Eric English
November 10, 2005
Photos By: Jim Smart

Did you know?
Boss 302 Eliminators were never offered with Ram Air, despite carrying the same hoodscoop used on Ram Air Cobra Jet Cougars. Despite a look all its own, Cougar closely mirrored Mustang offerings when it came to powertrains, yet there were notable exceptions.

  • Ford's 302 debuted in 1968 in Mustang form, and came only in a 230hp, J-code, four-barrel guise. Cougar had the J-code, as well, but was also available with a 210hp, F-code, two-barrel 302 that wasn't offered in the Mustang.
  • The Cougar GTE was 1968's top cat, where early production included the 390hp, W-code, 427 FE, an engine unavailable as a factory Mustang option.
  • Just as in 1969, '70 428 Cobra Jet Mustangs were identified as either R-codes (Ram Air), or Q-codes (non-Ram Air). Cougars followed this same pattern in 1969. But in 1970, all 428 Cobra Jet Cougars were Q-codes, even when equipped with Ram Air.

1968

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Where the GTE was offered only with big-inch muscle, the Dan Gurney-inspired XR-7G could be equipped with mild to wild. Ed Hill's gorgeous "G" sports a 230-horse 302-4V, power sunroof, and striking Madras Blue/Parchment color combo. XR-7Gs were often equipped with the 390-4V GT engine, with some 14 units fitted with the 428 Cobra Jet after April 1, 1968.

  • Available engines: 289-2V, 302-2V, 302-4V, 390-2V, 390-4V GT, 427-4V, 428 Cobra Jet
  • Production: 113,741
  • Special appearance and/or performance packages: GT, GTE, XR-7, XR-7G, Dan Gurney Special
  • Notables: XR-7G and GTE models appear for 1968 only. Power sunroof option was offered, many of which were installed in XR-7Gs. Most visible change for 1968 was the federally mandated side-marker lights/reflectors.

1969

Boss Mustang stylist Larry Shinoda worked his magic on the '69 Cougar and came up with the Eliminator--more or less {{{Mercury}}}'s response to the Mustang Mach 1 and Boss. GTE and XR-7G models were dropped. The good news was the availability of the Boss 302 and 428 Cobra Jet engines in the Eliminator.

  • Available engines: Boss 302, 351W-2V, 351W-4V, 390-4V GT, 428 Cobra Jet
  • Production: 100,085
  • Special appearance and/or performance packages: XR-7, Eliminator
  • Notables: Just like Mustang, Cougar styling is all new, and marginally larger than it's predecessor. The Eliminator model debuts, styled by Larry Shinoda. It was the first year for a Cougar convertible, but the power sunroof availability continued. It was the last year for the 390-4V GT engine.

Did you know?
Genuine vintage musclecars have been on quite a run of late, with the annual Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction in January fetching some of the most outrageous prices of all. Just as we are going to press, a sweet '68 Cougar crossed the block at the 2005 B-J for a cool $31,500. However, this was not a muscle Cougar, but rather a 210hp, F-code, 302-4V Cougar that was much more typical of the classic ponycar than something with a big-inch mill. That's not to take anything away from this immaculate cat that featured a factory sunroof, gorgeous red paint, and several incorrect add-ons, such as a GTE hoodscoop and high-back buckets. It was a stunner, but we'd be surprised if this wasn't a record price for a small-block Cougar hardtop.

1970

For 1970, it would be hard to imagine two more different, yet desirable, examples of the Cougar performance breed: the rev-happy, overtly styled Boss 302 Eliminator and the elegant drop-top 428 Cobra Jet XR-7. The Boss 302 delivered both handling and crisp performance. The CJ was for hard acceleration onto the freeway, good for cruising. Whatever your choice, it was bound to get attention because Mercury didn't build many of these performance Cougars.

  • Available engines: Boss 302, 351W, 351C-2V, 351C-4V, 428 Cobra Jet
  • Production: 72,365
  • Special appearance and/or performance packages: XR-7, Eliminator
  • Notables: The divided "pucker mouth" grille markedly distinguishes the '70 from the '69. the 351 Cleveland engine debuts. Eliminator continues in similar volume as 1969 (approximately 2,200 units).

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1971-1973

Like the Mustang, increasing weight and falling compression ratios conspired to kill hard-core performance in '71-'73 Cougars. For 1971, there were two powerful V-8 engines available: the 351C-4V and the extra-large 429 Cobra Jet. After 1971, the 351C-4V engine was the most powerful you could order.

  • Available engines: 351C-2V, 351C-4V, 429 Cobra Jet (1971 only)
  • Production: 62,864 (1971), 53,702 (1972), 60,629 (1973)
  • Special appearance and/or performance packages: XR-7, GT (1971-72)
  • Notables: Cougar parallels Mustang again with a bodystyle change that would last for three years. Fuel price and availability, insurance rates, and safety issues surrounding high-performance cars hurt sales. There was a big drop in compression ratios for 1972, along with a change to SAE net horsepower ratings. the last year for a Cougar convertible was 1973.

A Club For Cougar Enthusiasts
Cougar Club of America
Membership Services
Beverly Pike
Dept. MF
18428 Siskiyou Rd.
Apple Valley, CA 92307-1415
www.cougarclub.org