Mercury Cougar

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Mercury Cougar
Mercury Cougar Visby.jpg
1970 Mercury Cougar XR-7
ManufacturerMercury (Ford)
Model years
  • 1967–1997
  • 1999–2002
Body and chassis
LayoutFront-engine, rear-wheel drive (1967–1998)
Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive (1999–2002)

Mercury Cougar is a nameplate applied to a diverse series of automobiles sold by the Mercury division of Ford from 1967 to 1997 and from 1999 to 2002. While the nameplate is most commonly associated with two-door coupes, at various times during its production, the Cougar was also marketed as a convertible, four-door sedan, station wagon, and hatchback.

With 2,972,784 examples produced, the Cougar is the highest-selling vehicle ever produced by the Mercury brand; its 34-year production is second only to the Grand Marquis in the Mercury model line (produced for 36 years). During the 1970s and 1980s, the Cougar was closely tied to the marketing of the Mercury division; Mercury advertised its dealers as "The Sign of the Cat" with big cats atop Lincoln-Mercury dealer signs.[1] In line with the Cougar, several animal-related nameplates were adopted by the division, including the Bobcat, Lynx, and Sable.

During its production, the Cougar was assembled at the Dearborn Assembly Plant (part of the Ford River Rouge Complex) in Dearborn, Michigan from 1967 to 1973, San Jose Assembly (Milpitas, California) from 1968 into early 1969, Lorain Assembly (Lorain, Ohio) from 1974 to 1997, and at Flat Rock Assembly (Flat Rock, Michigan) from 1999 to 2002.


Mercury Cougar emblem (1970 Cougar Eliminator)

During much of its production, the Cougar followed tradition within the Mercury division, marketed as a Mercury counterpart of a Ford vehicle. The models were distinguished by an exterior ranging in degree from grilles and lighting components to nearly the entire exterior, the Cougar shared its platform with Ford vehicles throughout its production.

For its first two generations, the Cougar was derived from the Ford Mustang; initially developed as a pony car, it replaced the Cyclone muscle car in the Mercury model line.

For its third and fourth generations, the Cougar adopted the chassis of the Ford Torino intermediate. Initially, the counterpart of the Ford (Gran Torino) Elite, the fourth generation was split into two model lines, replacing the Montego as the Mercury intermediate (alongside the Ford LTD II), with the Cougar XR7 becoming the counterpart of the Ford Thunderbird.

For its fifth and sixth generations, the Cougar adopted the compact Fox platform. For the fifth generation, the Cougar was again two model lines, with the Cougar XR7 derived from the Thunderbird and the standard Cougar replacing the Monarch as the counterpart of the Ford Granada. The sixth-generation Cougar, derived from the Thunderbird, reverted to the two-door coupe body style.

For its seventh generation, the Cougar introduced the MN12 platform, developed for the Cougar, Thunderbird, and Lincoln Mark VIII. After 1997, the Cougar and Thunderbird were discontinued (the Mark VIII was discontinued after 1998).

For its eighth generation, the Cougar returned for 1999 as a sports compact hatchback. Sharing a chassis with the Ford Contour, the model line began development as a third-generation of the Ford Probe, shifting to Mercury as its development was nearing completion. Sold only under the Mercury brand, this generation is the only version of the Cougar with no direct Ford counterpart (though export examples were badged as Ford Cougars).


Starting life as a 1962 design proposal for the T-5 project (the Ford Mustang), Lincoln-Mercury sought to produce its own version of the vehicle. Following initial skepticism by Ford over both model lines, the Mercury version received approval in mid-1964, following the successful launch of the Mustang; the Cougar name was adopted from the winning design for the Ford Mustang.[2]

Intended for a market position between the Ford Mustang and the Ford Thunderbird, the Cougar was intended as a "plush" pony car. While offering more comfort and features than the Mustang, the model line was tuned for better road manners than the Thunderbird.[2]

First generation (1967–1970)[edit]

First generation
1967 Mercury Cougar (32925857252).jpg
1967 Mercury Cougar
Model years1967–1970
AssemblyDearborn, Michigan, United States
Edison, New Jersey, United States
Milpitas, California, United States
Body and chassis
Body style2-door hardtop
2-door convertible
LayoutFR layout
RelatedFord Mustang
Engine289 cu in (4.7 L) Windsor 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
390 cu in (6.4 L) FE V8
428 cu in (7.0 L) FE V8
427 cu in (7.0 L) FE V8
Transmission3-speed manual
4-speed manual
3-speed automatic
Wheelbase111 in (2819 mm)
Length1967: 190.3 in (4834 mm)[3]
1969: 193.8 in (4923 mm)
1970: 196.1 in (4941 mm)
Width1967: 71.2 in (1808 mm)
1969: 75.0 in (1905 mm)
1970: 74.2 in (1885 mm)
Height1967: 51.8 in (1316 mm)
1969: 51.9 in (1318 mm)
1970: 51.3 in (1303 mm)

The Mercury Cougar was introduced by the Lincoln-Mercury division of Ford on September 30, 1966.[2] Far exceeding initial sales projections, the Cougar accounted for nearly 40% of 1967 Lincoln-Mercury sales.[2] The Cougar received the 1967 Motor Trend Car of the Year award (the first Lincoln-Mercury vehicle to do so).[4]

The Lincoln-Mercury counterpart of the Ford Mustang, the Cougar was initially introduced as a two-door hardtop. The base price of a Cougar was $2,854 ($284 more than a Mustang hardtop); a fully-optioned XR-7 cost $4,500 (essentially matching the base price of a Thunderbird).[2]


Internally designated T-7, the first-generation Cougar shared its chassis with the 1967 revision of the Ford Mustang.[2][5] The Cougar has a longer wheelbase than the Mustang, extended 3 inches to 111 inches. Both vehicles derive their underpinnings from the rear-wheel drive Ford Falcon unibody compact chassis architecture.


At its launch, the first-generation Cougar shared its engine lineup with the Mustang, although offering V8 engines exclusively.[2][6] A 289 cu in (4.7 L) V8 was offered with either a two-barrel (200 hp) or a four-barrel carburetor (225 hp); a 390 cu in (6.4 L) "Marauder" V8 was offered as an option, producing 320 hp (GT).[7]

During 1968, the 289 was replaced temporarily substituted by the 302 cu in (4.9 L) V8 designed for the new federal emissions standards.[8] This engine produced 210 hp (2-bbl) and 230 hp (4-bbl); the former became standard on the XR-7.[8] At mid-year, a lower compression 289 was again available.[8] A two-barrel "Marauder 390P" was introduced for non-GT Cougars, producing 280 hp.[9] The newly introduced GT-E was introduced with a 427 cubic-inch V8, officially rated at 390 hp.[8][9] As a mid-year option, a 428 Cobra Jet Ram Air was introduced,[10] officially rated at 335 hp.

For the 1969 model revision, the engine line underwent further changes. The 289 was dropped entirely; a two-barrel 351 cubic-inch V8 became the standard engine for the Cougar, producing 250 hp (2-bbl) and 290 hp (4-bbl).[11] The 390 was offered solely as a 320 hp four-barrel. The 428 Cobra Jet was the largest Cougar engine, rated at 335 hp (with or without Ram Air).[11]

As a mid-year change, Mercury introduced the Boss 302 V8 to the Cougar (exclusive to the Eliminator). A four-barrel "street" version produced 290 hp, while a 2x4-barrel "racing" version was officially rated at the same 290 hp output.[11] On an official basis, the Cougar was never produced with the Boss 429 engine; two Cougars were produced as factory drag cars for "Fast Eddie" Schartman and "Dyno" Don Nicholson.

For 1970, the two-barrel 351 remained the base engine, with the four-barrel engine replaced by a 351 cubic-inch "Cleveland" V8, producing 300 hp. While unchanged in displacement, the new engine was an all-new design. The 390 was dropped, with the 428 Cobra Jet remaining alongside the Boss 302 as the high-performance engines.


1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT

Initially developed as a rebadged version of the Mustang, the 1967 Cougar received its own body design from the ground up, though the popular "long-hood, short-deck" proportions of the Mustang remained.[2] The model line was marketed as having "European" style and features.[12] The first Lincoln-Mercury vehicle with hidden headlamps, the front fascia was distinguished by a split "electric shaver" grille, featuring vertically slatted chrome trim. The rear fascia was styled similar, concealing dark-lens taillamps behind vertically-slatted trim; sequential turn signals were standard (adopting the mechanism from the Thunderbird).

The $185 upgrade to the XR-7 brought further European influence; in addition to a (simulated) wood-trim dashboard, full instrumentation (black-face gauges), toggle switches, and an overhead console; if so equipped, the automatic transmission was fitted with a T-handle console shifter.[2] The Cougar was offered with nearly every Mercury option with the sole exception of automatic climate control and power windows; a "Tilt-Away" steering wheel was offered, a power-operated steering column that swung up and out of the way when the driver's door was opened, the transmission in "park", and the ignition was off.[13]

For 1968, the Cougar saw revisions related to compliance with federal safety mandates, adding side marker lights and front outboard shoulder belts (sash belt, shoulder harness). In a first for Ford Motor Company, the 1968 Cougar offered an electrically-operated sunroof as a factory-installed option. While available on any Cougar, the sunroof was a rare option.


1969 Mercury Cougar (standard)
1970 Mercury Cougar

For the 1969 model year, the Cougar underwent a mid-cycle revision alongside its Mustang counterpart. The straight-lined body sides transitioned toward Coke bottle styling, distinguished by a sweeping body crease sloping down from the hood line to the rear wheels; while the roofline saw little change to its design, the vent windows were deleted.[14] The front fascia retained a full-width grille, with the "electric shaver" split grille replaced by a horizontally-slatted grille (with a matching centerpiece); concave taillamp lenses replaced the previous convex design. The hidden headlamps were retained; the mechanism shifted its power from a vacuum canister to vacuum provided by the engine (as a fail-safe, the neutral position of the headlamp doors was open).

A convertible body style was added to the model line, available for both standard and XR-7 trims; a power-operated top was standard.[15]

For 1970, the Cougar underwent an additional revision to the front fascia; the split "electric shaver" grille made its return, adopting a pronounced body-color center section. As part of the front fascia revision, the Cougar received a new front bumper and revised front fenders.

In contrast to the Eliminator, the Cougar received a special option package (styled by fashion designer Pauline Trigère), including a houndstooth-patterned vinyl roof and matching upholstery; the roof and upholstery were available together or separately. Further safety revisions included the addition of locking steering columns and high-backed bucket seats (replacing adjustable head restraints).


The first-generation Cougar was offered in two trims, an unnamed standard trim, and the Cougar XR-7, introduced in early 1967.[2]

Cougar GT (1967–1968)[edit]

1967 Mercury Cougar GT

Available for both the standard Cougar and Cougar XR-7, the GT option package was developed as a sportier version of the Cougar. Standardizing a 390 cubic-inch "Marauder GT" V8 (320 hp), the Cougar GT was fitted with upgraded suspension, larger brakes, wheels, and tires, and a low-restriction exhaust system.[16]

For 1968, the GT-E was introduced above the Cougar GT.[17] Offering a racing-derived 390 hp 427 V8 (paired solely with a 3-speed automatic[8]), the GT-E received its own badging, quad exhaust, and a redesigned grille; power front disc brakes were standard.[17][18] As a running change, the 427 engine was joined by a 428 Cobra Jet as an option, the latter was officially rated at 335 hp. A total of 394 GT-Es were manufactured; of which 357 were equipped with the 427 and 37 were built with the 428CJ.[19]

Cougar Eliminator (1969–1970)[edit]

1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator

Largely a counterpart of the Ford Mustang Mach 1, the Cougar Eliminator replaced the Cougar GT as the performance-trim Cougar. A $200 combination of two option packages,[11] the Eliminator received a performance-tuned suspension, upgraded wheels and tires, a front air dam, and a rear spoiler.[11] To distinguish the Eliminator from other Cougars, Mercury added blacked-out exterior trim, a Cougar rear badge (replacing the Mercury crest emblem), racing-style side mirrors, and model-specific body stripes.[20] Four exterior colors were available: white, bright blue metallic, competition orange, and bright yellow.[11]

Offered solely as a hardtop, the Eliminator was offered with all available Cougar engines, with the 351 Cleveland as the standard engine. As a running change during 1969, the Boss 302 engine (shared with the namesake Mustang) was added as an option; the engine was offered exclusively with the Eliminator.

Special editions[edit]

For 1967, to commemorate the success of the model line in competition, Mercury offered the Dan Gurney Special version of the XR-7 (technically, the XR-7S).[6] In addition to a signature decal, the option package included turbine-style wheel covers and an engine dress-up kit.[6] To signify his association with Lincoln-Mercury, the XR7-G (G=Gurney) was introduced as an option for 1968.[8] Largely a performance-oriented appearance package, the XR-7G included a hood scoop, fog lamps, hood pins, and tailpipes from the GT; the option package was offered with any Cougar engine.[8] Each XR-7G was built to order, with the total number produced unknown.[8]

A 1969-only package was the Cougar Sports Special that included unique pinstriping, "turbine" style wheel covers, and rocker panel moldings with simulated side scoops. The Sports Special could be combined with the "Decor" interior package and performance suspension, along with any available engine.


Model Year Units
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 years1971–1973
AssemblyDearborn, Michigan, United States
Body and chassis
Body style2-door hardtop
2-door convertible
LayoutFR layout
RelatedFord Mustang (1971–1973)
Engine351 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
Transmission3-speed manual
4-speed manual
3-speed automatic
Wheelbase112.1 in (2,847 mm)[21]
Length196.7 in (4,996 mm)[21]
199.5 in (5,067 mm) (1973)
Width75.8 in (1,925 mm)[21]
Height50.8 in (1,290 mm)[21]

For 1971, Lincoln-Mercury released the second-generation Mercury Cougar. Seeking more direct competition for the model line, the division largely benchmarked the Cougar against the numerous GM A-body coupes, placing the Cougar in competition with the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. While again sharing much of its bodyshell with the Ford Mustang, the Cougar began to transition away from its role as a "plush pony car", deriving aspects from both sports cars and luxury cars.[22]

Similar in size and performance, the Cougar overshadowed the Mercury Cyclone intermediate coupe, leading Mercury to phase out the latter model line during 1972. Slightly smaller than the 1964 Mustang, the imported Capri (not officially badged as a Mercury) began to succeed the Cougar within Lincoln-Mercury as a sporty car.

The second-generation Cougar is the final version derived from the Ford Mustang and the final version offered as a convertible. A light blue/white 1973 Cougar XR-7 convertible was the "last" convertible assembled by Ford Motor Company as American manufacturers ended assembly of convertibles during the 1970s in anticipation of increased rollover safety standards. From 1974 to 1997, the Cougar was marketed as either a "junior Ford Thunderbird" or a direct counterpart of it.


The second-generation Cougar used a revised version of the first-generation chassis, again shared with the Ford Mustang; the wheelbase was increased to 112.1 inches.[23] While substantially upgraded, the rear-wheel drive chassis underpinnings remained derived from the Ford Falcon unibody architecture. To better accommodate big-block engines (such as the Ford 429), the Mustang/Cougar chassis was widened 3 inches; the front track was widened from 58.1 to 61.5 inches (only an inch narrower than the Panther-chassis Grand Marquis[24]).[25]

The model line was fitted with front disc and rear drum brakes, with power-assisted brakes becoming standard in 1973. In another change, the 3-speed manual transmission was dropped, leaving all engines paired with a 3-speed automatic;[26] a 4-speed manual was a rarely-specified option.


1971 Cougar XR-7 (351 Ram Air)

The second-generation Cougar underwent a revision of the powertrain offerings. For 1971, a 240 hp 351 Cleveland two-barrel V8 was the standard engine with a 351C four-barrel V8 as an option.[23] The Boss 302 and Boss 429 were discontinued, with both Boss engines and the 428 Cobra Jet replaced by a 370 hp 429 Cobra Jet V8 (with or without Ram Air).[27]

For 1972, Ford adopted SAE net horsepower ratings, leading to a numerical decrease in advertised engine output. The 429 V8 was dropped, leaving the Cougar with three versions of the 351C V8.[28] A 166 hp two-barrel version was the standard engine, with a 246 hp four-barrel offered as an option. A Cobra Jet version of the 351 made its debut, producing 266 hp.[28] For 1973, the four-barrel version of the 351 was dropped, leaving the two-barrel 351C (retuned to 168 hp) and the 264 hp 351CJ V8.[28]

Body design[edit]

1973 Cougar XR-7 hardtop roofline, showing "flying buttresses"

The second-generation Cougar carried over both the hardtop and convertible body styles from its predecessor. Sharing its roofline with the Mustang hardtop, the Cougar received large "flying buttress" C-pillars, extending into the rear fenders. To distinguish the model line from the Mustang, the Cougar adopted multiple design elements from larger Mercury vehicles. In place of a split grille, the front fascia was styled with a prominent center section (in line with the Mercury Cyclone and Ford Thunderbird) including a waterfall-style grille. In a break from the previous generation, hidden headlamps were abandoned (replaced by four exposed headlamps). The taillights adapted simpler trim, set horizontally within the bumper (in line with full-size Mercury vehicles).

For 1972, the Cougar underwent few substantial changes to the interior or exterior. For 1973, the front fascia underwent an update; to include a 5-mph bumper (required for 1973), the front bumper was reshaped and enlarged, requiring a redesign of the grille. To improve the crashworthiness, the design added three inches to the overall length. As it was the final year for the generation, the rear bumper was largely unchanged, receiving only minor revisions to the taillamp lenses.


1972 Cougar convertible
1973 Cougar convertible

For 1971, the Cougar was offered in standard and XR-7 trim. As its Boss Mustang counterpart was dropped, Mercury discontinued the racing-oriented Cougar Eliminator. While de-emphasized as the model line shifted away from high performance, the GT option package remained an option, including upgraded suspension, tires, and engine cooling components.[29] For 1973, the GT option was discontinued.

While both trims shared the same powertrain offerings, the XR-7 received its own exterior and interior design, distinguished by a vinyl top (on hardtops); along with standardizing many options, the XR-7 received its own door panels and dashboard.[22]

For 1973, Lincoln-Mercury marketed a "Bronze Age" special edition promotion of the Cougar (alongside the Monterey, Montego MX, and Comet).[30][31][32] A standard Cougar equipped with the Decor Group,[30] the "Bronze Age" Cougar was distinguished by its copper metallic (officially, saddle bronze[30]) appearance and a color-coordinated vinyl roof.[30] Alongside its namesake color, the trim package was also offered in six other colors: ivy glamour metallic, green metallic, medium brown metallic, saddle bronze, medium yellow gold, and white.[30]


Model Year Units
1971 62,864
1972 53,702
1973 60,628

Third generation (1974–1976)[edit]

Third generation
Mercury Cougar XR-7 2-Door Hardtop.jpg
1974–1976 Mercury Cougar XR-7 2-Door Hardtop
Model years1974–1976
AssemblyAtlanta, Georgia, United States
Body and chassis
Body style2-door hardtop
LayoutFR layout
RelatedFord Torino
Ford Elite
Mercury Montego
Engine351 cu in (5.8 L) 351M V8
400 cu in (6.6 L) V8
460 cu in (7.5 L) 385/Lima V8
Wheelbase114.0 in (2,896 mm)
Length215.5 in (5,474 mm)[33]
Width78.5 in (1,994 mm)

For 1974, the Cougar was shifted from its Mustang pony car 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 in February 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 Continental Mark IV, the most notable featuring Farrah Fawcett in a 1975 TV ad.

The Cougar was marketed as an intermediate-sized personal-luxury car to compete against GM's Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and Buick Regal, in addition to the 1975 Chrysler Cordoba, while its corporate twin the Elite with its Thunderbird-like styling competed against the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 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 that 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.

Engine offerings for 1974 included a standard 351 V8 Cleveland 2V, optional but seldom ordered Q-code 351 "Cobra Jet" V8, 400 2V, and 460 4V; in 1975 the Cleveland 2V was replaced by the 351M. The automatic transmission became standard for all Cougars.

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. Although the car still lacked a fixed "B" pillar, the rear windows no longer rolled down, making the car more like a coupe than a true hardtop.

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.[34]

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 sheet metal 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.


Model Year Units
1974 91,670
1975 62,987
1976 83,765

Fourth generation (1977–1979)[edit]

Fourth generation
Mercury Cougar (Les chauds vendredis '10).jpg
1977–1979 Mercury Cougar
Model years1977–1979
AssemblyLorain, Ohio, United States
Pico Rivera, California, United States
Body and chassis
Body styleFour-door sedan
Four-door station wagon
Two-door coupe
LayoutFR layout
RelatedFord LTD II
Ford Thunderbird
Engine302 cu in (4.9 L) V8
351 cu in (5.8 L) V8
400 cu in (6.6 L) V8
TransmissionC4 automatic
FMX automatic
C6 automatic
Coupe: 114.0 in (2,896 mm)
Sedan and Wagon: 118 in (3,000 mm)
Coupe: 215.5 in (5,473.7 mm)[35]
Sedan: 219.5 in (5,580 mm)
Wagon: 233.1 in (5,920 mm)
Width75.2 in (1,910.1 mm)
Height52.6 in (1,336.0 mm)
PredecessorMercury Montego (non XR-7 Cougar)

For the 1977 model year, the fourth-generation Cougar was part of a revision of the Ford intermediate model line. The Cougar XR-7 underwent a redesign with the standard Cougar returning (for the first time since 1973) in place of the Montego. For the first time, the Cougar XR-7 was the Mercury counterpart of the Ford Thunderbird (a pairing that lasted through 1997) with Ford marketing the standard Cougar as the Ford LTD II.

The fourth generation is the best-selling version of the Cougar; with 1978 as the top-selling year for the entire model line. For 1980, Ford ended the production of Torino-based vehicles, downsizing the Cougar XR-7 to a long-wheelbase version of the Fox platform.


As with its predecessor, the fourth-generation Cougar was based on the Ford Torino "split-wheelbase" chassis. Cougar coupes and Cougar XR-7s had a 114-inch wheelbase while Cougar four-doors and station wagons had a 118-inch wheelbase.

In the redesign, the powertrain offerings were revised. In the interest of fuel economy, the 460 V8 was withdrawn from intermediates, with the 173 hp 400 V8 as the highest-displacement engine. The base V8 in coupes and sedans was a 134 hp 302 Windsor V8, with a 149 hp 351 Windsor as the standard engine in station wagons; a 161 hp 351M V8 was optional in coupes and sedans. A 3-speed automatic transmission was paired to each V8 engine.

For 1978, the Cougar offered the same engines from 1977; for 1979, the 400 was discontinued.

Body design[edit]

In its replacement of the Montego, for 1977, the Cougar model line was expanded from one body style to four. Along with the previous Cougar XR-7 luxury coupe, Mercury introduced a Cougar two-door coupe, a four-door sedan, and a five-door station wagon.

A central part of the 1977 redesign of the Ford intermediate range was a transition from "fuselage styling" to sharper-edged lines. As funds were concentrated on the development of future models, a complete exterior redesign was precluded. On coupes, sedans, and XR-7s, all sheet metal above the bumpers was revised. As a revision of the station wagon rear bodywork was too extensive, the Cougar/LTD II wagons adopted the redesigned 1977 front fascia on the bodywork of the previous Montego station wagon. Following the 1977 model year, the Cougar wagon was withdrawn in favor of the new Mercury Zephyr wagon.

To bring the exterior closer in line with the larger Marquis, the Cougar adopted a nearly square radiator-style grille; in place of hidden headlamps, the Cougar adopted four square headlamps.

For 1979, though in its last year, the Cougar adopted a few body revisions, with revised taillamps and body-color grille inserts, along with an electronic voltage regulator and a plastic battery tray.


For 1977, the Cougar was introduced in three trim levels: a base trim level and Brougham trim (for wagons, a Villager trim was offered). For 1978, the Cougar became a single trim level, with the Brougham returning as an option package.

Cougar XR-7[edit]

As with the previous generation, the Cougar personal luxury coupe continued as the Cougar XR-7. No longer a "junior Thunderbird", the XR-7 was the direct Mercury counterpart of the Thunderbird (a commonality remaining for the next 20 years). To differentiate the model from its Ford counterpart (and from standard Cougars), the XR-7 was given its own rear fascia. Evoking the flagship Continental Mark V, the rear fascia was given a (vestigial) continental tire trunk lid (with angular lines) and taillights similar to the Continental Mark IV. The XR-7 roofline was distinguished from standard Cougar coupes by narrower hardtop windows and the use of louvers on the forward section of the opera windows.

The XR-7 included power disc brakes and steering, 15-inch wheels, rear stabilizer bar, walnut wood-tone instrument panel, Flight Bench seat, "XR-7" trunk key-hole door, "COUGAR" decklid script, large hood ornament (with cat emblem), and sport-styled roofline with back-half vinyl and rear opera side windows and louvers. Some XR-7s had the Rally Sport Tachometer and Gauge package (only 25% of all Cougars came with this option).

For 1978, two new decor packages became available, the XR-7 Decor Option and the Midnight/Chamois Decor Option. In line with the Designer Series from the Mark V, the latter option offered a color-coordinated exterior and interior, with a half-vinyl roof, padded "Continental" type rear deck, and Midnight Blue and Chamois interior with Tiffany carpeting.


Model Year Units
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
Also calledFord Cougar (Venezuela, sedans)
Model years1980–1982
AssemblyLorain, Ohio, United States
Body and chassis
Body styleTwo-door coupe
Two-door sedan
Four-door sedan
Four-door station wagon
LayoutFR layout
PlatformFord Fox platform
Engine255 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
200 cu in (3.3 L) Thriftpower Six I6
Transmission5-speed Tremec T-5 manual
3-speed C5 automatic
4-speed AOD automatic
Wheelbase105.5 in[36]
108.4 in[36]
PredecessorMercury Monarch (non-XR7 two-door, four-door)
Mercury Zephyr (station wagon)
SuccessorMercury Marquis (non XR7)
Mercury Cougar (sixth generation) (for XR7)

For the 1980 model year, Mercury downsized the Cougar XR-7. Alongside its Thunderbird counterpart, the XR-7 entered the mid-size segment for the first time, shedding 15 inches in length, 4 inches of width, and approximately 900 pounds of curb weight (depending on powertrain). In a strategy similar to 1977, the standard Cougar returned for 1981 in place of the Monarch in the Mercury product line (sharing its body with the redesigned Ford Granada).

The first Cougar not to offer a V8 as standard equipment, the standard Cougar was produced as a two-door and four-door sedan, adopting the five-door station wagon from the Zephyr from 1982; the model line was repackaged as the Marquis for 1983 as Ford revised its full-size and mid-size product branding.


Both the Cougar XR-7 and mid-size Cougar were produced using the Ford Fox platform.[37] The Cougar XR-7 was produced upon an extended-wheelbase Fox chassis (to 108.5 inches), shared with the 1980–1982 Ford Thunderbird, 1982–1987 Lincoln Continental, 1984–1985 Continental Mark VII and 1986–1992 Lincoln Mark VII. The mid-size Cougar shared its 105.5-inch wheelbase with the Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr, the launch vehicles of the Fox platform.


The Cougar XR7 was offered with two V8 engines. Shared with the Mercury Marquis/Colony Park, a 4.2 L V8 was standard, with a 4.9 L V8 offered as an option; both engines were paired with a 4-speed Ford AOD overdrive automatic.

The mid-size Cougar was offered with its own powertrain lineup. Shared with the Fairmont/Zephyr and Mustang/Capri, a 2.3 L inline-4 was the standard engine, with a 3.3 L inline-6 and a 4.2 L V8 offered as options; the four and six-cylinder engines were paired with a 3-speed automatic transmission.

For 1982, an all-new 3.8 L V6 replaced the inline-6; in various forms, the engine would be used by the Cougar and Thunderbird through their 1997 discontinuation. The 4.9 L V8 option was withdrawn from the Fox platform, leaving the 4.2 L engine as the sole V8 offering for both the Cougar and Cougar XR-7.


In its development, many design elements of the 1977–1979 Cougar XR-7 were carried forward in the fifth-generation redesign, including its Continental-style trunk lid, louvered opera windows, and sharp-edged fender lines. While the fourth-generation Cougar XR-7 had proven successful in the marketplace, the design elements fell out of proportion on a radically smaller car, leading to highly negative reception. In what would prove disastrous, the Cougar saw little to no differentiation from its Ford Thunderbird and Ford Granada counterparts, with the XR-7 externally distinguished only by its grille, exposed headlamps, taillamps, and trunk lid.

During the production of the fifth-generation Cougar, the Cougar XR-7 was produced solely as a two-door coupe, with the mid-size Cougar produced as a two-door notchback coupe and four-door sedan. For 1982 only, the mid-size Cougar was offered as a station wagon replacing the Zephyr station wagon. For the first time, Cougar's two-door models featured a fixed "B" pillar and a fixed steel frame around front door windows, as in the sedan.

In what would become a long-running tradition for the Mercury brand, 1981 marked the debut of GS and LS trim lines for both the mid-size and XR-7 Cougars.[38] Both trim packages were largely similar, though 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.[39] The Cougar station wagon was offered in either GS trim or wood-grained Villager trim (the Mercury equivalent of a Ford Squire station wagon).

Ford of Venezuela marketed the Fox-platform Cougar from 1983 to 1986 as the Ford Cougar Brougham four-door sedan.[40] Derived from the fifth-generation Cougar sedan, the Ford-badged Cougar Brougham was produced with the front and rear fascias of the 1983–1986 Mercury Marquis.


Model Year Units
1980 58,028
1981 90,928
1982 73,817

Sixth generation (1983–1988)[edit]

Sixth generation
87-88 Mercury Cougar.jpg
1987–1988 Cougar LS
Also calledFord Cougar (Mexico)
Model years1983–1988
AssemblyLorain, Ohio, United States
Body and chassis
Body style2-door coupe
LayoutFR layout
PlatformFord Fox platform
RelatedMercury Marquis
Ford Thunderbird
Ford LTD
Lincoln Continental Mark VII
Lincoln Continental
Engine2.3 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
TransmissionFive-speed Tremec T-5 manual
Three-speed C5 automatic
Four-speed AOD automatic
Wheelbase104 in (2,642 mm) (1980–86)
104.2 in (2,647 mm) (1987–88)
Length197.6 in (5,019 mm) (1983–86)
200.8 in (5,100 mm) (1987–88)
Width71.1 in (1,806 mm) (1983–86)
70.1 in (1,781 mm) (1987–88)
Height53.4 in (1,356 mm) (1983–86)
53.8 in (1,367 mm) (1987–88)
Curb weight3,050–3,500 lb (1,383–1,588 kg)

For the 1983 model year, Mercury introduced the sixth generation of the Cougar. As part of an extensive revision of the Ford and Mercury model ranges, the mid-size Mercury model range shifted from the Cougar to the Marquis (split from the full-size Grand Marquis). Reverting to its traditional role of a two-door coupe (for the first time since 1976), the Cougar remained a counterpart of the Ford Thunderbird with the two vehicles repackaged as "luxury sport coupes".[41] Within Mercury, the Cougar was slotted above the Capri and below the two-door Grand Marquis (both would be discontinued during its production).

Along with marking the first major use of aerodynamic-intensive design in an American automobile, the Cougar and Thunderbird were also the first Ford vehicles developed using computer-aided design (CAD).[41] While given a less aerodynamic roofline than the Thunderbird, the 1983 Cougar was far sleeker than the 1982 Cougar XR7, reducing its coefficient of drag from 0.50 to 0.40[42][41] In 1987, the sixth-generation Cougar underwent a mid-cycle revision with aerodynamic improvements, reducing its drag coefficient to 0.36.[43]


The sixth-generation Cougar retained the rear-wheel drive Ford Fox platform from the fifth generation. In a departure from its predecessor, a shorter 104-inch wheelbase was used (4 inches shorter than the previous XR7).[41] As before, traditional Fox-platform underpinnings were retained, including a MacPherson strut/A-arm front suspension with a four-link coil-sprung solid rear axle with front and rear anti-roll bars.[41]

As with the previous generation, 14-inch wheels and tires were standard, with Michelin TRX tires and metric-size wheels as an option (shared with the Thunderbird and Capri/Mustang).[41] For 1985, 15-inch wheels became an option for the XR7.[44]


For its 1983 launch, the sixth-generation Cougar offered a 120 hp 3.8 L V6 from its predecessor as a standard engine; a 130 hp 4.9 L V8 made its return as an optional engine.[41] For 1986, the V8 was changed to sequential fuel injection, increasing output to 150 hp.[45] For 1988, the 3.8 L V6 was given multiport fuel injection, increasing output to 140 hp; the 4.9 L V8 was retuned to 155 hp.[46]

From 1984 to 1986, the XR7 was equipped with a 2.3 L turbocharged inline-4; shared with the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, the engine produced 145 hp with an automatic transmission (155 hp with a manual transmission).[44] For 1987, the XR7 dropped the turbocharged engine (and 5-speed manual transmission) in favor of the 4.9 L V8.[43]

The 2.3L inline-four was paired with a 5-speed manual transmission; a 3-speed automatic transmission was optional. The 3.8 L V6 was paired with a 3-speed automatic; a 4-speed overdrive automatic was optional (the only transmission with the 4.9 L V8).[47] For 1987 and 1988, the 4-speed AOD transmission was fitted to both the 3.8 L and 4.9 L engines.[48]



The exterior design of the sixth-generation Cougar was designed largely in response to the negative market response to the introduction of the fifth-generation Cougar. While retaining a common chassis, a primary objective for designers was to maximize the visual differentiation between the Thunderbird and Cougar.[41] To reduce production costs, the two model lines shared exterior body parts, including front and rear bumpers, both doors, the windshield, the hood, and front fenders.[41] While the Thunderbird adopted a fastback roofline, the Cougar adopted a notchback roofline with a near-vertical backlight, distinguished by upswept rear side windows.[41]

During its production, the sixth-generation Cougar underwent several exterior revisions. For 1984, the hood ornament was replaced by a flat hood emblem.[49] For 1985, the waterfall-style grille was replaced with an egg-crate design (similar to Mercedes-Benz); the red taillamp lenses were replaced by a dark gray design.[44] 1986 saw few changes, highlighted by the addition of a government-mandated center rear brake light (CHMSL) and a power-operated moonroof;[45] for the last time, the Cougar was available with vent windows.

To mark its 20th year of production, the Cougar underwent an extensive mid-cycle revision for 1987.[43] Originally slated for the 1986 model year,[44] nearly every exterior panel was changed. To visually stretch the roofline, a compound-curved rear window replaced the nearly flat rear glass and the rear quarter windows were redesigned (with a curve inversely matching the windshield angle).[43] To further distinguish the model line from the Thunderbird, the 1987 Cougar received its own grille (with a large "cat" emblem), front bumper cover and aerodynamic composite headlamps.[50] Shared with the Mustang GT, the Cougar received new 15-inch wheels, becoming the standard alloy wheel design for 1988.[43][46] For 1988, the exterior of the Cougar underwent no changes, introducing several monochromatic paint options.[46]


For its 1983 launch, to lower production costs, the sixth-generation Cougar was required to carry over interior parts from the 1980–1982 Cougar XR7, including a modified dashboard; an analog instrument panel was standard, with a digital instrument panel offered as an option.[41] For 1984, the steering column was redesigned, returning horn control to the steering wheel.[49] As part of the introduction of the XR7, the model introduced an instrument panel including a tachometer and turbocharger boost gauge.[49] For 1985, the interior underwent a complete redesign, with new door panels and dashboard; a redesigned rear seat expanded seating capacity to five passengers (four passengers with full-length console).[44] The standard instrument panel was a digital speedometer with analog secondary gauges; a fully digital instrument panel was optional (the XR7 was given a fully analog instrument panel).[44]

For the 1987 model year, the Cougar saw few changes to its interior, with the XR7 adopting a fully digital dashboard as standard equipment.[43] For 1988, the analog XR7 dashboard made its return; along with the deletion of the boost gauge, the tachometer was revised for a lower-revving V8 engine.[46]


The sixth-generation Cougar continued the trim nomenclature of its predecessor in modified form, with the Cougar GS serving as the base trim, the Cougar LS as the luxury trim, and the Cougar XR7 as the high-performance version. The GS trim was largely used for internal purposes, with advertising dropping the designation entirely.[41] For 1987, to move the Cougar upmarket, the Cougar LS became the standard trim level, with both V6 and V8 engines available.

For 1984, the XR7 made its return after a year-long hiatus. Serving as the counterpart of the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, the XR7 was fitted with a performance-oriented suspension, a turbocharged 2.3 L engine (shared with the Turbo Coupe and Mustang SVO), blacked-out window trim, and full analog instrumentation. In 1987, to better distinguish the Cougar XR7 from the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, the turbocharged inline-4 was replaced the 4.9 L (302 cu in) "Windsor 5.0" V8, along with a standard 4-speed automatic.

20th Anniversary[edit]

For the 1987 model year, Mercury produced the Mercury 20th Anniversary Cougar as a commemorative edition.[51] Derived from the Cougar LS, the 20th Anniversary Cougar was produced in a near-monochromatic exterior (Cabernet Red with Midnight Smoke moldings); the wheels, all badging, and regular chrome trim were finished in 24 karat gold, with a gold-trimmed C-pillar emblem.[51] The trunk was fitted with a (non-functional) luggage rack.[51]

The 20th Anniversary Cougar included the 4.9 L (302 cu in) V8, sport-handling suspension with quad rear shocks (derived from the XR7), and 15-inch alloy wheels (from the Mustang GT, painted gold).[51] Along with a limited-slip rear axle, the only options offered were a power moonroof, power antenna, illuminated entry, keyless entry, automatic climate control, and an engine block heater.

In total, Mercury produced 5,002 20th Anniversary Cougars; 800 were reserved for Canada.[51]


Model Year Units
1983 75,743
1984 131,190
1985 117,274
1986 135,904
1987 105,847
1988 113,801

Seventh generation (1989–1997)[edit]

Seventh generation
94-97 Mercury Cougar.jpg
1997 Mercury Cougar XR7 Sport
Also calledFord Cougar (Mexico)
Model years1989–1997
AssemblyLorain, Ohio, United States
Body and chassis
Body style2-door coupe
LayoutFR layout
PlatformFord MN12 platform
RelatedFord Thunderbird
Lincoln Mark VIII
Engine3.8 L Essex V6 (1989–1997)
4.9 L (302 cu in) Windsor 5.0 V8 (1991–93)
4.6 L Modular V8 (1994–97)
TransmissionFour-speed AOD (1989–1993) or 4R70W automatic
Five-speed manual M5R2(1989–90)
Wheelbase113.0 in (2,870 mm)
Length1989–1991: 198.7 in (5,047 mm)
1992–94: 199.9 in (5,077 mm)
1995–97: 200.3 in (5,088 mm)
Width1989–1994: 72.7 in (1,847 mm)
1995–97: 73.1 in (1,857 mm)
Height1989–1991: 52.7 in (1,339 mm)
1992–97: 52.5 in (1,334 mm)
Curb weight3528 lb (1600 kg) with V6
3666 lb (1663 kg) with V8

On 26 December 1988, the seventh-generation Mercury Cougar was introduced for the 1989 model year.[52] Developed from the second quarter of 1984, as a counterpart of the tenth-generation Ford Thunderbird, the $2 billion redesign of the two vehicles was intended to create handling benchmarked against far more expensive coupes (BMW 6-Series, Mercedes-Benz 560SEC, Jaguar XJS) while remaining in the same price segment.[52][53] During the development of the 1989 Cougar, the form factor of coupes shifted significantly, as the quartet of GM G-body coupes were replaced by front-wheel drive vehicles; the introduction of the Acura Legend by Honda marked the introduction of Japanese-produced luxury vehicles.

At its 1989 debut, the Cougar was marketed largely as the flagship coupe of the Mercury division. As Mercury revised its model line during the 1990s, the Cougar became the sole two-door model offered by the division. As market demand shifted away from large two-door coupes, the Mercury Cougar and Ford Thunderbird were discontinued after the 1997 model year, with the final example produced on 4 September 1997.


The seventh-generation Mercury Cougar is built upon the Ford MN12 platform.[52] Designed specifically for the Mercury Cougar and Ford Thunderbird, the MN12 chassis retained the use of rear-wheel drive. While its exterior footprint changed negligibly, in a major change, the wheelbase was expanded nine inches to 113 inches (longer than a Mercedes-Benz 560SEC).

Centered around the design of the MN12 chassis was its use of four-wheel independent suspension in place of a live rear axle.[52] With the exception of the Chevrolet Corvette, the Ford MN12 chassis marked its first use in a mass-produced front-engine rear-drive American automobile. In front, the Mercury Cougar was configured with a short/long-arm wishbone suspension.[52] As an option, the Cougar was available with 4-wheel antilock disc brakes (standard on the Cougar XR7).[52]

As part of the 1989 redesign, the MN12 chassis was powered solely by a 3.8 L V6, as the lowered hoodline of the MN12 was too low to fit the 4.9 L (302 cu in) V8, making it the first time a V8 was not available in the Cougar or Thunderbird.[52] LS-trim Cougars were offered with a naturally aspirated 140 hp version of the V6, while the XR7 was powered by a 210 hp supercharged version (serving as the replacement for the turbocharged 2.3 L inline-4). The naturally aspirated V6 was paired with a 4-speed automatic transmission, while the supercharged V6 was offered with a 5-speed manual (with the automatic as an option).

For 1991, a 200 hp (149 kW) version of the 4.9 L (302 cu in) Windsor 5.0 was introduced featuring a redesigned intake manifold to allow sufficient underhood clearance.[54] Offered as an option on the Cougar LS, the V8 replaced the supercharged V6 in the XR7 (which also marked the end of the 5-speed manual in the MN12 Cougar). Originally slated for 1993, the 1994 Cougar shifted from the overhead-valve 302 cu in (4.9 L) V8 to a 205 hp 4.6 L SOHC V8 (shared with the Mercury Grand Marquis).[55] In another 1994 change, the 4R70W electronically controlled version of the AOD 4-speed automatic was introduced for both the V6 and V8 engines.


As the sixth-generation Mercury Cougar had proved successful in the marketplace, the 1989 redesign of the Cougar was largely an evolution of the previous generation, with updates of many previous design elements. The upright notchback roofline underwent a major revision, with the controversial upswept quarter windows of the previous generation abandoned.[52] While proportioned differently, wraparound headlamps and taillamps were modeled similar to the Mercury Sable. As a result of the longer wheelbase, the rear overhang was shortened. During the development of MN12, Ford designers sought to develop increased differentiation between the Cougar and Thunderbird. While fenders and doors are common between the two vehicles, in comparison to the 1983–1987 generation, fewer visible parts are shared.[52]

As part of the shift to the wider MN12 chassis, the Cougar again became a 5-passenger vehicle (for the first time since 1982). As a result of the wider interior, all Cougars were fitted with a center console with a floor-mounted shifter.[52] In following with the previous generation, LS-trim Cougars were fitted with digital instrumentation; the Cougar XR7 was fitted with an analog instrument panel.[52] Originally slated to be launched with dual airbags, cost overruns and market demand necessitated the use of automatic seatbelts to meet passive-restraint requirements.[52] For 1994, the interior underwent a complete redesign (similar to the Lincoln Mark VIII), with dual airbags replacing the automatic seatbelts.[55] For 1997, the Cougar received a new instrument panel (similar to the Taurus/Sable), with cupholders added to the center console;[56] several items were removed as part of de-contenting, including the courtesy lamps, underhood light and glove box light.

During its production, the seventh-generation Mercury Cougar underwent several revisions. For 1991, the Cougar underwent a slight facelift, with new headlamps, taillamps, and front bumper; the facelift is distinguished by a smaller grille (1989–1990 versions extend above the headlamps).[54] For 1994, a second facelift saw a revision of the grille, taillamps, and a simplification of the side molding. The interior was also revised at this time and now included dual airbags with a wraparound style interior.[55] For 1996, the Cougar received a major restyling sharing its entire front fascia with the Ford Thunderbird except for the front bumper cover and grille. The bodysides received wide body-colored cladding.[57]


At its launch, the seventh-generation Mercury Cougar retained the same model trims as before, with the LS geared towards luxury and convenience features and the XR7 geared towards performance and handling. Externally, the LS was given chrome window trim while the XR7 was nearly monochromatic with black window trim.[52] To optimize its handling capabilities, the XR7 was fitted with many model-specific features. In addition to the 210 hp supercharged V6 (replaced by a 5.0L V8 in 1991), the XR7 featured four-wheel antilock disc brakes, electronically adjustable handling suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a 5-speed manual transmission.[52][58][59] To differentiate the XR7 from the LS, the model was fitted with sport seats, two-spoke sport steering wheel, and full analog instrumentation.[58][59]

For 1993, Mercury revised the Cougar model line, with the XR7 becoming the sole trim level, dropping the LS and the monochromatic sport-oriented XR7 (eliminating some overlap with the Ford Thunderbird). Adapting much of the equipment of the previous LS, the 1993 XR7 adapted chrome exterior trim and a standard digital instrument cluster, with four-wheel disc brakes becoming an option.[60] In contrast to the previous LS, the 1993 XR7 offered both V6 and V8 engines.[60]

Alongside the LS and both versions of the XR7, several limited editions of the Cougar were produced. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Mercury Cougar, in 1992, the 25th Anniversary Mercury Cougar was an option package (nearly exclusively on XR7 models).[61] Equipped with 15" BBS alloy wheels, all examples were painted green with a tan interior (with green carpet). Other features included model-specific trunk lid and C-pillar badging and an imitation trunk lid luggage rack.[61] To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Mercury Cougar, for 1997, Mercury produced a 30th Anniversary Mercury Cougar XR7 as an option package.[62] Distinguished by its use of Lincoln Mark VIII wheels, the 30th Anniversary Cougar featured model-specific C-pillar emblems, embroidered seat and floormat emblems; the option also included commemorative items shipped to the owner.[62] Approximately 5,000 25th anniversary and 5,000 30th anniversary Cougars were produced.[61][62]


Model Year Units
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 calledFord Cougar (Export)
Production1998 – 9 August 2002
Model years1999–2002
AssemblyFlat Rock, Michigan, United States
Body and chassis
ClassSport compact
Body style3-door liftback coupe
LayoutTransverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
PlatformFord CDW27 platform
Wheelbase106.4 in (2,700 mm)
Length185.0 in (4,700 mm)
Width69.6 in (1,770 mm)
Height52.2 in (1,330 mm)
Curb weight2,892 lb (1,312 kg)
1999 – 2000 Mercury Cougar photographed in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canda.
1999–2000 Mercury Cougar

By the mid-1990s, Ford engineers had completed 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 sport hatchback coupe 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 with 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 consolidation with the 2013 Ford Fusion; the Mercury Cougar was effectively left without a donor platform.

The last Mercury Cougar rolled off the assembly line on 9 August 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 straight-4 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 bodywork, 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

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.

There were 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 years) Available mostly in white and silver color choices, this car was built under the Roush name with bodywork to the front bumper, back, side skirts, and more. A total of 112 were made during its two-year production.

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

US production numbers[edit]

Model Year Units[63]
1999 88,288
2000 44,935
2001 25,044
2002 18,321

Ford Cougar (Export)[edit]

Export Ford Cougar

In 1998, Ford launched the Cougar at the 1998 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.[64] Without the Mercury brand in Europe and Australia, Ford marketed the Cougar as the Ford Cougar through Ford of Europe and Ford of Australia 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, both Ford and Mercury versions are essentially identical. Export 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 and Australia.


In 1967, NASCAR race car builder, Bud Moore, campaigned Mercury Cougars in the Trans-Am Series with Ford Motor Company factory support. The team featured drivers, such as Captain Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, Peter Revson, David Pearson, and Ed Leslie. Factory support ended towards the end of the season and the Cougars began to show their wear. Ultimately, Mercury lost the championship to Ford by two points.[65]

In 1968, Bud Moore took his Cougars NASCAR racing in the newly formed Grand American series. Driver Tiny Lund dominated the series and took the championship. After the Cougar changed to the Thunderbird platform in 1974, the body style was raced in NASCAR. The Wood Brothers Racing team with David Pearson and later Neil Bonnett was successful with the car and scored a number of victories until the body style 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 wheelbases extended 6 inches because the actual wheelbase of production cars was 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.


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