Mercury Cougar 1967-70 - buyer & value guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Unique Cars magazine

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mercury cougar 1967 70 Mercury Cougars were considered a luxo alternative to a Mustang. mercury cougar 1967 70

Do you like your muscle with some creature comforts?

Some called it a ‘luxury Mustang’ but the Cougar’s designers had a very different market segment in mind.

It was a natural progression of the ‘personal car’ concept pioneered by Ford with its Thunderbird, then refined by Buick’s Riviera.

The Cougar arrived in September 1966 and filled a gap in the range between the Mustang and Thunderbird. While the concept saw it dubbed a ‘Pony Car’, the Cougar sat on a wheelbase 100mm longer than the Mustang’s with style cues (such as concealed headlights) from full-sized models like the Thunderbird.

The Cougar was sold initially as a Hardtop Coupe and in two trim levels. The basic engine was a 4.7-litre V8 but the majority seem to have been sold with the 6.4-litre ‘390’ motor.

Upmarket versions of the Cougar were designated XR-7 and to grab the attention of enthusiast drivers there was a GT package.

The GT wasn’t a road-spec racer in the manner of the Boss Mustang or Talledega Torinos but did include stiffer springs and suspension bushings, front disc brakes, wider tyres and the 248kW 390 engine with four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission. A very small number of GT Cougars were built for drag racing with 7.0-litre, 427 cubic inch engines.

First-year sales in 1967 topped 150,000 cars and the Cougar looked set for a stellar ride to the top of US sales charts. By 1970s though the numbers had slipped below 75,000. Change came in 1969 with a restyle and addition of a convertible to the Cougar range. An Eliminator model was added as well.

Big-block engines remained available in Cougars until 1971 but the seriously hi-po 427 was gone, replaced by the less-potent 428

‘Interceptor’. For the few buyers who wanted to enter their Cougar in the Trans Am motor racing series there was a ‘Boss 302’ power unit and four-speed gearbox.

One who enjoyed success at the wheel of a Cougar was competition veteran Dan Gurney. He along with Parnelli

Jones debuted Cougars in the 1967 TransAm series, shifting to the GrandAm series in 1968 when their success looked like embarrassing the mainstream Mustangs. A commemorative XR7-G (for Gurney) model was available during 1967-68 and these cars remain prized in the collector market.

MARKET REVIEW

Cougars came to Australia in considerable numbers and some of those original 1960s arrivals have survived. Early imports were invariably converted to RHD.

For many years, Cougar values lagged behind the money being made by Mustangs of similar age, however in recent times the prices being achieved have increased. To be fair, a lot of the cars on offer are up-spec XR7 versions and lots of extras while the Mustangs being sold for similar money are quite basic.

Convertibles represented a very small fraction of Cougar production and these scarce cars now make considerably more money than a Hardtop. During 2017 a North American auction pushed past US$80,000 for a soft-top with the scarce 428CJ engine. 5.0-litre Eliminators can and have exceeded US110,000. Given that Cougars in US market remain at around US$20,000, the benefits of importing a car that isn’t scarce or in exceptional condition are negligible.

CHECKLISTS

BODY & CHASSIS

Rust cautions – floors, rear quarters, sills – apply as per the Mustang. Then there are some special warnings. Many Cougar coupes had a vinyl covered roof which were known water traps. These need to be checked for bubbling or discoloured vinyl, especially around seams and at the base of the rear pillars. Ensure that the headlamp covers and power-operated top on convertibles operate correctly. Vacuum leaks from the accumulator that activates the light covers can be difficult to rectify. New grilles, a variety of rust repair panels, door handles, lenses and glass are available from Cougar specialists and not expensive. Bumpers seem more difficult to find than other parts.

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Any engine fitted as standard equipment to a 1967-73 Cougar will be almost boring in its reliability. Typical problems include engine leaks as oil bypasses tired gaskets, difficulty starting and carburettor issues. Virtually all Cougars available in Australia will have automatic transmissions which is very durable and easily reconditioned. Thumps when down-changing indicate work required. A loose torque converter will produce knocking noises under acceleration. Except in the scarce Eliminator, four-speed transmission is likely an after-market conversion so check the vehicle’s authenticity.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Cougar suspension is basic Ford and not especially durable so expect some creaks at low speed and indistinct steering. Good news is that parts are plentiful and don’t cost a lot. If the steering has excessive play or feels notchy, check first that the steering box is still firmly mounted to the chassis. Excessively wide tyres can foul the inner mudguards on full lock. Disc brakes are recommended where not already present and conversion of drum braked cars is straightforward. Ensure that the parking brake release operates without needing excessive force.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Cougars delivered new to Australia came loaded with electrically-operated goodies such as windows, seat adjusters, air- conditioning or a power top. Test the glass to ensure it moves at reasonable pace without noise or shuddering and that the power-operated top on convertibles does the same. The fascinating sequential rear indicators should blink rhythmically but may not be considered legal by some registration authorities. Colouring the reverse-light lenses amber and linking them to the flashers is a novel fix.

VITAL STATS

NUMBER MADE: 437,026

(all models 1967-70)

BODY STYLES: steel integrated body/chassis two-door coupe or convertible

ENGINE: 4727cc, 4942cc, 6384cc, 7016cc V8 with overhead valves & single downdraft carburettor

POWER & TORQUE: 238kW @ 4600rpm, 579Nm @ 2800rpm (6.4-litre)

PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h 7.6 seconds, 0-400 metres 16.3 seconds (6.4-litre auto)

TRANSMISSION: three or four-speed manual, three-speed automatic

SUSPENSION: Independent with coil springs, upper & lower control arms, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar (f) Live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)

BRAKES: drum or disc (f) drum (r) power assisted

TYRES: E70-14 bias ply

 

Numbers from our 2017-18 Muscle Cars Value Guide.

Muscle Car Value Guide home page

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