By on January 31, 2012

When the Cougar went from the Fox platform to the MN12 platform for the 1989 model year, it got an independent rear suspension and a longer wheelbase for even more personal luxury. The ’89-97 Cougar had style, and thus the Prowler Edition XR7 makes perfect sense.
Other than a bunch of dudes who have named their Mustang-based early Cougars “Da Prowler” on their websites, a 45-second painstaking Google search doesn’t turn up any reference to Prowler Cougars. The Standard Catalog makes no mention of a factory “Prowler package,” and the Special Edition Cougars site covers only Fox Cougars. Still, the lettering and spoiler look a little too professional to have been done by some guy with gold paint and a suitcase of Milwaukee’s Best; I’m guessing the Prowler XR7 was a dealer-installed setup.
This Cougar landed in a Denver wrecking yard in more or less fully-used-up condition.
Ford didn’t really think the XR7 would be stealing many sales from BMW, IRS or not, but drum brakes on a mid-90s car marketed as being at least somewhat sporty?
Still, it is a Prowler.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

67 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1994 Mercury Cougar XR7 “Prowler”...”


  • avatar
    Spartan

    Prowler! I’m surprised they didn’t call it the SEXR7 :)

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    The Cougar was a chick car….chix don’t know from disc brakes.

    “Ask the divorced secretary who owns one.”

  • avatar
    Jayflm

    I bought a ’96 Cougar as my son’s first car last year. He calls it his “Granny/Gangster” car. Runs like a scalded cat (no pun intended). From what I’ve found on the internet, there was a sport suspension available for the Cougar and T-bird that included 4-wheel disc brakes and 16-inch wheels. There’s quite a web presence for them. You can still buy custom exhaust systems, high-performance suspension setups and more.

  • avatar
    patman

    Wow, those drums surprised me too.

    I like the MN12 cars a lot. It’s too bad the personal luxury coupe fell so far out of favor.

    I always kind of liked the formal roof of the Fox & MN12 Cougars even though the T-Birds’ areo roofline is more natural.

    • 0 avatar
      Spartan

      I have a personal luxury coupe, it’s called the Infiniti G37. I hear there are others, like the BMW 3-Series Coupe and the Audi A5 :)

      All jokes aside, the personal luxury coupe is still around, but with a lot better styling, handling, and power. The Big Three fell behind the times with these senior citizen coupes with big V8s and the result is cars like the Cougar and Eldorado being left for dead.

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        CTS coupe, the XLR, GT500, and so on sort of fit the bill.

      • 0 avatar
        Spartan

        CTS Coupe I would agree with. The XLR I’m on the fence about just because of its underpinnings, and there’s nothing luxurious about a GT500.

      • 0 avatar
        patman

        They used to be a huuuuuge segment for every make but now they’re limited to just pretty much just luxury makes, mostly disappearing for the masses.

        They don’t make a lot of rational sense anyway but if every one was perfectly rational about automotive choices then everyone would drive either a compact hatchback or a minivan.

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        The coupe segment dies off pretty quickly from what I’ve read. Even basic cars like the RSX and Prelude sell really well that first year or so, then just dies.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Spartan – A5 is a maybe in that category but the 3-Series coupes and G37/Z370s are too small to fit as ‘personal luxury coupes’ as traditionally defined. The classic PLC is a full-size V8 coupe built for cruising with moderate power. Eldorado, Riviera, Lincoln Mark Series, to a lesser extent the Monte Carlo/Grand Prix/Cutlass of the 70s, etc.

        I agree the Big Three dropped the ball on this type of automobile, I wish they would bring these back.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    The gauges look like they came straight out of my ’93 Escort. It had drums too.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob Finfrock

      Yeah, Ford interiors and gauges from this era definitely had a certain look to them… but I’ll bet your Escort didn’t have oil temp and volt gauges, like the pre-96 MN12s did.

  • avatar

    I have a 94 Thunderbird SC 5 speed and love it. It is a relative of Sajeev’s Lincoln. They are under appreciated cars. It is hard to match the combination of performance, luxury handling and ride. Ford threw everything they had at these cars in 89 and it shows.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Came this close to buying an ’89 new, but the horrifically decontented interior made me fear what Ford might have left out of the power train. Loved the chassis, but not enough to take the leap.

      • 0 avatar

        It was my understanding that the early years of that generation had a poorly designed and cheap interior because Ford had spent the farm on the exterior design and engineering. The interiors improved after a couple of years and some better cash flow.

      • 0 avatar
        Loser

        @ Hatchtopia,

        I also remember reading back in ’89 that a few people were fired over the final weight of this platform.

    • 0 avatar
      Crosley

      I had a ’92 Thunderbird SC, it was probably my favorite car I ever owned. It had the supercharged 3.8 V6 with an insane amount of torque right off the line. That car was fast, comfortable, smooth and stylish. My understanding was the xr7 was the Mercury twin with the same drivetrain, but I always thought the Ford version was a MUCH better looking ride. the XR7 screamed elderly even though it had the soul of a muscle car.

      My only issue with my T-bird SC was that it absolutely fell apart when I got around 60k miles, it was probably the most expensive car I ever owned when it came to service.

  • avatar
    Rob Finfrock

    I’d bet money this specimen migrated north from New Mexico. I seem to recall the local L-M dealer in Albuquerque marketing “Prowler” Cougars around this time frame. Tape stripe-and-spoiler packages were very popular around here in the 90s; one of the local Ford dealers still uses them today.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Ford dealers did that stripe package thing in the Northeast as well. Sometimes they look good, but often they were kinda lame…

      Hatchtopia, you are correct. Ford had basically nothing left for the interior so the first couple of years had some of the worst interiors of the decade…

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        The best example of the decontenting was the storage compartment on the top of the passenger dash. Sort of useless little compartment with a sliding cover. That, of course, is where the passenger airbag was supposed to go — before they ran out of money for airbags. So the first few years got motorized belts. Ditto for the taillights — the illuminated panels on the trunk that were introduced with the ’94 refresh were intended for the ’89, but cost too much.

        That said, the optional interiors were pretty nice, if you sprang for them. I had an ’89 T-bird with pretty much all the available options short of the SC; the perforated leather in that car was a lot nicer than most other leather I’ve seen in cars since. Power seats on both sides, trip computer, and one of the better designed digital instrument clusters from that era.

        I’ve always felt like the Thunderbird might well be around today if they’d managed to debut the ’89 with the V-8 they added in ’92 and the content from ’94. Too little, too late, though.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Most of the junkyard fodder out there is like this one, with the Ford 3.8L V6 under the hood (single exhaust, driver side). Grossly underpowered to drag around the Bird/Cougar and just can’t hold up.

    I believe ’95 was the last year of the optional 5.0 V8 (with only 200 HP). ’96 and ’97 got bumped to 225 HP with the optional 4.6L V8, same HP and torque numbers as the Mustang GT of the day. With a V8 0 to 60 was around 8.0; not bad for what was more of a luxo land barge than a sports car. As a benchmark, the smaller lighter Mustang of the same era with the 4.6L could do 0 to 60 in 6.7 seconds. I believe the rear end was more aggressive on the Mustang also.

    There was a sport package available in ’96 and ’97 (but I don’t believe ’94 – but could be wrong) that offered 4-wheel disc brakes, ABS, 16″ wheels, upgraded tires, and traction control with a limited slip differential.

    When sold new they were a great value, even before cash on the hood and incentives. In hindsight, Ford probably could have sprung for 4-wheel disc and ABS standard back in the day and not had much impact on price/value.

    They are very safe cars, do extreme well in crashes and were very highly rated in crash testing of the era.

    You can still find clean versions of the Bird/Cougar out on the road (road roaches I like to call them) but 99% of them are V8 version, easily identified by the dual exhaust pipes.

    My understanding from reading TTAC is the used market for these are — non-existent. I’ve heard they struggle to pull $1K at auction, even clean.

    Achilles heels are plastic manifolds (since recalled), the above mentioned 3.8L V6 base engine, heater cores that tend to clog up with corrosion (and then block coolant circulation and take out the engine if ignored), and crappy interior materials on the seats (both leather and cloth).

    • 0 avatar
      HONDA550

      I had a Thunderbird version on a two year red carpet lease in 1994.
      Black with a grey interior. 1994 was the first year for the 4.6 v8
      which had 205 h.p. The 5.0 v8 used from 89-93 had 200 h.p. My car
      had abs and four wheel disc brakes. This car was very smooth and quiet on the freeway and would really scoot when the throttle was floored at 60-65 mph and the trans did a 4-2 downshift.

  • avatar
    Jason

    I have an uncle who owned one of these…spent a four-hour roadtrip in one…in the back seat. I can still recall the agony, both physical and mental.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      What are you, seven foot tall? I seem to remember the seat was hard, but I would not call the backseat uncomfortable or short on room.

      It was definitely cave like in the back I seem to remember, and entering and exiting wasn’t the easiest – maybe the sloped backglass on the Bird offered more head room?

      But I could create a long, long, LONG list of cars that I wouldn’t want to sit in the backseat of on a four hour trip, and the ‘ye old Bird/Cougar would not appear on that list.

  • avatar
    rustyra24

    Did the last generation have the 2.4 turbo engine?

    • 0 avatar
      Spartan

      Last gen I believe had a 2.0L and a 2.5L Duratec V6. The 2.5L was a fun drive. A friend of mine had a yellow one with a 5MT.

    • 0 avatar
      patman

      I think you you mean 2.3L and no, just the 3.8L V6, 5.0L Windsor and 4.6L SOHC V8s. There were some supercharged 3.8L Supercoupes and XR7s early in this generation though.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Nope.

      The Generation VII Cougar and Generation IX T-Bird (both MN12 platform vehicles) were never offered with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine option.

      Out of the gate in 1989 there were two engine choices, the 3.8L V6 in naturally aspirated configuration and the 3.8L V6 with a supercharger. In 1991 the 5.0L V8 Cleveland option was added, slotted between the two engines. In 1995 the 4.6L modular V8 was offered. In 1996 the supercharged version was dropped, and the V8 became the top engine. In 1997 the V8 became a “free” upgrade via incentive.

      In 1991 the sheet metal was tweaked, and in 1995 it was significantly changed. In 1996 the interior got a significant and desperately needed upgrade, especially the dashboard and center console. The 1997 model suffered from significant decontenting.

      Production peaked in 1989, with almost 100K units, and had shrunk to just 37K examples by 1997. Stunningly, the Cougar’s best selling year was the malaise era ’78, with over 213K units sold.

      Rear drum brakes were only offered on the base model; the XR-7 supercharged version got 4-wheel discs and ABS from the word go.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob Finfrock

        The interior makeover was also done in 1994. While no one could accuse the new look of being classy, it was still a significant improvement over the thin, hard plastics of the 89-93 dashboard and doors. I almost traded in my ’92 Accord on a loaded ’94 T-Bird with leather, moonroof and the modular V8.

        If memory serves, the decontenting began in earnest in ’96. That’s when the front fascia was smoothed out one last time — the most attractive nose attached to the MN12s, IMHO — and the exterior door handles were also changed somewhat. Inside, the gauge cluster was pared down to only the speedo, tach, and fuel and engine temp.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        @Rob

        Ya, they killed two gauges in ’96. The other thing I seem to remember from a ’94 or ’95 I test drove (almost bought one) is that the gauge needles from that year would all point straight up (sans fuel) when cruising at highway speed of 65 MPH. A bit of racing logic applied to the gauges that died in the ’96 model year.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Pretty sure the last Cleveland equipped Cougars were in the 70′s sometime…Think you are referring to the Windsor. I wish the cleveland had continued develop into the 90s.

      • 0 avatar
        ptschett

        Only ’97′s had the pared down gauges, ’96′s have the 6 gauge cluster. (I have a ’96 T-bird.)

        The ’97 actually had a little bit better center console than the ’96. The ’96′s cupholders were soda-can-sized and integrated in the console lid, and it had the ashtray and coinholders between the console lid and the gearshift. The ’97 had the ashtray moved (to the space under the radio IIRC), and cupholders between the gearshift and the armrest.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Had a MN12 back around 2000 (I think mine was a ’95). Worst. Car. Ever (at least mine was). It was big and reasonably comfy (when it ran)…but it suffered a multitude of catastrophic failures that left it useless to me. Too bad, as it reminded me a lot of my mother’s 1976 Montego, which was one reason I boughgt it. Black with red cloth interior and that short rear window profile…tied together with horrendous reliability. I’m sure others will have had better experiences with their MN12s than I did with mine.

  • avatar
    JCraig

    Ford should bring the TBird back. Rebody the Taurus as a sporty-ish 2 door. Wouldn’t have to touch the interior or engines.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      There’s very little demand for “personal luxury” cars these days….whether 2 seat or 2+2. Maybe in the future, when the economy is off the respirator, but it’s a nonstarter now.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Not that it is applicable to written-about vehicle but “prowl car” was once a slang term for a cop car.

    I was grateful for the demise of the rotary telephone and have pondered how many possible millions of people hours have been saved across the planet with push-button vice rotary telephone dialing.

    Enough to hand-build the Three Gorges dam?

    Old Coot of the Disgruntled type needs to get out more often.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    I friend of mine drove his dad’s ’86 T-bird with the 2.3 turbo 4 in high school. He beat on that car mercilessly. It was a ball to ride around in though you could use a sun dial to measure the turbo lag. He went through rear tires pretty fast, and I think he eventually blew the turbo. The gas pedal was pretty much an “on/off” switch to him.

    • 0 avatar
      70Cougar

      I don’t know if we went to high school together, but you just described me.

      I never blew the turbo. It was still going strong with 150k when it got totaled by a lady talking on her giant 90s style cell phone. She rear ended my dad and pushed him through a six lane intersection. He walked away without a scratch.

      It handled like it was on rails with those big Gatorbacks.

  • avatar
    Loser

    We purchased one of these new back in ’92 with the 3.8 V6. I couldn’t swing the V8. Not a powerhouse but it did very well for it’s size and still got close to 30 MPG on the highway. Only problem we ever had was a blown head gasket at 112,000 miles. My wife was very skilled at warping the rotors on it but they were easy and cheap to replace. Warping rotors is a skill she has also mastered with her 4Runner. It was trouble free for the next 45,000 miles and we sold it to a friend that wrecked it a few months later. My wife still wishes we had replaced it with another. It worked out very well even with a newborn and the car seat, very big back seat with easy access. I wish they still made cars like this. The current Challenger is close IMHO.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      My current significant other is awesome at destroying rotors. She has it down to a science.

      My ex-wife had a ’97 T-bird with the V8. She tried to drive it through a stationary Toyota Landcruiser with a trailer hitch going 50 MPH on the interstate when the traffic came to a dead stop. The core support was literally wrapped around the engine block. The battery was shattered showering acid in the engine bay. The alternator and all the AC components completely destroyed, the hood curled up almost onto itself to the cowl, and of course the radiator was nothing but pieces. The impact was so severe it popped out the driver side rear tail lights and damaged the drive shaft to the rear end.

      My daughter was center rear seat, in a car seat – and about 2-1/2 at the time. Airbags deployed. The both walked away.

      My ex-wife had a severe bruise and sprained wrist on her right hand, burns to her face and a patch on one upper arm from the airbag deploy, and severe bruising on her shoulder and across her abdomen from the seat belt. My daughter had a fat lip and bloody nose, despite the heavy padding on her car seat, and severe bruising on both of her shoulders from the four-point harness holding her in place.

      Amazingly both doors opened and closed normally and latched. No ripples in the roof, no broken sunroof (glass) or leaks. The floor pan remained intact with no buckling – the pedals did not bend or buckle and the engine remained on its mounts.

      I absolutely credit the car with saving both their lives; certainly my ex-wife.

      • 0 avatar
        Loser

        My wife still has not figured out that stop signs will not turn green. Her foot is either on the gas or hard on the brakes. It has been my experience that most females don’t grasp the concept of allowing a car to coast on the way to a stop.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Thunderbird should come back as what it was originally…A Corvette fighter. A hole in Ford’s lineup incidentally.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    That’s the most tortured front suspension layout I had ever seen, and I used to rebuild GAZ-24 suspensions for a summer job. I think the brakes were drum as well.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    Dear TTAC:
    I know you gots to pay da’ bills…but the commercials at the bottom of the pictures are hella annoying.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Firefox with ABP – problem solved.

  • avatar
    geo

    A couple of months ago, Jalopnik did a piece on the same-gen Thunderbird SC. I was quite mocking in tone, because – get this – the Thunderbird was FRONT WHEEL DRIVE, and everyone knows a true “performance” car can’t be fwd. Like, who are you going to impress with your lame front-drive T-bird, loser?

    Posters pointed out that the T-bird was rear drive, and the article was changed quickly.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I owned a 87 T-Bird with the 3.8 and it was one of the best vehicles I have ever owned. Super reliable with normal maintenance. Got 13+ yrs and 187k out of it till the head gasket blew. I currently own a 95 T-Bird LX 4.6 in black and it’s a fine confortable ride basically a personal luxury Mustang GT with IRS and the insurance is a heck of a lot less expensive, maybe it’s the demographics. Also very reliable with normal maintenance.

    The 3.8 version of the 89-97 had a lot of issues with head gaskets hence Ford’s major recall.

  • avatar
    Cerum

    Bought a 89′ as my first car in 1999 for $3,600. With the 3.8 in the same white as pictured it was solid, only requiring a new oil pressure sensor in the time I had it. Not the most fun Michigan winter car but had a ton of interior room and futuristic dash.

    After tiring of driving his grandmother’s 70′ skylark, a friend wanted to show me up by getting a 86′ cougar turbo coupe. Before he cooked the turbo it had opened the door to my automotive hobby. After landing a great job just out of highschool, I traded it in on a new 02′ WRX and through the dealership’s fault got more than what I paid for it 3 years prior.

    Thinking back the front end wallowed, the engine was grossly underpowered, the interior was overlly complicated, and it didn’t stop worth a crap but I sure loved that car.

  • avatar

    I know two different people who had the rear windscreen on one of these blow out unexpectedly. Both where driving at highway speeds with both windows down.
    I always figured it was due to the vertical rear window, as I have never heard of that happening on another car.

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    Anybody else remember the pre-Jill Wagner Jill Wagner selling these things? Kate something-or-other… I think she was an ex-Charlie’s Angel. I remember her smoky voice, and the fact that she pronounced it, “Merc-ree.”

    Also, I had completely forgotten about Red Carpet Leases! Thanks to whoever mentioned that they had one of those back in the day…

    I think that’s the exact same gear lever used in the ’2007 Taurus…

  • avatar
    50merc

    When did they drop the automatic belts? I hated them in my ’93, and the things tended to malfunction as well. What a terrible idea, along with GM’s door-mounted “automatic” belts.

    But as other said, a fine road cruiser.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      By 94 they dropped the automatic belts for some odd reason it was one of the last Ford cars to have them along with the lowly Tempo.You figure the upmarket models would already have std airbags. That is one of the reasons why when I was shopping for one I went for the 95 T-Bird which I still own and like.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    This is one huge automotive gap that I wish would be filled back by a new T-Bird and Monte Carlo. These were nice riding, roomy stylish cars that were very popular with singles or retirees. The only coupe being made today that remotely resembles this formula is the current Challenger which also offers V6 and V8 engine choices. The CTS coupes is just plain odd looking and small inside and is a poor substitute for the Eldorado which I miss. I would buy one if it was good looking and fuel efficient. The Challenger 305 HP V6 is one choice but Chrylser doesn’t seem to want to offer it with the terrific 8 speed automatic which gives 31 highway MPG and near Hemi performance. That would make a near perfect combo.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Agreed, the CTS Coupe looks like something from another planet, and is a poor substitute for a personal luxury coupe. I think the only hope we have is another T-bird or a revived Buick Riviera on a new platform. According to Wikipedia when they killed the Monte Carlo the Camaro took the place of a coupe offering in their lineup, despite the fact the Camaro and Monte were completely different offerings… to them a coupe is a coupe I suppose.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Monte_Carlo

  • avatar
    Jason P

    When the MN-12′s debuted in 1989 there were 2 Cougar models (luxo-barge LS and the performance oriented XR7). Likewise there were four Tbird models. From 89-92 the XR7 did have 4-wheel disc brakes, electronic adjustable suspension, stiffer springs, fatter swaybars, and other goodies shared with the Tbird SC. It even shared the 3.8 SC engine in 89 and 90 and had a 5-speed manual available. In 90 and 91 the 5.0 HO V8 replaced the blown six in the XR7 and was only available as an automatic (though the Tbird SC was still avalable through 1995).

    In 1993, Ford did some model trimming and the Thunderbinrd went from four models down to two. Likewise, the Cougar went from two down to one and from that point ALL Cougars wore the XR7 badge. It was basically the previous LS rebadged without the performance goodies (including the 4 wheel discs). What we are seeing here is a post-93 XR7 so there really wasn’t much performance cred left at that point.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    More than any car of this era I remember Cougars having various “special editions” which seemingly consisted of nothing but a tape stripe, possibly some”unique” vinyl top and some name, possibly regional . I remember a “Texas Spesial” living in Texas but I’d see out-of-state Cougars with identcal or equally ugly tape stripes and whatever but called “Tennessee Special” or “California Special” presumably all dealer mark-up items.The Prowler though I think I remember reading about in car magazines of the time as having some sort of performance pretensions.

  • avatar
    and003

    I could see this Cougar XR7 getting fitted with a custom chassis, a Coyote crate engine, and a custom interior. Cougar XR-7 Prowler SVT anyone?


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