the XR7, the Cougar was offered in two trim lines—GS and LS, which started a long-running tradition within the Mercury brand. Both packages were largely similar, but the LS was exclusive to four-doors. The GS package focused on appearance, while the LS package offered luxury touches such as power windows, keyless entry external number pad, and other luxury trim touches.

For standard Cougars, a 2.3L 4-cylinder engine was the base engine with the option of a 94-hp 3.3L inline-6, which became the base engine of the XR7. For the first time, a Cougar had both an available 4-cylinder engine and a V8 engine was now optional in the XR7; with the 4-cylinder engine, a 5-speed manual transmission was available, a first for the Thunderbird-based Cougar.

For 1982, the model line expanded further, marking the return of the Cougar station wagon for the first time since 1977. Replacing the Zephyr station wagon, it was available in GS trim along with woodgrained Villager trim. Alongside the station wagon, the Cougar was offered in two-door, four-door, and XR7 coupe models. The engine lineup was updated, as the inline-6 was replaced by a 112-hp V6; however, the 4.9L V8 was dropped from the XR7 line.

Total Production: 1980: 58,028 1981: 90,928 1982: 73,817

Sixth generation (1983–1988)

Sixth generation
File:87-88 Mercury Cougar.jpg
1987–88 Cougar LS
Model years 1983–1988
Assembly United States: Lorain, Ohio
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupe
Layout FR layout
Platform Ford Fox platform
Related Lincoln Continental
Ford LTD
Ford Thunderbird
Ford Fairmont
Mercury Marquis
Ford Granada
Mercury Zephyr
Engine Script error: No such module "convert". Lima turbo I4
Script error: No such module "convert". Essex V6
Script error: No such module "convert". Windsor 5.0 V8
Transmission Five-speed Tremec T-5 manual
Three-speed C5 automatic
Four-speed AOD automatic
Wheelbase 104 in (2540 mm) (1980–86)
104.2 in (2650 mm) (1987–88)
Length 197.6 in (5020 mm) (1983–86)
200.8 in (5100 mm) (1987–88)
Width 71.1 in (1810 mm) (1983–86)
70.1 (1780 mm) (1987–88)
Height 53.4 in (1360 mm) (1983–86)
53.8 in (1370 mm) (1987–88)
Curb weight 3050–3500 lb (1400–1600 kg)

An all-new Cougar greeted buyers in the fall of 1982; gone were the sedan and station wagon models which were facelifted and moved under the Marquis nameplate. The Cougar sported a completely new aerodynamic body, but retained the same chassis. This restyle was shared with its sister car, the Thunderbird, with the two becoming the first examples of the new "aero-look" design, which would eventually spread throughout the Ford line and ultimately the entire industry. The major difference between the two was the side window treatments; the Cougar had a more formal notchback with a nearly vertical rear window and upswept quarter windows. This made the Cougar look more aerodynamic, as well as more exciting, when compared to the previous generation of Cougars. The new look was such a hit, it outsold the Thunderbird for 1983. Because of the money spent in restyling both models, the interiors were left mostly unchanged from 1982. The GS (but not badged as such) and LS models carried over from the previous year; however, the XR-7 did not, as there was not yet a performance version ready. The engine lineup changed, as the only two engines offered were the 232-in3 (3.8-L) V6 and the 302-in3 (5.0-L) V8. The 390-mm (15.3-in) TRX wheels were an option.[citation needed]

File:1986 Mercury Cougar pre-facelift.jpg
First facelift version (1986)

After its redesign for 1983, the Cougar remained mostly unchanged for 1984. The XR-7 returned and for the first time, its standard engine was not a V8 or V6, but a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Similar to the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, the XR-7 came only with the Script error: No such module "convert". 140-in3 turbocharged I4. The XR-7 also featured blacked-out window trim, wide body side mouldings and two-tone paint in silver with charcoal grey lower (or the reverse combination) with tri-band striping to separate it from the base Cougars. A performance suspension was also standard. A three-speed automatic or a five-speed manual were offered on the XR-7. Also for 1984, the 3.8-L V6 switched from a carburetor to throttle-body fuel injection.

Subtle exterior changes, such as a new Mercedes-Benz-esque grille and new taillights were just a few of the many changes, as a whole new interior greeted buyers for 1985. This new interior featured an optional full digital instrument cluster which lent a futuristic touch to the Cougar, but it was only available on base and GS Cougars. The XR-7 received a performance analog gauge cluster, including a tachometer. The standard gauge panel in non-XR-7s was an unusual mix of digital speedometer, analog gauges, and warning lights.

The 1986 Cougar was a carryover year; it was supposed to be redesigned this year, but with sales continuing to be strong, Ford decided to push it ahead to 1987. The biggest changes were under the hood, as the 302 V8 received new sequential electronic fuel injection (SEFI), which boosted power to Script error: No such module "convert".; a Script error: No such module "convert". improvement over the previous year. The Cougar XR-7 continued to offer only the turbocharged I4, but it got a power increase to Script error: No such module "convert"..

Total Production 1983: 75,743 1984: 131,190 1985: 117,274 1986: 135,904


File:1988 Mercury Cougar.jpg
1987–88 Cougar, rear view

The Cougar received a complete restyle for its 20th anniversary. Much smoother than the previous Cougar, it featured flush-mounted headlights and grille. The side quarter glass retained its upswept design, but it was stretched more to the rear of the car. The interior remained mostly unchanged. The GS was dropped, leaving the LS and XR-7 models. The XR-7 changed by dropping the turbocharged I4, and the 302 V8 became the standard engine. The manual transmission was also dropped this year. The digital instrument cluster, previously optional on the GS/LS models, became standard with exception to the limited edition XR-7, which became analog only. The special lower tri-stripes and blacked-out window trim continued to set apart the XR-7 from the LS. The Cougar's 20th anniversary was highlighted by a limited-edition Cougar.

Total Production: 1987: 105,847 1988: 113,801

20th Anniversary Cougar

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, a limited-edition Cougar was produced. The car went on sale in February 1987. The Cougar LS was the starting point for this special model. These special Cougars featured these standard items to set them apart from the regular production Cougars:

  • Cabernet Red exterior w/Midnight Smoke moldings
  • All exterior badging (front bumper, grille trim, trunk lid nomenclature and moulding trim) was finished in 24 karat gold. C-pillar emblems were finished in a gold cloisonné.
  • Nonfunctional luggage rack
  • Mustang GT wheels painted gold with a Cougar center cap
  • Special "20th Anniversary Edition" dash emblem
  • Light Sand Beige interior with unique part-leather, part-suede (Ultrasuede) seats with heating and three-user memory profile. The seats also featured a special Cabernet Red piping.
  • Special embroidered 20th Anniversary floor mats
  • Traveler's convenience kit
  • A hardcover book - "Mercury Cougar 1967–1987", which detailed the history of the Cougar
  • Script error: No such module "convert". SEFI 302 V8
  • Sport handling suspension package (XR-7)

The only options were power moonroof, power antenna, illuminated entry, keyless entry, automatic climate control, engine block heater, and a Traction-Lok axle with a 3.08 gear ratio. Total Production of 20th anniversary Cougar was 5,002, with at least 800 destined for Canada.

With the new MN-12 chassis and new body style coming in 1989, the 1988 Cougar changed little from the previous year. Outside, the biggest change was the XR-7 now came in a new monochromatic color scheme. It was available in three colors (black, red, and white) with body-colored or optional argent-colored wheels. The base 232-in3 (3.8-L) V6 was revamped to include multiport fuel injection and an internal balance shaft that increased power to Script error: No such module "convert".. The 302 V8 received a dual exhaust option, which added Script error: No such module "convert".. The analog gauge cluster returned as standard on the XR-7, but the digital cluster remained as an option on both the LS and XR-7.

Seventh generation (1989–1997)

Seventh generation
File:89-90 Mercury Cougar.jpg
1989–90 Mercury Cougar LS
Model years 1989–1997
Assembly United States: Lorain, Ohio
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupe
Layout FR layout
Platform Ford MN12 platform
Related Ford Thunderbird
Lincoln Mark VIII
Engine 3.8 L Essex V6 (1989–1997)
5.0 L Windsor V8 (1991–93)
4.6 L Modular V8 (1994–97)
Transmission Four-speed AOD or 4R70W automatic
Five-speed manual M5R2(1989–90)
Wheelbase Script error: No such module "convert".
Length 1989–1991: Script error: No such module "convert".
1992–94: Script error: No such module "convert".
1995–97: Script error: No such module "convert".
Width 1989–1994: Script error: No such module "convert".
1995–97: Script error: No such module "convert".
Height 1989–1991: Script error: No such module "convert".
1992–97: Script error: No such module "convert".
Curb weight 3528 lb (1600 kg) with V6
3666 lb (1663 kg) with V8

The Cougar entered its seventh generation with a completely new body and chassis. Nothing carried over from the previous Cougar except for badging and the engine. In fact, only six parts were carried over from 1988. The biggest change was the switch to the larger MN12 chassis, which was shared with the Ford Thunderbird. The chassis featured a fully independent rear suspension, a first for the Cougar. The wheelbase grew nine inches (229 mm) longer (104.2 vs. 113 inches) for better rear leg room. The flowing lines and extreme notchback roofline were still there, but this generation integrated the two much more successfully. To the surprise of fans, the car had no V8 engine available when introduced. Instead, the base LS had a naturally aspirated Script error: No such module "convert". 3.8-L V6, backed by a four-speed automatic transmission, which had a hard time moving the nearly Script error: No such module "convert". Cougar.

File:89-93 Mercury Cougar.jpg
1991–1993 Mercury Cougar

The XR-7 had a Script error: No such module "convert". supercharged version of the same engine; the car could be equipped with a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic with overdrive. Mercury spared no expense in equipping its XR-7 performance model. Standard features included four-wheel antilock disc brakes, an electronically adjustable, sport-tuned suspension, monochromatic paint scheme in red, white, or black, and 16-inch alloy wheels. The base LS's more luxury-oriented features included a fully digital instrument cluster and exterior chrome trim.

The Cougar saw a minor facelift for 1991, with a smaller grille and slight changes to the headlights, taillights, and side trim. Sales of the supercharged XR7 in 1989 and 1990 were slow, and as a result the 3.8-L SC engine was replaced by the Script error: No such module "convert". 5.0-L V8 in 1991 and became an option for the LS models. A special edition was built in 1992 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Cougar.

In 1993, as part of a consolidation of the model lineup, the LS nameplate was dropped completely and the XR-7, now badged XR7, became the only model available. It was equipped much like the LS except for the leather-wrapped wheel/shifter and full analog gauge cluster.

File:1995 Mercury Cougar XR7.jpg
1995 Mercury Cougar XR7

As part of Ford's 1994 facelift for the MN12 platform, the 1994 Cougar received an all new interior, updated tail and head lights, grille, and body side molding. Ford's new OHC Script error: No such module "convert". 4.6-L V8 replaced the pushrod 5.0-L V8, and all models came standard with the 4R70W four-speed automatic transmission.

1996–1997 Mercury Cougar

For the 1996 model year, the exterior was given a significant facelift, similar to its MN12 cousin Ford Thunderbird. The front and rear bumper covers, headlights, grille, and moulding were updated, giving the car a more modern look. The 4.6-L engine received an updated composite intake manifold, giving the car Script error: No such module "convert". of additional torque over the 1995 model and the transmission was improved for increased reliability. The interior was given a minor update, which included a revised instrument cluster, much like that of the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable of the time and a center console with cup holders. The ashtray and cigarette lighter were relocated to the space previously occupied by the information center, now integrated in the instrument cluster. Another anniversary edition car was built to commemorate 30 years.

Due to slowing sales and the imminent cancellation of the MN12 program, in 1997, Ford began cost-cutting measures and discontinued many convenience items, such as the elimination of the courtesy lamps, underhood light and glove box light. This was the last year for the MN12 Cougar, as Ford ultimately decided to discontinue its trio of personal luxury cars: the Mark VIII, the Cougar, and the Thunderbird to concentrate on production of high-profit SUVs.

The last Lorain, Ohio-built Mercury Cougar rolled off the assembly line on September 4, 1997.

Total Production: 1989: 97,246 1990: 76,467 1991: 60,564 1992: 46,982 1993: 79,700 1994: 71,026 1995: 60,201 1996: 38,929 1997: 35,267

Eighth generation (1999–2002)

Eighth generation
File:2001-2002 Mercury Cougar -- 03-30-2011.jpg
2001–2002 Mercury Cougar
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Also called Ford Cougar
Model years 1999–2002
Assembly United States: Flat Rock, Michigan (AAI)
Body and chassis
Class Sport compact
Body style Two-door coupe
Layout Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
Platform Ford CDW27 platform
Wheelbase Script error: No such module "convert".
Length Script error: No such module "convert".
Width Script error: No such module "convert".
Height Script error: No such module "convert".
Curb weight Script error: No such module "convert".
File:99-00 Mercury Cougar.jpg
1999–2000 Mercury Cougar

In 1998, Ford began a redesign on the recently discontinued Probe, planning to add it back to the lineup in 1999. Due to marketing reasons, Ford decided to drop the Probe name and bring back the Cougar name for the redesigned car. Of the three names that had constituted Ford's personal luxury lineup, Mark, Thunderbird, and Cougar, the Cougar returned first and was based on the Ford Contour sedan. Launched in the UK at the British Grand Prix at the Silverstone Circuit in 1998,[11] this Cougar became Mercury's first sport compact since the 1983 Mercury LN7.

This generation of Cougar had a far more contemporary package, with modern DOHC 24-valve six-cylinder Duratec engines, a fully independent multilink suspension, and front-wheel drive. This was also the first hatchback Cougar, and the first to have its own body, unshared by any Ford (except its European twin Ford Cougar). The body design used a philosophy Ford dubbed "New Edge" design: a combination of organic upper body lines with sharp, concave creases in the lower areas. The Cougar's body, and the New Edge idea in general, was introduced as a concept called the Mercury MC2 in 1997, and was considered a bigger version of the European Ford Puma.

The 1999–2002 Cougars were available with two engine options, the 2.0-L Zetec 4-cylinder engine with Script error: No such module "convert"., and the 2.5-L Duratec V6 with Script error: No such module "convert".. Also, two transaxle options were available: the manual Ford MTX-75 transmission or the automatic Ford CD4E transmission (available in the US with either engine, although the I4/automatic combination was extremely rare; supposedly only 500 Cougars were built with the I4/auto).

"Sport Package" models of the V6 featured four-wheel vented disc brakes (from the Contour SVT), 16-inch alloy wheels, and the speed governor removed. With the electronic speed limiter removed, the top speed of the car was limited by drag and engine power in top gear at redline, around Script error: No such module "convert"..[citation needed] While this was considered attainable given enough road, the automatic transmission version could not reach this speed without significant engine modification. However the manual transmission version of the car, when given enough road, was capable of reaching speeds of around 145. Without the sport package, the speed governor was set at Script error: No such module "convert". due to the H-rated tires with which the car was equipped.

Ford also prepared two high-performance concept-only versions; one dubbed the "Eliminator", which was a supercharged version built with aftermarket available parts, and the other the "Cougar S", which featured new body work, all-wheel drive and a 3.0-L Duratec engine.

Ford also sold this generation of Cougar in Europe and Australia as the Ford Cougar, and it was a sales success.

This new generation was aimed at younger buyers, but was sold alongside Sables and Grand Marquis, which were marketed toward middle-aged buyers. Also, Mercury salesmen did not know how to properly market the car, as they were used to interacting with older customers.[citation needed]

A high-performance Cougar S (not to be confused with the concept) was discussed in the press, which was essentially a Cougar with a Contour SVT engine; however, this version never made it into production. The Cougar S was so close to production, though, many of its parts are still available to order from the dealership and it is listed in many parts catalogs and insurance databases.[citation needed] It was also to be sold in Europe as the Ford Cougar ST200.

To help create excitement for the Cougar, Mercury created several paint and trim packages:

  • Special Edition (2000 model year) available in Zinc Yellow, leather interior with yellow stitching on the seats
  • C2 (2001–2002 model years) available in either French Blue, Silver Frost, or Vibrant White, along with special blue interior accents
  • Zn (2001 model year) available with special Zinc Yellow, special Visteon hood scoop and spoiler
  • XR (2002 model year) available in either Black or XR Racing Red, with special black and red seats and interior trim, also came with 17-inch silver wheels with black accents on the inner spokes
  • 35th Anniversary (2002 model year) versions were available in Laser Red, French Blue, Satin Silver, and Black; most came with leather interiors with silver center sections on the seats. They also came with 17-inch machined wheels, the same as the XRs without the black paint on the center spokes.
  • Roush Edition (1999–2000 model year) Available mostly in white and silver color choices, this car was built under the Roush name with body work done to the front bumper, back, side skirts and more. It is considered the rarest of all Cougars, since only 112 were ever made during its two-year production.

For the 2001 model year, the Cougar was "updated" as the Cougar2 with new headlights, front and rear fascias, and updated interior trim.

Ford announced a restructuring plan in 2002, and the Cougar was cancelled for good (along with the Ford Escort, Lincoln Continental and Mercury Villager and its British cousin the Ford Cougar as the MkIII Mondeo was ready to take the production lines but not in Australia as it was still sold with Ford badges until 2004 because its cousin the MkII Mondeo was removed from the Australian line up in 2000). The discontinuation of the Cougar left no four-cylinder vehicles in the Mercury lineup until the 2005 Mariner SUV arrived.

The last Mercury Cougar rolled off the assembly line on August 9, 2002.

US production numbers

Calendar Year Units[12]
1999 88,288
2000 44,935
2001 25,044
2002 18,321

Ford Cougar (Europe)

File:Ford Cougar.jpg
European Ford Cougar
Main article: Ford Cougar (Europe)

The Ford Cougar is a mid-sized coupé sold in the European market between 1999 and 2002. The car was named after the Mercury vehicle. It was originally intended to be the third-generation Probe, but after a rationalisation of the three coupés available in the USA, the Probe name was dropped in favour of the Cougar. It is identical to the US Mercury version, except for badging and right-hand-drive in the UK and Australia only.


In 1967, renowned NASCAR race car builder Bud Moore campaigned Mercury Cougars in the Trans-Am Series with Ford Motor Company factory support. The team featured superstar-caliber drivers, such as Captain Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, Peter Revson, David Pearson, and Ed Leslie. Factory support dried up towards the end of the season and the Cougars began to show their wear. Ultimately, Mercury lost the championship to Ford by two points.[13]

In 1968, Bud Moore took his Cougars NASCAR racing in the newly formed Grand American series. Star driver Tiny Lund dominated the series and took the championship.

After the Cougar changed to the Thunderbird platform in 1974, the bodystyle was raced in NASCAR. The Wood Brothers Racing team with David Pearson and later Neil Bonnett was very successful with the car and scored a number of victories until the bodystyle became ineligible following the 1980 season. The next year (1981) saw the previous Cougar teams switch to the Thunderbird when NASCAR mandated the smaller (110-inch-wheelbased) cars, though oddly the Thunderbirds had to have their wheel bases stretched 6 inches, as the production cars wheelbase was only 104 inches.

From 1989 to 1990, Lincoln-Mercury Motorsport fielded Cougars of the new body style in the GTO class of the IMSA GT Championship. The cars collected the championship both years, and continued the teams' streak to seven manufacturer's championships.


  1. ^ Jewett, Larry. "The Sign of the Cat". Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  2. ^ TCCN II - Feature Articles > Cougar Ad Gallery[dead link]
  3. ^ Severson, Aaron (March 18, 2013). "Hand-Me-Down Cat". Autoweek 63 (6): 20–21. 
  4. ^ "Ford Motor Company - Featured Story - Fords Past, Present and Future Come to Carlisle". Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  5. ^ Guide to Muscle Cars Magazine, 6/87, p.79.
  6. ^ CCOA, "Cougar Club of America production statistics courtesy of Marti Auto Works". Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  7. ^ Gunnell, John (2006). standard catalog of American Muscle Cars 1960–1972. Krause Publications. ISBN 0-89689-433-9. 
  8. ^ John Gunnell, Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946–1975, Revised 4th Edition, page 546
  9. ^ a b Cougars for 1981 from Lincoln-Mercury, page 16, Retrieved on 19 March 2015
  10. ^ Dave Epperson, Popular Hot Rodding's All About 1981 Cars, page 49
  11. ^ "About the Ford Cougar". The Ford Cougar Owners Club. 
  12. ^ "99-02 Mercury Cougar production numbers". 2004-10-18. Retrieved 2011-09-04. 
  13. ^ 1967 Trans-Am Scores at Retrieved on 5 September 2010

External links

Template:Mercury Timeline