By on November 30, 2010

I almost forgot; Mercury is dead. Is amnesia a symptom of Mercury poisoning? Was it not just about the most forgettable brand ever? Ask yourself this: how many Mercuries (not counting the German Ford Capri) over its seventy year lifespan were truly memorable? And by memorable, I don’t mean like the time the toilet backed up so bad the shit floated out the bathroom door. And down the hallway. Yes, there’s way too many Mercury memories I’d rather flush away forever. The keepers? Let’s just say that the ’67-’68 Cougar is the best one of that little bunch. Which in some respects, isn’t saying much, so maybe we’d better cover all three of the memorable Mercuries here; a CC triple play:

That’s because my proposed Illustrated History of Mercury and supplemental Mercury Memorial Week Curbside Classics met the same executive fate as the brand. So I’m not going to be able to do seventy year’s worth of Mercury floaters proper historical justice here. Maybe just as well. But I’ll condense Mercury’s over-arching problem down to its essence: it was perpetually seen as either a more powerful Ford (in the forties and fifties), or a more tarted up one (from the sixties forward). Which meant it had no real prestige value: the general perception was that a Mercury driver was no wealthier than a Ford driver; just a bit more willing to spend a few extra bucks for a slightly larger motor, more chrome, or a more deeply padded vinyl roof, depending on the decade.

It was exactly this image problem that caused Ford to create the Edsel. Market research then showed that the public thought a Mercury was suited to a “dance band leader” or “race driver”. Not exactly the coveted Buick and Oldsmobile accountant and lawyer clientele. Of course band leaders and race drivers hardly figured into Mercury’s perceived demographics by the sixties and going forward. But from 1939 to 2010, Mercury was mostly seen for what it usually was: a warmed-over Ford. It started right at the beginning: the original Mercury in 1939 was a Ford with a bored-out V8 and a couple of inches more wheelbase.

The fact that GM’s divisions had roots as independent makes, and that they still had unique engines and engineering departments even into the seventies undoubtedly reinforced the Mercury problem. But there were a few times when Mercury broke out of the Ford mold, to one degree or another. And not surprisingly, they almost perfectly correspond to my three memorable Mercs.

The first time were the ’49 – ’51s. They had a completely different body shell from the Fords, and instantly became cult classics with the Kustomizer set. Even unmolested, they had a handsome presence that didn’t scream Ford, even if (sadly) there was still just a stroked Ford flathead threatening to overheat under the hood. Looks can be successfully deceiving, some of the time.

By 1952, Mercs were back to obviously sharing Ford body shells. Snooze…

The garish excesses of the late fifties like the Turnpike Cruiser are amusing to contemplate under the influence of psychotropics, but when you wake up you want to know (or certainly hope) it wasn’t for real.

My second memorable Mercury was the ’64-65 Comet Caliente. Why? Because of this. As an impressionable eleven year old, Mercury’s drag racing Calientes left remarkably deep black stripes in my synapses. Don’t ask why. There were plenty of other semi-factory supported teams doing the same thing, but some marketing dude at Mercury in 1964 knew what he was doing. He managed to turn the image of the staid Comet into an underdog terror of the strip and the object of juvenile obsession. Hope he got the bonus he so well deserved.

We covered the Comet story here, but it’s worth noting again that it wasn’t just a Falcon with more chrome; it sat on a longer wheelbase, and it too had unique sheet metal. And it was quite successful, even against the Olds, Buick and Pontiac compacts, perhaps the only time Mercury could lay claim to that. Ironically, or because of it, the Comet wasn’t even branded as a Mercury to start with. The Meteor on the other hand was merely a mildly-disguised Fairlane clone suffered the inevitable Mercury malaise.

I’ve already spent 600 words on Mercury history, so that leaves precious little for memorable Merc number three. Let’s just say that for the third time, Mercury did the right thing and resisted inertia by just tarting up a Mustang a bit and calling it shit good. It could easily have turned out that way, and all too soon, the Cougar spent the rest of its miserable existence being just that; well not just with the Mustang, but even finer Ford flunkies like the Elite, and numerous incarnations of the then earth-bound Thunderbird. If you can bear it, we’ll check in on those forgettable losers later in the week.

But here it is, not just a memorable Mercury, but a memorable CAR, period. What is it about the original Cougar? It was distinctively styled, in a way that captured the essence of what it was trying to be: an American Jaguar.

I know that sounds like a bit of a stretch, but the name doesn’t exactly belie its intentions, eh? And what made that work is that the Cougar wasn’t obviously trying to imitate a Jag, but just going after what a Jag evoked: classy, comfortable sportiness. Although the outside styling was unique and the most un-Ford just about ever, the interior’s Jag ambitions were a bit more obvious, especially in the XR-7, which featured one of the most Anglo-centric dash boards ever.

This interior shot is not from our featured car which is a more pedestrian version, despite the XR7 badge on the trunk. Call me a sucker, but in the fall of 1966, at the age of thirteen, this XR7 dash “board” impressed me just a wee bit. I’d totally forgotten though what the console looked like until I found this picture; Ouch; talk about a cross-cultural mish-mash. Oh well; this was about the same time some Yank bought the original London Bridge, had it taken apart and reassembled in Arizona. He probably drove a Cougar XR7.

Our CC’s pedestrian base interior was still a decent affair, especially in light of the dark vinyl-walnut appliqued caves that were to come in just a few years more.

Even though the Cougar’s emphasis was on American elegance and a more refined and quiet ride than its Mustang stablemate, thanks to a three inch longer wheelbase and plenty of sound insulation, the big cat had a racy edge too, at least in its first year.

No less than Dan Gurney was hired to put a Cougar team in the Trans Am series, which was the nexus of the actual pony wars during those years. Despite a hell of an effort and four wins, the Cougars couldn’t touch Roger Penske’s Camaros.

If I’m skimming Cougar history too lightly, Aaron Severson at ateupwithmotor has a fine article about all things Cougar. It doesn’t happen very often, but I do disagree with him about the affect of the one-year Cougar TA racing effort. He claims that the Cougar’s all-time high sales in its first year (150k) was directly the result of the racing effort, and that sales dropped in 1968 and subsequent years because of the Ford’s decision to kill the TA effort.

I’m going to guess that 90+% of 1967 Cougar buyers were oblivious of what happened on the TA circuit, which didn’t really have that much of a following anyway. Cougar buyers predictably were…your next door neighbors, who were trying to one-up your 1966 Mustang.

For an extra two hundred bucks over the price of a Mustang, the brand new ’67 Cougar was dripping with cheap cachet and Safeway lot prestige. An instant recipe for success in suburbia…and what the hell is Trans Am anyway? Ford most likely killed the Cougar racing program precisely because they realized it had no relevance to its terrific initial success. And all the racing in the world wasn’t going to bail out the endless sales decline of the ever paunchier cats.

Yes, there were some hot GT-E models with 427s under the hood (unlike this 302), and the GTO-Judge imitator Eliminator. but their numbers sold were minuscule compared to Z-28 and SS396 Camaros and the various hot Mustangs, ‘Cudas and Challengers. The Cougar sold on its other qualities, which unfortunately were all too quickly watered down, and sales followed.

The ’67-68 Cougar had a sinewy body that showed off the highly toned cat muscles in an effective way. By 1969 (above), the Cougar’s newly found fat obscured the sinews. It lost much of its distinctive and crisp styling edge, gained very GM-esque hips, and its long blandification and decline was well underway. Any association with Jaguars, real or imagined, was over after 1968. I’ve often railed about how successful new American designs quickly get watered down and destroyed, and the Cougar is the poster cat of that. It was a sexy beast in its first two years, and after that it quickly became a cougar of another sort.

Well, I’ve covered my three worthy Mercuries in one sitting, so that leaves just a lot of unloved bulk to eliminate this week. Maybe we should rename it Mercury Day, and call it good.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

73 Comments on “Curbside Classic Mercury Memorial Week: 1968 Cougar – Mercury’s Greatest (Only?) Hit...”


  • avatar
    Zackman

    I was ‘way off-base on my guess, but what a redemption! This is a beautiful design. I was a teenager when I first saw one of these and was instantly impressed. The design is a perfect balance of proportion, styling and trimming. A very tasteful effort, even if I was a strictly Chevy brand loyalist at the time. Great write-up, too. A true CC!

  • avatar
    ajla

    Ask yourself this: how many Mercuries over its seventy year lifespan were truly memorable?
     
    The Marauder X100 was quite the full-sizer.

  • avatar
    salhany

    No love for the 70-71 Cyclone Spoiler?

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    9F93H505566 thanks you Paul.

  • avatar
    MarcKyle64

    I can think of four Mercurys that were memorable – the aforementioned Cougar, Marauder, & Cyclone were all great cars. My uncle had the Marauder. But what about the 1st gen V-6  Capri?  That was a fun car and was a great rival for the Opel GT.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      The gen1 Capri was anything but a genuine Mercury. It deserves, and will get due CC recognition.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I wouldn’t consider the Capri a Mercury, it was built by Ford of Europe and sold by Mercury.  Great car though.
      I know I should hate that faux wood dash, but I can’t.  Never saw one before, thanks for posting that Paul.
       

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    During my high school years (second half of the 70s) my best friend had one of these.  The first generation Cougar is one of the most beautiful cars ever produced.  Not a bad line on the car.

    By the time my friend had his, it had spent enough time in northern Indiana road salt to display its least endearing feature – its tendency to really nasty quarter panel rust.  These Cougars were bad rusters, much worse than contemporary Mustangs.  These cars also had the sequential turn signals.  They were an electro-mechanical setup that gave my friend fits trying to keep them working.  They also shared the Mustang problem of freezing door latches/locks and the tendency for the door hinges to wear so that the door would drop an inch or so when you opened it.  Also, the seat vinyl that Ford used starting in 1968 would rip at the seams a lot faster than the stuff used in 67 and before.   In fact, my friend’s Cougar suffered from many problems, but there was still a magnetism about the car that made me like it and want one.

    You are right that subsequent Cougar designs did not compare well with the original.  They seemed to get worse with each restyle.  As for other memorable Mercurys, I would nominate the Marquis from 1969 through 1978.  These were different enough from the Fords of the era (at least in looks) and sold quite well.  I also have a soft spot for the 1967-68 big Mercs, but this may just be me.  I loved Steve McGarrett’s black 68 Park Lane on Hawaii Five 0.    I think that Mercury basically died after the 1978 Marquis went away.

  • avatar
    geeber

    I loved these cars when I was a child…anybody remember the Matchbox version of the first Cougar? It was painted lime green metallic, which matched the lime green metallic Mercury Commuter wagon (with the two dogs looking out the tailgate). Matchbox loved American Fords in the 1960s.

    Those Cougars were quite sharp. The sequential turn signals properly awed my grade-school friends and I, and the electric shaver grille was bold without being garish or silly.

    I always thought that the 1969 Marauder and Marauder X-100 were quite impressive. By 1969, Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac did not have anything quite that distinctive in their full-size line-ups.

    The 1968-69 Cyclones, were handsome, and wore their fastback styling better than their Ford counteparts.

    Ford could not figure out what to do with Mercury. Ford didn’t want to spend the money necessary to give Mercury really distinctive looks. Plus, all too often, Mercury looked like it received the rejected proposals from the Ford styling studio.

    • 0 avatar

      Geeber, that was my first Matchbox car. Had a blower poking up through the hood, my late Grandmother gave it to me, still have it somewhere. Sixteen years later I bought a classic 1970 Cougar (in 1986), so I guess the design struck a cord with me very early in life.

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      I think I had these Matchbox cars too.  Wasn’t there also a white 68 Mercury police car?
      I also recall that the 67 or 68 Cougar was in the inaugural Hot Wheels set.  Hot Wheels painted them different colors, but I think my Cougar was the electric blue one.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Even though as a boy I loved the Cougars (and ended-up buying three 1969′s – of the full-scale type), I never had a Cougar toy car … I had a Hot Wheels ca. 1969 T-Bird in medium blue, with a black roof.

      I did, a few years ago in the scale model section see a re-issue of the AMT 1969 Cougar model … so I bought 2 kits and put the boxes up on the shelf… One day I will return to them and build one of them … (Along with one of my 2 Monogram Phantom P-51 Mustang models…)

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      There were two Matchbox “regular” Cougars – the standard, non-customized version, which was issued first, and the one with the blower poking up through the hood. I believe that the latter was called the Rat Rod, and was only available with Superfast wheels.

      There was also a King-Size Cougar, issued first in gold and in non-customized form. Later versions featured the blower and were only available with Superfast wheels.

      There was a 1968 Mercury sedan police car, which replaced the 1965 Ford Galaxie police car (which, in turn, had replaced a 1961 Ford Fairlane police car!). As I said, Matchbox loved 1960s Fords!

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      My parents’ Cougar was lime-green metallic, and to this day, I have an odd thing for that color.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I had the original Custom Cougar (nearly stock) and the Nitty Gritty Kitty (with blower sticking out of hood) Hot Wheels.  I had both of the Matchboxes you described. In fact, in the mid 80′s, I managed to find another Colony Park, but this time in blister pack. I subsequently opened it and lost it during one of my moves. I also have a larger than 1/24th scale Mercury Cougar plastic toy, like the kind you used to get for Christmas back in the late 60′s. If I look in my car-junk (as my mother called it), I still probably have some 1/24th scale Mercury Comets and (Fox body) Capri kits, unassembled.
       
      Our first Mercury Montego was the lime green that was so popular (back in the day), this is the car that followed our ill-fated VW Fastback. I was absolutely angry with my father for not buying a Cougar instead. At least it was the same paint scheme as my Hot Wheels Custom Cougar…
       
      Oh yes, I used to love Mercurys…

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      Plus, all too often, Mercury looked like it received the rejected proposals from the Ford styling studio.

      For all the love it gets, that’s exactly what the ’49 Merc was. Hank the Deuce and the Whiz Kids wanted a more modern car with cleaner lines, so the equally iconic ’49 Ford was born. There weren’t a lot of smooth-sided cars in 1949, so the Ford looked very modern in comparison to the Mercury.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I must admit, had no-one else guessed Cougar I would still think that picture was off a boot/trunk spoiler of some kind. And I guess that also makes your story true bout how easily forgettable they were, even if this Cougar certaintly isn’t. I actually have had the luck to (almost ) every spring meet one of these on and a younger brother (69 or 70) it’s way to or from a large American car meet some miles from here, the earlier is all black, and the later bright orange with all the eliminator stripes (could be a replica) and louvers , and they certainly aren’t forgettable.
    And I think there’s some irony of destiny here, as (If i recall right) the Cougar name was suggested when designing the Mustang. And the two cars development relied strongly on each other. If I (again) recall right the Mercury project was started first, but was left unrealized until they after the Mustang started selling like (put in usual American idiom for selling very well here)

  • avatar
    zznalg

    Yes, the only other Mercury that ever resonated with me was the Gen 1 Capri. It was classically styled and looked fun to drive. I never had the chance though as I was only about 10 when they arrived. Thinking back, I am reminded stylistically of the 240Z (which itself was influenced by the Jag E-Type…). Maybe a Jag-Merc connection deserves more exploration.

    • 0 avatar
      KeithBates

      The Mk1 Capri basically saved Mercury from extinction in the early ’70s.  Having owned
      one or more every year for the last 30, nothing built today will have me giggling like
      a school girl while flogging them around the PNW.  I only have three at the present,
      a ’73 with a 302/T5/9″, a ’74 with the 2.0L/4spd, and a ’76 with the 2.8/4spd.  I can
      thing of only one thing more enjoyable that driving them…
       
       

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …i think my ’81 white lightning was one of mercury’s sleepers – in about ten years, when fox-bodies become fashionable again, it’s going to stand out as a keeper…

    http://www.ascmclarencoupe.com/Literature/Magazines/CarAndDriver_Mar82_WhiteLightningAd.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      fastback

      C’mon, man….. that’s  a Mustang, dude! ;)

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Back in the day, I had a black 81 Capri Turbo with the mint green striping package… I no longer remember what that package was called, but I do remember when the White Lightning package came out. The Mercury dealer in Cuyahoga Falls, OH had one (IIRC), 302 V8  and four speed manual, t-tops and TRX wheel package. Abso-freakin-beautiful. If my Turbo hadn’t been such a piece o’shite, I may have sprung for the White Lightning. Instead, I ponied up for a new body (1983) Trans Am. Turned ou that was a POS too.
       
      I eventually bought one of the last 1986 Mercury Capri 5.0 Sport Coupes (they weren’t called RS’s at that time). Unfortunately, I sold it when my firstborn arrived…
       
      But yes, I would like to have a White Lightning in my dream garage.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      In Sanjeev’s bubble the Fox platform cars never went out of, and always will remain in, style…

  • avatar
    ixim

    Loved the looks of the ’49 to ’51 Lead Sleds. They shared the “Baby Lincoln” body shell. Mercomatic! The ’53 2dr HT was prettier than its Ford Victoria cousin. And my current ride, a 2010 Mountaneer – don’t laugh – was a going-out-of-business bargain. An immensely capable 3-row SUV full of toys that’s not too bad on gas, either. The dealer tells me that, down the road, it’ll be worth plenty.

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      The 49-51 Mercury was originally planned as the 49 Ford.  But new Ford management recognized that the car was too big and heavy to be a credible Ford, and a crash program for the 49 Ford was started.

      The result was that with a new Ford, everything was moved up a level – the proposed Ford became the Mercury, the proposed Mercury became the Lincoln, and the proposed Lincoln became the Lincoln Cosmopolitan.  So the 49-51 Mercury was supposed to be a Ford variant, but was not.  And this is how we wound up with two different 49 Lincolns.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    I must profess a bit of love for the Mid-1970′s Grand Marquis….a big, pretentious slab-sided boulevard cruiser, a coupla hundred bux more than an LTD….. 

  • avatar
    ixim

    Thanks, Cavanaugh, I didn’t know that about the ’49 Ford lines. The Ford was the forward looking design; it looks good to me even now. I had a ’51 Cosmo; a zillion coats of black lacquer; unborn mousefur seats; hydraulic windows and front seat; Single Range Hydramatic and  [I think] a 150 hp 351 inch flathead. It seemed fast at the time. Probably 0-60 in, say, 14 seconds? Oops! It’s Mercs we’re about here.

  • avatar
    cfclark

    In 1975 my grandma and aunt both bought godawful huge Grand Marquis (Marquises? What’s the plural of Marquis?). Aunt’s was a sort of lemon-lime color, four-door; grandma’s was a blue two-door coupe, which meant that the doors weighed roughly as much as a Smart and were about as long if not longer. I remember that the headlight doors were padded like the vinyl tops. Memorable to me because I now realize I was lucky not to have been an adult in the 1970s. (I realize there’s a CC for the ’70s Grand Marquis out there.)

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      One word for you on 70s American Cars: torque.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled commentary.

    • 0 avatar

      Ah yes,  nothing quite floated down the road like a 1975 Grand Marquis. And if there was anything sillier than a two-door, 230″ long coupe with a claustrophobic back seat… Yet it didn’t stop people from buying every last Lincoln Mark V they could crank out.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    The 64 427 Marauder and the 66-67 390 Comet GT… those 2 cars might have been forgettable after 45 years, but they sure ambushed a few guys on the street back in the mid-60s.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I guess this makes up for my Borgward Isabella Coupe spotting. I totally thought the clue was a photo of a rear spoiler.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I’ve posted this here before, but I don’t mind saying it again; I have been in love with the original Cougar ever since I set eyes on it as a child. I’ve owned several Mercurys over the years, but never a Cougar.
     
    I think I’m afraid if I buy one and it isn’t perfect, I will be greatly disappointed. Kind of like that idyllic love that teenagers have for each other. OTOH, now that they are collectable, I probably can’t afford to buy one. I think I’ll stick to Fox body Capris instead…

  • avatar
    DougD

    geeber,
    I still have my green Commuter wagon with dogs (Woof!) and the Cougar too, although mine is purple. 
    My favorite Mercs are still the 1964s both the Comet and the full size.  Very crisp lines…

  • avatar
    another_pleb

    You didn’t mention that Diana Rigg drove a red Cougar Convertible in, “On Her majesty’s Secret Service.” Que Bella!

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Oh, man, I’m gettin’ old! I forgot all about that one. The best James Bond movie of the original series made. I liked the red Cougar convertible as it really stood out among all the Euro heaps, but Diana Rigg was incredibly beautiful in that film. This was the Bond movie where everything came together, and poor old George Lazenby was seriously under-rated for being in Sean Connery’s shadow. Some great lines: “I feel a slight stiffness coming on” and “we’ll head ‘em off at the precipice”!

      Doggone fine mention, another_pleb, well done!

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Diana Rigg refered to it as “My big ‘M’”…

      And the town where they beat the sheet-metal into new contours on that ice race course was (at least in the movie) Feldkirch (on the Austrian/Liechtenstein/Swiss frontier) … and 10 minutes away from where this x-planted Michigander now lives.

    • 0 avatar
      fastback

      As far as I’m concerned they stopped the Bond franchise after ‘OHMSS’– at least as far as  i’m concerned.  diana rigg in this movie and ‘the avengers’ was the shit.  What a tremendous looking woman..

  • avatar
    MattPete

    My parents had a Cougar when I was young (I was born in 1969).  When my parents traded it in for an Audi* in 1974, I cried and clung to the door of the Cougar, not wishing to see our old car go.
     
    * That Audi gave my parents so many problems, that to this day, they won’t even test drive an Audi.  They traded it in for a 1977 Toyota Corona.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    My favorite bit of Mercury history happened during the mid-60s Comet era, when it was decided to use several Comets in a high speed endurance run. 100,000 miles at an average speed of over 100 miles an hour was a significant accomplishment, and it presaged Ford’s dominance of the Le Mans endurance race with its GT-40 program. The lone busted valve spring out of the – was it a half dozen? – cars used for the attempt underscored just how good Ford’s small block V8 engines were.

  • avatar
    majo8

    Paul, I’ve been waiting for the original Cougar CC for some time now, and was lucky enough to turn on my computer at the right time to get the clue first.  I immediately recognized the picture ( I’m restoring a 67 XR7, and happened to have the front fender cap in the next room for reference! ), and hoped no one had guessed yet.  My avatar pic is of the 67′s original 289 on an engine stand, with a late 60′s Ford Racing intake manifold and a new Holley 600.
     
    Kudos for not using a picture of the grille for the clue — as a follower of this series, it seems that any time you post a picture of a vertical bar grille, someone will inevitably guess “Cougar”.  I was curious as to what the clue would eventually be, and was even hoping you might use a close-up shot of the headlights with the headlight doors raised just to mess with us!
     
    Thanks for the Cougar CC, and the Curbside Classic series.

  • avatar
    threeer

    For several decades, we were firmly in the Mercury owners camp.  Mom and dad bought a new ’64 or ’65 Comet that we had until 1976, when they bought a shiney new Montego.  Say what you will about the bloat of the 70′s cars, that Montego drove us around until my parents moved back to Germany and sold it in 1989 to a junk yard.  A few weeks after they left, I saw that blue bomber still out on the road!  Two flat bench seats (oh, the joys of asking them to take that car when I started dating!), automatic on the tree (better to have your honey snuggled up to you with no impedements) and a stone-reliable 351 under the hood…they went Toyota after that and never looked back…

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Since it was only sold by Lincoln-Mercury dealerships, does the Pantera qualify as a Mercury? If so, it would get my vote as Mercury’s greatest ‘hit’.

    Although I’m quite partial to the styling of the 1965 Cyclone, too.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    Interesting interior, my sole experience with a real Cougar of that era much more spartan.  I knew somebody with a a second gen model that was a total stripper with nothing but a 351 Cleveland and a 3 speed floor shift, no AC, no power steering, not even power brakes, just Orange paint and an AM radio, albeit one owner form new. I do still have a period  Matchbox model of the original Cougar in a light metallic Green which I treasured for its working doors.

  • avatar

    The comments bring back many great Mercury Memories.  First rod I ever worked on was a friend’s 50 merc custom with a chrysler hemi.  Owned a marauder 429 Great car, 300 K with no problems.  And the 67 XR7 390 was an awesome ride, until the 3rd child.  Not to mention I have reason to believe first grandchild was conceived in a Montego fastback. Looking for a 57-59 wagon to ratrod.

  • avatar
    donkensler

    Yeah I loved these Cougars when I was in junior high (still do, truth be told).  Cool design, available leather interior on the XR-7 (IIRC).
     
    But my most memorable Merc was my Dad’s ’64 Monterey sedan (breezeway rear window aka poor man’s air conditioning), white with beige interior and only the standard equipment (390 2 barrel, automatic, power steering, and AM radio) – talk about a plain vanilla car, Dad had to order it because there was nothing close in stock.
     
    Dad was the county agent for our county and would let me go to work with him a few times a summer.  About 80% of his day was spent driving around the county visiting farmers, and he was the boss so he could do this.  One day when I was 14 and he was visiting a cranberry grower he asked if I wanted to drive the car around the bogs while he talked with the farmer.  He rode with me long enough to determine I knew how to modulate the gas pedal and not just floor it, then turned me loose and told me to be back in a half hour or so.
     
    All I had to do was follow the really deep ruts on the dikes between the bogs, but at least I was controlling a car on my own.  I had enough sense of self-preservation (both from injury and from the wrath of Dad) not to go down the embankment into one of the bogs, so I doubt I got over 25-30 mph, but I did get to practice some K turns at the intersections of the dikes to get turned around.
     
    There was nothing at all memorable about that car, but because of that one day I’ll always remember it.

    • 0 avatar
      majo8

      The XR7 package included leather seats.  Also, the wood dash with full instrumentation, standard buckets ( a bench was available for standard models ), an overhead console with map and warning lights for belts, low fuel, door ajar, and parking brake, door map pockets and unique door pull straps, seven rocker “slashes” on 67′s/chrome rocker panels on 68′s, and XR7 badging.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    My vote is for the Merkur XR4Ti….It’s a Mercury, right?

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      A fake Mercury.  I once though the xR4Ti was the most beautiful car ever, but its importation to the US under that name was a colossal disaster.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      AS beatiful and memorable as it is, the Xr4Ti is not much more than a V6 (well, 4 banger turbo in ther US) coupe version of the European Ford Sierra, which means it is probably the European equivalent of a Taurus (they sold 3-4 millions total of the different body styles from 82-92) ?  Love them, owned 2 myself. (half of one still lives in my garden…)

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    “Ask yourself this: how many … were truly memorable? And by memorable, I don’t mean like the time the toilet backed up so bad the shit floated out the bathroom door. And down the hallway. Yes, there’s way too many Mercury memories I’d rather flush away forever.”
     
    Absolute funniest analogy ever in a car review!

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    The reason why the Comet wasn’t branded as a Mercury to start with was that the decision to kill the Edsel brand but keep the Comet line was made at the LAST minute before the Comet was to be introduced.  They had time to de-Edselize the grille (there are photos of the Edsel design floating around) and that’s about it.  You can see how the “C O M E T” letters under the decklid easily substituted for “E D S E L”.  Oddly enough, a few years later Mercury went the other way, de-emphasizing the Comet name in favor of Mercury after the line moved up to the Fairlane platform in ’66.  My dad had a ’67 “Mercury Villager” wagon; it didn’t say “Comet” anywhere.

    From 1957-60 Mercury had its own platform, just as in 1949-51.  In 1961 the fullsize Merc became a thinly disguised Ford and sales plummeted.  Ford realized what was wrong and the 1963-66 Mercs were very distinctive cars, especially the Breezeway roof models, sharing styling themes with Lincoln more than Ford.  Then in the late 1960′s the slippage back into badge-engineered Ford started again.  To make it worse, the 1970-74 Lincolns turned into badge-engineered Mercurys; FoMoCo had trouble keeping Lincoln’s distinctiveness after the suicide door style played out.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I have crossed paths with more than a few Mercurys over the years. My Dad had a ’61 Comet which was a very thinly veiled Falcon clone. No PS no PB, 2 speed automatic, 85hp 6 cylinder. A real dud. My uncle bought a ’64 Comet Caliente and WOW what a difference in 3 years. It was a real car and, as stated above, a worthy competitor to what GM was making. My Dad then bought a ’68 Montego stripper, but the 302 pulled like a freight train. He gave it to me, but after 3 transmissions, (all covered under the then 50,000 mile warranty) I traded it for a 240Z Datsun. My Dad bought another Montego, a ’71, that barely held together for 5 years when he finally threw in the towel and went with a Chevy like everyone else in our town. Another Mercury memory is courtesy of an acquaintance that had a full size ’74 that was such a gas hog that it could just barely make it from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, 140 miles, on one tankful.  The greatest Mercury was my fraternity brother’s ’68 Mercury Cougar, a black/black XR7. Fabulous car. Beautiful and drove well. We graduated college and I lost track of him and the car.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I also want to propose that the ’71-’73 Cougars better wore the weight and girth than the equivilent Mustang, at least style-wise.  IMO those were the low years for the Mustang, not the ’74-’78 II that followed.

    Of ocurse the Cougar low point would be the ’80-’82 Fairmont-mobile…. 

  • avatar
    gslippy

    The 68 Cougar = nice.

    My former 80 Bobcat = horrible.  My 71 & 76 Pintos were great by comparison.

    Too bad Mercury basically stunk for 70+ years.  Hard to believe Ford didn’t pull the plug decades sooner.

  • avatar

    Mercury often felt like Ford’s place to put stuff they didn’t quite know what to do with…the 67 Cougar was the high point in design for the brand. Spent many hours looking over a 68 XR7 that lived across the street from my grandfather’s house, it had been off the road for years, but it was something special to my eyes (even at the age of 10).
    I had loads of fun hooning in my 69 XR7 in high school, as well as with some Mercury cousins, more Merkur XR4Ti’s than I can count. Still have one of those. I understand why Mercury is dead, but there were some flashes of brilliance there…

  • avatar

    Hey Paul, I have to disagree with your opinion of the ’69-’70 models. I am admittedly biased having owned a 1970 Coupe from 1986-1989. It was just a used car then, but I used to get constant complements on the styling.
     
    Remember this generation could be had as a very smooth looking convertible. This extremely rare (96 built) 428 CJR brought  $72,000 at Barrett-Jackson.
     
    Here’s another loaded, blue ’69 convertible in very nice condition. And a ’69 coupe, that shows off probably one of the cleanest, most elegant front ends of any 60′s car. The photo of the ’69 you used is not very flattering, it’s an odd angle and the shadows are distracting. Also, these cars really need the factory mag wheels and preferably no vinyl roof to look their best.
     
    I’ll concede that the styling revisions for 1970 added even more needless length in the form of an aggressive new front end – a lot of FoMoCo products in the early 70′s were contracting “beakitis”. This has been attributed to Bunkie Knudsen leaving Pontiac for Ford and bringing the condition with him, as seen on the 1970 Thunderbird. But you have to give these Cougars credit for looking distinctive  - and with the fairly common 351 Cleveland 4bbl this was a genuinely comfortable grand touring car for the era.
     
    That pic of the 1970 I linked up was the Eliminator, which while fetching big money today, is actually my least favorite sub model. I think the spoilers and stripes look tacked on and detract from the elegant overall shape. I know some people feel the sidesweep character line was sort of Buick derived, I guess they are referring to the ’68 Skylark, which is an abomination. But the Mercury stylists did a better job with integration.
     
    C’mon TTAC nation, how about some love for the ’69-’70 models! Of course by ’71 it really was all over…

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    Funny Cougar trivia, Sci Fi author Keith Laumer had a huge collection of 67-68  Cougars in the yard of his house in Florida.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    I liked Mercury, but you are right – there are no really memorable Mercurys. In my family, they just fit us, so we had a few. My uncle worked for Ford, so buying a Mercury was how my father honored this family commitment, yet kept a different identity.

    Out of all the Mercurys we had, my favorite was the 1991 Tracer LTS. It was red, had all the right little sports sedan look to it, along with the Mercury plastic light beam across the front, and the blacked-out door and window pillars, and the Mercury tail light treatment. Best of all, it had a twin cam 1.8L Mazda 4 which turned it into a really fun car to drive.

    I got a ticket in it speeding down I-80 at night, clocked at 115 MPH. It was very easy to get there, and when I discovered my fun was about to end, noted that the little car still seemed to have more to give. That was a very expensive ticket, btw.

    But you are still right – that little car was a Mercurized Escort GT and nothing that couldn’t have been replicated at the corner Ford dealer under a Ford badge.

    Cougars were never any fun after I stared driving, so I have no lust for the car you rightly highlight. Lord, my Cougar was a 1982 four door sedan. Good car really, but completely forgettable. And you are also correct, that interior appears Jaguaresque-intended, but then I never saw one before today.

    Mercury was a confused marketing badge. Capri? Which one? German, Austrailian, or American? Cougar? Mustang, Torino, Granada, covertible, sedan, coupe or Villager wagon? Even the Tracer was both used on a very usable Mazda sedan, and an Escort derivative. Mercur? What? Really – the brand was very schizophrenic.

  • avatar
    silverkris

    Those early Cougs were cool – liked the sequential turn-signal lights a la T-Bird, though they must another electrical thing to malfunction.  Unfortunately the Cat lost its distinctiveness pretty early on when it got bigger and became a Ford Elite with different trim in the mid 70s.  

    • 0 avatar

      What year do you think the Cougar began it’s decline? 1969 – 1970 2nd gen? 1971-1973 3rd Gen? I think 100% of all car enthusiasts would agree that the 1974 and later models were just junky, bloated Gran Torinos with fussier grills and tail lights.

  • avatar

    For anyone still interested in this topic, check out this 1974 vintage Car And Track comparison test between the Cougar and the Cutlass. Even with a 460 this flabby feline needed 18 seconds to cover the quarter mile. Has to be a low for efficiency.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjQLZXgix2M
    Another fine candidate for curbside classic status, if you can find one that hasn’t rusted away.

  • avatar
    Buyford

    I am 53 and have always loved the Cougars/Mustangs, i love the ”waterfall headlights and the ”sequential” talilights of the 68 cougars, they are all soo cool. I also love the sequential tailights of the newer Mustangs, a great thing Ford has done!..wished we had those days back again.
     
    Bill


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India