By on June 3, 2010

If you scan the autoblogosphere on a regular basis, you’ve read some half-hearted eulogies to the best and worst of Mercury. Fair enough, as the Mercury brand deserves every one of those backhanded compliments: sharing too much content with a comparable Fords and (sometimes) sharing too many styling cues with the Lincolns means it couldn’t die off without a dig or two. And it is an easy target: aside from the (lead-sled) post war Yuppie clientele that inspired Mercury’s creation, the original sleeky-Sable and a few old Cougars, this was bound to happen.

But obviously my love for Mercury (here, here, and here) means I’m not going to bury Mercury, but to praise it. And to make sure the brand remains in our collective consciousness just as long as it’s GM counterpart, Pontiac. Wishful thinking, Mehta?

Perhaps I can make it happen: by telling the tale of two Cougars. More to the point, two Cougars owned by the Mehta family: a 1967 Cougar XR-7 with the GT package, and a 2002 Cougar V6 MTX with the Premium package. Both are remarkably un-badge engineered Mercury products, looking like neither a Ford nor a Lincoln. Or any other car, for that matter. Both cats are surprisingly competent and well-crafted machines for their time to boot.

And both found their new leases on life just in time. The ’67 needed a full restoration, and my brother (TTAC’s DoctorV8) went to medical school for (among other things) this reason: to spend ridiculous amounts of money for a restomod Cougar that’ll make ’69 Camaros crap their pants. Think fully independent suspension with Wilwood stoppers, a 6-speed stick and something called a BOSS 529 (that’s right, 529) motor from Mr. John Kasse. Wrap it in a stock looking body and toss in a vintage interior with modern gadgets, and this 600+ horse Cougar shall combine the best luxury elements of a Lincoln with the raw power of a Ford. The coming months will tell.

The 2002 Cougar is more of that madness, in a more controversial package. No doubt, the “New Edge” Cougar has plenty of haters. But nobody will deny the Euro-Cat’s excellent underpinnings from the similarly excellent Ford Mondeo. And while my ‘02 Cougar is a freebie, a gift from a friend who endured a catastrophic engine failure common to V6 Cougars/Contours, the parts and labor involved is anything but effortless. And while the B&B is ever-so-savvy, this Kitten’s got some tricks up its sleeve that’ll surprise everyone.

The stock 2.5L Cougar short block is gone, replaced with a Taurus 3.0L lump turning a wicked 11:1 compression ratio. Ceramic coated headers and a host of SVT Contour upgrades (cam shafts, oil cooler, air box, radiator, etc) made their way under the hood, and so did an original Contour transaxle with a Quaife differential and rod linkage for the shifter. And that gearbox makes this Cougar a 1 of 1, not likely to be duplicated again. And with (an expected) 250+ horses, low-14s in the quarter mile and close to 30MPG, that’s a damn shame. I can’t wait to prowl the streets in this sleeper: a little more computer tuning and it shall happen.

All things considered, this cat has the functional upgrades that made the Mercury Cougar “S” a sweetheart concept car over a decade ago. And while the Sport Compact market was actually fading, the Cougar “S” had a chance to be a sales champ, relative to the mundane sheetmetal cursing the rest of the Mercury lineup. Mercury coulda been a contender if they stuck with what made the Euro-Cat so interesting. Perhaps an American VW was in the making. But it wasn’t.

Ford did an admirable job destroying a mid-level luxury brand with a slim chance of redemption. Mercury deserved better, for it wasn’t terminally ill like Saturn, or pushed in different directions like Pontiac: it had no direction whatsoever. And with a Ford family member behind it, there was the management fortitude to fix this brand. But no matter what Mercury did, FoMoCo’s $40,000 Ford Taurus Limiteds and $32,000 Lincoln Zephyrs/MKZs sealed its fate. Maybe the entire brand should have passed away when the Cougar ran extinct in 2002.

I’d normally request that Mercury should rest in peace, but let’s be clear about one thing: my Cougars will never let that happen. They are the first and the last of a species, as Dylan Thomas wrote:

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rage at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

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77 Comments on “Farewell Mercury...”

  • avatar

    The New Edge Cougar was Ford’s one and only attempt at reinventing the Mercury brand, but they aborted the effort after this one car. Imagine if they had carried this through to the whole line. This Cougar should have ended up as the new Probe. Unfortunately, the car was no better than the outgoing Mazda based Probe, despite being a new design. To bad.

    Ok. I just looked at a closeup of the rear of that Cougar. You lost me with the Hello Kitty exhaust. LOL.

  • avatar

    I too owned a 2000 Cougar V6, mine was fully loaded and had the sport package. The car drove amazingly well for a very front heavy FWD. In true GT fashion it devoured highway miles with ease and was completely immune to any cross-winds, regardless of the severity of the weather (Something I didn’t even really notice or appreciate until I got my new car). It wasn’t too fast in the 1/4 mile but its top speed was impressive. My Dad took my Cougar out very early one morning when I was sleeping over at a friends house. My brother ratted him out and I found out he managed to get it up to 130 mph. (If you had the sport package there was no limiter).

    The Cougar S looked amazing and I was going to trade in my 2000 cougar for the Cougar S but the dealership informed me that Ford had cancelled the project. The dealer told me that they didn’t want the Cougar to compete with the mustang. I read online that the fine folks at Ford SVT refused to allow a non-SVT badged car have there tuned 2.5L put in it. Either way, Ford missed a golden opportunity to keep the Cougar competative with other FWD coupes and I think the failure to follow through on this signalled Mercury’s death. The Maurader certainly didn’t bring in any younger or new customers.

    Sometimes I wish I had plunked down the cash and time to do the 3L conversion like you did Sajeev. The new edge Cougar definitely deserved a more powerful engine and I am really glad you decided to give Merucry a proper send off.

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t wait to drive the 3L Cougar, too. Maybe even more than the restomod ’67, just because its so much more…unexpected?

      New Edge Cougars are cheap, only getting cheaper by the month. I hope more people think about the 3L swap, but I hope they never do the rod-link shifter conversion.

  • avatar

    Mercury was my first favorite car. To my four year old self, the ’57 was the epitome of automotive elegance. But Mercury–the real Mercury–has been dead for years. This announcement is equivalent to pulling the plug on a patient who has been comatose for years.

  • avatar

    Growing up as a fan of Fords, I always preferred Mercury versions a little more…they weren’t classier but a little more fashionable, from barlights to matte silver (instead of chrome) finishes.
    My grandparents usually had a Mercury and a Ford pickup…later a Lincoln Continental (last version). And the occasional Buick company car from Texaco.
    They always had the bigger engines in them (when available), something my grandfather insisted on since his first new car, a 56 Crown Vic with the Thunderbird engine.

    However, they’ve always been just another cosmetics package on an already well-equipped Ford (but not always well-built).

    My first car was my mom’s 1990 Sable, titanium metallic with black leather interior. After a transmission and headgasket failure (3.8l), most likely due to my heavy 17-year old foot, it was gone in 1999. I would have preferred my dad’s 89 SHO which was sold when us kiddos got older and an Explorer was preferred for Utah.

    After that Sable, I purchased a 1990 Integra from a family member…best car I’ve owned, and sure wish I still had it as a second car to the Outback, and instead of my driving my wife’s 760.

    • 0 avatar

      “After a transmission and headgasket failure (3.8l), most likely due to my heavy 17-year old foot,”

      Nope, it happened with many 40-50 year old drivers. We called a coworker’s car the diSable because of it. Taurus had the same problems.

  • avatar

    While in her late 50s, my mother owned a ’69 cougar equipped with
    a 351 and auto tranny. She let me drive it often. That car was
    fast, and relatively comfy as I recall, and I haven’t forgotten
    some of the fun I had therein. RIP, Merc.

  • avatar

    My first car was a 1982 Mercury LN7, yellow on black with a 4 speed stick. Sexy.

  • avatar

    For me, memories of this brand were as a 4 year old, playing with my sister in the showroom of Percival Mercury in Regina, and then riding home in a beautiful maroon Grand Marquis. It was a fantastic car, with a 351 Windsor small block V8 and that unmistakable riding on (frame) rails feel. It certainly took my family up and down the highways and byways with grace and aplomb.

  • avatar

    I remember driving my uncle’s 1959 Mercury wagon. At 5′ 5″, I found that if I had the lap belt fastened, I could not reach either the passenger-side window crank, nor the radio or heater controls. I think that was a model that the state of Missouri wanted to require truck-style clearance lights.

  • avatar

    It’s a shame whenever any brand dies, but the real surprise here is that Mercury lasted as long as it did. With very few exceptions over the years, Mercury’s mission was not to offer its own stuff, but rather gussied-up Fords for people with a little more money to spend.

    The only real exceptions to the above statement that I can think of is the ’49-’51 period, when Mercury became a junior Lincoln instead of a fancy Ford, and the ’57-’59 period, when Mercury was given its own body and moved upmarket slightly since Edsel was coming/now there to fill the old “fancy Ford” role.

    When the market contracted and Lincoln started moving downmarket, there was no real place for Mercury anymore; Lincoln had now become the defacto “fancy Ford” line. What will be interesting now is whether Lincoln can pickup enough extra sales to makeup for the loss of Mercury. (Personally, I just can’t see a Lincoln version of the upcoming Fiesta).

  • avatar

    I hate to break it to you, but I don’t think Mercury will fare very well from here on out.

  • avatar

    As a kid, I remember the T-Bird look-a-like Cougar XR7 version with the stick. Badass I thought at the time. ‘Course, this was at a time when my folks had me believe that Nazis were still running the show at all the German car companies and I just couldn’t like, no matter how much I wanted to like, those awesome BMW’s. Especially the 635CSi.

  • avatar

    This is too much caring about Mercury.

    On a related note, I’ll be in Northville today for lunch, where there are three acceptable car brands: Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury. The end of Mercury means that there will only be TWO acceptable car brands in Detroit’s western suburbs.

    • 0 avatar

      mytpex, what’s your problem? Sharing memories of the newly deceased is an honored tradition in most cultures. If people want to be wistful about Mercury, let them. To me, these little stories are much more interesting than where you have lunch.

  • avatar

    “post war Yuppie clientele”

    Vietnam “war” Conflict the in-mind clash, I assume.

  • avatar

    In an attempt to relive his high school days, my dad purchased a ’67 cougar about 5 years back. From the flip-up headlights to the sequential turn signals, it certainly had a lot of character.

    Unfortunately, Mercury’s death was long-coming. It took the bullet for the greater good of FordMoCo.

    RIP in Mercury.

  • avatar

    Why all the tears over another car brand mort? It’s not sad. It’s reality.

    Everybody knew this was gonna happen sooner or later. The whole GM-Alfred Sloan multi-step-up-brand car company concept died when the first US-bound VW Beetle rolled off the cargo ship from the Fatherland. It only took Detroit some five decades to finally catch the clue-bird, and only after very nearly committing mass suicide Jonestown-style.

    Ford should’ve shot Mercury years ago, but for whatever reason – closedown costs, dealer concerns, supplier contracts, manufacturing capacity re-planning…whatever, they waited until now. Better late than never.

    At any rate, business is business, c’est la vie, pass the salt n’ pepper, and all that…

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, there’s nothing to mourn here. Judging by all the comments online the best Mercurys were made DECADES ago.

      The brand is among one of the weakest, most forgotten and redundant in the industry and Ford did the right thing pulling the plug on this vegetable. Not unlike all the other extraneous American brands that have been snuffed out of the market since Eagle, Plymouth and Oldsmobile went away in the 90s.

      And you know what? Lincoln really isn’t any better off. Lincolns too are just Fords with ugly grilles and inflated stickers and I doubt that they will be anything more than that in the next five years, or possibly longer.

    • 0 avatar

      Lincoln will get a dead cat bounce from Mercury’s death, but once the dealer integration (Ford + Lincoln) is complete, you can forget about Lincoln ever being taken serious like the stand alone premium brands.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Is there any way that Lincoln doesn’t suffer the same fate as Mercury? Audi is the most successful premium brand I can think of that shares platforms with vehicles lower in it’s family, but only for part of the model lineup, with distinctive styling more like Jaguar relative to Ford.

  • avatar

    While it is certainly true that for Mercury’s entire career it was either a fancy Ford or a less fancy Lincoln, the engineering, styling, and marketing was sufficient to create a unique brand image for it. The only Mercurys I’ve owned have been a steel-gray 46 coupe, a 53 hardtop, and three 55’s, each a different series. I liked each of them for different reasons.

    It was interesting to see how these attributes changed from year to year. In the 1952-54 years, even the Lincolns had the same basic body as the Fords. The 58 Edsels, introduced in a time when everyone thought only of expansion, had four series, the lower two with Ford bodies and the higher-priced two sharing the Mercury body. By 1959 that vision had already gone away, and the huge 1959 and 1960 Mercs ended up afaik with a unique body.

    As far as later Mercs, we rented a V6 Cougar once, a 2000 or -01. I wasn’t on that trip, just my wife and daughter, but I did enjoy the one short drive I had in it. There was the new maroon Grand Marquis a year after that, which to me was nearly indistinguishable from a Crown Victoria.

    It is too bad that Ford lost the determination or the ability to maintain a unique brand image for Mercury, but having lost that the decision to terminate it is unfortunately correct.

  • avatar

    My best friend in high school had a 68 Cougar. His was a very early 68 with one of the last 289s. It was a sweet little car to drive, and to my mind is one of the best looking cars of the 60s (which is saying something).
    Sadly, by the time we were enjoying it, it was about 9-10 years old and the northern Indiana salt had done its thing – the rear quarters on those cars were horrible for rust. Also, it was not a good cold weather cars. The door locks and latches would freeze at the first snowflake. Many is the time he had to tie the door shut to drive to school. Who says roll-down rear quarter windows are useless – they made a great place to tie a rope to for the doors.
    Also, the electro-mechanical sequential turn signal lights were an unending source of trouble on my buddy’s car. But they were cool when they worked.
    Still, I don’t think there was ever a better Cougar than the 67-68 version. Each successive version seemed a little worse than the last, in my view. So Long, Mercury.

  • avatar

    Mercury had some great models, but the 1967 Cougar will always run at the front of the line for me. It looked good and I loved the sequential turn signals as a highly impressionable kid in junior high at the time.

  • avatar

    I had a white 78 2-door Grand Ma in LA (that I bought off a Grand Ma in the valley) in the late 90s with a crushed red velvet interior. What a great car for that city – everybody could tell it was a tank and got the hell out of the way of it – the only way to have a relaxing drive in rush hour. You could stand on the acre and a half of hood and it wouldn’t buckle. Just a little bit of rust from acid rain damage near the rear window. Gave it to a friend when I moved east who took it to Mexico and painted it gold. We called it the Millennium Falcon.

  • avatar

    Does anyone remember the Mercury Bobcat…Mercury’s version of the Pinto? It had really loooong tail lights, instead of the regular pinto tail lights.

    I sort of liked the last Cougar, but the new edge lines on it ruined a nice profile.

  • avatar

    Sajeev – I’m sure you prowl (yes, pun intended) the 3L forums. What is the “common” catastrophic engine failure you refer to with the Duratec 2.5L? I don’t recall anything unusual about that engine with proper maintenance (besides oil starvation on the track if your oil level is low – hence I put in 6 full quarts of 5W-30 in my SVT motor and keep checking it).

    Also, are you going with the original SVT Ronal-knockoffs on the left side of the car or the ‘98.5+ MY cobra-knockoff wheels on the right side of the car?

    • 0 avatar

      I must confess: no way in hell I could make a rod-shift, 3.0L hybrid Cougar on my own. Its good to have smart friends. Yes, I’ve prowled the Contour forum (and NECO) a fair bit. That’s one of the ways how I met Luke, who I suspect might be a mutual friend. Luke’s doing all this work for me. He’ll own the car for a while, and when he’s ready for a new project/daily driver, I’ll buy it back for the cost of his parts and labor. Fingers crossed on that.

      Luke’s the man with all those SVT parts, including the wheels. Whenever it gets back in my hands, I’m putting the 17″ rims from the 30th Anniversary edition. (the floormats too)

      The motor failure I’m talking about is that the pup cats break apart and catalyst gets sucked back into the engine. Then the 2.5L throws a rod. Or three. I’ve been through this twice (and I still love these cars) and our own Michael Karesh had this happen to his Contour. It seems to happen around 75k, oddly enough.

    • 0 avatar

      So that must have been the issue with my 95 SE V6. It wouldn’t stay in second gear off throttle from day one. I didn’t care because it felt like a bank vault and handled so good. It felt more expensive and BMW upscale compared to the Ford tuned Mazda based Gen II Probe IMO. I test drove both before deciding. The Probe felt almost “hollow” compared to the Contour.

      I blew two of those V6 engines luckily it was coming right off lease as the second one blew. Went up against Ford made them pay for the second engine. Even Automobile Magazine blew their “Duratec” V6.

      Duratec lol.

      So I was done with Fords and went with something bulletproof. 96 LT4 Corvette. That blew up also putting a valve through the oil pan all over Chik-Fil-A parking lot. Thanks GM for that recall letter two months after mine was down for a month for a motor swap. Oh and thanks for picking up the tab on that Geo Metro rental car, that was swell for a driver of a $42,000 MSRP vehicle! No wonder you have gained so much market share since then!

  • avatar

    It will be interesting to see how the dealership picture shakes out. My guess is that percentage wise there are more standalone L-M dealers unrelated to a Ford agency than there are Lexus dealers unrelated to a Toyota shop. Ford says that they’ll be filling up the Lincoln showrooms with something like 7 new models in the near future, but in the meantime I’m not sure if Lincoln has enough models to sustain dealerships that formerly sold lots of Grand Marquises and Sables.

    So my guess is that standalone Lincoln-Mercury shops will hook up with Ford stores.

    There’s a market for mid-luxury cars. Toyota seems to be selling more ES and GS Lexi than Avalons. Toyota’s Lexus enterprise may have established itself as on equal footing to Mercedes and BMW with its flagship LS models, but the bread and butter of the Lexus lineup are cars that are analogous to the Buicks of the 1950s and 1960s, not the Cadillacs.

    The trick is distinguishing the mid-luxury brand from loaded versions of the more mundane car. The fact that the ES is a glorified Camry doesn’t hurt it in the marketplace. Mercury, though, was never given its own identity and was pretty much marketed by FoMoCo as Fords with premium trim packages.

    A mid-luxury brand also creates problems if you’re already selling expensive cars. Toyota didn’t have a Lincoln or Cadillac to worry about.

    Back when money was real and trillions of dollars was a fantasy, a hundred dollar difference in the price of a car was very significant. When prices are not inflated, the market can tolerate narrower market segments because the intermediate steps are still significantly cost increases. But when a fully loaded Ford costs upwards of $40K, there’s just not a lot of market space for Mercury to fit in under the Lincolns.

    With features offered on mass market cars that were formerly not even available on luxury cars and the proliferation of luxury features into down market cars, there’s less of a rationale for quasi luxury brands. The Mazda 6 that I reviewed in February was better equipped than most 10 to 15 year old luxury cars.

    So it makes sense that Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Mercury are now gone. The same is true at the low end of the market. When Kias and Hyundais come with stereos, nav systems and A/C, who needs Plymouth?

    It will also be interesting to see which will be more successful, the two brand strategy that Toyota (and Nissan) tried, and that Ford will be using going forward, or the three brand strategy at GM. In the case of GM, Buick has strength as a brand that Mercury never had.

    Still, it’s weird. I can understand why Studebaker failed. Studebaker, though, never was a top 5 seller. For a while the Oldsmobile Cutlass was the best selling car in America. Pontiac was once in third place. Mercury sold a lot of cars in the 1970s. Sure my dad’s ’72 Monterey and ’74 Grand Marquis were badge engineered LTDs but the end result was more “less expensive Lincoln” than “tarted up Ford”, particularly with the Grand Marquis.

    Lo how the mighty have fallen.

  • avatar

    I ‘ve had a long love affair with Mercurys, started by my dad.

    My father bought a Cadillac after immigrating to the US in the 50’s, quite an accomplishment for a DP from Germany at the time, but the Caddy was a POS. He then started buying Fords, and stuck with them until he started buying Mercurys in the 60’s.

    I was in love with the original Mercury Cougar, which was kind of strange, considering I was all of five years old at the time. I remember throwing a temper tantrum at the dealership, because my father wouldn’t buy a Cougar, instead opting for the family sized Montego instead. To this day, I STILL want a lime green Cougar XR-7, the one my dad passed on.

    When I was off to college, my first new-ish car was a 1981 Mercury Capri RS Turbo. The turbo Capri was a fun car for a 18 year old guy, but it didn’t take well to abuse and I traded it for a Trans Am a couple of years later. The T/A wasn’t a whole lot better, tho.

    When I was first married, my wife’s Olds had suffered a fatal accident and we decided to buy our first car together. We bought a 1985 Mercury Capri with the Pinto motor. Taught her how to drive stick on that car. Unfortunately, that car was also a total POS. Traded it for a Dodge Lancer Turbo ES that lasted 11 years.

    My first (and so far only new car, ever) was a 1986 Mercury Capri 5.0 Sport Coupe(FoMoCo did away with the RS designation in 1985). This one finally ran well, and was a freaking’ great car. But of course, when the kids came along, I sold it off to a wholesaler, never to be seen again. And, of course, I’ve regretted that situation, but I really didn’t have much choice.

    I used to love Fords. But there were a couple of them that broke the camel’s back.

    The 1990 Mercury Topaz. Words cannot explain the POS that car was, and at a time when I had NO money to fix it. (Young children, mortgage, medical bills. All kinds of fun) This is no lie, I had a Yugo that was a better running car than the Topaz. I had that car for seven years, which ended up being seven years too long.

    And then the 1991 Mercury Grand Marquis that I truly called the Marquis de Sade, due to the fact that it had such an appetite for fuel and parts. It was painful to keep it running, and it left me stranded more than once. I was very happy to sell it to the local charity who in turn sold it to a guy not six blocks away from my house. I never dared ask him how the car ran, I was afraid he’d kill me.

    Yes, in a way it’s sad that Mercury has been cancelled. But considering the fact that it had been left rudderless for the last 30 or so years, it’s probably for the better.

    • 0 avatar

      You owned a Yugo? Seriously?

      The Ford Tempo, which was the same car as the Topaz, was a real piece of MR2 in French.

    • 0 avatar

      @jkross: Yep, sure did.

      I actually owned two of them. I lived in Atlanta back in the ’90’s, there was a cheapo daily rental car agency (whose name I no longer remember) that was selling off their fleet of Yugo daily rentals. I got one for about $800 or so. It was cheaper than getting the craptastic transmission in the Topaz fixed.

      It was a basic little car, if you didn’t mind the crappy shifter and the incredibly cheap interior. Of course, having had experiences with other Fiat cars of the ’70’s, I was well prepared for it. They all had A/C and radios in them, and were a good commuter car with 35+ MPG. The 1.1L 4 banger could rev like you wouldn’t believe. I did it every day, when merging into traffic! Plus, since these had been used as rentals, at least they had some maintenance performed on them, as opposed to ones in the private ownership, you never know how those were maintained, if ever.

      Sadly, the first one was totaled in an accident, and luckily for me, I was able to go back to the same rental agency and buy another one. I drove the second one for the remainder of the payments on the Topaz(3 years). No kidding, I think the only thing I ever replaced (beyond normal wear items) was the clutch cable. We had a very good import parts store nearby and a guy who specialized in Fiat/Alfa/Lancia who fixed the stuff I couldn’t. I basically drove the car for almost free. I then sold it for about $500 to an acquaintance who was down on his luck and needed EXTREMELY cheap wheels. He drove that little turd for another 2 or so years after I sold it to him.

      I sold the Topaz after moving back up to the midwest, for $200. Some poor Mexican kid bought the thing. I told him all that was wrong with it, but he took it anyway. The transmission was f*cked again, the struts (all four of them) were shot, tie rods were bad for the umpteenth time, the engine leaked oil profusely (but didn’t burn it), and it had low compression. The A/C died long ago, the power steering howled constantly and once, one of the wheel cylinders on the rear drum brakes burst and wiped out the braking system.

      In retrospect, the Yugo trumped the Topaz. I started buying Chevys and Pontiacs after the last Mercurys I owned.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m certain that 80’s Turbo Capris and Mustangs used that dreaded Pinto motor, though I know someone that had an 80’s V6 Capri that had some serious issues.

  • avatar

    I hope you get smile out of this:

    Capri Club of Chicago

    Ten Commandments of Caprism
    as revealed to David R. Wells

    I. I am the Capri, thy car who has delivered thee out of the hand of the BMW 3.0 CSi. Thou shalt have no other cars before me.

    II. Thou shalt not make for thyself any graven images of Chevys, nor of Pontiacs nor of Oldsmobiles, nor of anything that is made by GM; Thou shalt not bow down to them or serve them, for the Ford is a jealous car.

    III. Thou shalt not take the name of the Ford in vain, even though they forsake thee and send thee no parts.

    IV. Remember thy oil changes, and keep them faithfully. 3000 Miles shalt thou drive and do all thy errands, but then shalt thy Capri rest and have its oil changed.

    V. Honor thy 13mm wrench and thy Phillips screwdriver that thy Capri’s days may be long in the land of the living.

    VI. Thou shalt not kill Capris by driving them in the salt.

    VII. Thou shalt not commit adultery in the back seat, lest thou hurt thyself, for it is far too cramped back there. And remember ye the benefits of reclining bucket seats.

    VIII. Thou shalt not steal engines from Chevys for use in Capris, for this is an abomination.

    IX. Thou shalt not bear false witness about thy 0-60 time.

    X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors RS-2600, nor his 2.8i, nor his Crayford Convertible, nor his RSR, nor his Tickford Turbo, nor any Capri that is thy neighbors. Thou shalt fix up thine own instead, and make thy neighbor covet it.

    Au revoir Mercury ;-)

  • avatar

    Sajeev, wrt to your brother, I’ll paraphrase an old saying. I don’t know who said it first, but my version is ‘I spent all my money on women, drink, and fast cars…the rest I wasted.’

  • avatar

    Nostalgia for sure. My first car was–you guessed it–a 1950 Mercury. Very lightly customized, it was a beige James Dean machine. Fine highway car in overdrive. Jeez, I should have put it in a barn somewhere. Today’s prices would give me a handsome capital gain over the $175 it cost.

    I’ve liked many Mercuries, but my only other Merc was a ’92 Sable. I still think that model is gorgeous. Unfortunately, mine had the torqueless 3.0 engine. Otherwise, very little trouble in 90K+ miles.

    Ford should be damned for mistreating Mercury. Would it have killed them to have put a little more elegance in what is supposed to be an upscale brand? At least they could have offered something besides gray or tan interiors as an option. Consider the fine ’56 models: different from Fords in upholstery, dash, grill, front and rear quarters, etc. A ’56 Ford Fairlane and a ’56 Mercury Montclair are basically the same car and both are handsome but immediately distinguishable. FoMoCo has neglected Mercury–might it have been on purpose?

    Thanks, Ronnie Schreiber, for an excellent comment. And thanks to all of you who recalled when cars came in pastels.

  • avatar


    A guy at Ford told me that at some point they had a Cougar running around that was basically an SVT Contour. Don’t know how far they went with the transaxle, but he said it was “the balls” which of course meant it was never going into production. Much like the Fusion with the DISI engine/trans they had.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford’s done that countless times. Like early 1980s Fox Granada and Fox Continental running around with Mustang motors. Or 1990-ish Town Cars with the soon-to-be released 32v motor of the Mark VIII.

      The SVT Cougar was a no brainer, but the 3.0L Cougar S woulda been a real kick in the pants.

    • 0 avatar

      I f’ed that comment all up, my bad. What I meant to say was that they had a 3.0L-RFF engine in there with a whole host of SVT bits. And it was the balls.

    • 0 avatar

      Not surprised they had 3L mules. And in that case, screw Ford even more. But I’m making that myself. Actually, Luke is. And Luke got many of his ideas from a former Contour engineer on the forums. It’s not the engineer’s fault that a wicked Cougar S wasn’t produced: they had ALL the parts, and we ALL know the car coulda worked.

      THAT REMINDS ME! If the 2002 owner’s manual is correct, they had plans to produce a 3.0L S model, it was even listed in a separate paragraph in the maintenance section.

      Again, more proof this brand coulda been saved.

  • avatar

    When I was a very small child, my parents had a late 1960s Cougar. Two memories:

    (1) I was crawling from the front to the back and hit the shifter, causing the engine to race. My parents were not happy.

    (2) The day my parents sold the car and bought an Audi (73? 74? Audio 100?). I cried and had a tantrum because my parents were getting rid of the “Cougar Car”. The car couldn’t have been more than 6 years old, but had a big chunk of rust on the driver’s side door, that to my 3-4 year-old mind, was shaped like a cougar.

    My parents hated that Audi and still hold a grudge.

  • avatar

    “Did anyone in America know about Vietnam in 1939? I was referring to American “Yuppies” after WWII.”

    No biggie.

    Mentioned made due to belief that Yuppie “Young Urban Professional” was a term first coined in the 1980s.

    • 0 avatar

      Ya know, maybe children of the 1980s (such as myself) are bad about using words out of generational context. Then again, I think it makes the point far clearer for the generation who gets their auto news on the Internet. Hence why I “went there.”

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Except for the last Cougar(third gen probe)Mercury hadn’t sold an interesting car in decades.

    BTW, Farrah was the original “Mercury Girl”. Sadly, both gone now.

  • avatar

    Wow if we were talking about the death of Scion or Toyota or Mazda there would be holy war going on here. But because it’s just another crappy American car manufacturer then who cares right? Go Japan!

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, please.
      It would have taken you ten seconds to find any number of articles on TTAC calling Scion a bad branding decision. But clearly you’ve got us figured out, so why bother checking?
      Seriously, nobody at TTAC claims to be infallible… if you think we’re wrong about something, point it out and we’ll engage with your criticism. This is why Al Gore invented comment sections. If all you’ve got is “TTAC hates America,” you’d better find a site that’s more tolerant of that level of discourse.
      In short, please keep it substantive or I’ll lose my patience and start going crazy with the banhammer. I try to be as tolerant as I can, but this shit is getting old.

    • 0 avatar

      If Scion spent 40 years making gussied-up Toyotas then I would say it’s time for it to go.

  • avatar

    Mercury isn’t really dying.
    It’s changing it’s name to Lincoln.
    Lincoln actually died several years ago when the gave up on making true luxury cars and became the fancier Ford and assumed Mercury’s identity.

    I’ve only actually driven 2 Mercurys. Both were long-term rentals.
    The first was a 1984 Cougar XR7 which I loved.
    The second was a 1985 Topaz which I didn’t. It was UPS brown and a coworker nick-named it ‘The Rolling Turd’.

  • avatar

    I only had one Mercury, a Mystique. It had the Duratec V-6, and as the annoyed salesman informed me, one of three manual trannys in the NYC Tri State Area.

    It was same as the Contour but with every option. Ford had begun to de-content the Contiques at that point so it was every option but built as cheap as possible. (I later rented a Taurus that was the same. Every option but so cheap it hurt-difference was the Mystique drove well and the Taurus did NOT.)

    I bought it because I wanted a six cylinder manual, there were few to find at the time, and the Mystique was cheaper than an equally optioned Contour….which made no sense at all. The salesman was annoyed as his having to find a car for me vs. sell me the one on the lot killed his profit. I guess that’s why he went on vacation for a week prior to actually ordering it.

    Ran for 100k before reaching “end of design life”. Actually a decent car for reliability, even though it had been stripped by bean counters to within an inch of its life. I’m sure they lost $ when the car came back for the “warped dash” replacement. Service Manager told me they paid two hours for a four plus hour job. Later on, Ford’s response was to use glorified tape to cover over the gaps. Luckily I was early so I actually got a new dash.

    Even though the car drove and handled well (I could see how the SVT could be fun) the cheapness drove me straight to my current BMW….it felt like a bank vault in comparison.

    • 0 avatar

      I must own the 2nd V6 Manual tranny Mystique in the NYC Tri-State area. LOL
      Mine is a 1995 with leather and sunroof. Made before the decontenting started, so it is a very fine car, nice quality interior. Now has 303,200 miles. Engine still purrs.

      Ive blogged this before, but this has been a fantastic car.
      Except for normal maintenance: brakes, tires, coolant flushes, 2 oxygen sensors , ball joints the only unexpected work needed was:
      201,000 miles Broken plastic clip in engine compartment which made throttle cable disconnect. Fixed it with epoxy and nylon tie-wrap.
      250,000 miles Clutch
      274,000 miles Left rear brake caliper.
      290,000 miles Replaced cracked vacuum hoses due to failed emissions inspection.
      300,000 miles Alternator.

      Farewell Mercury. I will miss you, even though I did see the writing on the wall several years ago.

  • avatar

    We are losing our automotive heritage, and I hate to see mercury go.
    I would take a 67-8 or 69-70 cougar over a mustang any day. They are cleaner and more stylish than the mustangs, yet every bit as sporty. I also like the 64 with the big rear opening power window. Was that a monterey? Whatever it was called our neighbors had a black one back in the day, and I loved riding in it. No need for a/c with that window lowered.
    I’m surprised no one mentioned the song by steve miller “gonna buy me a mercury and cruise up and down the road.”

  • avatar

    I will miss Mercury I really liked what they did with the Panther to create the Maurader. I just wonder why they would have let it roll when they knew car magazines would give it a hard time about its acceleration. Car and Driver telling how a Honda Accord V6 would out accelerate it. Was there no room for the supercharged 4.6 DOHC V8 from the 03-04 Cobra? Or was this another case of Ford SVT holding Mercury under their thumb?

    • 0 avatar

      The Marauder forums list all the parts to make a Supercharged Marauder like the 2003 Cobra. Supposedly it fits under the stock hood. The only thing missing is an intercooler and forged internals. So yeah, if the forum dudes can make it happen, this was a no brainer for Ford.

      But Ford actually thought the Marauder would sell for $34k (maybe it was $32k) with relatively minor changes from the Grand Marquis. That changed rather quickly, for obvious reasons.

    • 0 avatar

      In the early part of the 00’s or the late 90’s Car and Driver took a relatively new Crown Victoria and did the same thing, including the cost of the car eventually spending about $50,000 to build a Crown Vic that would out perform any stock sedan that was available at the time (remember Panamera didn’t exist.) In the same mag was a comparison test of $60,000 luxury sedans (Mercedes et al.) I quickly reached the decision that if I ever won the lot I’d rather build the Crown Vic than go down to a snooty dealership and plunk down money for something that wouldn’t outperform a modified Crown Vic. I’d LOVE to do the same thing to a Grand Marquis or a Town Car.

    • 0 avatar

      And that Crown Vic only had two cams.

  • avatar

    The most famous Mercury I remember was the TV show Hawaii Five-O’s Steve McGarrett’s (Jack Lord) 1968 Park Lane. What a beautiful car!

    My dad had a Mystique (twin to the Ford Contour) for a number of years, with the V6. Handled pretty well and had good acceleration, was a little cramped in back. My sister then drove it for a number of years until a failed water pump fried the engine.

    Last one I drove was a rental Grand Marquis LS. My colleague called it a “Grampa” car as it was associated with older drivers. Very comfortable though a bit soft on the ride. They were still sold retail while the Crown Vics were strictly fleet sales. It was a lot of car for the money though I personally wouldn’t own one because of its bulk and fuel consumption.

    Goodbye, Mercury. Gonna miss you though I understand the reasons for its demise.

  • avatar

    I think everyone has that one car they have always lusted after . The one they wish they had or now owned . For me it’s the Mercury Eliminator . This option of the Cougar was only offered in 1969 and 1970 and the only Cougar option that came with the boss 302 engine .

    The 1970 option in competion orange with the wide tape stripes ,black hood scoop , and rear spoiler with stripes and ” ELIMINATOR” spelled out on it is my dream car ,the one i ” lust ” for . I absolutely love the looks of this car !To me this car just looked ” bad assed ” and for us women looks is an important thing , usually more so than whats under the hood !

  • avatar

    Kim, I also think that the cougar eliminator is probably the coolest merc ever made. Did you know that they also made 2 of them with the boss 429?

  • avatar

    Thanks Moparman, No i didn’t .I checked out the Eliminator Registry and it does list as engine options the Cobra Jet 428 .

    Also didn’t know Steve Miller sang ” buy me a Mercury and cruise it up and down the road ” only have heard the Alan Jackson version .

  • avatar

    You’re welcome, Kim. The song by steve miller came out during the summer of 77. I also remember the version by allen jackson, that came out in the 90’s, I think?
    The 428 cobra jet is a real beast, but it’s also expensive to buy and operate. You can get the eliminator with the 351W in the 69 models, and the 351C in the 70 version.
    You get the same looks with a smaller engine, and like I said much cheaper to buy and operate. A guy in town owns a yellow 69 with the 351W and it is a gorgeous car.

  • avatar

    I can only imagine the power that would come from that cobra jet 428 . Lucky you to actually see one of these awesome cars that close to home ! I’ve only seen this car up close and personal one time many yrs ago at a car show . The impression it left on me has never went away . Not sure how many of these cars even exist anymore having only a two yr production time .

    Nice to hear from someone that thinks this car is as cool as i do !I think my idea of what makes a cool car and the memories it carries with it differs greatly with a lot on here . Not sure if its because i’m a woman and for us its a lot of visual and the memories of these cars more than how well it ran or how big the motor was( but we do understand FAST ) .

    I was shocked and saddened when i read all the comments on the 73 MachI in curbside classics and the MustangII . My first car was a 77 Mustang II and there is a 78 in my area for sale i was looking at and doing some reasearch on which is how i stumbled onto this site to begin with and felt the need to defend these 70’s mustangs and leave my first post on. My memories of these two cars are only good ones .

  • avatar

    Kim1963 –Ignore all the hate for Seventies Mustangs. Remember, you don’t have to run with the herd. Most old-car passion is about what you loved as a kid, not resale value or what everyone else thinks.

    I hope you go out and find yourself a fine Mustang II, fix it up as you want to, and enjoy it.

    • 0 avatar

      bomberpete ….Thanks ,and you are right , it should be what you loved.

      There are still some great old cars out there with fairly decent prices if you look hard enough . Right now i’m just having fun looking but my eyes are always drawn to those old Mustangs :)

  • avatar

    Kim, I’m with bomberpete on that one. The mustang II was a decent little car, and if you find one in decent shape for a good price then by all means get it if you want it.
    You shouldn’t pay attention to what a lot of the people post on here, that’s the reason I don’t visit the site very often anymore.

  • avatar

    Yeah, for every bloviator who talks about how overweight the ’71-’73 was, there are plenty whose best memories are of the first “Gone in 60 Seconds.” And for every Mustang II detractor, I think of doing donut with one in the Buffalo snow, or how hot Cheryl Ladd looked handling her little Cobra II on “Charlie’s Angels.”

    My advice, Kim, is to find one, fix it up the way you want it, and prove to everyone that Lido was nearly as right about Mustang in ’74 as in ’64.

  • avatar

    Thanks guys , Moparman and bomberpete for the support and encouragement !

    I am going to give this 78 Mustang II a bit more thought . Body and interior is all in pretty good shape. Price very good . the only thing hubby is having a problem about (other than being a Chevy lover ) is the 2.3L . But as he says the money is mine and what car i buy is my choice .

    I also looked at a 63 Ford Falcon Ventura 2 door sedan . 302 motor (hubby liked that ) pretty good body and an amazingly great interior for the yr of the car . A bit more pricey than the MustangII . I don’t have any experience with a Falcon but did like the looks of this little sedan and for some reason could see it looking good jacked up in the back with some wider tires on it . lol

    Any thoughts or experience with Falcons ?

    My dad passed away about a yr ago and i inherited a little money . I’ve always wanted a nice old cool car and think this gives me that opportunity to do it . My dad was a lifetime lover of Fords and American made . I think it would make him smile to know i’d used this money on a great old model of a Ford .

  • avatar

    Kimmie, I happen to know quite a bit about early falcons. My dad drove fords also. Ford happens to be my last name, lol. I have to leave for work, but if there is anything you would like to ask you can send me an email if you would like to. It would be easier than having to keep signing on to the website.
    my email address is [email protected]

  • avatar

    Moparman426W ……Sent the email ,Ford Falcon . Hopefully it will make it . I use Verizon and they are in the process of changing over to frontier communications .

  • avatar

    Kim, I got your email this morning. tried writing back but it would not let me send. Just got in from work, I will check later to see if you wrote back.

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