And In the Beginning: Mercury Cougar Introduction Program

Pre-Announcement Materials AdvertisementApril Fools day, 1966 marks the beginning of the Cougar story outside of Ford Motor Company.  I think many of our less Cougar afflicted friends and significant others may find some dark humor in the date, but for us it marks the beginning of an incredible story.

The story of how Cougar began is brought to you by the good folks of the Cascade Cougar Club, and in particular, Don Skinner Editor of the Cascade Cougar Club Prowler newsletter, with innumerable contributions from the collection of Jim and Elaine Pinkerton.  This material was previously published by the Cascade Cougar Club in printed form as well as on a CD that features two bonus articles that did not make it to print.  I am sure the entire Cougar Community shares my gratitude to this fine group of folks for assembling this information and making available to us here.

1967 Mercury Cougar Publicity ShotThe Cougar Introduction Program is the story of how the Cougar was introduced to the public in 1966.  It is the story of how Mercury went about trying to capture the attention of newsmen, dealers and the public to insure that the Cougar got off to a running start.  the program was well on its way to success well before the first Cougar was even built on July 4th 1967.

The Cougar marketing program was created by C Gayle Warnock.  One can only image how difficult it must have been to launch the Cougar in the shadow of big brother Mustang.  Not only was there competition from within Ford; the Mustang would be all new for 1967,  the all new Camaro and Firebird were also scheduled for release.  Mr Warnock was up to the challenge.  We hear the term viral marketing used often today, but it looks like C Gayle was practicing it full well in 1967.  Several of the events featured “leaks” of information, mysterious “Bat Light” Cougar images beamed onto tall buildings at night and many other innovative techniques.

You can view and download the 1967 Cougar Introduction Program (a 6 MB file) from the Classic Cougar Community. This is the 40th Anniversary 1967 Mercury Cougar Introduction Program as presented in the Cascade Cougar Club Newsletter “The Prowler” in 2006, and available here for download by permission.

The Program is also available as a full-color magazine and as a high-resolution version on CD-ROM through the Cascade Cougar Club. For more information, visit the Classic Cougar Club’s website and click on the “1967, 1968 Cougar Magazine Ordering Info” link.

A Brief History of Cougar 1

Cougar 1 in Moncton, New Brunswick circa 1982
Cougar 1 in Moncton, New Brunswick circa 1982

In addition to the introductory material in the PDF, here’s a little more information about Cougar 1 on its birthday, contributed by Jim Pinkerton:

August/September 1966
Cougar 1 is “loaned” to the dealer principal of Dryden Motors (the then, oldest Lincoln-Mercury dealer in Canada) in Moncton, New Brunswick, by Lee Iaccoca, ostensibly to alleviate difficulties caused the dealer by delayed delivery of his ordered Cougars.
Late 1966
The dealer, still dissatisfied with Lincoln-Mercury’s delivery of his Cougar order, refuses to return Cougar 1. The dealer cannot sell Cougar 1 because the factory had not given him the MSO (manufacturer’s statement of origin), the initial title.
Early 1967
The dealer puts Cougar 1 into a 3-year closed-end lease, which denied the lessee any ownership interest in the vehicle, and required its return at the end of the term.
Late 1969
The car is returned to the dealership, just short of its due-date, where it is driven periodically by the dealer principal, and later stored on an upper floor of the dealership.
The dealer principal of Dryden Motors dies. His son applies to Lincoln-Mercury to become an authorized dealer (personal service contract required, not a franchise), but is rejected.
The son, as trustee of his father’s estate, files bankruptcy on behalf of the dealership company and the bankruptcy court in Canada sues Lincoln-Mercury to obtain title (MSO) to Cougar 1.
John Benoit and Jim Pinkerton with Cougar 1 Just Post-Restoration
John Benoit and Jim Pinkerton with Cougar 1 Just Post-Restoration
Having prevailed in the lawsuit, the bankruptcy trustee sells the assets of the dealership, among them, Cougar 1. A local hardware dealer, Dale Garland, the uncle of a former dealership employee, purchases the vehicle at the auction.
Late-1979 to Mid-1982
Dale and his son drive Cougar 1 around Moncton, making some minor repairs and reconditioning some items, including repainting the car the original red color. By early 1982 they decide to try to sell the car.
May 1982
Cars & Parts magazine carries a small box advertisement in its classified’s section offering for sale ‘The first Cougar off the assembly line.” This ad produces several phone calls. Pictures of the car are sent to several people. No one ever comes to look at the car. Dale and his son put the car into a Quonset hut that they rent, covering it with a tarp.
Mid-December 1992
Marc Ogren of Renton, WA, a member ofthe Cascade Cougar Club, purchases a used copy of Cars & Parts magazine, dated May, 1982, in order to obtain a feature article on a ’38 Lincoln-Zephyr Coupe (Marc also owns such a vehicle). Marc happens across the box ad put in by Dale Garland. Eventually Marc tracks Dale down (Dale had in the intervening decade retired and sold his hardware store), and finds out that Cougar 1 still exists, resting peacefully in storage. Dale sends Marc some pictures, and they begin a very general negotiation. Meanwhile, Marc does not mention anything about this to anyone (who can blame him?).
March 2, 1993
Marc learns that Jim Pinkerton, fellow Cascade Cougar Club member, is on a business trip, and is actually in Moncton, New Brunswick. Marc contacts Jim by telephone and Jim inspects Cougar 1, providing Marc with detailed information on the condition of the car, and verifying its authenticity.
June, 1993
Marc negotiates the purchase price over the phone, flies to Moncton, drives Cougar 1 to Boston, and has the car shipped to his house in Renton, WA. It arrives during the 3rd week of July.
April 1994
Marc approaches Jim and Elaine Pinkerton about purchasing Cougar 1. Basically, Marc chooses not to restore Cougar 1 himself because, while the car deserves a full concours restoration, Marc does not want a car he couldn’t (shouldn’t) drive. Jim and Elaine purchase Cougar 1 from Marc.
May 1994
Jim Pinkerton begins a protracted discussion with Lincoln-Mercury about possible sponsorship for the restoration of the car, in anticipation of its 30th anniversary in 1997. Note: The story of the restoration itself is discussed in a separate document, which we hope to host soon!
Cougar 1 Awaits Display At the All Ford Show in Carlisle, PA In June, 1997
Cougar 1 Awaits Display At the All Ford Show in Carlisle, PA In June, 1997
March 1996
Lincoln-Mercury informs Jim Pinkerton that they are NOT going to tie their new Cougar products to the historical Cougars (in other words they are not going to do what Mustang did); rather they are going to revise the platform and put emphasis on a different market segment. Therefore no factory support of the restoration will be forthcoming.
April 1996
Jim and Elaine, working with John Benoit of Cascade Classics, make the decision to self-fund the full restoration of Cougar 1.
Late-May 1997
Cougar 1 restoration completed 2 hours before the enclosed transport arrives to carry it to the All Ford 30th Anniversary of the Cougar, Cougar Club of America East National Show at Carlisle, PA (June 6-8, 1997).