Monthly Archives: January 2008

1974 Cougar

1974–1976

For 1974, the Cougar was shifted from its Mustang, ponycar origins onto a new platform and into a new market as a personal luxury car. It now shared a chassis with the larger Mercury Montego/Ford Torino intermediates and was twinned up with the new Ford Elite. The wheelbase grew to 114 inches (2,896 mm) and became practically the only car to be upsized during the downsizing decade of the 1970s. These years marked the end of the “luxurious Mustang”, and the beginning of the Cougar’s move towards becoming a “junior Thunderbird” and eventually a sibling of the Thunderbird. TV commercials compared the Cougar to the Lincoln Continental Mark IV, the most notable featuring Farrah Fawcett in a 1975 TV ad.

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 148 hp (110 kW) 351 Windsor 2-barrel V8 with the 158 hp (118 kW) 400 2-barrel V8 and 216 hp (161 kW) 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.

Total Production:

  • 1974 – 91,670
  • 1975 – 62,987
  • 1976 – 83,765

Wikipedia’s Mercury Cougar Wiki

1973 Cougar

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 168 hp (125 kW) 351 Cleveland 2-barrel V8. Optional was the 264 hp (197 kW) 351 Cobra Jet V8. The following years changed to the Thunderbird/Torino chassis.

Total Production:

  • 1971 – 62,864
  • 1972 – 53,702
  • 1973 – 60,628

Wikipedia’s Mercury Cougar Wiki

1972 Cougar

1972 Mercury Cougar ConvertibleAccording to “Cougar by the numbers” (Book produced by Kevin Marti of Marti Autoworks) there were 69 Standard Q-code convertibles and 368 XR-7 Q-code convertibles built in the ’72 model year.

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 163 hp (122 kW) 351 Cleveland 2-barrel V8, 262 hp (195 kW) 351 Cleveland 4-barrel, 266 hp (198 kW) 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.

Wikipedia’s Mercury Cougar Wiki

1971 Cougar

For 1971, the Cougar was completely restyled. Starting to move upmarket as a near-personal luxury car, the Cougar looked bigger, but actually weighed less and had only a one-inch-longer wheelbase than its predecessors (112 vs. 111 ).

The front end now featured four exposed headlights; the disappearing headlights were gone for good. The center grille piece, or cat’s nose, was now larger and more noticeable than ever.

The rear featured a semi-fastback with a “flying buttress” sail-panel.

However, the convertible returned as did the XR-7 as well as the GT package. The Eliminator package was gone forever, but the Ram Air option remained.

The engine lineup was shuffled slightly for 1971 as well. Now only three engines were offered—the standard 240 hp (179 kW) 351 Windsor 2-barrel V8, the 285 hp (213 kW) 351 Cleveland 4-barrel V8 and the 370 hp (276 kW) 429 Super Cobra Jet 4-barrel V8. However, the end of the muscle car era, which was caused by high insurance rates and rising gas prices, would spell the end of these high power engines.

Wikipedia’s Mercury Cougar Wiki

The Art of Buying a Budget Cougar

 So You Want to Find Yourself the Perfect Cougar?

Fear not friends, there is hope for you yet. Buying a classic collector Cougar isn’t hard, but getting the right car for what you want to do with it is a little trickier. Before embarking on this great adventure you want to arm yourself with some knowledge about the cars you are looking to purchase. You should have a solid grasp of the various models and option packages of each production year your are considering purchasing and have a general idea of the values that each option or optional package adds to the vehicle.

Let’s look at the most important factor in the purchase. What do -YOU- want? Is the car for show purposes? Is your goal to be a national concours champion? Are you looking for a museum piece? Are you looking for a restomod? Something that looks stock but has some possible engine/suspension modifications? These are all important questions to ask before you begin looking for your classic Cougar. If you are looking for a museum piece 1968 GT-E with a 427, you are probably going to need to do a little more than hang out on the Craigslist classified’s section. (Oh yeah, you might also want to free up a good $70k – $100k in disposable income for that as well.)  If you aren’t overly particular about the “Show Condition” of your future car and just want to find something with a solid base to work from your journey will be much less arduous. (And much less expensive.)

Sometimes a “Great deal” Is Not Really Such a Great Deal

When shopping for a classic Cougar it’s always important to keep in mind that the initial purchase cost is usually just a fraction of the money that you will need to spend on the vehicle to make it just the way you want it. Let’s face it, we are dealing with cars that are over 40 years old. Things are going to need replacing and fixing up, even under really good conditions. Finding an old beat up Cougar in a barn somewhere for $1500 may sound great initially, but before you dive in to the deal take a close look at the car. Does it need body work? Sure some we can do ourselves, but what about replacement panels? Quarter panel patches? Door repair? Body straightening? Replacement fenders? Inner firewall replacements? These little items add up to big dollars in a big fat hurry. You always want to wiegh the short term gains of a lower purchase price with the long term pain of literally thousands of dollars in major frame or body reconstruction. I know it may seem like insanity to turn down that $1000 rusted out shell of a 67 XR7, but ask yourself  how much money it’s going to cost to put in a motor/tranny.. replace the rusted out cancer spots. Then look around the classifieds and I’m quite certain you’ll find that in the long haul it’s way cheaper to just pay that little extra money up front for a far superior starting point in your restoration adventure.

Consider These Key Items

Here are some things to consider when trying to decide whether or not you’re looking at a “great deal.”

  • If a car has been sitting for more than 5 years it’s most likely going to need a new gas tank due to the gas turning bad and gunking up the tank. This will mean at the very least, $150-250 for a new tank (plus shipping and it ain’t cheap), New fuel lines and a new fuel pump. Those items alone will cost you over $500 and you still don’t know whether you can get the engine running when you are done.
  • For cars that have been sitting for years at a time you also have to take a hard look at the brakes. Brakes lines will get water in them through condensation or other means and rust from the inside out. Your master cylinder and boosters will also get water in them causing rust or corrosion around the seals. Even if the brakes happen to work through some miracle or other, they are going to need replacing asap. If it’s a 4 wheel drum system now you have to ask yourself if it’s worth investing the $1000 in new parts for fixing up the drums or should you invest $500-1000 more and get a nice set of Discs and double your stopping power?
  • Engine’s that have been sitting for years are very iffy as to whether or not they will be recoverable. There are many people who have had good success with different methods of preparing a motor for starting after it’s been sitting for years but you really can’t count on that. Piston rings are going to be dry and brittle, and what about possible corrosion on the cylinder walls. If the engine is a rare or expensive big block (427, 428) remember that rebuilding it is going to cost a fortune. The difference between a running 390 in a daily driver and a blown 390 in a rusted out carcass has at least $1500 in value.
  • One of the most important aspects of knowing a “deal” is a reality check. Put emotions aside when you are looking the car over and look at the facts. How bad is the rust? It takes work but body panels can be replaced, what about the frame? Damaged or rusted frame rails can easily add five to ten thousand dollars in frame off re-fabrication. Don’t be suckered in by a pretty paint job, if you’ve got rust issues in the floors or frame structures you will most likely be looking at many thousands of dollars worth of rebuilding.

Get a Feel For the Market In Your Area

Before you get real serious about buying your Cougar you want to make sure you know what’s going on in the classic car market. If you aren’t in a terrible rush to pickup a car it might be advisable to spend a couple of month’s monitoring some of the more popular classified listings and ebay auctions for the specific years of Cougar you are looking for. With the popularity of Internet classifieds in today’s marketplace the “local” marketplace pricing is going to bleed into the global market pricing somewhat but there are always highs and lows in the marketplace. Finding those lows can save you substantially.  Know how far you are willing to travel to pick up your car.  Some people are willing to extend the range of their search several thousand miles depending on the condition and quality of the vehicle.

Seeing what popular classified sites and Ebay listings are selling for (that means “selling” by the way, not just listing over and over for some exorbitant price) can give you a very good feel for where the market is and then when you see something that looks like a great deal price wize you can flag it as a potential purchase and start digging into the details on it. As a rule of thumb you can expect to see hundreds of cars that are about “as expected” when you are searching for your project. This means they will be priced a little higher than you want to go, in semi-reasonable or “daily driver” condition. Those two points will tend to counter balance themselves. The lower the price, the lower the condition of the car.  For every hundred or so cars you see listed that meet your criteria aside from price or condition, you will come across one or two that are the exception to the rule and will be noticeably lower in price and in still fairly respectable condition. Keep in mind that you are probably not the only other person looking for that particular type of deal so they aren’t going to jump up and bite you. You are going to have to diligently check all of the popular classified advertising sites daily if you hope to score that dream deal. Generally if you don’t get it within hours of the listing going up, someone else will.

Be Ready When It’s Time To Buy

Know what it’s going to take to get your new purchase home. Most likely it will need to be trailered or towed. If it’s any kind of real distance you really are going to want to consider trailering. If you have a blowout doing 55 towing your brand new classic car home you could end up with nothing more than a mangled hunk of metal for all your hard work. So many things could happen. Old brakes could seize up, rotten tires can blow, an axle could seize or let go. It’s just not worth the risk. Many companies rent car trailers now. They aren’t that expensive, get one.

One very important detail that is often overlooked when buying an old car is the potential paperwork hassle when trying to register it as the new owner. Be very certain you know exactly what the requirements for registering an old vehicle in your province or state are. Don’t be shy about phoning your motor vehicles office three or four times to talk to 2-3 different people and make sure they all tell you the same story. Often times if you find yourself caught in some legal loophole it can mean that you simple will not be able to legally register or drive the vehicle. Find out what your state or province requires or allows regarding “title only” sales. Sometimes a seller will be giving a great price on an old car because they’ve already tried to register it and for one reason or another it’s unable to be registered and he’s just trying to flog his problem off on you.

When you are ready to make your purchase you might also want to consider transportation insurance. Talk to your local insurance agent regarding coverage for your vehicle during transport and even if it’s just going to sit in storage at either the seller’s or your location. Often times storage insurance is a cheap as $20-$30 a year and can save you terrible anguish in the case of the unforeseeable happening. You know how the old saying goes.. “An ounce of prevention..”

In Conclusion

These ramblings have been some of my own thoughts based on my work with classic cars and my experiences buying and selling them. Always make sure you do your research when looking to buy (or sell) your classic cat and don’t rely on any one person to tell you what’s hot and what’s not. I hope you can put some of these suggestions to good use and in doing so you end up with a great car and many happy years of tinkering. Just remember, your Cougar is only happy when it’s purring down the highway.

1969 Cougar

Packages available for the 1969 model year: Standard, Convertible, XR7, GT, Eliminator

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.

1970 Cougar

Packages available for the 1970 model year: Standard, Convertible, XR7, GT, Eliminator

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 300 hp (220 kW) 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.

Wikipedia’s Mercury Cougar Wiki

1968 Cougar

The 1968 model year included: Standard Coupe, XR7, GT, Dan Gurney Special, GT-E, XR7-G

Nineteen sixty-eight saw the addition of 2 new model packages to the Cougar lineup. The GT-E and XR-7G. What a great year to buy a Cougar. The car maintained the same body lines from the 67 model with some slight changes. Most notable were the addition of side signal markers on the front and rear quarters, a 2 spoke steering wheel (as opposed to the 3 spoke offered in the 1967 model) and some slight badge changes to the rear quarter panel emblems.

With the huge popularity and success of the Cougar in it’s inaugural year, Ford decided to double up on the car’s winning steak by adding a slew of high performance engine packages and upgrades. Where as the 1967 cars had only the 289 or 390 engine options, the 1968 cars were offered with a 289(2bbl), 302(2bbl), 302(4bbl), 390(2bbl), 390(4bbl), 427(4bbl) and the almighty 428CJ(4bbl). The 427 engine option was available only as part of the GT-E package for the first part of the 1968 production run. The 427 option was dropped midyear and replaced with the new 428CJ block option for the last half of 1968.

(Please note this page is not complete and requires more info. Please email with any additions or corrections to these pages and ask about becoming one of the editors for the CCC information articles.)