By on January 21, 2010

I’ve just returned from one of the most fruitful CC hunting trips ever; nabbed some awesome vintage finds. But I’m always scanning the road for anything of interest, increasing the likelihood that I’ll eventually rear-end someone. Would anyone else find interest in these three cars parked by the U of O? But repeated patterns like this somehow grab me: same maker, similar vintage, all of them spoiled. Am I losing it? My wife wants to know, because she has her doubts.

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42 Comments on “Curbside Classic Outtake: Be-Spoilered FoMoCos In Triplicate...”

  • avatar

    You haven’t lost it entirely, Mr. Niedermeyer! There are versions of those cars that were somewhat interesting, even if the more pedestrian versions pictured are not. The GT version of that Escort, with its 5 speed manual and Mazda DOHC engine was actually a reasonably hot hatch in its day. The Cougar of that vintage had a V6 available that cranked out 200hp, and that puppy would scream. The Contour above wasn’t a bad piece, and handled quite nicely, but the SVT version was a monster.

    • 0 avatar

      And in Japan you could get the Escort as Laser GT-X or Mazda Familia GT-X (or GT-R or GT-AE). With 1800cc DOHC Turbos they were the car of choice for the boy-racers of my generation, a very popular import. I remember seeing one do 12’s on the strip, not amazing now, but pretty impressive for the day (Mid-90’s).

    • 0 avatar

      I had a 99 Cougar V6 with the automatic slusher. As I recall, it was only rated at 170hp. No idea what the torque figures were. At any rate, it was hardly what I’d call a “screamer”. It was decidedly slower than my current car, 99 Legacy. Sad, considering the legacy only gives about 140hp, and is burdened with an automatic transmission and AWD.

    • 0 avatar

      The Cougar was never fitted with a 200 HP V6. The top engine you could get was a 170HP Duratec 2.5L V6 like was mentioned above.
      There were plans to sell the Cougar S which would use the Contour SVT’s 2.5L V6 but that never materialized. The Cougar S was actually featured on the mercury site and the dealer near me at the time had taken down payments on a few of them. However Ford killed the idea at the last second. I heard two reasons the Cougar S was nixxed.

      1. The guys at SVT didn’t want to have their engine used in a non SVT car.
      2. Ford was worried that the Cougar S would canabalize Mustang sales.

      The automatic in the V6 Cougar robbed the car of almost any sporting straight line pretenses. With the slush bucket you could expect 0-60 times in the low 9’s and a 1/4 mile of about 16.5 seconds. If you were fortunate enough to get V6 Cougar with a 5 speed stick then 0-60 times around 7.8-8.1 and a quarter mile time of about 15.8.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right elloh, the Cougar was rated at 170hp, I don’t know what I was thinking with 200. Must have had SVT Contour on the brain! It was rated the same as my Integra GSR, and although the Integra was fast, the Cougar had more power at useable engine speeds. My buddy had a V6/5M Cougar and we used to argue argue about the merits of each. I used screamer completely subjectively because none of those little FWD sport compacts were any competition for a Mustang of similar vintage, but they were difinitely quicker than your average Civic or Corolla, and if you optioned them right, they weren’t terribly expensive.

  • avatar

    The ford contours (the european ford mondeo, and the cougar in that pic is the same platform) were horribly unreliable. Go to any junkyard and you’ll see the contours barely have 100k on em. Yea they were a blast to drive (especially the SVT) but not a car I’d want to depend on as a daily driver. The pontiac grand ams were more reliable.

    The escorts were mazda designs, with ford engines (except for the gt). They were the best domestic compacts of the era.

    • 0 avatar
      John B

      Then again, my 1998 Mystique (bought used coming off a Ford lease) has 180,000 km. on it, has been reasonably reliable and has no rust save for a small spot on the roof behind the windshield. Even the AC works perfectly.

  • avatar
    Dr. Nguyen Van Falk

    It highlights two things:

    1.) Contour to Fusion and Escort to (upcoming) Focus/Fiesta show how far Ford has come in the past 10-15 years.

    2.) Mercury is still completely useless and its existence is as confusing as ever.

    • 0 avatar

      The Mercury Cougar you see in that picture was suppose to be the 3rd gen Probe, but Mercury dealers were begging for product…..any product that wasn’t a medicare sled. That’s how the Mercury tagged ended up on that car.

  • avatar

    I thought only members of Gen X/Y would take a picture like that. Nice job, Paul. You’re timeless.

  • avatar

    This is a normal occurrence in the midwest and to us not of particular interest. You are not losing it. It’s perfectly normal behavior. My wife often asks me what am I looking at, and we are not at the beach but a parking lot.

  • avatar

    I’m so glad that the spoiler fad is over with. Does anyone think that a Contour looks better with a spoiler? The worst ones may be the be-spoilered Intrepids and 300Ms that I see still driving around. Now can we work on getting over chrome accents? Especially chrome door handles.

  • avatar

    Actually it is a very interesting pic. Although the cars are contemporaneous, they represent three very different eras in FoMoCo design language: techno, ovoid, and new edge. I’ve never been a fan of jumping from design lily pad to design lily pad. I feel it erodes brand equity.

  • avatar

    I owned a Contour for a year, it was a great handler, and the DOHC four was pretty decent, but the automatic was stupid and always in the wrong gear when you started to make the road interesting. It also got really bizarre gas mileage on the road, the first couple of tanks it never got better than 25mpg, then all of the sudden would shoot up to upper 30s and low 40s. All time record was 42mpg out of it, bit it was such an uncomfortable car on the road, noisy and no support in the seats that I took my Explorer.

  • avatar

    “Be-spoilered”. That’s a good one.

  • avatar

    Spoilers on road cars are ridiculous. Most just add to the drag CF. Before someone complains about x car’s awesome spoiler, Road and Track cars may benefit since the track is the only place to legally notice the spoilers effect.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, a number of them REDUCE drag. Yes, only the ones on “serious” sporty cars (e.g. Civic Si) reduce uplift / create downforce, but the traditional 3-box shape is aerodynamically poor and a spoiler can help with that. An alternative to a spoiler is a high rear deck, which is of course how the Bangle Butt came into existence. Or look at the late ’80s Accord, in which you can clearly see the the rear deck is above the beltline – same thing (lots of cars do it, but that Accord’s rear side window accentuates it).

    • 0 avatar

      While a spoiler Should reduce drag, most do not. The spoilers in the above picture were designed by stylists and approved by a marketing dept. They are just fiberglass blobs sticking up in the wind. Functional spoilers tend to be log , flat , thin panels designed to (as gently as possible) redirect airflow.
      Functional spoilers on most road cars have been replaced by the top of the trunklid extending past the rear of the trunk. This actually helps reduce C/D .
      As for the high rear deck, the reason this helps with aerodynamics is more to reduce the slope from the top of the car to the rear termination point (hatchback). This does nothing to help fight turbulence at the rearward edge of the vehicle, which is the rear spoiler’s target area.

  • avatar

    I had a ’98 Contour GS with the V6 and a 5 speed. It was a hot little car for sure.

    • 0 avatar

      I had it’s mechanical twin, a ’98 Mystique V-6 5spd with the “sport” package. It had pretty sweet full power leather front seats (yes, both the driver and passenger seat had full power), a sunroof and every other bauble on it. Great chassis – that car handled great. My only gripes were the abrupt clutch that released 1 millimeter off the floor and the horrible “dashpot” effect that held the engine RPMs up when you pressed in the clutch to make an upshift…made the car maddeningly difficult to drive smoothly.

  • avatar

    I means you have a Beautiful Mind. I love such finds; keep up the good work.

    Although I wouldn’t give a wooden nickel for any of those cars.

  • avatar

    I’m with the anti-spoiler crowd, in general. Especially on Mustangs.

    I remember thinking that the Cougar was a good-looking car back when it was out. I also remember the reviews that lamented the lack of substance. Mostly in terms of seat comfort, handling and the engine.

    I don’t see Mercury lasting for much longer but as others have mentioned over the last year or so, it needs to be a more unique, green niche brand – like a more upscale, sophisticated Scion. Basically, expanding upon that relatively recent compact Lincoln concept and not letting Lincoln getting anything smaller than the MKZ. I’d love something small, compact and light like the Nissan Cube and Kia Soul but with a nicer interior and more powerful engines (an EcoBoosted KA-based, VistaRoof-equipped hatch!).

  • avatar

    You got my hopes up… was expecting a trio of XR4Ti’s.

    That could have been outside my parents house, circa 1998. Except the Contour was a 5-door (UK spec) Mondeo, my Escort was a darker shade of burgundy and the neighbors Cougar was black. Memories…

  • avatar
    Billy Bobb 2

    Looks like Mr. Lang’s front line on a good week.

  • avatar

    Ah, Ford products. My brother had a Cougar C2, and it was a pretty nice little car. It was painted cobalt blue, which was part of the C2 package.

    Speaking of Cobalts, I got one, and it has a spoiler. Interesting. I guess Ford isn’t the only one who puts pointless spoilers on economy cars!

  • avatar

    Nah…….you’re not losing it. Keep it up, these are some of my favorite articles.

    FWIW, the small, understated spoiler on the 95-97 Contour SE’s looked nice compared to the later year’s spoilers……

  • avatar

    I just rolled over 200K on my 94 Escort. It’s one of the best cars Ford doesn’t make any longer. 40+ MPG and very reliable. Handling is not bad for what it is, the GT is like a go kart on the road. I prefer the low end torque of the LX for around town riding and lower engine noise. The GT is old school with a vacuum controled valve that increases intake air about 5K RPMs.

    But the GT is not as reliable as the LX, parts are getting scarce for the driveline. The LX is plentiful and easy to fix.

    You don’t see these cars for sale, people run them into the ground and 300K is possible. Proof Ford can make a reliable car that is practical and economical to own.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll second that. We had a 93 LX, sold it to a friend with 211K miles on it. I hated the spoiler on that thing, after 100K miles or so it got a bit loose and would rattle while driving. Wasn’t terrible, but considering the damn thing served no function it did annoy me.

      One time a friend and I were pushing the car out of a snowdrift, for some reason he was pushing on the spoiler, popped it half-off the car. He was working on his PhD at the time, I guess there’s different types of smart *sigh*.

  • avatar

    Well, I don’t know Paul. I scan the road just like you do, and I ALWAYS carry a camera. But I wouldn’t have shot those three all in a row, although I have to say, if Sajeev thinks there’s something in it–Sajeev, really? REALLY???–well, maybe I’m just missing it. I remember Brian Liu, the absolutely superb head of toolbox design in DC, a graphics firm, telling me that K-cars had cache among the generation that grew up with them. Of course, Brian is of that generation, whereas Paul and I are early Eisenhower babies, except Paul wasn’t in the country yet, so I don’t know if he counts or not. (Sorry Paul.)

    Anyway, from the bits and pieces you let on about Stephanie, she sounds remarkably level- and clear-headed, and I would certainly listen carefully to her if she ever wanted to tell ME anything.

    Meanwhile, I’m sitting here outside of Boston, thinking, well, Eugene is the Cambridge, or the Berkeley, or the Madison or Austin of Oregon; heck, probably of the whole pacific northwest, and you found three stoopid Fords with spoilers in a row? What’s up with that?

    Maybe someone out there is on to you, and is trying to mess with your mind. In any case, I’m real suspicious about it. Real suspicious.

  • avatar

    Well done, Paul! In one photograph/headline combination you have managed to capture everything that is right and wrong with Detroit.

    + Three of the best-driving-per-dollar domestics in 20 years
    – Spoilers, trendy colours, crappy quality, Ford Bubble

    One of the more thought-provoking pieces I’ve seen in awhile.

  • avatar

    FWIW I have actually found a practical use for these types of spoilers. You see, I’m only 5’5″, so visibility is kind of important to me when driving. So I have always appreciated having a spoiler on a car because it helps me to judge where the back end stops when I’m backing up. I had a Contour just like the one in the picture, just in brown, and I was glad it had the spoiler, if for no other reason.

    BTW, I’m in the Detroit area to attend NAIAS tomorrow (Friday). If any of you are there and see me, say hi!

  • avatar

    Does Don1967 live anywhere near Eugene? Don, did you put those cars there for Paul to find?

    Maybe when I go back down to DC for Feb, the guy in the Maryland suburbs with the five or six Peugeot 403 and 404s will still live there and have them. Unfortunately, the guy that lives across the street from him, with five (5!) ’57 Chevies, including two identical red convertibles, moved away over a decade ago, or I’d shoot those for you.

  • avatar

    If you want to show a truly disappointing spoilered Fomoco product, you should hunt for a early 90’s era Mercury Capri convertible.

    I owned one and it truly was a piece of Australian built garbage. At the time, I worked for Ford and was swayed by summer, top down, dreams, and employee pricing. I never liked the looks of it…but…ahhh…the glorious sound of the wind howling around you….with the top up or down…rain too for that matter. But it’s most endearing quality was it’s twisty, squeaky frame that if you hit a bump just right would cause the entire vehicle to die…like you yanked the battery cable.

    Funny story about that car. A week after I got it home I washed it by hand in the driveway. My 3 year old son was outside with me, at the time, when my wife brought me the portable phone. As I was sitting on the porch, sucking down a cool beer, talking on the phone, admiring that shiny convertible in all it’s freshly washed glory, I noticed my son seemed to be spending an inordinate amount of time beside the front fender of the car…partially hidden from my view. I wandered over to him only to find…in my horror…that he had decided to “help Daddy” wash the car. He was using a metal barbeque brush which he dipped in the puddles of soapy, gravely water that remained about the side of the car.

    Even at the tender age of 3, my son knew that car would wage a war on me…but that he would get in the first strike.

  • avatar

    As a ‘98.5 Mercury Mistake (mystique) owner, I’d have to say the cars need a spoiler. They look much better than without.

    My car has the 2.5 V6 and a slushbox, but it still makes things interesting. Sure, it’s rocker panels are almost gone (a common problem), the starter sometimes grinds and the interior is kinda cheap-o, but I’m glad I bought it. 123k miles so far, and she still goes. All I need is a new starter gear, some interior pieces and some fiberglass and sheet metal and she’ll be as good as new.

    • 0 avatar

      Doing it yourself? Wait till you discover just how much fun it is to remove that top of the bellhousing starter thats buried under some coolant lines, and then tackle the joy of removing the transaxle to replace the cracked flywheel and ring gear.

    • 0 avatar

      I always wanted the power of the V6 in my ’00 Contour but really loved it’s simplicity of the 2.0 4-banger, though the belt was crazy difficult to replace for some reason. Would have preferred a 5 speed instead of the slushbox, but for the price I paid for it, I was content.

      I sold it when the old car bug bit me again, and wanted only two cars to deal with instead of 3.

  • avatar
    night driver

    “Am I losing it? My wife wants to know, because she has her doubts.”

    Clearly your wife noticed that she is not the only silver cougar you have eyes for…

  • avatar

    The Escort – Little experience with them but that generation Escort GT was a good car in its day. The 1.8 had some guts and it handled very well. Second gen escorts with 1.9 = basic work horses…especially if you got em in the wagon. The GT is an underated car and whenever I see on on the road, I can appreciate the design. I can’t say much about some of Fords engineering choices as I’ll leave that to the owners.
    The Cougar – POS. I have absolutely nothing nice to say about these cars. Even at its introduction it was second rate.
    The second generation Probe was a far better car and the Mazda 2.5 was far superior to the duratec they stuck in the Contour. The problem with the Mazda 2.5 in the Probe is that it was out of headroom and they couldn’t get any more juice out of it.
    The Contour -The Contour was a god send finally putting the Tempo in the grave. Compared to the competition it handled very well and had good get up and go. At the time of its release, the big choice was between the Contour or the newly released cloud cars from Chrysler (sebring cirrus and stratus). Chrysler was on a styling roll with the cab forward push back then and Chrysler’s were more popular. Knock em all you want but when the Contour was released, being able to pick up a Sedan with a V6 and 5spd (+ plus good handling) in that price bracket was a win for car guys.

    Unfortunately the cars get a bad rap because most who have driven them are the third or eight owners who have bought them on the used car market. When the model was introduced, it was nice car for the time period. From a car guy perspective, back then Honda and Toyota weren’t on quiet the pedestal as they are now. Sure we all felt that all the little Corolla’s, Tercels, Civics and Accords could accumulate a lot of miles on em. but they were gutless and slow for the price they were asking. In 95 could get a nicely equiped Contour with a V6 and 5spd or I could get a slower four banger Accord (the crappy 2.7 V6 was available in 95 but only came with a slushbox….and it cost a good amount more).

  • avatar

    The Pacific NW climate is very kind to cars. Note that there is no visible rust or paint fade. Here, several hundred miles south, Ford clearcoat metallic paint from that era would have been destroyed by the sun long ago.

  • avatar

    I always thought the Cougar pictured should have been the updated look for the Eclipse. Instead Mitsubishi gave us a smaller version of the Grand Am complete with those “ribbed” sides. UGH. Even today the Cougar looks decent, not a far cry from the Genesis Coupe.

  • avatar

    My sister drives one of those era Cougars in the exact same color. If you ever wanted to drive a rattling slow bathtub, this is the car.

  • avatar

    Nah, you’re certainly not losing it Mr. Niedermeyer!

    Once, walking down the street in downtown I literally froze in my tracks. There they were 12, yes twelve, Fiat Palios parked one after the other on that long street. All different colors, ages (and this for a car that’s been around since 1996 and has gone through 4 redesigns), engines types, trim types, versions, 2-door and 4-doors (or actually 3 and 5 since they’re hatchbacks). I wanted to take a picture but no way they’d all fit! When I got home I excitedly told my wife about it. She just gave me this look – a cross between WTF, You’re crazy, You lost me!

    Anyway, I notice this all the time. Whenever I see similar cars together, around me at a stoplight, parked together or just moving by I literaaly stop and stare (and now inspired by you I’ll start taking pictures!).

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