From its inception in the 1967 model year until its demise after the 2002 model year, the Mercury Cougar was a number of different vehicles. The original Cougar was built on the highly successful Ford Mustang platform and offered the same running gear, but with upscale appointments and greater luxury. By the end of the run in 2002, the Cougar had seen eight generations of development and it was no longer a trim, sporty 2 + 2.
The 1967-8 Mercury Cougar showed the design formula of the Mustang: long hood, short deck, and two-plus-two seating. The Cougar had a more plush interior and the headlights were hidden behind little doors. The base power plant was the 289 CID Windsor V-8 with an option for the high performance 390 CID V-8 (found usually in Police Interceptors).
During the 1968 model run, an arrangement with Dan Gurney's company in Costa Mesa, CA, produced a specially-tweaked Cougar labeled as the XR-7G. This highway cruiser sported a 6.5-liter version of the venerable 390 P Interceptor engine, backed by a beefed-up Cruis-o-matic automatic transmission. Competition-type hood pins, styled steel wheels and radial tires, Lucas fog lamps, a performance suspension, and an electric sun-roof completed the package. The only visible sign that this wasn't a stock Cougar were the two 6.5-liter badges on the front quarter and two three-inch exhaust pipes sticking through the valance under the rear bumper.
Like its Mustang cousin, the Cougar grew in size in 1969, but when Ford took the Mustang back to its roots, the Mercury moved the Cougar to the Ford Thunderbird platform. The Cougar remained the Thunderbird's stable mate for much of its remaining years.
Throughout the model run, the engines in various iterations of Cougars ranged from the original base 289 to the 302 V-8, 390, 351 Windsor, 351 Cleveland, 427, 428 Cobra-Jet, 429 Super Cobra-Jet, and 460 CID V-8s. In some of the engine and suspension combinations, the Cougar was a true sports car. In the later years, it morphed into a boulevardier along the lines of the Ford Thunderbird, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Buick Riviera.
At one point during the 80-82 model years, an attempt was made to create a separate brand out of the Cougar. The model line-up included a two-door coupe, four-door sedan, and a station wagon. Mercury realized the mistake and reverted back to the sporty coupe on the T-Bird platform.
Considerations were being given to a reincarnation of the Cougar name and style, but Ford Motor Company elected to pull the plug on the Mercury Division.
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