1967-1971 Mercury Cougar - Buyer's Guide

By: Cliff Chambers

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Not all Pony cars from the house of Henry wear the Ford nametag - nevertheless they can all get up and gallop

 

Mercury Cougar

The Mercury Cougar was announced in September 1966 and slipped easily into the space between Ford’s Mustang and Thunderbird. While still regarded as a ‘Pony Car’, the Cougar sat on a wheelbase 100mm longer than the Mustang’s and took styling cues such as its roof-line and concealed headlights from full-sized models like the T-bird.

Cougars sold initially as a Hardtop Coupe and in two trim levels. The basic engine was a 4.7-litre V8 but the majority of later cars have 5.7-litre, 351 cubic inch small blocks or the 6.4-litre ‘390’ motor. Unlike the Mustang there was no six-cylinder engine option.

Upmarket versions of the Cougar were designated XR-7 and to grab the attention of enthusiast drivers a GT package was added as well. Later the Cougar Eliminator, a separate model, turned a pleasantly sporty coupe into a serious competition car.   The GT included 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 few were also built for drag racing with 7.0-litre, 427 cubic inch engines. 

| Buyer's Guide: Mercury Cougar 1967-73

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First-year Cougar sales in 1967 topped 150,000 cars but by the early 1970s those the numbers had slipped below 75,000. Cars sold into the US market and many of the ones sent here were heavily optioned. Change came in 1969 with a minor restyle and addition of a convertible to the Cougar range. 

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

Cougars came to Australia in considerable numbers and some of those original 1960s arrivals have survived. Early imports were almost always converted to RHD; a fairly simple task that used mostly local Ford parts.

| 2019/20 Market Review: Mercury 1962-1978

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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 with lots of extras while the Mustangs being sold for similar money are the basic model.

Convertibles represented a very small fraction of Cougar production and these cars make considerably more money than hardtops. During 2017 at a North American auction a soft-top with the scarce 428CJ engine pushed past US$80,000, however values have fallen sharply since then and open-top Cougars now average below US$30,000. 

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For those thinking they might save money by importing rather than buying a car already in Australia, that figure converts to more than A$50,000 once the currency is converted, duty and other charges are levied.

Money being made by early Cougar coupes remains repressed. Typical cars in the North American market sell at less than US$20,000, with local XR7s near $40,000 and base-models $10,000 cheaper.

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VALUE RANGE: COUGAR (XR7 Hardtop)

Fair: $16,000
Good: $28,000
Excellent: $40,000

(Note: exceptional cars will demand more)

BUYER'S CHECKLIST

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Body & chassis

Rust issues echo the Mustang’s problems  so look initially at rear quarters, sills and window surrounds with special attention to the vinyl roof covering. Look at and feel the vinyl for bubbling or discolouration, especially around seams and at the base of the rear pillars. Ensure that the headlamp covers and power-operated top on convertibles operate correctly. Light covers that are slow to move likely have vacuum issues and replacing the entire mechanism can cost $3000 using rebuilt and reproduction parts from US specialists. New grilles, a variety of rust repair panels, door handles, lenses and glass and body trim are available from Cougar specialists but getting expensive. Bumpers cost US$800-900 each plus freight, duty and GST.

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Engine & transmission

Big or small-block engines fitted as standard equipment to Cougars will be inherently reliable and problems will likely be due to  significant neglect. Typical problems include engine leaks as oil overwhelms tired gaskets, low compression due to worn piston rings or valves and carburettor fuel leaks. Most Cougars in Australia will have FMX automatic transmission or sometimes the heavy-duty C6. Both are 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.

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Suspension & brakes

Cougar suspension once age comes into play will creak and groan like most Ford front ends. Cars that came here new all had power steering and wear will rob it of what little accuracy there was to start with. Good news is that parts are plentiful and don’t cost a lot. Excessively wide tyres can foul the inner mudguards on full lock. Disc brakes are recommended and most cars in our market have them but conversion of drum braked cars is straightforward. Ensure that the parking brake release operates without excessive force.

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Interior & electrics

Cougars delivered new to Australia came loaded with extras such as power windows and seat adjusters, air-conditioning or a power top on convertibles. Test the windows to ensure they move at reasonable pace without noise or shuddering and that the power-operated top does the same. Seat trim in a huge range of patterns is available from US specialists. So too complete dash panels (LHD) supplied with new instruments for US$800-1000. 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 was often done to satisfy inspectors.

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1967-1971 Mercury Cougar specs

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

From Unique Cars #435, January 2020

 

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