The Mercury Cougar was an automobile sold under the Mercury brand of the Ford Motor Company's Lincoln-Mercury Division. The name was first used in 1967 and was carried by a diverse series of cars over the next three decades. As is common with Mercury vehicles, the Cougar shared basic platforms with Ford models. Originally this was the Mustang, but later versions of the Cougar were based on the Thunderbird, and the last was a version of the Contour/Mondeo. The Cougar was important to Mercury's image for many years, and advertising often identified its dealers as being "at the sign of the cat. Models holding big cats on leashes were used on Cougar ads in the early 1970s.
The Cougar continued to be a Mustang twin for seven years, and could be optioned as a genuine muscle car. Nevertheless, it gradually tended to shift away from performance and toward luxury, evolving into something new in the market—a plush pony car. The signs were becoming clear as early as 1970, when a special edition styled by fashion designer Pauline Trigere appeared, complete with a hound's-tooth pattern vinyl roof. A reskinning in 1971 saw the hidden headlights vanish for good, although hidden wipers were adopted. Between 1969 and 1973, Cougar convertibles were offered.
The introduction of the Cougar finally gave Mercury its own pony car. Slotted between the Ford Mustang and the Ford Thunderbird, the Cougar would be the performance icon and eventually the icon for the Mercury name for several decades. The Cougar was available in two models (base and XR-7) and only came in one body style (a two door hardtop). Engine choices ranged from the 200 hp (168 kW) 289 in³ 2-barrel V8 to the 335 hp (250 kW) 390 in³ 4-barrel V8. A notable performance package called the GT was available on both the base and XR-7 Cougars. This included the 390 in³ V8 as well as a performance handling package and other performance goodies.
Not much changed for the Cougar in its second year. The addition of federally mandated side marker lights was the major change. But the biggest changes were under the hood and performance-wise for the XR-7 model. Three new engines were added to the option list this year—the 230 hp (172 kW) 302 in³, 4-barrel V8; the 335 hp (250 kW) 428 in³, 4-barrel V8; and the 390 hp (291 kW) 427 in³, 4-barrel V8. Mercury was serious about the Cougar being the performance icon for the company. The XR-7G, named for Mercury road racer Dan Gurney, came with all sorts of performance add-ons, including a hood scoop, Lucas fog lamps and hood pins. Engine selection was limited only to the 302, 390 and the 428 V8, a grand total of 619 XR-7G's were produced, and only 14 G's were produced with the 428 CJ. The mid-year 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 towards the end of the model year. Conservatively rated at 335 hp (250 kW), the 428 Cobra Jet could produce much more (306 kW) from the factory.
The third year of production, 1969, brought several new additions to the Cougar lineup. A convertible model was now available in both standard and XR-7 trim. These highly anticipated soft tops proved quite popular and today are considered, by many, among the most desirable of the '67-'70 production run. Exterior-wise, the grille switched from vertical bars to horizontal bars, and a spoiler and a Ram Air induction hood scoop were added as options. A new performance package appeared and several disappeared. The XR-7G and the 7.0 L GT-E disappeared, but the 390 and 428 V8s remained. The 290 hp (216 kW) 351 Windsor V8 was added to the engine lineup. The Eliminator performance package appeared for the first time. A standard 351 in 4-barrel V8 under the hood, with the 390 4-barrel V8, the 428CJ and the Boss 302 available as an option. The Eliminator was the new top of the line performance model of the Cougar lineup. It also featured a blacked-out grille, special side stripes, front and rear spoilers, optional Ram Air induction system, and a more performance tuned suspension and handling package. It also came in a variety of vibrant colors like White, Bright Blue Metallic, Competition Orange, and Bright Yellow. Only 2 Cougars came with the Boss 429 V8, making them the rarest Cougars ever built.
The 1970 Cougar appearance wise was similar to the 1969 model, however there were numerous changes inside and out. It now sported a new front end which featured a pronounced center hood extension and electric shaver grille similar to the 1967 and 1968 Cougars. Federally mandated locking steering columns took place on the inside, and the aforementioned new nose and taillight bezels updated the look on the outside. The 351 "Cleveland" V8 was now available for the first time though both the Cleveland and Windsor engines were available if you took the base model 2-barrel motor. The 390 Ford FE engine was now dropped from the lineup, and the Boss 302 and 428CJ engines soldiered along.
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. They were now the standard 351 Cleveland 2-barrel V8, 351 Cleveland 4-barrel V8, 351 4-barrel Cobra Jet V8. Other than that, the Cougar remained a carryover from 1971. Only minor trim details were changed in 1972. The big blocks were gone for 1972 and 1973. The days of the performance oriented muscle car 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. In 1974, everything would change. 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 351 Cleveland 2-barrel V8. Optional was the 351 Cobra Jet V8. The following years changed to the Thunderbird/Torino chassis.
The Cougar was being marketed as an intermediate-sized personal-luxury car to compete against GM's Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix. Every GM division had an entry in this market by '74 and the market was too large to ignore. The new Cougar paid homage to its smaller predecessor with a three-piece grille up front, topped by a new hood ornament which featured a side profile of a cougar's head. This was a touch which would last until 1983. The car's Montego heritage was fairly evident from the back, however. In between, it had acquired the sine qua non of the personal luxury car in the 1970s: opera windows. This body ran unchanged for three years, and during this period all Cougars were XR-7s.
The Cougar was also restyled inside due to the switch to the larger intermediate body but maintained the front fascia look from 1973 with a new styling feature including a rectangular opera window in the rear c-pillars. The Cougar also began to share the look of the Thunderbird and Continental Mark IV as the years progressed. The base model and convertible were dropped this year, but the XR-7 moniker soldiered on as the only model in the Cougar lineup.
Engine offerings from 1974 to 1976 included a standard 351 in³ V8 and optional power plants included the very rare Q-code 351 Cobra Jet V8(1974), plus 400 and 460 in³ V8s. The manual transmission was dropped in favor of the automatic.
Interior offerings during these three years included a standard bench seat with cloth or vinyl upholstery, an optional Twin-Comfort Lounge 60/40 bench seat with center armrest and cloth, vinyl or optional leather trim; or all-vinyl bucket seats with center console.
In 1975 the Cougar XR-7 continued to add more luxury features as it moved upscale. 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. However for the performance fans, a high-performance rear axle and Traction-Lok differential continued to be on the option sheet. The standard engine continued to be the 351 Windsor 2-barrel V8 with the 400 2-barrel V8 and 460 4-barrel V8 optional.
This Cougar entered its last year largely unchanged from 1975. There was a new body for the Cougar in 1977, so nothing else major was done to the Cougar this year. Only some minor trim pieces served to differentiate this year from last. Engines continued unchanged as well. The high performance axle and Traction-Lok differential were dropped this year. Twin Comfort Lounge reclining seats, with or without velour cloth trim, were the only major change for the interior, but it also showed how much the performance aspect of the Cougar had disappeared.
Customers to Lincoln-Mercury showrooms were surprised by the all-new Cougar this year. New sharper and straighter styling that mimicked the Ford Thunderbird and Lincoln Continental Mark V replaced the "fuselage look" of earlier Cougars. The Cougar now shared its body with the Thunderbird, which was downsized to the intermediate bodyshell this year from that of the Continental Mark IV and shared the Cougar's wheelbase, putting the T-Bird squarely in the intermediate personal-luxury car market as opposed to its previous higher-priced segment of that market shared with the Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado. This move would join the Thunderbird and Cougar together and would last until their demise in 1997. The lineup was also expanded to include a sedan and station wagon. This was because the Mercury Montego had been discontinued and its models were absorbed into the Cougar lineup as a result while Ford Division renamed the Torino as LTD II. The base Cougar returned as well for all three models. But the XR-7 came only as a coupe. The Cougar Brougham was available as a coupe or sedan, and the Cougar Villager was available as a station wagon only. The engine lineup changed for this year as well. The base engine was the 302 2-barrel V8 on all coupes and sedans. The station wagons had the 351 2-barrel V8 standard. The 351 2-barrel V8 and 400 2-barrel V8 were optional on all models.
But the station wagon would prove to be a one year wonder, and was dropped for 1978. The Brougham was discontinued as a model and became an option package on the base model, but the sedan would carry on. Since the Cougar XR-7 sales continued to skyrocket, Mercury didn't change much this year. Two new decor packages became available this year- XR-7 Decour Option and Midnight/Chamois Decour Option. This latter package came with a half-vinyl roof, padded "Continental" type rear deck, and Midnight Blue ad Chamois interior with Tiffany carpeting. This was Mercury's take on the special designer decour options used in the Lincoln Continental Mark VI. Engines continued unchanged as well. The Cougar XR-7 would set an all time sales record this year.
1979 would be the last year of the big Cougars. Detroit's downsizing would now affect Mercury's biggest seller. But for this year, nothing major happened. A new electronic voltage regulator, and 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.
The Cougar, and indeed the whole Mercury mid-size line found itself restyled for 1977. The new skin was just that though, and the old Montego/Torino chassis design (which dated back to 1972) continued under the new body. These cars were basically identical to the '77-'79 Ford LTD II, so see that entry for comments. The XR-7 specialty coupe, hier to the previous Cougar's legacy of add-ons, was based on the Ford Thunderbird, itself an outgrowth of the LTD II. These are great looking cars, and tend to be more reliable and less rusty than the previous version. See the LTD II and '77-'79 Thunderbird for a full evaluation.
1983 brought substantial change. Lower-line intermediate Mercury models were now under the downsized Mercury Marquis badge, leaving the Cougar once again as a coupe only. This was in contrast to General Motors, whose personal-luxury coupes (Cutlass, Regal, and Monte Carlo) were on the same chassis and had the same design as the mid-size sedans and wagons. The XR-7 badge went away for this year (temporarily). The car was completely rebodied, along with the Thunderbird, with the two becoming the first examples of the new flowing "aero-look" design, which would eventually spread throughout the Ford line and influence the entire industry. Wipers were hidden again, and the Cougar differed from the Thunderbird mainly in having a very sharply-raked, almost vertical rear window similar to that on GM coupes such as the Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Some critics considered that this, along with its AMC Gremlin-style rear quarter window, went oddly with the smooth organic curves of the rest of the car, but buyers nonetheless responded positively and this Cougar was a success.
Power options were very diverse in this generation, ranging from a turbocharged 2.3 L I4 to a 3.8 L V6 and the perennial 302 in³ (5.0 L) V8. Oddly, the revived XR-7 was now only available with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine and was trimmed more to suggest performance than its traditional luxury image. In 1984, the new Lincoln Mark VII adopted this body shell and for the first time, became a cousin of the Cougar. For 1987, a partial reskinning of the Cougar occurred, bringing flush headlamps and better aerodynamics. The turbocharged motor disappeared, and two models were sold, the LS with V6 or a V8, and the XR-7 with a standard V8 and luxury amenities as of old.
An all-new Cougar greeted car buyers in 1980 as the Cougar moved to the smaller 108 inch wheelbase Fox platform. The car was now even more similar to its Ford Thunderbird relative. The sedan and base Cougar were dropped this year. The XR-7 was once again the only Cougar model. Many Cougar fans refer to the 1980 to 1982 models as the "lost years," as sales declined substantially. Engines were reduced to just two and for the first time, a six-cylinder engine was available. The standard engine was now a 255 in³ V8 and the 302 V8 was optional. A new four-speed automatic overdrive transmission became standard to replace the old SelectShift three-speed automatic.
In 1981 the return of the base Cougar along with a sedan greeted Cougar buyers; the sedan replaced the Mercury Monarch. The engine lineup grew as a 200 in³ I6 became the standard engine in the XR-7 and an 140 in³ I4 became the standard engine on the base Cougar. This marked the first time that a four-cylinder engine was available on the Cougar as well as a V8 no longer standard on the XR-7. These changes would foreshadow the changes made to the Cougar in the future. Appearance carried over as well, but two new trim lines were added to the Cougars—GS and LS. Both packages were similar in both models, but the base Cougar's LS package only came on the sedan. The GS package focused on appearance, while the LS package offered luxury touches such as power windows and other luxury trim touches.
The Cougar lineup continued to expand in 1982 as the station wagon returned for another appearance in the Cougar lineup. It was only available in GS or Villager trim lines. The Villager trim added the fake rosewood bodyside panels. Another engine was added, the all-new 232 in³ V6, but the stalwart engine of the Cougar XR-7 line, the 302 V8, was dropped. The GS and LS trim lines continued to be optional on both Cougar models.
An all-new Cougar greeted buyers in 1983; gone were the sedan and station wagon models. The Cougar sported a completely new aerodynamic body, but retained the same chassis. This restyle was shared with its sister car, the Thunderbird. The only major difference was the side window treatments; the Cougar used a more formal notchback along with upswept quarter windows. This made the Cougar look more aerodynamic as well as more exciting when compared to previous Cougars. The new look was such a hit that it outsold the Thunderbird for 1983. But due to the amount of money spent in restyling both models, the interiors were left unchanged from 1982. Also, the XR-7 model was dropped. The GS and LS models carried over from the previous year. Interestingly, no 1983 to 1986 Cougar wore any GS badging, but the Cougar LS did. 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.
After its redesign in 1983, the Cougar remained mostly unchanged for 1984. The XR-7 returned and for the first time, its standard engine wasn't a V8 or V6, but a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Similar to the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, the XR-7 came only with the 140 in³ turbocharged I4. The XR-7 also featured blacked-out window trim, wide body side mouldings and charcoal grey lower half with tri-band striping to separate it from the base Cougars. A performance suspension was also standard as well. A three-speed automatic or a five speed manual were offered on the XR-7.
Subtle exterior changes such as a new Mercedes-Benz-esque grille and new taillights were just a few of the many changes as a whole new interior greeted buyers for 1985. This new interior featured a digital instrument cluster which lent a futuristic touch to the Cougar; but it was only available on base Cougars.
1986 was the carryover year for the Cougar. The Cougar 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 this year were under the hood as the 302 V8 received new sequential electronic fuel injection (SEFI) which boosted power to ; a improvement versus the previous year. However, the Cougar didn't receive the High Output option from the Mustang which boosted hp to . The Cougar XR-7 continued to offer only the turbocharged I4, but it got a power increase to .
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 unchanged for the most part. The GS was dropped, leaving the LS and XR-7 models. The XR-7 changed by dropping the turbocharged I4, which Mercury felt was not keeping with the Cougar's heritage. Instead, the 302 V8 became the standard engine. The manual transmission was also dropped this year. The digital instrument cluster, previously optional on the GS/LS models, became standard on the XR-7 as well. The special lower tri-stripes and blacked out window trim continued to set apart the XR-7 from the LS. Mercury also took note of the Cougar's 20th anniversary by creating a limited edition Cougar to celebrate.
The only options available were power moonroof, power antenna, illuminated entry, keyless entry, automatic climate control, engine block heater and the Traction-Lok axle with 3.08 gear ratio.
With the new MN-12 chassis and new body style coming up in 1989, the 1988 Cougar barely changed from the previous year. Outside, the biggest change was that the XR-7 now came in a new monochromatic color scheme. Only available in three colors (black, red, and white) with body colored or optional argent color wheels set this Cougar apart from its brethren. The base 232 in³ (3.8 L) V6 had multi-port fuel injection and an internal balance shaft that increased power to . The 302 V8 received a dual exhaust option which added . 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.
The supercharged engine did not find favor with buyers, and the 200 hp (149 kW) 5.0 L V8 came back to replace it in 1991. A special edition was built in 1992 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Cougar. In 1993, the LS disappeared and the XR-7 nomenclature was changed to XR7 and became the only model available.
For 1994, the Cougar received an all new interior, updated tail lights, grille, body side molding, and the AOD transmission was replaced by the 4R70W in both the V6 and V8 versions of the car. Ford's new OHC 205 hp (153 kW) 4.6L V8 replaced the old OHV 302 as the optional engine.
For the 1996 model year the exterior was given a significant facelift. The front and rear bumper covers, headlights, grille, and moulding were updated giving the car a more modern look. The 4.6L engine received an updated intake manifold giving the car 15ft·lb of additional torque over the 1995 model, and the transmission was revised for increased reliability. In 1997 Ford began cutting corners in convenience items like the removal of the light under the hood and in the glove box. The interior was updated including a revised instrument cluster, much like that of the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable, a console with cupholders was included for the first time. The ashtray, and cigarette lighter, were relocated to the space previously occupied by the information center, below the HVAC controls. Another anniversary edition car was built to celebrate 30 years. Unfortunately this was the last year for the MN12 Cougar as Ford ended its trio of personal luxury cars: the Mark VIII, the Cougar, and the Thunderbird due to the growing popularity (and profitability) of SUVs in the American market. Some consider these to be the last true American muscle cars.
This generation of Cougar had a far more contemporary package, with modern DOHC 24-valve 6 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. The body design used a philosophy Ford dubbed "New Edge" design: a combination of organic upper body lines with sharp, concave creases in the lower areas. The Cougar's body, and the New Edge idea in general, was introduced as a concept called the Mercury MC2 in 1997, and was considered a bigger version of the European Ford Puma.
The 1999–2002 Cougars were available with two engine options, the 2.0 L Zetec 4-cylinder engine with 130 horsepower, and the 2.5 L Duratec V6 with . Also, two transaxle options were available: the manual Ford MTX-75 transmission or the automatic Ford CD4E transmission (available in the U.S. with either engine, although the I4/Automatic combo was extremely rare; supposedly only 500 Cougars were built with the I4/Auto combination)
"Sport Package" models with the V6 featured 4-wheel vented disc brakes (from the Contour SVT), 16" 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 150 mph. While this was considered attainable given enough road, the automatic transmission version could not reach this speed without significant engine modification. Without the sport package, the speed governor was set at due to the H-rated tires the car came equipped with.
Ford also prepared two high performance concept-only versions dubbed the "Eliminator", which was a supercharged version built with aftermarket available parts, and the "Cougar S", which featured new body work, all-wheel drive and a 3.0 L Duratec engine.
This generation never sold well. Admittedly, demand for all coupes continued to dwindle, but the sedan versions also languished in North America, suggesting that the Mondeo/Contour platform was simply not well suited there—though there is a theory that Ford did not market the Contour and its Mercury Mystique twin properly while the market for the similarly sized BMW 3 Series grew. 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 however that many of its parts are still available to order from the dealership. It is listed in many parts catalogs and insurance databases. It was also to be sold in Europe as the Ford Cougar ST200.
In order to help create excitement for the Cougar, Mercury created several paint and trim packages called:
Special Edition (2000 model year) available in Zinc Yellow, leather interior with yellow stitiching 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" silver wheels with black accents on the inner spokes.
35th Anniversary (2002 model year) Available in Laser Red, Satin Silver, and Black. Most came with leather interiors with silver center sections on the seats. They also came with 17" machined wheels, the same as the XRs without the black paint on the center spokes
Roush Edition (1999-2000 model year) Available mostely 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. Considered the rarest of all cougars since only 112 were ever made during its 2 year production.
For the 2001 model year, the Cougar was "updated" as the Cougar2 with new headlights, front and rear facsias, and updated interior trim.
The Ford Cougar is a mid-sized coupé sold in the European market between 1999 and 2002. The car was named after a famous American muscle car from the Ford stable, the Mercury Cougar. It was originally intended to be the third generation Probe, but after a rationalisation of the three coupés available in the USA the Probe name was dropped in favour of the Cougar.
The Cougar was Ford's second attempt to reintroduce a sports coupé in Europe, in the same vein as the successful but long-absent Capri – the first attempt having been the Mazda MX-6-based Probe. Just as the Capri had been based on the Cortina, the Cougar was based on the large family car available at the time, the Mondeo. It premiered in December 1998 to mixed reviews, partly due to the then-new and controversial New Edge styling – a crisp style which was subsequently applied to most of the Ford range. Unlike its famous forebear the Capri, Cougar sales were never brisk, despite good reports of the model as a "driver's car".
When the Mk. 1 Mondeo was replaced with a new Mondeo, the Cougar was dropped in Europe. The car's cost and lack of a prestigious badge were amongst the problems; the success of the BMW 3-Series coupe proved there was a market for this kind of car.
Like its (indirect) predecessor, the Ford Probe, the 1999 Cougar was sold and built in the United States in addition to Europe, but in the US it had different branding; in this case being branded as the Mercury Cougar. This car was sold in France as the Ford Cougar. Although Ford stopped selling the Cougar in 2002 due to refocussing on the family market.