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1967-68
Mercury Cougar

The Other Mustang

In early November 1966, C Gayle Warnock was confident that the car he had worked hard to promote to the press for the previous six months would be a success. Understandably, he was a little apprehensive--the last introduction he had been involved with was the ill-fated Edsel in the fall of 1957.

When the Cougar was first revealed, many thought it would be a gussied up Ford Mustang wearing Mercury badges. While the two cars were related, the press corps soon found out that Cougar was really a vehicle unto itself, and a strong entry in the upscale end of the sport-compact market. As far as cosmetic appearances, virtually nothing interchanged between the two. But it was far more than just looks that separated the two.

Cougar was based on a 111" wheelbase and measured out at 190" in length. Up-front, the modern styling featured hide-away headlights concealed behind vacuum operated doors. The profile presented the classic long hood, short decklid theme.  Prominent sculpting of the sides came off well, and the distinctive taillights, with sequential turn signals, ran nearly the entire width of the car.

Inside, the Cougar was plush with smart appointments on the dash, seat upholstery and door panels. Extra sound absorbing insulation was installed which made for a more quiet, comfortable ride than its Ford cousin.

One of the few components shared with the Mustang were the drivetrains, at least those of V8 configuration.  For the 1967 model year, Cougar’s base price included the two-barrel, 200hp version of the small-block 289 cid V8.  No 6-cylinder version was offered.  Backing up the base engine was a 3-speed manual transmission, a 3-speed automatic, or a four-speed manual.  Those looking for a little more pep could opt for the A-code 225 hp four-barrel version of the 289 V8.

The Dan Gurney Special (XR7-G) is full of style.

          Cougar interiors were a cut above other pony cars.

Of course there was even more performance available with the S-code 390 cid/330 horse big-block V8, which was available only with the automatic transmission or four-speed manual. For those who knew the right strings to pull, there were a few (believed to be less that 25) Cougars equipped with the legendary R-code 427 V8, though this option is not officially listed, several examples do exist.   

 Offered in base form, the Cougar’s starting price was listed at $2,851, or about $300 over a Mustang similarly equipped.  Only one body style, a two-door coupe, was available.  A complete listing of options was available from an interior decor group, to vinyl roof, exterior trim, and several levels of wheels and wheel covers, as well as factory installed air conditioning.

For those looking for a little higher scale version of this new “cat”, there was the XR-7, which featured simulated wood-grain interior appointments, roof-mounted overhead control panel, and styled-steel Cougar wheels, all for around $230.

In its first season, Cougar was a sales success, with 123,672 base coupes, and 27,221 of the XR-7s produduced.  This is fairly remarkable considering that in 1967 there was some new and very strong competition in the sport-compact market from General Motors.  Mustang had to contend with the Camaro from Chevrolet, while Cougar took on the Firebird from Pontiac. Despite the latter’s lower prices, two body choices, a wider range of engines including an economical six, Cougar sales were a strong 82% above the Firebird!

For Cougar’s second model year only a few detail changes and updates were immediately visible. The front grill divided with a horizontal trim bar, and upgraded sequential taillights were incorporated.  Of course, the federally mandated addition of body-side marker lights in the front fenders and rear quarter panels were there, too.  Interiors were given a freshening and a restyled horizontal-bar steering wheel replaced the safety “flower-pot” center pad.

In base form, the Cougar was now powered by the enlarged 302 cid small-block V8, rated at 210 hp with the two-barrel intake.  (While not officially listed, a number of base 1968 Cougars have been found with the 200 hp, 289 cid V8s installed). Prices were increased to $2,933 in base form, with plenty of other amenities available at extra cost to take the average delivered price for the 1968 Cougar to the $3,400 range.  Other optional engines included a 230hp version of the 302 V8, plus two versions of the big-block 390 cid V8 in either two-barrel 280 hp form, or with four-barrels and 325 hp. For those looking for the ultimate horsepower in a small package, a 428 cid V8 was now available sporting a whopping, and probably underrated, 335 horses.

Returning as a popular option was the XR-7 package.  As in 1967, a few extras were included such as rocker-panel moldings, leather trimmed vinyl seats, a full gauge package including tachometer and the usual badges and ornamentation showing the world you spent a little more for your “Cat”.

go to Cougar, page 2

P. Skinner and the editors at Collector Car Market Review

Current Values:   Main Mercury Menu    Cougar page 2

 
 

 

Johns Classic Cougars

 

Jim Carlsons Auto Center