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While luxury was the basis for the Cougar, performance was certainly there for the taking.  Those seeking performance might have selected the new Cougar GT package which included beefed up suspension with heavy duty springs and a thicker stabilizer bar, the 390 cid, 325hp V8 with lower restriction exhaust, and a power-booster fan.  As an added bonus, there was the GT-E package, which came standard with the 428 cid V8, functional twin hood scoops, quad-trumpet exhaust, and styled steel wheels. 

During the 1967 and 1968 Trans-Am racing seasons, Dan Gurney, one of America's most famous drivers and a long-time fan of Mercury-based cars in competition, campaigned a Cougar and posted impressive results.  In fact, none other than Parnelli Jones was Gurney’s teammate and the pair finished 1-2 at several events.  To commemorate these accomplishments, a special XR-7G edition was created that included all the features of the base XR-7, special badges, hood pins and scoop, plus an Oxford vinyl top with sunroof.

For 1968, Cougar posted 113,726 sales, which was to be expected after the first year’s excitement.  It should be pointed out that its strongest competition, Pontiac’s Firebird, saw a marked increase in sales numbers for 1968, but it was still a few thousand units behind the Cougar.

Cougar garnered Motor Trend's coveted "Car of the Year" award over some tough competition. Cougar was mysteriously marketed as a "Man's Car".  Somewhat humorous today given the current connotation for cougar.

Identification

Most important when looking at these cars is the original data plate with the VIN and other important information. By searching the Internet, you can find a couple of services that might help you with deciphering the information on this plate and better translating exactly what you are looking at.  Be sure the VIN, or ID number on the data plate matches the official VIN.  On 1967 models it's stamped on the top of the right fender apron within a cut-out of the fender, while the 1968 editions have a stamped metal tag visible through the windshield that is riveted to the right side of the dashboard.

On each Cougar, affixed to the rear face of the driver’s door is the car’s data or build plate.  It contains the car’s VIN, which also contains codes that determine if the car is the base model (with bench or bucket front seats) or the XR-7, as well as the original engine installed when the car was new.  This plate can also reveal where the car was made. All 1967 production was at the Dearborn plant in Michigan, and to find out where the car was originally sold, the DSO or District Sales Office code can be read, which helps in discovering the car’s heritage. For 1968, to help ease the production burden of Dearborn, as well as assist in deliveries on the west coast, the San Jose plant also started to produce Cougars.  Both of these plants were active in  Ford’s pony car production, but the third Mustang plant in Metuchen, New Jersey, has no recorded Cougar builds.

The Market

By the late 1970s, early Mustangs were taking off in collector circles with the best ones snapped up and many predicting these cars made by the millions would soon be in the same price territory as the two-passenger Thunderbirds from 1955 to 1957. Specialty shops and reproduction parts were made available for Mustang like no other Ford product since the Model A.   For Cougar fans however, they could only hope to search and scratch for that rare unique piece of NOS trim, or make do by adapting a Mustang or other Mercury part for their needs.  But savvy collectors spotted the right cars to buy: XR-7's with big blocks, GT and GT-E’s, and of course, the Dan Gurney edition.

As time moved on, the growing demand for Cougar parts caught the attention of a number of Mustang suppliers, and eventually exclusive items were being produced. This not only helped those owning original low production models produce prize winning restorations, it also meant that some “replicas” of these models could be produced.  However, Cougar collectors, as well as many other Ford products, have an edge over some other “replica” rarities that often flood the market.

Today, the market for Cougar is strong, but still lags a bit behind the Mustang. Typical in car collecting, the car that was bit more expensive and luxurious when new often doesn’t do as well in the market as the lower priced, often much more common model.  In base form compared to an equally equipped Mustang, the Cougar fetches about 85-90% of the Ford branded pony car.

For 1967, the XR-7 option is a good 30-40% increase over the base model, even more if the big-block 390 is under the hood, and this would be about the most desirable model one could want for that year, unless of course you find one of the legendary R-code 427's.  For 1968, the ultimate car depends on what you are looking for.  If it's pure power, the GT-E is the car of choice, set-up for street performance and housing the might of the 428 as standard.  Fewer than 300 of these cars were produced, and they are expensive today.  If it was just plain rare or luxurious you were looking for, the XR-7G, Dan Gurney edition is an attractive option.  While it was created to celebrate a racing legend, it was also created to be sold to buyers wanting some flash.

Cougar continued on for many years with Mercury, at one time defining the direction of styling for the entire marque.  Even in this strong collector car market, we feel it is still undervalued.  The educated Cougar buyer can find a lot of bang for their buck in the first generation Cougar.

  P. Skinner and the editors at Collector Car Market Review

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This profile first appeared in the May 2005 issue of Collector Car & Truck Market Guide.  (c) Copyright 2005 VMR International, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

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