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.
As electric cars are finding favor again, I keep hoping that their virtue of instantaneous, silent power will inspire automakers to revive the personal luxury coupe. Electric propulsion would be ideal for a car whose mission is to provide comfortable, stylish accommodation for two passengers plus the occasional occupants of a not-too-small rear compartment.
The long hood, an essential styling hallmark of the genre, could become a commodious “frunk” able to hold all the golf bags the marketing department might desire. Glove-soft upholstery might enrobe seats devoid of confining, uncomfortable lateral support bolstering. Every power assist and convenience would be in place to gladden the sybarite’s heart. For instance, power window switches could operate just by sight, so one’s fingers aren’t strained when ordering at the Starbucks drive-through window. Personal luxury coupes don’t need to be fast, enhancing driving range. The possibilities for Broughamized electric coupes are endless!
Yet, despite my frequent, vigorous attempts to show them the way, carmakers seem blind to the golden opportunity to revive the personal luxury coupe. Elon Musk has even stopped returning my texts. Philistine.
Ford’s Mercury Division built rear-wheel-drive Cougars from the 1967 through 1997 model years, followed by a 1999-2002 run of front-wheel-drive Cougars based on the Mondeo chassis. Today’s Junkyard Find is thus historically significant on three counts: it’s the last model year for the rear-wheel-drive Cougar, it’s a special edition commemorating the 30th anniversary of the debut of The Man’s Car, and it’s the last year for the XR7 luxury package. Bitter tears, indeed!
And earlier today the Internets served up a random ad for a teal 10th-generation T-bird in fantastic condition. Seems like a perfect opportunity to add it to our coverage of the long-lived personal luxury nameplate.
It’s ironic that as the initial Jaguar story neared publication, I ordered an aftermarket part to complete the (somewhat) light restoration of my 1988 Mercury Cougar XR-7. I mentioned getting “a factory part when buying the aftermarket brand” and nobody had a problem with this assessment.
But you won’t believe what happens next in this shameful attempt at clickbait…
If a law recently signed into effect by New York Governor Andrew Coumo had been on the books in the 1960s, it’s possible that the Mercury Cougar might have been named something else. In that alternative universe, the law would also have likely completely changed the direction of the Mercury brand in the 1960s and 1970s. A.9004/S.6903 prohibits exhibitors of big cats, lions, tigers, jaguars/panthers, and cougars (aka mountain lions), from allowing the public to have “direct contact” with the exotic animals. For the purpose of the law, direct contact includes both physical contact like petting or posing with the animal, proximity to it, as well as allowing photography without a permanent physical barrier between them, protecting the animal and the public. The bill was sponsored in the New York Assembly by Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), an animal rights advocate. Somewhere, Chauncey the Mercury Cougar snarls.
An unsellable car comes in many forms.
The three-door minivan. The stickshift attached to a non-sporty wagon. The Daewoo. The conversion van with design graphics rooted in sexual fantasy.
Then there is this car. A car designed in the Reagan era with a cheap plastic grille, an even cheaper plasticized interior, and a luggage rack on the trunk that would do Lee Iacocca proud.
God I love this thing. What the hell is wrong with me?
We make fun of the personal luxury coupe now, just as we make fun of leisure suits, WIN buttons, and Freakies cereal. Still, the rest of the world (except perhaps Australia) never experienced the glory of the huge, inefficient, vaguely sporty coupe with floaty ride and deep-tufted velour interior, and this is their loss.
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.
When the Cougar went from the Fox platform to the MN12 platform for the 1989 model year, it got an independent rear suspension and a longer wheelbase for even more personal luxury. The ’89-97 Cougar had style, and thus the Prowler Edition XR7 makes perfect sense.
The Cougar name has been slapped on so many different Mercurized (Mercurated?) Fords that it gets hard to keep them straight. I never much cared for the over-gingerbreaded Mustang-based version, but the big Thunderbird-based late-70s Cougar seems properly Mercurial.
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- Sayahh Story idea or car design competition: design a compact sedan, a midsize sedan, coupe and/or wagon specifically for people 6'4" through 7'2". Not an SUV nor a crossover nor a raised chassis like the US Toyota Crown or Subaru Outback.
- Sayahh I only check map app only when absolutely necessary and only at a red light. An observation: lots of ppl leave 2 car lengths (or more) between themselves and the car ahead of theirs so that they can text or check the internet (because they are afraid they might roll forward and hit the car in front of them?) This drives me crazy because many ppl do it and 3 cars will take up almost 7 car lengths and ppl cannot get into the left turn lane when it's bordered by a cement "curb." Worse is when they aren't even using their phone and have both hands on the stewring wheel and waiting for the green light. Half a car length is enough, people. Even one car length is too much, but 3 or 4 car lengths? At 40 MPH, maybe, not at 0 MPH please.
- 6-speed Pomodoro My phone never leaves my pocket while driving. This is fine in my daily with bluetooth and also fine in my classic car, but people get mad in a hurry that I'm ignoring them.