From the beginning, Cougar offered unique styling, strong performance, an aggressive competition program, and perhaps what the model is best known for--upscale content. Each and every Cougar was equipped with a V-8 from the factory. We dig the concealed headlights and sequential taillights of the early cars, along with the XR-7 package that had everything from leather seats to full instrumentation. We completely understand the Cougar enthusiasts' commitment to their breed.
It's Also About Performance
Despite a serious luxury emphasis, Mercury certainly wasn't shy about promoting the Cougar as an all-conquering performer both on the street and on the track. Mercury hit the fledgling SCCA Trans-Am series hard in Cougar's first year of production, hiring successful NASCAR crew chief Bud Moore to run the show. High-profile drivers for the team included regulars Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, Peter Revson, Ed Leslie, and David Pearson. Extremely competitive from the start, the effort came oh-so-close with Cougar battling the Carroll Shelby-managed Mustang team through the final race in Kent, Washington. In the end, the Cougar team came in just two points shy of the manufacturer's championship, with Mustang scoring its second Trans-Am crown. A fierce rivalry between the two FordMotor Company teams apparently led top brass to wind down to one factory team in 1968, with Shelby getting the nod. While privateer Cougar Trans-Am cars were seen throughout the '68 season, the official effort was over after just one year.
Mercury's ponycar Cougar cut...
Mercury's ponycar Cougar cut its performance teeth in all kinds of racing venues to further promote the name.
What may well be Ford's best...
What may well be Ford's best all-around engine of the musclecar era is seen here in a loaded-up Cougar engine bay replete with Ram Air. The 428 Cobra Jet certainly wasn't the most exotic Dearborn offering of the day, but it worked minor miracles in a Ford ponycar due to it's torquey long stroke, well-matched hardware. The engine excelled in street applications and has long been a force in NHRA Stock and Super Stock classes.
With Trans-Am out of the picture, Moore packed up his Cougar contingent for 1968 and turned to the NASCAR Grand Touring division, also known as the Baby Grand series.
But you'd be mistaken if you thought Cougar performance was limited to various types of endurance racing. The Mercury Division had long been a major player on the drag racing scene, as well. Cougar-based Funny Cars were among the first of the breed, with drivers such as Fast Eddie Schartman and Dyno Don Nicholson running under 8-second e.t.'s with their injected and blown 427 SOHC Cammers.
From the beginning, the Cougar was offered with most of the best engines in the Ford arsenal. For 1967, we find the 271-horse 289 High Performance V-8 decidedly absent. Mercury opted on the side of a subtle, yet firm, application of torque in Ford's 390 High Performance.
Cougar was all about luxury,...
Cougar was all about luxury, with a huge twist of performance.
The Boss 302 engine was available...
The Boss 302 engine was available in the Cougar for 1969-1970, with increasing numbers of 428 Cobra Jet models and even the 429 Cobra Jet in 1971.
For 1971-1973, there were...
For 1971-1973, there were also a couple of powerful 351C engines, but these H.O. and CJ versions didn't hold a candle to the one 351 that made the biggest splash in the Mustang platform, yet never made it across party lines--the Boss 351. The solid-lifter '72 351C H.O. (a lower compression version of the Boss 351) never made it either.
In 1968, Mercury offered performance with a vengeance in more ways than one. The 390 High Performance GT engine remained, however, a pair of 400-plus-cube giant killers were where the real beef was. The new Cougar GTE was initially offered with a 390-horse 427. On April 1, 1968, the 428 Cobra Jet replaced the 427. The GTE was the only way to get a 427 in a Cougar. Yet, the Cobra Jet could be had with virtually any Cougar trim package.
Did you know?
Ford's bulletproof 9-inch rearend took up residence in every '69-'70 Cougar by virtue of a standard 351ci V-8. Both the overall width and spring-perch widths for the '69-'70 Cougar 9-inch is identical to the width of '67-'68 Cougars and Mustangs, meaning a perfect swap candidate.
When we say the Mercury team nailed Cougar down right from the beginning, we do mean the very beginning. You're looking at what owner Jim Pinkerton refers to as Cougar One, or serial number 7F91S500001. This first production cat sports the 390 GT 4V, styled steel wheels, and a dressed-to-impress red-on-red color combo.
- Available engines: 289-2V, 289-4V, 390-4V GT
- Production: 150,893
- Special appearance and/or performance packages: GT, XR-7, Dan Gurney Special
- Notables: XR-7 and Dan Gurney Special models make their debut mid-year. Team Cougar nearly wins the Trans-Am championship in their first and only season. Cougar was named Car of the Year by Motor Trend.