By on May 11, 2012

When I saw this car at a Denver self-service yard, I had to wonder if Ford really sank so low in the late 1990s as to make this godawful crypto-laundau roof a factory-installed option on the MN12 XR7. I haven’t been able to find any references to such an abomination in any of my reference books, so it’s probably a safe assumption that we’re looking at an aftermarket conversion.
Not that we’re dealing with one of the better-looking iterations of the Cougar nameplate here.
The MN12 was a big leap into the future from the Fox Platform Cougar, and you can tell by the spoiler that Ford had embraced 1990s style for real.
OK. Florida. That explains the roof.

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66 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1997 Mercury Cougar XR7 With Florida-Style Faux-vertible Option...”


  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Both airbags deployed in a collision that barely rippled the hood?

    If this were my car I think I would be happy to have it totaled & out of my life with so little effort and so little chance of injury.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      My ex-wife slammed an MN-12 ’97 T-Bird into the back of a stationary Toyota Land Cruiser going 50 MPH. The damage was certainly more extensive to the front, but not much more extensive. I credit the car with saving her life and that of my daughter. My ex had facial burns from the airbag deploy, and severe bruising on her right arm, left shoulder and abdomen. My two-year old daughter, in a car seat in the middle rear spot had a blood nose, a fat lip, and severe bruising on her shoulders where the four point harness kept her in place.

      That hit in the above example is probably a lot harder than you think.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      The car I’m driving now had dual front airbag deployment from apparently hitting a receiver hitch on a flatbed medium-sized truck (happened to the previous owner). The only parts I replaced on the front of the vehicle were the grill and both headlights.

      The airbag deployment totalled the car ($4K to repair both front airbags, and probably $3K damage to the front of the car), not to mention the injuries that may have been caused by them that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

      I’m a big fan of side curtain airbags, but in a large car, front airbags don’t add a lot of value if you are already wearing your seat belt. YMMV.

  • avatar
    Patrickj

    Was about to make a sarcastic comment on it not making 100,000 miles, but saw the body damage and deployed airbag in later pictures.

    But something tells me it would have been repaired if it were a 97 Camry or Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Depends on the extent of the damage.

      In this case, almost the entire driver’s side is either damaged or totally missing, including the inboard rear quarter panel between the door and the left rear wheel.

      • 0 avatar
        millmech

        That front of the quarter panel was neatly cut out; I would guess it was used to repair another car. I would hope it doesn’t have a roof like this one.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Often the insurance company, not you, decides whether or not to repair the damage. If this damage were recent, it wouldn’t make sense to repair a fifteen year old discontinued car in their eyes. I would imagine a ’97 Camcord would be treated the same way.

    • 0 avatar
      19 Pinkslips

      My mother still has one of these that she bought new, my dad worked some ridiculously low price on it. It’s black with gray leather with the 4.6. That car is in amazing condition for it’s 170k miles. 100k was just breaking it in. The amount of stuff on it that’s orig is incredible. The only thing that’s been worked on was the intake was replaced under a factory recall, the serp belt was just replaced and the mass air flow sensor has been cleansed a couple times. Not bad for 15 years of local duty service

  • avatar
    FuzzyPlushroom

    Up here in New England, the carriage top signified a ‘Bostonian Edition’ Cougar. (Not sure if that was a regional or nationwide branding exercise.) Like Florida, we have a handful of cars running around with these roofs, many of them presumably dealer/aftermarket conversions. It’s worst on rounder cars – a FWD Continental is bad enough, but a Lexus ES with fabric stretched over the roof will really put you off your lunch.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      The Bostonian (lol) is only a landau top, not a full fake convertable as shown here.

      Fake convertable tops: Probably the dumbest looking thing you can put on a car. I rank it worse than Civics with poorly fitting unpainted bodykits, and cheesy stick on vents. At least I can understand the intentions of those people. When I was a smartass teen, I would actually approach these people to “put the top down”, or say “WOW! I didn’t know they made a convertable version of these!” to the great disdain of the owners.

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        Aye, you’re right. I don’t always differentiate, though I probably should.

        Hmm, maybe I’ll have to start asking such questions. “Y’know you’re not fooling anyone with the sunroof there, right?”

      • 0 avatar

        Make that Florida and Arizona-style-faux-vertible option.

        I thought these craptastic affronts to good taste were dead and gone, along with the target demographic, but just yesterday, I pulled into a turnout bay in a local shopping center right behind a 2012 Cadillac CTS that someone had pimped out with faux-vertible roof and the gold package.

        *shudder*

    • 0 avatar
      Mud

      I’m kinda wishing it woulda had the rear bumper mount spare tire kit to complete the overall look :)

  • avatar
    Atomicblue

    Island Lincoln is just 2 miles from my house! I’m not suprised at all to see the faux roof. There are a lot of those down here. That dealership is sort of a Taj Mahal. They sell Jaguar and used to sell Land Rovers in addition to the Lincoln/Mercury brands.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      Looked up the dealership on Google Maps…not a bad looking establishment, though I still see some Mercury signage (probably old photos). I’m surprised how close they are to Cape Canaveral!

  • avatar

    My mother’s second car was a Burgundy 1989 Cougar LS with a V8 engine. Awesome car, but, she got sideswiped and the car was totaled. Looked alot like this. Her replacement car was a 1993 Cougar XR7 Sky Blue with a V6. Back then, gas was so cheap that it was nothing to drive a V8 so she complained how the new car lacked the power of the old one. I learned to drive in a Honda Civic manual, but, I spent my teen years driving her XR7 while she had moved on to a Jaguar. I got hit by a taxi cab who made an illegal U-turn. He hit me in the driver’s side with enough force to destroy the side of the car and explode the tire. Totalled. Not a scratch on me.

    I’ll always love Cougars. I wish ford would remake the Cougar with an Ecoboost.

    • 0 avatar
      supremebrougham

      Are you sure her car was an ’89? For only offered the V6 in these cars at first, the V8 didn’t come along until 1991.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Yeah, no V8s early on, but the supercharged V6 with the manual was a kick. When it did get the V8, it was a detuned 4.6 and forced an auto trans. I can’t say the SC V6s were terribly fast, but the standard limited-slip and spontaneous torque made for some smoky, sideway launches. Mostly because you were playing tug of war with around 4,000 lbs. and skinny tires.

      • 0 avatar
        mtymsi

        I sold Cougars during this era and do not recall a supercharged V6 ever being offered. The late 80′s XR-7 version came only with a turbocharged 2.3L I4 (read underpowered) same drivetrain as TBird Turbo Coupe. The LS version was either 3.8L V6 or 5.0L V8. I don’t recall Ford ever offering a supercharged V6 in any model vehicle. Perhaps my memory is failing me but I don’t think so.

      • 0 avatar
        SP

        You’re all somewhat right, but only in snippets.

        When the new, MN12, Thunderbird and Cougar came out in 1989, the only engine choices were the 3.8L V6, naturally aspirated or supercharged. The 5.0L V8 came back in 1991 as a third option for the T-Bird, but it replaced the supercharged V6 in the Cougar XR7. The engine choices stayed the same until 1994, when the 4.6L V8 replaced the 5.0L V8 in the Thunderbird LX and Cougar XR7. Then, in 1996, the supercharged V6 was dropped from the Thunderbird, and only the regular V6 and the 4.6L V8 remained until the end of the run in 1997.

        The supercharged V6 was “kind of a big deal,” as it was the first factory supercharger since, hmm, what, a Studebaker Golden Hawk in the late 1950s? It also was the first application of the Eaton twisted-lobe Roots blower, which is now ubiquitous in OEM supercharged applications, like the Pontiac Grand Prix GTP, Buick Regal and Park Avenue, Chevy Monte Carlos, Corvette ZR1s, Ford Mustang Cobra and GT500 and F-150 Lightning, Audi A4, Mercedes SLK and C230, Jaguar XKR and XJR, etc, etc, etc.

        The Lincoln Mark VIII had only the 4.6L V8 for its entire run, 1993-1998, although there was a slightly tuned LSC version available.

        Now, in the first “aero” generation of Thunderbird and Cougar, from 1983-1986, the engine choices were the 3.8L V6, the 5.0L V8, and the 2.3L turbo I4. The Cougar XR7 and Thunderbird Turbo Coupe had only the 2.3L turbo I4 from 1983-1986 (although the XR7 was not available in 1983). You could get the 5.0L in the Cougar LS and Thunderbird LX only.

        In 1987 and 1988, the 2.3L turbo I4 continued in the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, but was dropped in the XR7. The 5.0L V8 became the standard engine for the XR7, and was still available for the Thunderbird. The 3.8L V6 was still the base engine for both cars.

    • 0 avatar
      doctorv8

      mtymsi,

      The supercharged V6 was indeed offered, only in the XR7, and only in 89-90. A 5 speed manual was even an option, though I haven’t seen one in forever. The car was essentially a Thunderbird Super Coupe with a formal rear window. The supercharged motor continued on in the TBird until 1995, but the XR7 went V8 only from 1991 onwards.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Murilee. You should take that top. Would make a great Lemons penalty for some offensive E30 team.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      …and speaking of Lemons, there hasn’t been any such coverage here recently. Also, I got an email from (yes!) Car & Driver about the upcoming race in July at The Ridge Motorsports Park. Does that mean I have to look at C&D’s website to get Lemons news?

      • 0 avatar
        nickeled&dimed

        Yes, it’s true, C&D has inexplicably sponsored the ’12 racing season. Chief Perp Jay Lamm has a very funny press release about it, and lots of articles by our dear Murilee in their “Features” section.

        Hey, at least we still get his junkyard series!

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    What’s sad is not only does this car have low miles, but was totaled out, obviously.

    But the fact that BOTH front seat backs have damaged leather in about the same place, perhaps due to the deployed airbags?

    As spoilers go, I don’t mind this demure one at all.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      The leather in these cars, or what they claimed was leather, was thin, soft, crap.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s where the 30th anniversary patches were. They were ripped out by someone at the yard.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        the package has the Dark Toreador Red Clearcoat paint, unique front bucket seats, seat trim with the embroidered 30th anniversay logo, electronic auto-dimming inside rearview mirrors, 16″ lacey-spoke cast aluminum wheels, floor mats embroidered with the 30th logo, and the merchandising kit (certificate, maplight, desk plate, key chain, umbrella, cross pen and presentation book).

      • 0 avatar

        My Hero.

      • 0 avatar

        FYI: they also came in pearl white, boring white and even more boring tan.

        http://www.coolcats.net/aerocats/30thanniversary.html

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        Cool stuff. I had not idea they made a few at Wixom.

      • 0 avatar
        mtymsi

        Cougars were never made at Wixom, they were made in Atlanta except perhaps the last one which I think was Flat Rock.

      • 0 avatar
        SP

        Mtymsi,

        Check the linked page. All the Cougars from 1989-1997 were built right beside the Thunderbirds, in Lorain, Ohio. Except for a brief spell of assembly at Wixom, Michigan.

        Or check the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_Cougar

        Or this Lorain-specific page.
        http://www.blueovalnews.com/plugins/p2_news/printarticle.php?p2_articleid=54

      • 0 avatar
        mtymsi

        Guess I need to refrain from commenting on what I no longer remember. I have zero recollection of the supercharged V6. The dealership where I worked was only 20 minutes away from Wixom assembly and I do not remember Cougars ever being built there. I had forgotten about Lorain, at one time Cougars were built in Atlanta, perhaps 77-79 as I remember us receiving them occasionally with bullet holes in the side sheet metal because they were shot at on the train being shipped from Atlanta. I think in the later 80′s that became the Taurus/Sable plant.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      It looks like someone cut the logos from the seats at the ‘you pull’ junkyard.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    South Florida is home to all sorts of aftermarket vinyl-roof horrors. Lexus SCs, S-class Mercedes, Cadillac CTSs, Panthers, you name it. No shame whatsoever. The only thing needed to make this Cougar complete would be gold-colored bright trim.

  • avatar
    banker43

    Adding these “sim-tops”(simulated convertible) in the 80s and 90s in Florida were very profitable for the dealerships. The old folks headed to the Cadillac dealerships couldn’t throw their money at these dealer installed upgrades fast enough.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    These fake convertible tops were all the rage in New Jersey when I lived there in the 1990′s. Strangely, they were most prevalent on Mercurys and Lincolns than on any other brand, and truthfully they weren’t TOO horrible on square-roofed cars like the Town Car. But I did see them on – brace yourself – Mazda Millenias, 300M’s, Maximas, Accords and Camrys. On those cars they were truly a bile inducing sight.

    I saw more cars equipped with these “roadster tops” in the Northeast than in Florida, so I think they were more favored there, but I might be wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      supremebrougham

      Well, in many ways Florida did turn into “New England South” due to all the folks moving down there from the Northeast, so that could explain why there is a market for them down there now…

    • 0 avatar
      jellybean

      ‘Mazda Millenias, 300M’s, Maximas…’,

      Omg, lol, I just about fell out of my chair. Why anyone would think these add-ons are attractive escapes me, honestly!?

  • avatar
    210delray

    @ Crabspirits: “Fake convertable tops: Probably the dumbest looking thing you can put on a car.”

    I couldn’t agree more. So stupid, especially on prosaic 4-door sedans.

    I think only the older-than-boomer generation goes for these, so maybe these abominations will be gone in another decade or so. We can only hope!

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Let’s not forget the “Tiffany Classic” version of 1980′s Cougars.
      http://tiffanyclassic.org/
      http://goo.gl/oXWTN

      or go to google images and search on Tiffany Classic Coupe.

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    They’ll put a faux top on anything down in Florida. Domestic, Import, formal roofline or not, doesn’t matter.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Those Cougars were ugly even without any aftermarket modifications.

  • avatar

    OMG it’s a 30th anniversary model! Super Coupe suspension FTW!

    • 0 avatar
      supremebrougham

      I know, it’s killing me that it’s destroyed, and has been wrecked!!!

      I last drove one of those in 1999. It was traded in to the Chevy dealer I worked at in Florida (no it wasn’t this car) The first thing I did was grab my friend who was a Mopar guy and said “get in”. I then took the car where there was a wide open space, mashed on the gas and said “hold on”.

      I made a believer out of him on MN12′s that day :)

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I was quite fond of the vinyl top on certain cars many years ago – not fake convertible tops, but just vinyl-covered. These abominations? Every single on is horrible from the landau pictured to full convertible-style.

    There’s an Impala in my neighborhood like mine with a full fake convertible top complete with emblem stuck back on. Horrendous, to say the least. Brown top, metallic sandstone body color. Yuk!

    A pox on all cars with these – and the aftermarket places that are responsible.

  • avatar
    modelt1918

    The local Cadillac dealers here in Denver were offering padded vinyl on the roof until just recently. On a ’69 Coupe Deville it looked great, but a ’08 Cadillac…not so much.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    MN12 with connestoga roof option: all the weight and body-flex of a convertible, but without the open-air feeling that musses up your blue-tint perm or peels off your toupee!

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      Yeah, that’s probably exactly it. The fogeys don’t want their hair mussed, but they fondly remember the old days when they didn’t care about that, thus the fake ragtop.

  • avatar
    elmwood

    Buffalo, New York must be the Landau Top Capital of the North. Why? A massive population of blue-collar white ethnic seniors with a collective affinity for all things “feeyancy” and “cleeyasy”, such as Rococo and French Provincial furniture, gaudy Caesar’s Palace-style restaurants, decorative ironwork on the front of their houses, and of course, aftermarket vinyl roofs. Thus, the shockingly large number of “Buffalo Edition” Buicks, Chryslers, Toyota Avalons, Ford Fusions, and Panthers on the road. Strangely, I don’t see nearly the same number of vinyl roofs in Cleveland or Rochester.

  • avatar
    CowDriver

    My wife had a ’86 Dodge 600 (aka, “The Gutless Wonder”) with a vinyl roof. It had been applied by the dealer after a hail storm left lots of little dents on the roof of all the cars on the lot. Years later, little bumps appeared all over as the dents caused by the hail rusted. The car looked like it had zits.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    In the metro Detroit area we sold a tremendous amount of Cougars with Landau & Carriage (convertible style) roofs. I was responsible for sending them to the aftermarket shop and we could not keep them in stock-they were that popular. The carriage roofs were a very popular Town Car factory option back then (half landau was standard). For these cars you have to remember the market was completely different back than from today.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      “For these cars you have to remember the market was completely different back than from today.”
      Good point. Times change and tastes change. It will be interesting to see how some of today’s cartoonish crossovers are viewed in a few years…

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    These were one of the last cars on the market to feature a fabric top as a factory option, but Ford’s version was only a partial vinyl top. The full fauxvertible carriage roof was dealer-installed, but still very common on this car.

    If you look at the 6th picture, you can see that this was one of relatively few MN12s to have left the factory without a vinyl top of any sort – the gold toned Mercury badge on C-pillar was left in place and just covered over when they installed the aftermarket roof.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Fake conertible tops were NOT factory MN-12′s! [I have old dealer brochures] But many dealers offered them aftermarket for the seniors of the 80s/90s who wanted a good old days ride.

    Also, the spoiler looks aftermarket too. The ‘Bostonian’ roofs were around Chicago area too, with luggage racks tacked on.

    Haven’t seen too many poor quality fake carriage roofs on new cars in past 5-6 years, phew!

    Oh, and it may not have lasted 100K miles, but it did last 15 years, snarks!

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    I know it says florida but isn’t that a used car dealer emblem?

    My thinking is that this vehicle came from New Jersey, during that time period they were putting all kinds of faux-landau tops on anything remotely considered american luxury.

    And the jersey-italian segment of the population bought them in droves. I’m betting this car belonged to one of them who later retired to florida and then sold the car or traded it in on something equally tasteless but newer.

  • avatar
    and003

    If the driver’s side hadn’t been removed, I could see a modular 4.6 like the one in the Panoz roadster being installed in this car. I could also see an Art Morrison Max-G chassis and a custom front end being installed.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I own a 95 T-Bird LX 4.6 V8. A few years back when I bought it to replace my 87 T-Bird I did consider a 89-97 Cougar. I am a big fan of these. Basically a stretched personal luxury Mustang GT with Cobra IRS. Insurance is a heck of a lot less too. Plenty of decent ones out there but for some odd reason a heck of a lot of them have sim-con or landau roofs. Something I loath. They are ugly and useless. I am used to seeing them on my visits to So. Fla where they populate the parking lots for the early bird special. The T-Birds for sale; hardly any had them. And this is in the NY metro area where as DaveinChina aptly points out “My thinking is that this vehicle came from New Jersey, during that time period they were putting all kinds of faux-landau tops on anything remotely considered american luxury.
    And the jersey-italian segment of the population bought them in droves.”

    I once asked a auto body shop about sim-con removal. It’s do able but at a cost.

  • avatar
    mccall52

    I believe I’ve seen these labeled as “Caliente” packages as well.

    A while back I picked a perfect set of opera windows from a 1990 Lincoln Town Car to replace mine (deteriorated rubber) because they were “preserved” behind a fake carriage roof conversion.

    I was somewhat shocked to see just how bad the cars are butchered that receive these conversions.

    On 1990-1997 Town Car, they take the seam filler where the roof meets either rear quarter, and cut it in half for some reason. Then, they squirt 9-15 dollops of windshield adhesive on the roof. Anything goes on the sides. Then to top it all off (no pun intended), they run screws directly into the sheetmetal at the base. Those decorative “snaps” aren’t just there for show.

    This is usually where the rust starts first, at least here in the south. I can’t believe people actually paid money for this. I understand in some cases, if a car sat on the lot for six months or so it received the “presidential” treatment.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      I had a 95 Cougar XR-7 V8 for awhile. Every option, including fake luggage rack instead of spoiler. It did NOT, however, have a fake roof,which looks ridiculous on these cars. Pearl white with a leather interior. Loved that car, one car I really miss because there aren’t a whole bunch around my neck of the woods and not configured the way mine was. I prefer the front fascia of the 96-97 cars, though.

      I loved two door cars, my first was an 81 Regal given to me, second was an 84 Eldorado and then this(all in the late 90′s when I was a dumb kid). Then I bought an Acura Legend and, well, haven’t bought too much domestic stuff except for my Focus ZX-3 5 speed, which I enjoyed.

      Fake convertible/vinyl roofs are just terrible. My understanding was that Detroit started making vinyl roofs to cover up manufacturing flaws on new cars. I’ve seen Toyota Avalons, Hyundai Sonatas, Dodge Intrepids with them. Truly horrifying.

      I believe the 225hp 5.0 was available in 1989-1993 in the T-bird/Cougar in addition to the awful 140hp 3.8 V6 and 210hp Supercharged V6, which I think only T-bird got. The 205 hp (?) 4.6 came in 94, along with the 3.8 and those were the only two options until the cars were cancelled in 1997. The Mark VIII had a 32 valve version of the 4.6, good for up to 300 hp in the LSC, which in it’s final year in 1998, is one of my favorite cars. HID headlamps, LED tailights in the slightly revamped, swoopy body. Black is the best color for it.


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