Junkyard Find: 2001 Mercury Cougar S

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Of all the Mercury models sold since the marque was born in the 1939 model year, the Cougar must have been the most varied. From the first Mustang sibling in 1967 and into our current century, the Cougar name went on small sporty coupes, white-powder-sprinkled personal luxury boats, midsize sedans, big sedans, station wagons, and various thinly-disguised Continental/Thunderbird copies. The very last Cougar generation was a sport compact coupe with European ancestry, and that's what we've got for today's Junkyard Find.

These cars didn't sell so well and seemed to wear out quickly, so they're tough to find in junkyards a couple of decades after the last one was built. I spotted this one at Colorado Auto & Parts, just south of Denver.

This one appears to be an example of the factory-hot-rod Cougar S with the optional V6 Sports Group. Amazingly, the original buyer was willing to take the five-speed manual transmission instead of the optional four-speed automatic that most buyers demanded.

You'd think that the 1999-2002 Cougar would have been the final Mercury model available with three pedals, but it turns out that—in theory—Mercury Milan buyers could get a manual transmission all the way until the end in 2011. If you see one of those cars in the wild, please let us know immediately.

The engine in the 2001 Cougar S was this 2.5-liter Duratec V6, rated at 170 horsepower.

170 horses was respectable power for a car like this in 2001; the Acura Integra GS-R also got 170 hp that year. The 200-horsepower Duratec from the Ford Contour SVT would have been more fun, but the last year for that car was 2000.

The Cougar S with the Sports Group package also got four-wheel disc brakes and cool-looking 16-inch alloy wheels (which some junkyard customer had already bought before I arrived).

This diamond-patterned upholstery seemed to be a special thing as well.

The Cougar was based on the Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique chassis, itself derived from the European Mondeo platform.

This is one of the few Mercury models sold in North America that didn't have a corresponding Ford model that looked at least 95 percent similar at a glance from 50 feet away.

Cougar tradition required that screaming-cat badges be placed everywhere in and on the car.

I gave up counting the cat badges after the first half-dozen.

For some reason, the person who bought the wheels left the cat-faced hub covers behind.

Snarl!

The triangular outside door handles are spiffy.

This is the cassette/CD radio, which cost just $80 extra over the base AM/FM/CD unit.

The list price for this car with manual transmission and V6 Sport Group came to $22,915, or about $38,961 in 2022 dollars.

In 2001, you could get a new Mitsubishi Eclipse GT Coupe with a 205-horse V6 for $20,947. The Acura Integra Type R was $24,450, and it had 195 screaming horsepower. Believe it or not, the Chevy Cavalier Z24 (with 150 hp Quad 4) was still available that year (it was gone after 2002), and it cost a mere $16,465 before the price breaks offered by hungry dealerships. The Cougar had some tough competition in the year of the first Fast & Furious movie.

After 2002, the Cougar was gone forever. After 2011, Mercury was gone forever.

Just the car for evading… Lord Humungus-style bikers with rocket launchers?

[Images: The author]

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Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Elsorrells Elsorrells on Jan 10, 2023

    Seriously considered one of these before i bought my 2002 Monte Carlo, but the electrical gremlins and suspect build quality put me off. Now I have decent build quality but still some electrical gremlins.

  • Otis Malone Otis Malone on Mar 09, 2023

    How much are the headlights in the Mercury Cougar

  • ToolGuy I wouldn't buy any old Chinese brand of vehicle, but the right EV at the right price, maybe possibly yes. If you told me this would alarm Ford and torque off FreedMike, all the better. 😉P.S. I would *definitely* consider an EV made in Taiwan. Take that, paramount leader!P.P.S. China batteries/components to convert one of my ICE vehicles to EV? Yes.
  • Wolfwagen I expect Renault to be less popular than Fiat
  • ToolGuy Helium-3, baby!
  • Roman Our 1999 Pontiac Sunfire Gt is still running without any issues. 25 years and counting.
  • 28-Cars-Later I thought today's young people weren't even getting licenses to drive, so which is it?
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