QOTD: Terrible Nineties Sports Car Design From America?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
qotd terrible nineties sports car design from america

Last week, we wrapped up a trio of posts about the best sporty car designs of the Nineties from around the world. Today we venture into the darker depths of the same subject. First up are the bad designs American manufacturers proffered during the decade.

The familiar rules of the game are the same as in prior editions:

  1. All selections must be model years 1990 to 1999.
  2. Picks must be from an American manufacturer, even if sourced from an import.
  3. Any body style is eligible as long as it’s sporty*.

*Some commenters need to take note of rule 3, max, and relax all cool.

My choice for bad Nineties design started off serviceably enough at introduction, but then through corporate fiddling and adjustment ended up in a sad state.

It’s the seventh-generation Mercury Cougar, which debuted on the MN12 platform for the 1989 model year. Rear-drive, V6 or V8 power, and available with a manual in 1989 and 1990. Sounds like a decent starting point, apart from a grille that looked like a placemat. As expected, Cougar shared its DNA with the Ford Thunderbird (and was step sibling to Lincoln’s Mark VIII), though the Cougar was more serious looking and a bit more upscale than the Thunderbird. The upright design remained unchanged for the first two model years. A refresh came in 1991.

Arguably the best looking and most Taurus-like version of the model’s run, another refresh was carried out for the 1994 model year that brought it closer to Sable.

But Ford wasn’t finished, and in 1996 performed a more substantial rework on both Thunderbird and Cougar. Now Cougar shared its visage with the Thunderbird, but carried its own bumper and grille (which looked a mess). Previously absent, trim sprouted along the sides of the coupe in the form of chunky cladding.

Metamorphosis from moth to caterpillar complete, Ford cancelled the Cougar after 1997. The name remained dormant for two years until a resurrection on the Mondeo platform Ford Cougar.

What are the best examples of bad American sports car design from the Nineties?

[Images: GM, sellers, Mercury]

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2 of 96 comments
  • Wodehouse Wodehouse on Oct 09, 2019

    The New Edge Cougar from '99 and that Mercury Capri convertible thing that looked like it should have debuted on stage with the Ford Probe series of concept cars from 1979 onwards. Yuck!

  • Eng_alvarado90 Eng_alvarado90 on Oct 16, 2019

    1990-1991 Pontiac Grand Am GT. The profile actually looks quite similar to the cougar with an almost vertical rear windshield, however the trunk always looked disproportionate to the rest of the car and the front grille was just ugly. Its Beretta platform mate was much better

  • FreedMike If it were a GLI, it’d be a decent project car. But at the end of the day you have a base Jetta, and those weren’t all that great. Speaking of project VWs - when I was living at my old house a few years ago, one of my neighbors had an OG 1983 GTI sitting on his lawn. Lord, did I want to take that car home.
  • Dukeisduke "Gouging" - lol. California's gas prices are driven by a combination of the highest state gasoline tax in the US (66.98 cents per gallon) and the CARB-mandated California-only boutique fuel blends.
  • Astigmatism Honestly I'm surprised it's not higher. My parents bought two garage spots in Boston for $250k in the 1980s. When I worked in midtown a decade ago, garage spots near my building rented for $500 a month, which would support a $125k mortgage.Places get expensive when lots of people want to live there.
  • 28-Cars-Later As much as the Orwellian nature concerns me I must say to "add a turbo" as it were to net roughly 20% more bhp for $1,195 doesn't sound too bad. In days of old the V6 -> V8 upgrade was upwards of 20-30% of the base model cost.
  • Nivya Typical Manhattan parking spot price usually ranges anywhere between $15 to $75 for two hours. However, there are plenty of alternative parking options that provide even cheaper rates.