Mercury Cougar

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Mercury Cougar
94-97 Mercury Cougar.jpg
1997 Mercury Cougar XR-7
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Model years
  • 1967–1997
  • 1999–2002
Body and chassis
Layout Front-engine, rear-wheel drive (1967-1998)
Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive (1999-2002)

The Mercury Cougar is a nameplate applied to a diverse series of automobiles sold by Mercury from 1967 to 1997, and again from 1999 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.

During its production life, as was common practice within the Mercury division, the Cougar shared much of its underpinnings with a Ford counterpart. At the time of its introduction, it was based upon the Ford Mustang. As the Mustang was downsized and redesigned in 1974, the Cougar became based upon the intermediate Mercury Montego (itself based upon the Ford Torino), becoming the replacement for the Montego in 1977. As the Cougar XR7 became the equivalent of the Ford Thunderbird in 1977, the Thunderbird would serve as the Ford counterpart of the Cougar for two decades. After its initial discontinuation, the Cougar emerged as a replacement for the Ford Probe sports coupe, based on 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] In the early 1970s as part of advertising for the Cougar and Mercury, female models held big cats on leashes.[2] In production for 34 years, the Cougar nameplate is second only to the Grand Marquis in its longevity in the Mercury model line.

The car was assembled at the Dearborn Assembly Plant—one of six plants within the Ford River Rouge Complex—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 in Lorain, Ohio, from 1974 to 1997, and at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan from 1999 to 2002.

First generation (1967–1970)[edit]

First generation
Mercury Cougar.jpg
1967 Mercury Cougar
Model years 1967–1970 (1969–70 are the second body shape)
Assembly Dearborn, Michigan, United States
Edison, New Jersey, United States
Milpitas, California, United States
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door hardtop
2-door convertible
Layout FR layout
Related Ford Mustang
Engine 289 cu in (4.7 L) Windsor V8
390 cu in (6.4 L) FE V8
302 cu in (4.9 L) Windsor V8
351 cu in (5.8 L) Windsor V8
351 cu in (5.8 L) Cleveland V8
428 cu in (7.0 L) FE V8
427 cu in (7.0 L) FE V8
Wheelbase 111 in (2819 mm)
Length 1967: 190.3 in (4834 mm)[3]
1969: 193.8 in (4923 mm)
1970: 196.1 in (4941 mm)
Width 1967: 71.2 in (1808 mm)
1969: 75.0 in (1905 mm)
1970: 74.2 in (1885 mm)
Height 1967: 51.8 in (1316 mm)
1969: 51.9 in (1318 mm)
1970: 51.3 in (1303 mm)

The introduction of the Cougar finally gave Mercury its own "pony car". Slotted between the Ford Mustang and the Ford Thunderbird, the Cougar was 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, no center or B-pillar). Engine choices ranged from the 200 hp (149 kW) 289 cu in (4.7 L) two-barrel V8 to the 335 hp (250 kW) 390 cu in (6.4 L) four-barrel V8. A performance package called the GT was available on both the base and XR-7 Cougars. This included the 390 cu in (6.4 L) 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.[4] It was based on the 1967 refreshed first-generation Mustang,[5] but with a 3-in-longer (111 in) 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 had the license plate surrounded on both sides with vertically slatted grillework concealing tail lights (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, drawing inspiration from the popular Jaguar E-Type. 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. In 1967 and 1968, they were deployed using a vacuum canister system that opened and closed the headlamp doors. For 1969 and 1970, a redesigned vacuum system 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, included Ford's 390 cu in (6.4 L) FE-series big block , along with 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 muscle car. Nevertheless, the focus continued away from performance and toward luxury, evolving it into 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-patterned vinyl roof and matching upholstery, available together or separately. A facelift in 1971 did away with the hidden headlights and hidden wipers were adopted. Between 1969 and 1973, Cougar convertibles were offered.

The 1968 model year included federally-mandated side marker lights and front outboard shoulder belts (sash belt, shoulder harness) among some minor changes. A 210 hp (157 kW) 302 cu in (4.9 L) 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 230 hp (172 kW) 302 cu in (4.9 L), four-barrel V8; the 335 hp (250 kW) 428 cu in (7.0 L), four-barrel V8; and the 390 hp (291 kW) 427 cu in (7.0 L), four-barrel V8. In addition, the 289 cu in (4.7 L) engine was made standard on base cars without the interior decor group midway through the model year.

Comfort and performance options available for the Cougar included the "Tilt-Away" steering wheel that swung up and out of the way when the driver's door was opened, the transmission in "park", and the ignition was off,[6] and from 1971, a power driver's seat. The new option appeared in 1968: Ford's first factory-installed electric sunroof. It was available on any hardtop Cougar, but rarely ordered on early cars.

Mercury also made limited versions of Cougar in the performance-market segment. The XR7-G, named for Mercury road racer Dan Gurney, included performance add-ons, such as a hood scoop, Lucas (brand) fog lamps, and hood pins. Engine selection was limited to the 302, 390, and 428 V8s. 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.[7] Conservatively rated at 335 hp (250 kW), the 428 Cobra Jet could produce more than the (306 kW (410 hp)) from the factory. A total of 394 GT-Es were manufactured, 357 with the 427 and 37 with the 428.[8] The GT-E came with power front disc brakes as standard.[9]

Classic "walking cougar" logo found on first-generation Cougars 
1969 Mercury Cougar two-door hardtop 
1970 Mercury Cougar 

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. The grille switched from vertical bars to horizontal bars. Tail lights 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. The GT, XR-7G, and 7.0-L GT-E were discontinued, but the 390 and 428 V8s remained. The 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 290 hp (216 kW) 351 Windsor V8 was also added to the engine lineup. The Eliminator performance package appeared for the first time. A 351 cu in (5.8 L) four-barrel Windsor V8 was standard, 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 vibrant colors, such as white, bright blue metallic, competition orange, and bright yellow. Only two Cougars were produced with the Boss 429 V8 as factory drag cars for "Fast Eddie" Schartman and "Dyno" Don Nicholson. A 1969-only package was the Cougar Sports Special that 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. 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 changes were made. A new front end 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-backed bucket seats, similar to those included in the 1969 Eliminator package, became standard on all Cougars. Other changes included revised tail light bezels, new front bumper and front fender extensions, and larger, recessed side markers. The 300 hp (224 kW) 351 "Cleveland" V8 was now available for the first time, though both the Cleveland and Windsor engines were available as the base model two-barrel engine. The 390 FE engine was now dropped, and the Boss 302 and 428CJ continued. The Eliminator received with new striping, revised colors, and the four-barrel 351 Cleveland replacing the four-barrel 351 Windsor as the standard 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. New 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)[edit]

Second generation
1971 Mercury Cougar.jpg
1971 Mercury Cougar
Model years 1971–1973
Assembly Dearborn, Michigan, United States
Body and chassis
Body style Two-door hardtop
Two-door convertible
Layout FR layout
Related Ford Mustang
Engine 351 cu in (5.8 L) Windsor V8
351 cu in (5.8 L) Cleveland V8
429 cu in (7.0 L) Super Cobra Jet V8.
Wheelbase 112.0 in (2,845 mm)

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 240 hp (179 kW) 351 Windsor two-barrel V8, the 285 hp (213 kW) 351 Cleveland four-barrel V8, and the 370 hp (276 kW) 429 Cobra Jet four-barrel V8.

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 163 hp (122 kW) 351 Cleveland two-barrel V8, or the 266 hp (198 kW) 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 final run of Cougar convertibles; a light blue/white Cougar XR-7 convertible was actually the "last" convertible built by Ford Motor Company in the 1970s. 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 1973 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 168 hp (125 kW) 351 Cleveland two-barrel V8. Optional was the 264 hp (197 kW) 351 Cobra Jet V8.

Additionally, an arguably little known trim style and certain mandatory options (e.g. hardtop) of Cougar was the "Bronze Age" edition made by Mercury in 1973 (also made for the models: Mercury Monterey, Mercury Montego MX, and Mercury Comet of that year).[10][11] While it was marketed primarily in copper metallic colors,[12] it was also available in 6 other colors: ivy glamour metallic, green metallic, medium brown metallic, saddle bronze, medium yellow gold and white.

Total Production:

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

Third generation (1974–1976)[edit]

Third generation
Mercury Cougar XR-7 2-Door Hardtop.jpg
1974-76 Mercury Cougar XR-7 2-Door Hardtop
Model years 1974–1976
Assembly Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door hardtop
Layout FR layout
Related Ford Torino
Ford Elite
Mercury Montego
Engine 351 cu in (5.8 L) 351M V8
400 cu in (6.6 L) V8
460 cu in (7.5 L) 385/Lima V8
Wheelbase 114.0 in (2,896 mm)
Length 215.5 in (5,474 mm)[13]
Width 78.5 in (1,994 mm)

For 1974, the Cougar was shifted from its Mustang ponycar origins and upsized onto a different 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 lent itself to create a Ford badged version released mid-year 1974 called Gran Torino Elite. The wheelbase grew to 114 inches (2,896 mm) 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 its twin the Ford Elite with its Thunderbird-like styling 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 so both Ford and Mercury expanded their offerings to compete.

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 sides and back. The Cougar acquired the sine qua non of the personal luxury car in the 1970s: opera windows. The opera windows were rectangular shaped glass mounted in the C-pillars and accompanied by a standard partial rear section vinyl roof. This body ran unchanged for three years, and during this period all Cougars were XR-7s.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.

Since the Cougar was based on the Montego, it used the same interior except for some minor trim and upholstery. 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 148 hp (110 kW) 351M two-barrel V8 with the 158 hp (118 kW) 400 two-barrel V8 and 216 hp (161 kW) 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.[14]

The 1976 Cougar carried over largely unchanged from 1975. 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. Twin Comfort Lounge reclining seats, with or without velour cloth trim, were the only major change for the interior.

The sheetmetal of this generation remained in use in stock car racing during the mid-1970s. A Wood Brothers Racing Mercury Cougar was the winner of the 1976 Daytona 500. Other teams, including 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)[edit]

Fourth generation
Mercury Cougar (Les chauds vendredis '10).jpg
1977–79 Mercury Cougar
Production 1977-1979
Model years 1977–1979
Assembly Lorain, Ohio, United States
Pico Rivera, California, United States
Body and chassis
Body style Four-door sedan
Four-door station wagon
Two-door coupe
Layout FR layout
Related Ford LTD II
Ford Thunderbird
Ford Ranchero
Engine 302 cu in (4.9 L) V8
351 cu in (5.8 L) V8
400 cu in (6.6 L) V8
Transmission C4 automatic
FMX automatic
C6 automatic
Wheelbase 114.0 in (2,896 mm)

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 Cougar 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 Continental Mark V coupe. This year, the Elite vanished from the Ford lineup and was replaced by the Thunderbird which was downsized onto its chassis to become the Cougar XR-7's corporate twin. This association between the two cars would continue for two decades until their demise in 1997. 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.

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 engine lineup changed for this year, as well. The base engine was the 134 hp (100 kW) 302 two-barrel V8 on all coupes and sedans. The station wagons had the 161 hp (120 kW) 351 two-barrel V8 standard. The 149 hp (111 kW) 351 two-barrel V8 and 173 hp (129 kW) 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.

XR-7 (sport-luxury package) sales continued to increase. 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).

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 V. 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 revised taillight assemblies 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)[edit]

Fifth generation
1980–82 Mercury Cougar XR-7
Model years 1980–1982
Assembly Lorain, Ohio, United States
Body and chassis
Body style Two-door coupe
Two-door sedan
Four-door sedan
Four-door station wagon
Layout FR layout
Platform Ford Fox platform
Related Ford Thunderbird
Ford Fairmont
Ford Granada
Lincoln Continental
Engine 255 cu in (4.2 L) Windsor V8
302 cu in (4.9 L) Windsor V8
140 cu in (2.3 L) Lima I4
232 cu in (3.8 L) Essex V6
Transmission Five-speed Tremec T-5 manual
Three-speed C5 automatic
Four-speed AOD automatic
Wheelbase 105.5 in [15]
108.4 in [15]
Predecessor Mercury Monarch (non-XR7 coupe, four-door)
Successor Mercury Marquis (all except XR7)
1981 Mercury Cougar 2-door
1982 Mercury Cougar GS wagon (Ford Mustang wheels)
Mercury Cougar 4-door

For 1980, the Mercury Cougar underwent an extensive redesign, shifting away from the Torino/LTD II chassis towards the smaller Ford Fox platform, sharing a 108-inch wheelbase and body panels with the redesigned Ford Thunderbird;[16] the new underpinnings were also shared with the Zephyr and Capri. In another change, only the Cougar XR7 personal luxury coupe was carried over from 1979, temporarily marking the discontinuation of a full range of Cougar body styles .

In a design move that would prove disastrous, many styling elements of the 1977-1979 Cougar XR7 were included in the redesign, including its Continental-style trunklid and louvered opera windows. While its predecessor was highly successful in the marketplace, the same styling was poorly received on a radically smaller car. In addition, 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 the 1982 Lincoln Continental.

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.

For 1981, the Cougar model line was expanded, as Mercury discontinued the Monarch. Two-door and four-door sedans joined the XR7 coupe, sharing a body with the redesigned Ford Granada; the new Cougar body styles shared a 105.5-inch wheelbase with the Granada and the Fairmont/Zephyr. In what would become a long-running tradition for the Mercury brand, the new versions of the Cougar came in GS and LS trim lines. 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 non-XR7 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 in 1981). For the first time, a Cougar model had available both a 4-cylinder engine and an optional V8. With the 4-cylinder engine, a 5-speed manual transmission was available for the first time in a Cougar model.

For 1982, Mercury shifted its mid-size station wagon to the Cougar, differing largely from the Zephyr in its front fascia and minor interior trim. The first Cougar station wagon since 1977, it was available in either GS trim or woodgrained Villager trim (the Mercury equivalent of a Ford Squire trim). The 4.2L V8 became the sole V8 offering, while the 94 hp 3.3L I6 was replaced by a 112 hp 3.8L V6; in various forms, the 3.8L V6 would be used by the Cougar through 1997.

Total Production:

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

Sixth generation (1983–1988)[edit]

Sixth generation
87-88 Mercury Cougar.jpg
1987–88 Cougar LS
Model years 1983–1988
Assembly Lorain, Ohio, United States
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 2.3 L (140 cu in) Lima turbo I4
3.8 L (232 cu in) Essex V6
4.9 L (302 cu in) 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 instrument panel was only modestly changed from the 1982 model. 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]

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 145 hp (108 kW) 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 instrument panel greeted buyers for 1985. This new instrument panel featured an optional full digital instrument cluster which lent a futuristic touch to the Cougar, but it was only available on base and LS 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 150 hp (112 kW); a 20 hp (15 kW) improvement over the previous year. The Cougar XR-7 continued to offer only the turbocharged I4 with output increased to 155 hp (116 kW).

Total Production

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


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, which was optional on the GS/LS models, became standard on the XR-7. 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[edit]

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
  • 150 hp (112 kW) 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 140 hp (104 kW). The 302 V8 received a dual exhaust option, which added 5 hp (4 kW). 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)[edit]

Seventh generation
89-90 Mercury Cougar.jpg
1989–90 Mercury Cougar LS
Model years 1989–1997
Assembly Lorain, Ohio, United States
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 113.0 in (2,870 mm)
Length 1989–1991: 198.7 in (5,047 mm)
1992–94: 199.9 in (5,077 mm)
1995–97: 200.3 in (5,088 mm)
Width 1989–1994: 72.7 in (1,847 mm)
1995–97: 73.1 in (1,857 mm)
Height 1989–1991: 52.7 in (1,339 mm)
1992–97: 52.5 in (1,334 mm)
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 upright 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 140 hp (104 kW) 3.8-L V6, backed by a four-speed automatic transmission, which had a hard time moving the nearly 3,800 lb (1,700 kg) Cougar.

1991–1993 Mercury Cougar

The XR-7 had a 210 hp (157 kW) 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 not available on the LS model included, an electronically adjustable handling suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, a five speed manual transmission, sport seats with lumbar control, a sport steering wheel, and analog gauges.[17][18] Four-wheel antilock disc brakes were optional on the LS and standard on the XR-7. 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 200 hp (149 kW) 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, and the XR-7 became the only model available. It was equipped much like the LS, except for the leather-wrapped shifter, full analog gauge cluster, taillight assemblies, and the 1992 XR-7 seats.

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 205 hp (153 kW) 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 15 lb⋅ft (20 N⋅m) 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: 46,928
1993: 79,700
1994: 71,026
1995: 60,201
1996: 38,929
1997: 35,267

Eighth generation (1999–2002)[edit]

Eighth generation
2001-2002 Mercury Cougar -- 03-30-2011.jpg
2001–2002 Mercury Cougar
Also called Ford Cougar (Europe)
Mercury Cougar2 (North America, 2001-2002)
Production 1998-August 9, 2002
Model years 1999–2002
Assembly Flat Rock, Michigan, United States
Body and chassis
Class Sport compact
Body style 3-door liftback coupe
Layout Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
Platform Ford CDW27 platform
Wheelbase 106.4 in (2,700 mm)
Length 185.0 in (4,700 mm)
Width 69.6 in (1,770 mm)
Height 52.2 in (1,330 mm)
Curb weight 2,892 lb (1,312 kg)
1999-2000 Mercury Cougar

During the mid-1990s, Ford engineers commenced design work on the third generation of the Ford Probe. Intended for a 1998 model year launch, the new Probe shifted its design from the Mazda MX-6 to a platform shared with the Ford Contour. At the end of the 1997 model year, Ford announced a major streamlining of its coupe offerings, with Ford discontinuing the Thunderbird and Probe; Lincoln-Mercury lost the Cougar and Lincoln Mark VIII (the latter, after 1998). To make room for the updated 1999 Ford Mustang and all-new Ford Escort ZX2, the Contour-based Ford Probe continued into production, with Ford shifting the vehicle to the Lincoln-Mercury Division to adopt the Mercury Cougar name.

After skipping the 1998 model year, Mercury introduced the eighth-generation Mercury Cougar for the 1999 model year at the 1998 Los Angeles Auto Show. Serving as the replacement for the Ford Probe, the first front-wheel drive Cougar shifted market segments from two-door personal luxury coupe to three-door sport compact, introducing the first Mercury hatchback since the 1986 Mercury Capri.

While marketed in Europe and Australia under the Ford brand, the eighth-generation Mercury Cougar was the first Mercury car since the 1991-1994 Mercury Capri sold without a direct Ford model equivalent in North America.

Initially outranking its predecessor in sales, the eighth-generation Cougar (marketed towards younger buyers, similar to the ZX2) struggled to compete for sales against sedans (the Mercury Sable and Grand Marquis) in the Mercury model line. While coupes had traditionally been offered in Lincoln-Mercury dealerships for several decades, the shift of the Cougar to the sports compact segment presented a challenge to sales personnel acquainted to marketing luxury-segment vehicles to new-car buyers along with attracting younger buyers into Mercury showrooms.

In 2002, Ford announced another restructuring of its model line, with 2002 marking the final year for the Cougar, Mercury Villager, Lincoln Continental, and Ford Escort. The Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique (Ford Mondeo MkII) ended production in 2000, with the Cougar outliving it by two model years. As part of the model line revision, the Ford Mondeo platform was no longer used in North America until its 2013 consolidation with the Ford Fusion; the Mercury Cougar was effectively left without a donor platform.

The last Mercury Cougar rolled off the assembly line on August 9, 2002; following the end of its production, the Mercury model line offered no cars with four-cylinder engines until the 2006 Mercury Milan.


The 1999 Cougar shared the Ford CDW27 world-car platform introduced by the Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique. The first front-wheel drive Cougar, it was designed with fully independent multilink suspension.

The 1999–2002 Cougars were available with two engine options, the 2.0-L Zetec 4-cylinder engine with 125 hp (93 kW; 127 PS), and the 2.5-L Duratec V6 with 170 hp (127 kW; 172 PS). 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 135 mph (217 km/h).[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 115 mph (185 km/h) 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.

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.


Mercury Cougar, side view

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.

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

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.

US production numbers[edit]

Calendar Year Units[19]
1999 88,288
2000 44,935
2001 25,044
2002 18,321

Ford Cougar (Europe)[edit]

European Ford Cougar

In 1998, Ford launched the Cougar at the 1998 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.[20] Without the Mercury brand in Europe, Ford marketed the Cougar as the Ford Cougar through Ford of Europe from 1999 to 2002. Replacing the Ford Probe in European markets, the Ford Cougar was manufactured in the United States. Slotted above the Ford Ka and Ford Puma (both based on the Ford Fiesta subcompact), the Cougar was marketed as a mid-sized coupe.

With the exception of Ford Blue Oval badging replacing Cougar emblems on the exterior and interior, Ford and Mercury versions are essentially identical. European Cougars also have clear marker light lenses (in place of amber) and amber rear turn signals. In the United States, the Ford Cougar was built in both left and right-hand drive, with the latter allowing for its sale in the UK (the Cougar was also sold by Ford of Australia).


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.[21]

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. ^
  4. ^ Severson, Aaron (March 18, 2013). "Hand-Me-Down Cat". Autoweek. 63 (6): 20–21. 
  5. ^ "Ford Motor Company - Featured Story - Fords Past, Present and Future Come to Carlisle". Archived from the original on 6 June 2007. Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  6. ^ "History of Ford Swing-Away, Tilt-Away, and Tilt Steering Wheels". Automotive Mileposts. Retrieved 13 March 2017. 
  7. ^ Guide to Muscle Cars Magazine, 6/87, p.79.
  8. ^ CCOA, "Cougar Club of America production statistics courtesy of Marti Auto Works". Archived from the original on 2008-10-11. Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  9. ^ Gunnell, John (2006). standard catalog of American Muscle Cars 1960–1972. Krause Publications. ISBN 0-89689-433-9. 
  10. ^ "Other Special Cougars". Cougar Club of America. 2000. Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  11. ^ "Cougar A Source Book, edited and annotated by Thomas E Bonsall, 1967 Thru 1976" page 118.
  12. ^ McLellan, Robert. "Auto Literature, Car Sales Brochures & Catalogs: McLellans Automotive". [permanent dead link]
  13. ^
  14. ^ John Gunnell, Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946–1975, Revised 4th Edition, page 546
  15. ^ a b Cougars for 1981 from Lincoln-Mercury, page 16, Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 19 March 2015
  16. ^ Dave Epperson, Popular Hot Rodding's All About 1981 Cars, page 49
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "99-02 Mercury Cougar production numbers". 2004-10-18. Retrieved 2011-09-04. 
  20. ^ "About the Ford Cougar". The Ford Cougar Owners Club. 
  21. ^ 1967 Trans-Am Scores at Retrieved on 5 September 2010

External links[edit]