Ford cougar 1980

Ford cougar 1980 DEFAULT

Mercury Cougar

Ford Motor Company car model

For other uses, see Cougar (disambiguation).

Motor vehicle

Mercury Cougar is a nameplate applied to a diverse series of automobiles sold by the Mercury division of Ford from 1967 to 1997 and from 1999 to 2002. While the nameplate is most commonly associated with two-door coupes, at various times during its production, the Cougar was also marketed as a convertible, four-door sedan, station wagon, and hatchback.

With 2,972,784 examples produced, the Cougar is the highest-selling nameplate ever produced by the Mercury brand; its 34-year production is second only to the Grand Marquis in the Mercury model line (produced for 36 years). During the 1970s and 1980s, the Cougar was closely tied to the marketing of the Mercury division; Mercury advertised its dealers as "The Sign of the Cat" with big cats atop Lincoln-Mercury dealer signs.[1] In line with the Cougar, several animal-related nameplates were adopted by the division, including the Bobcat, Lynx, and Sable.

During its production, the Cougar was assembled at the Dearborn Assembly Plant (part of the Ford River Rouge Complex) in Dearborn, Michigan from 1967 to 1973, San Jose Assembly (Milpitas, California) from 1968 into early 1969, Lorain Assembly (Lorain, Ohio) from 1974 to 1997, and at Flat Rock Assembly (Flat Rock, Michigan) from 1999 to 2002.


Mercury Cougar emblem (1970 Cougar Eliminator)

During much of its production, the Cougar followed tradition within the Mercury division, marketed as a Mercury counterpart of a Ford vehicle. The models were distinguished by an exterior ranging in degree from grilles and lighting components to nearly the entire exterior, the Cougar shared its platform with Ford vehicles throughout its production.

For its first two generations, the Cougar was derived from the Ford Mustang. Initially developed as a pony car, it replaced the Cyclone muscle car in the Mercury model line.

For its third and fourth generations, the Cougar adopted the chassis of the Ford Torino intermediate. Slotted above the Montego, the Cougar became the counterpart of the Ford (Gran Torino) Elite. The fourth generation was split into two model lines; the Cougar replaced the Montego (matching the Ford LTD II), with the Cougar XR7 paired with the Ford Thunderbird.

For its fifth and sixth generations, the Cougar was downsized, adopting the compact Fox chassis. The Cougar XR7 was again matched with the Thunderbird, with the standard Cougar becoming the counterpart of the Ford Granada (replacing the Mercury Monarch). The sixth generation Cougar (replacing the XR7) reverted the model line solely to the two-door coupe bodystyle.

For its seventh generation, the Cougar introduced the MN12 platform. Sharing a chassis with the Thunderbird (and the Lincoln Mark VIII), the model line was produced as a two-door coupe through the 1997 model year.

For its eighth generation, the Cougar returned for 1999 as a sports compact hatchback. Intended for release as the third generation of the Ford Probe, the model line shifted to Mercury as its development neared completion. Sharing a chassis with the Ford Contour, the 1999 Cougar is the only version with no direct counterpart (though the model line was badged as a Ford Cougar for export).


Starting life as a 1962 design proposal for the T-5 project (the Ford Mustang), Lincoln-Mercury sought to produce its own version of the vehicle. Following initial skepticism by Ford over both model lines, the Mercury version received approval in mid-1964, following the successful launch of the Mustang; the Cougar name was adopted from the winning design for the Ford Mustang.[2]

Intended for a market position between the Ford Mustang and the Ford Thunderbird, the Cougar was intended as a "plush" pony car. While offering more comfort and features than the Mustang, the model line was tuned for better road manners than the Thunderbird.[2]

First generation (1967–1970)[edit]

Motor vehicle

The Mercury Cougar was released by Lincoln-Mercury on September 30, 1966.[2] Far exceeding initial sales projections, the Cougar would account for nearly 40% of the 1967 sales of the entire Lincoln-Mercury division.[2] In contrast to the Mustang, the Cougar was initially released solely as a two-door hardtop. Priced $284 more than the equivalent Ford Mustang, the base price of the Cougar was $2,854 ($22,765 in 2020 dollars [4]); a fully-optioned Cougar XR-7 was $4,500 ($35,894 in 2020 dollars[4]), essentially matching the base price of the Ford Thunderbird.[2]

The Cougar received the 1967 Motor Trend Car of the Year award, becoming the first (and only) Mercury-brand vehicle to do so.[5]


Internally designated T-7, the first-generation Cougar shared its chassis with the 1967 revision of the Ford Mustang.[2][6] The Cougar has a longer wheelbase than the Mustang, extended 3 inches to 111 inches. Both vehicles derive their underpinnings from the rear-wheel drive Ford Falcon unibody compact chassis architecture.


At its launch, the first-generation Cougar shared its engine lineup with the Mustang, although offering V8 engines exclusively.[2][7] A 289 cu in (4.7 L) V8 was offered with either a two-barrel (200 hp) or a four-barrel carburetor (225 hp); a 390 cu in (6.4 L) "Marauder" V8 was offered as an option, producing 320 hp (GT).[8]

During 1968, the 289 was temporarily substituted with the 302 cu in (4.9 L) V8 designed for the new federal emissions standards.[9] This engine produced 210 hp (2-bbl) and 230 hp (4-bbl); the former became standard on the XR-7.[9] At mid-year, a lower compression 289 was again available.[9] A two-barrel "Marauder 390P" was introduced for non-GT Cougars, producing 280 hp.[10] The newly introduced GT-E was introduced with a 427 cubic-inch V8, officially rated at 390 hp.[9][10] As a mid-year option, a 428 Cobra Jet Ram Air was introduced,[11] officially rated at 335 hp.

For the 1969 model revision, the engine line underwent further changes. The 289 was dropped entirely; a two-barrel 351 cubic-inch V8 became the standard engine for the Cougar, producing 250 hp (2-bbl) and 290 hp (4-bbl).[12] The 390 was offered solely as a 320 hp four-barrel. The 428 Cobra Jet was the largest Cougar engine, rated at 335 hp (with or without Ram Air).[12]

As a mid-year change, Mercury introduced the Boss 302 V8 to the Cougar (exclusive to the Eliminator). A four-barrel "street" version produced 290 hp, while a 2x4-barrel "racing" version was officially rated at the same 290 hp output.[12] On an official basis, the Cougar was never produced with the Boss 429 engine; two Cougars were produced as factory drag cars for "Fast Eddie" Schartman and "Dyno" Don Nicholson.

For 1970, the two-barrel 351 remained the base engine, with the four-barrel engine replaced by a 351 cubic-inch "Cleveland" V8, producing 300 hp. While unchanged in displacement, the new engine was an all-new design. The 390 was dropped, with the 428 Cobra Jet remaining alongside the Boss 302 as the high-performance engines.


1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT

Initially developed as a rebadged version of the Mustang, the 1967 Cougar received its own body design from the ground up, though the popular "long-hood, short-deck" proportions of the Mustang remained.[2] The model line was marketed as having "European" style and features.[13] The first Lincoln-Mercury vehicle with hidden headlamps, the front fascia was distinguished by a split "electric shaver" grille, featuring vertically slatted chrome trim. The rear fascia was styled similar, concealing dark-lens taillamps behind vertically-slatted trim; sequential turn signals were standard (adopting the mechanism from the Thunderbird).

The $185 upgrade to the XR-7 brought further European influence; in addition to a (simulated) wood-trim dashboard, full instrumentation (black-face gauges), toggle switches, and an overhead console; if so equipped, the automatic transmission was fitted with a T-handle console shifter.[2] The Cougar was offered with nearly every Mercury option with the sole exception of automatic climate control and power windows; a "Tilt-Away" steering wheel was offered, a power-operated steering column that swung up and out of the way when the driver's door was opened, the transmission in "park", and the ignition was off.[14]

For 1968, the Cougar saw revisions related to compliance with federal safety mandates, adding side marker lights and front outboard shoulder belts (sash belt, shoulder harness). In a first for Ford Motor Company, the 1968 Cougar offered an electrically-operated sunroof as a factory-installed option. While available on any Cougar, the sunroof was a rare option.


1969 Mercury Cougar (standard)

For the 1969 model year, the Cougar underwent a mid-cycle revision alongside its Mustang counterpart. The straight-lined body sides transitioned toward Coke bottle styling, distinguished by a sweeping body crease sloping down from the hood line to the rear wheels; while the roofline saw little change to its design, the vent windows were deleted.[15] The front fascia retained a full-width grille, with the "electric shaver" split grille replaced by a horizontally-slatted grille (with a matching centerpiece); concave taillamp lenses replaced the previous convex design. The hidden headlamps were retained; the mechanism shifted its power from a vacuum canister to a vacuum provided by the engine (as a fail-safe, the neutral position of the headlamp doors was open).

A convertible body style was added to the model line, available for both standard and XR-7 trims; a power-operated top was standard.[16]

For 1970, the Cougar underwent an additional revision to the front fascia; the split "electric shaver" grille made its return, adopting a pronounced body-color center section. As part of the front fascia revision, the Cougar received a new front bumper and revised front fenders.

In contrast to the Eliminator, the Cougar received a special option package (styled by fashion designer Pauline Trigère), including a houndstooth-patterned vinyl roof and matching upholstery; the roof and upholstery were available together or separately. Further safety revisions included the addition of locking steering columns and high-backed bucket seats (replacing adjustable head restraints).


The first-generation Cougar was offered in two trims, an unnamed standard trim, and the Cougar XR-7, introduced in early 1967.[2]

Cougar GT (1967–1968)[edit]

Available for both the standard Cougar and Cougar XR-7, the GT option package was developed as a sportier version of the Cougar. Standardizing a 390 cubic-inch "Marauder GT" V8 (320 hp), the Cougar GT was fitted with upgraded suspension, larger brakes, wheels, and tires, and a low-restriction exhaust system.[17]

For 1968, the GT-E was introduced above the Cougar GT.[18] Offering a racing-derived 390 hp 427 V8 (paired solely with a 3-speed automatic[9]), the GT-E received its own badging, quad exhaust, and a redesigned grille; power front disc brakes were standard.[18][19] As a running change, the 427 engine was joined by a 428 Cobra Jet as an option, the latter was officially rated at 335 hp. A total of 394 GT-Es were manufactured; of which 357 were equipped with the 427 and 37 were built with the 428CJ.[20]

Cougar Eliminator (1969–1970)[edit]

1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator

Largely a counterpart of the Ford Mustang Mach 1, the Cougar Eliminator replaced the Cougar GT as the performance-trim Cougar. A $200 combination of two option packages,[12] the Eliminator received a performance-tuned suspension, upgraded wheels and tires, a front air dam, and a rear spoiler.[12] To distinguish the Eliminator from other Cougars, Mercury added blacked-out exterior trim, a Cougar rear badge (replacing the Mercury crest emblem), racing-style side mirrors, and model-specific body stripes.[21] Four exterior colors were available: white, bright blue metallic, competition orange, and bright yellow.[12]

Offered solely as a hardtop, the Eliminator was offered with all available Cougar engines, with the 351 Cleveland as the standard engine. As a running change during 1969, the Boss 302 engine (shared with the namesake Mustang) was added as an option; the engine was offered exclusively with the Eliminator.

Special editions[edit]

For 1967, to commemorate the success of the model line in competition, Mercury offered the Dan Gurney Special version of the XR-7 (technically, the XR-7S).[7] In addition to a signature decal, the option package included turbine-style wheel covers and an engine dress-up kit.[7] To signify his association with Lincoln-Mercury, the XR7-G (G=Gurney) was introduced as an option for 1968.[9] Largely a performance-oriented appearance package, the XR-7G included a hood scoop, fog lamps, hood pins, and tailpipes from the GT; the option package was offered with any Cougar engine.[9] Each XR-7G was built to order, with the total number produced unknown.[9]

A 1969-only package was the Cougar Sports Special that included unique pinstriping, "turbine" style wheel covers, and rocker panel moldings with simulated side scoops. The Sports Special could be combined with the "Decor" interior package and performance suspension, along with any available engine.


Model Year Units
1967 150,893
1968 113,720
1969 100,069
1970 72,343

Second generation (1971–1973)[edit]

Motor vehicle

For 1971, Lincoln-Mercury released the second-generation Mercury Cougar. To expand potential competition for the model line, Ford benchmarked the design of the Cougar against the quartet of GM A-body coupes, placing the model line in competition with the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Again sharing much of its bodyshell with the Ford Mustang, the Cougar began to shift away from a "plush pony car", taking on aspects of both sporty cars and luxury cars.[23]

The continued success of the Cougar led to several changes within the Mercury model line. Similar in size and performance, the Mercury Cyclone intermediate (derived from the Mercury Montego) was quickly overshadowed by the Cougar, leading Mercury to end sales of the Cyclone during 1972. Slightly smaller than the 1964 Mustang, the imported Capri (not officially badged as a Mercury) began to succeed the Cougar within Lincoln-Mercury as a compact sporty car.

The second-generation Cougar is the final version derived from the Ford Mustang and the final version offered as a convertible. A light blue/white 1973 Cougar XR-7 convertible was the "last" convertible assembled by Ford Motor Company; at the time, American manufacturers ended assembly of convertibles during the 1970s in anticipation of increased rollover safety standards.


The second-generation Cougar used a revised version of the first-generation chassis, again shared with the Ford Mustang; the wheelbase was increased to 112.1 inches.[24] While substantially upgraded, the rear-wheel drive chassis underpinnings remained derived from the Ford Falcon unibody architecture. To better accommodate big-block engines (such as the Ford 429), the Mustang/Cougar chassis was widened 3 inches; the front track was widened from 58.1 to 61.5 inches (only an inch narrower than the Panther-chassis Grand Marquis[25]).[26]

The model line was fitted with front disc and rear drum brakes, with power-assisted brakes becoming standard in 1973. In another change, the 3-speed manual transmission was dropped, leaving all engines paired with a 3-speed automatic;[27] a 4-speed manual was a rarely-specified option.


1971 Cougar XR-7 (351 Ram Air)

The second-generation Cougar underwent a revision of the powertrain offerings. For 1971, a 240 hp 351 Cleveland two-barrel V8 was the standard engine with a 351C four-barrel V8 as an option.[24] The Boss 302 and Boss 429 were discontinued, with both Boss engines and the 428 Cobra Jet replaced by a 370 hp 429 Cobra Jet V8 (with or without Ram Air).[28]

For 1972, Ford adopted SAE net horsepower ratings, leading to a numerical decrease in advertised engine output. The 429 V8 was dropped, leaving the Cougar with three versions of the 351C V8.[29] A 166 hp two-barrel version was the standard engine, with a 246 hp four-barrel offered as an option. The Cobra Jet version of the 351 made its debut, now producing 266 hp. For 1973, the four-barrel version of the 351 was dropped, leaving the two-barrel 351C (retuned to 168 hp) and the 264 hp 351CJ V8.[29]

Body design[edit]

1973 Cougar XR-7 hardtop roofline, showing "flying buttresses"

The second-generation Cougar carried over both the hardtop and convertible body styles from its predecessor. Sharing its roofline with the Mustang hardtop, the Cougar received large "flying buttress" C-pillars, extending into the rear fenders. To distinguish the model line from the Mustang, the Cougar adopted multiple design elements from larger Mercury vehicles. In place of a split grille, the front fascia was styled with a prominent center section (in line with the Mercury Cyclone and Ford Thunderbird) including a waterfall-style grille. In a break from the previous generation, hidden headlamps were abandoned (replaced by four exposed headlamps). The taillights adapted simpler trim, set horizontally within the bumper (in line with full-size Mercury vehicles).

For 1972, the Cougar underwent few substantial changes to the interior or exterior. For 1973, the front fascia underwent an update; to include a 5-mph bumper (required for 1973), the front bumper was reshaped and enlarged, requiring a redesign of the grille. To improve the crashworthiness, the design added three inches to the overall length. As it was the final year for the generation, the rear bumper was largely unchanged, receiving only minor revisions to the taillamp lenses.


For 1971, the Cougar was offered in standard and XR-7 trim. As its Boss Mustang counterpart was dropped, Mercury discontinued the racing-oriented Cougar Eliminator. While de-emphasized as the model line shifted away from high performance, the GT option package remained an option, including upgraded suspension, tires, and engine cooling components.[30] For 1973, the GT option was discontinued.

While both trims shared the same powertrain offerings, the XR-7 received its own exterior and interior design, distinguished by a vinyl top (on hardtops); along with standardizing many options, the XR-7 received its own door panels and dashboard.[23]

For 1973, Lincoln-Mercury marketed a "Bronze Age" special edition promotion of the Cougar (alongside the Monterey, Montego MX, and Comet).[31][32][33] A standard Cougar equipped with the Decor Group,[31] the "Bronze Age" Cougar was distinguished by its copper metallic (officially, saddle bronze[31]) appearance and a color-coordinated vinyl roof.[31] Alongside its namesake color, the trim package was also offered in six other colors: ivy glamour metallic, green metallic, medium brown metallic, saddle bronze, medium yellow gold, and white.[31]


Model Year Units
1971 62,864
1972 53,702
1973 60,628

Third generation (1974–1976)[edit]

Motor vehicle

For 1974, Lincoln-Mercury released the third-generation Mercury Cougar, introducing both design and marketing changes to the model line. One of the few American model lines that would eschew downsizing during the mid-1970s, the Cougar grew in size, sharing its body with the Mercury Montego and the newly introduced Ford (Gran Torino) Elite. Splitting from the Mustang (which became the subcompact Mustang II for 1974), the Cougar adopted a market position closer to the larger Ford Thunderbird.[35] In a model consolidation, all third-generation Cougars were offered under a single XR-7 trim level, as the GT and Eliminator editions were retired.

Initially at risk for cancellation (following declining sales of the second generation compared to its competitors), Lincoln-Mercury instead repackaged the Cougar as a halo car for the Mercury brand.[36] As division executives sought to avoid overlap with the successful Capri (sold since 1971),[36] the Cougar grew in size to remain a competitor to the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and Buick Regal, finding newfound competitors from the release the AMC Matador Coupe and the Chrysler Cordoba.

The redesign proved successful in the market; while still a decline over the first generation, the third generation increased sales by nearly 50% over its 1971-1973 predecessor.[36]


The third generation Cougar uses the rear-wheel drive chassis used by the Mercury Montego and Ford Torino intermediates. Growing to a 114-inch wheelbase (used by the two-door Montego/Torino and the Elite), the third-generation Cougar was the first to share its wheelbase with another model line. As part of adopting the Torino chassis, the Cougar shifted to body-on-frame construction for the first time.

Powertrain details[edit]

For 1974, four engines were offered for the Cougar. Two 351 cubic-inch V8s were carried over from the previous Cougar, including the standard 351 Cleveland and optional 351CJ "Cobra Jet" V8s. From the full-size Mercury line, the Cougar also offered a 400 cubic-inch V8 and 460 cubic-inch V8 as options. For the first time, the model line was offered solely with automatic transmissions.

For 1975, the Cougar saw revisions to its engine range. The 351 Cleveland was replaced by the updated 351M and the 351 Cobra Jet was retired (from all Ford vehicles); the 400 and 460 remained options.

Body design[edit]

1975-1976 Mercury Cougar XR-7

Sharing its bodyshell with the Ford Elite and the Mercury Montego MX Brougham coupe, the third-generation Cougar was offered solely as a two-door coupe, dropping the convertible from the previous generations. Styled with a roofline similar to the Thunderbird (and its Mark IV counterpart), the Cougar was not a true hardtop; while fitted with frameless door glass and lacking a fixed B-pillar, the rear side glass was fixed in place (did not retract).

To accommodate federal safety standards, 5-mph bumpers were added to both the front and rear fascias (front 5-mph bumpers were required for 1973).


To distinguish the model line from the Montego MX Brougham, the Cougar was fitted with C-pillar opera windows. While a feature shared with its Ford Elite counterpart, the Cougar adopted its opera window design nearly directly from the Thunderbird. On all Cougars, a vinyl roof was fitted as standard equipment.[37]

While fitted with a redesigned front bumper, the third-generation Cougar adopted many design elements of its front fascia from the previous generation, carrying over a center-section waterfall grille opening bordered by horizontal-trimmed openings with four inset headlights (in contrast to the eggcrate grille of the Elite with twin headlights). In contrast to the Montego, the rear fascia Cougar was fitted with a center panel matching the taillights (also hiding the fuel cap), along with vertically-slatted chrome trim (similar to the first-generation Cougar). The body sides were styled with a wide side molding matching the bumper rub strips (a design added to the 1975 Grand Marquis).

In line with larger Lincoln-Mercury vehicles, the Cougar received a hood ornament for the first time, using a "prowling cat" emblem.

The body of the third-generation Cougar saw few changes through its production; for 1975, the front bumper was updated with the functional addition of two cooling slots below the grille.[38]


Fitted with much of the interior of the Montego coupe, the Cougar differed primarily in its instrument panel (fitted with a tachometer instead of a clock and other performance-related gauges) and upgraded options.[39][40] Six-passenger seating was standard with a "Twin Comfort Lounge" 50/50 split bench seat with cloth or vinyl upholstery. As an option, five-passenger seating was offered with front bucket seats (with vinyl upholstery) and a center console with a floor-mounted transmission shifter.[40]

For 1976, the Cougar saw minor revisions to the interior. The seats underwent a redesign, with a full-width bench seat becoming standard; the 60/40 split bench seat became an option alongside the bucket-seat interior.[41][42]


Model Year Units
1974 91,670
1975 62,987
1976 83,765

Fourth generation (1977–1979)[edit]

Motor vehicle

Fourth generation
Mercury Cougar (Les chauds vendredis '10).jpg

1977–1979 Mercury Cougar

Model years1977–1979
AssemblyLorain, Ohio, United States
Pico Rivera, California, United States
Body styleFour-door sedan
Four-door station wagon
Two-door coupe
LayoutFR layout
RelatedFord LTD II
Ford Thunderbird
Engine302 cu in (4.9 L) V8
351 cu in (5.8 L) V8
400 cu in (6.6 L) V8
Coupe: 114.0 in (2,896 mm)
Sedan and Wagon: 118 in (3,000 mm)
Coupe: 215.5 in (5,473.7 mm)[43]
Sedan: 219.5 in (5,580 mm)
Wagon: 223.1 in (5,670 mm)
Width75.2 in (1,910.1 mm)
Height52.6 in (1,336.0 mm)
PredecessorMercury Montego (non XR-7 Cougar)

For the 1977 model year, Lincoln-Mercury released the fourth-generation Mercury Cougar, with two versions of the model line introduced. Replacing the Mercury Montego, the standard Cougar now served as the Mercury intermediate model line (slotted between the Mercury Monarch and Mercury Marquis), serving as the Mercury counterpart of the Ford LTD II (replacing the Torino/Gran Torino), introducing the first Cougar sedans and station wagons.

The Cougar XR-7 returned as a personal luxury coupe, now a counterpart of the Ford Thunderbird (replacing the Ford Elite), a pairing that lasted through 1997. In what would be used as a design feature for the model line through 2002, the "cat's head" emblem made its first appearance.

A heavy exterior revision of the 1974-1976 generation, the fourth generation was marketed against the introduction of downsized competitors. However, this generation would prove the most successful in the marketplace, with the XR-7 remaining the most popular version.


As with its predecessor, the fourth-generation Cougar was based on the Ford Torino "split-wheelbase" chassis. A 114-inch wheelbase was used for the two-door Cougar coupe and the Cougar XR-7; a 118-inch wheelbase was used for the four-door sedan and station wagon.

The fourth-generation Cougar underwent a revision of its powertrain offerings, largely in the interest of fuel economy. The 460 cubic-inch V8 was withdrawn from Torino-chassis intermediates, leaving a 173 hp 400 cubic-inch V8 as the highest-displacement engine. For non XR-7 Cougars, the standard engine was a 302 cubic-inch V8, producing 134 hp (the first version of the engine since 1970); station wagons received a standard 351W V8 (149 hp), with a 161 hp 351M V8 offered as an option in coupes and sedans. All engines were paired with a 3-speed automatic transmission.

For 1978, the engine lineup was carryover; for 1979, the 400 was discontinued.

Body design[edit]

For 1977, Mercury replaced its Montego intermediate range with the Cougar nameplate. Along with returning the standard Cougar name (for the first time since 1973), the change added three more body styles. Alongside the Cougar XR-7 personal luxury coupe, Mercury now offered the Cougar two-door coupe, four-door sedan, and five-door station wagon.

Largely intended as a stopgap during the development of future production models, the 1977 redesign of the Ford intermediate range transitioned the exterior from early 1970s "fuselage styling" to the sharper-edge lines of the Fox and Panther-platform sedans in development for the 1980s. To bring the exterior closer in line with the larger Marquis, the Cougar adopted a nearly square radiator-style grille; in place of hidden headlamps, the Cougar adopted four square headlamps.

While limited funds precluded a complete redesign or downsizing of the Torino intermediates, all sheetmetal (above the bumpers) was revised. As a revision of the rear bodywork of station wagons was deemed too extensive, the Cougar wagon adopted the 1977 front fascia with the bodywork of the previous Montego wagon. For 1978, the Cougar wagon was withdrawn, largely replaced by the downsized 1979 Mercury Colony Park (4 inches shorter).

For 1979, though in its last year, the Cougar adopted several body revisions, with revised taillamps and body-color grille inserts, along with an electronic voltage regulator and a plastic battery tray.

  • Fourth-generation Mercury Cougar
  • 1977 Mercury Cougar two-door

  • 1977 Mercury Cougar Villager wagon


For 1977, the Cougar was introduced in three trim levels: a base trim level and Brougham trim (for wagons, a wood-paneled Villager trim was offered). For 1978, the Cougar became a single trim level, with the Brougham returning as an option package.

Cougar XR-7[edit]

Returning from the previous generation, the Cougar XR-7 continued as a personal luxury coupe. Now serving as the flagship model of the Cougar line, the XR-7 was now the direct Mercury equivalent of the Ford Thunderbird; for 1977, the latter had shifted from the Mark IV to the Torino chassis (replacing the Elite).

Though sharing its front fascia with the standard Cougar, the XR-7 was distinguished with its own roofline (with its own hardtop-style windows), louvers on the opera windows, and its own rear fascia. Evoking the flagship Continental Mark V, the rear fascia was given a (vestigial) continental tire trunk lid (with a trapezoidal design) and horizontal taillights similar to the Continental Mark IV.

The XR-7 included power disc brakes and steering, 15-inch wheels, rear stabilizer bar, walnut wood-tone instrument panel, Flight Bench seat, "XR-7" trunk key-hole door, "COUGAR" decklid script, large hood ornament (with cat emblem), and sport-styled roofline with back-half vinyl and rear opera side windows and louvers. Some XR-7s had the Rally Sport Tachometer and Gauge package (only 25% of all Cougars came with this option).

For 1978, two new decor packages became available, the XR-7 Decor Option and the Midnight/Chamois Decor Option. In line with the Designer Series from the Mark V, the latter option offered a color-coordinated exterior and interior, with a half-vinyl roof, padded "Continental" type rear deck, and Midnight Blue and Chamois interior with Tiffany carpeting.

  • Fourth-generation Mercury Cougar XR-7
  • Cougar XR-7 decklid emblem

  • Cougar XR-7 hood ornament


Model Year Units
1977 194,823 (XR-7 124,799)
1978 213,270 (XR-7 166,508)
1979 172,152 (XR-7 163,716)

Fifth generation (1980–1982)[edit]

Motor vehicle

For the 1980 model year, Mercury downsized the Cougar XR-7. Alongside its Thunderbird counterpart, the XR-7 entered the mid-size segment for the first time, shedding 15 inches in length, 4 inches of width, and approximately 900 pounds of curb weight (depending on powertrain). In a strategy similar to 1977, the standard Cougar returned for 1981 in place of the Monarch in the Mercury product line (sharing its body with the redesigned Ford Granada).

The first Cougar not to offer a V8 as standard equipment, the standard Cougar was produced as a two-door and four-door sedan, adopting the five-door station wagon from the Zephyr from 1982; the model line was repackaged as the Marquis for 1983 as Ford revised its full-size and mid-size product branding.


Both the Cougar XR-7 and mid-size Cougar were produced using the Ford Fox platform.[45] The Cougar XR-7 was produced upon an extended-wheelbase Fox chassis (to 108.5 inches), shared with the 1980–1982 Ford Thunderbird, 1982–1987 Lincoln Continental, 1984–1985 Continental Mark VII and 1986–1992 Lincoln Mark VII. The mid-size Cougar shared its 105.5-inch wheelbase with the Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr, the launch vehicles of the Fox platform.


The Cougar XR7 was offered with two V8 engines. Shared with the Mercury Marquis/Colony Park, a 4.2 L V8 was standard, with a 4.9 L V8 offered as an option; both engines were paired with a 4-speed Ford AOD overdrive automatic.

The mid-size Cougar was offered with its own powertrain lineup. Shared with the Fairmont/Zephyr and Mustang/Capri, a 2.3 L inline-4 was the standard engine, with a 3.3 L inline-6 and a 4.2 L V8 offered as options; the four and six-cylinder engines were paired with a 3-speed automatic transmission.

For 1982, an all-new 3.8 L V6 replaced the inline-6; in various forms, the engine would be used by the Cougar and Thunderbird through their 1997 discontinuation. The 4.9 L V8 option was withdrawn from the Fox platform, leaving the 4.2 L engine as the sole V8 offering for both the Cougar and Cougar XR-7.


In its development, many design elements of the 1977–1979 Cougar XR-7 were carried forward in the fifth-generation redesign, including its Continental-style trunk lid, louvered opera windows, and sharp-edged fender lines. While the fourth-generation Cougar XR-7 had proven successful in the marketplace, the design elements fell out of proportion on a radically smaller car, leading to highly negative reception. In what would prove disastrous, the Cougar saw little to no differentiation from its Ford Thunderbird and Ford Granada counterparts, with the XR-7 externally distinguished only by its grille, exposed headlamps, taillamps, and trunk lid.

During the production of the fifth-generation Cougar, the Cougar XR-7 was produced solely as a two-door coupe, with the mid-size Cougar produced as a two-door notchback coupe and four-door sedan. For 1982 only, the mid-size Cougar was offered as a station wagon replacing the Zephyr station wagon. For the first time, Cougar's two-door models featured a fixed "B" pillar and a fixed steel frame around front door windows, as in the sedan.

In what would become a long-running tradition for the Mercury brand, 1981 marked the debut of GS and LS trim lines for both the mid-size and XR-7 Cougars.[46] Both trim packages were largely similar, though the LS was exclusive to four-doors. The GS package focused on appearance, while the LS package offered luxury touches such as power windows, keyless entry external number pad, and other luxury trim touches.[47] The Cougar station wagon was offered in either GS trim or wood-grained Villager trim (the Mercury equivalent of a Ford Squire station wagon).

Ford of Venezuela marketed the Fox-platform Cougar from 1983 to 1986 as the Ford Cougar Brougham four-door sedan.[48] Derived from the fifth-generation Cougar sedan, the Ford-badged Cougar Brougham was produced with the front and rear fascias of the 1983–1986 Mercury Marquis.

  • 1980–1982 Cougar XR-7 (standard roofline)

  • 1981 Mercury Cougar two-door

  • 1981 Mercury Cougar two-door

  • 1982 Mercury Cougar wagon (standard trim)

  • 1982 Mercury Cougar GS wagon (Ford Mustang wheels)


Model Year Units
1980 58,028
1981 90,928
1982 73,817

Sixth generation (1983–1988)[edit]

Motor vehicle

Sixth generation
87-88 Mercury Cougar.jpg

1987–1988 Cougar LS

Also calledFord Cougar (Mexico)
Model years1983–1988
AssemblyLorain, Ohio, United States
Body style2-door coupe
LayoutFR layout
PlatformFord Fox platform
RelatedMercury Marquis
Ford Thunderbird
Ford LTD
Lincoln Continental Mark VII
Lincoln Continental
Engine2.3 L (140 cu in) LimaturboI4
3.8 L (232 cu in) EssexV6
4.9 L (302 cu in) Windsor 5.0V8
TransmissionFive-speed Tremec T-5manual
Three-speed C5automatic
Four-speed AOD automatic
Wheelbase104 in (2,642 mm) (1980–86)
104.2 in (2,647 mm) (1987–88)
Length197.6 in (5,019 mm) (1983–86)
200.8 in (5,100 mm) (1987–88)
Width71.1 in (1,806 mm) (1983–86)
70.1 in (1,781 mm) (1987–88)
Height53.4 in (1,356 mm) (1983–86)
53.8 in (1,367 mm) (1987–88)
Curb weight3,050–3,500 lb (1,383–1,588 kg)

For the 1983 model year, Mercury introduced the sixth generation of the Cougar. As part of an extensive revision of the Ford and Mercury model ranges, the mid-size Mercury model range shifted from the Cougar to the Marquis (split from the full-size Grand Marquis). Reverting to its traditional role of a two-door coupe (for the first time since 1976), the Cougar remained a counterpart of the Ford Thunderbird with the two vehicles repackaged as "luxury sport coupes".[49] Within Mercury, the Cougar was slotted above the Capri and below the two-door Grand Marquis (both would be discontinued during its production).

Along with marking the first major use of aerodynamic-intensive design in an American automobile, the Cougar and Thunderbird were also the first Ford vehicles developed using computer-aided design (CAD).[49] While given a less aerodynamic roofline than the Thunderbird, the 1983 Cougar was far sleeker than the 1982 Cougar XR7, reducing its coefficient of drag from 0.50 to 0.40[50][49] In 1987, the sixth-generation Cougar underwent a mid-cycle revision with aerodynamic improvements, reducing its drag coefficient to 0.36.[51]


The sixth-generation Cougar retained the rear-wheel drive Ford Fox platform from the fifth generation. In a departure from its predecessor, a shorter 104-inch wheelbase was used (4 inches shorter than the previous XR7).[49] As before, traditional Fox-platform underpinnings were retained, including a MacPherson strut/A-arm front suspension with a four-link coil-sprung solid rear axle with front and rear anti-roll bars.[49]

As with the previous generation, 14-inch wheels and tires were standard, with Michelin TRX tires and metric-size wheels as an option (shared with the Thunderbird and Capri/Mustang).[49] For 1985, 15-inch wheels became an option for the XR7.[52]


For its 1983 launch, the sixth-generation Cougar offered a 120 hp 3.8 L V6 from its predecessor as a standard engine; a 130 hp 4.9 L V8 made its return as an optional engine.[49] For 1986, the V8 was changed to sequential fuel injection, increasing output to 150 hp.[53] For 1988, the 3.8 L V6 was given multiport fuel injection, increasing output to 140 hp; the 4.9 L V8 was retuned to 155 hp.[54]

From 1984 to 1986, the XR7 was equipped with a 2.3 L turbocharged inline-4; shared with the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, the engine produced 145 hp with an automatic transmission (155 hp with a manual transmission).[52] For 1987, the XR7 dropped the turbocharged engine (and 5-speed manual transmission) in favor of the 4.9 L V8.[51]

The 2.3L inline-four was paired with a 5-speed manual transmission; a 3-speed automatic transmission was optional. The 3.8 L V6 was paired with a 3-speed automatic; a 4-speed overdrive automatic was optional (the only transmission with the 4.9 L V8).[55] For 1987 and 1988, the 4-speed AOD transmission was fitted to both the 3.8 L and 4.9 L engines.[56]



The exterior design of the sixth-generation Cougar was designed largely in response to the negative market response to the introduction of the fifth-generation Cougar. While retaining a common chassis, a primary objective for designers was to maximize the visual differentiation between the Thunderbird and Cougar.[49] To reduce production costs, the two model lines shared exterior body parts, including front and rear bumpers, both doors, the windshield, the hood, and front fenders.[49] While the Thunderbird adopted a fastback roofline, the Cougar adopted a notchback roofline with a near-vertical backlight, distinguished by upswept rear side windows.[49]

During its production, the sixth-generation Cougar underwent several exterior revisions. For 1984, the hood ornament was replaced by a flat hood emblem.[57] For 1985, the waterfall-style grille was replaced with an egg-crate design (similar to Mercedes-Benz); the red taillamp lenses were replaced by a dark gray design.[52] 1986 saw few changes, highlighted by the addition of a government-mandated center rear brake light (CHMSL) and a power-operated moonroof;[53] for the last time, the Cougar was available with vent windows.

To mark its 20th year of production, the Cougar underwent an extensive mid-cycle revision for 1987.[51] Originally slated for the 1986 model year,[52] nearly every exterior panel was changed. To visually stretch the roofline, a compound-curved rear window replaced the nearly flat rear glass and the rear quarter windows were redesigned (with a curve inversely matching the windshield angle).[51] To further distinguish the model line from the Thunderbird, the 1987 Cougar received its own grille (with a large "cat" emblem), front bumper cover and aerodynamic composite headlamps.[58] Shared with the Mustang GT, the Cougar received new 15-inch wheels, becoming the standard alloy wheel design for 1988.[51][54] For 1988, the exterior of the Cougar underwent no changes, introducing several monochromatic paint options.[54]

  • 1985 Mercury Cougar LS, rear


For its 1983 launch, to lower production costs, the sixth-generation Cougar was required to carry over interior parts from the 1980–1982 Cougar XR7, including a modified dashboard; an analog instrument panel was standard, with a digital instrument panel offered as an option.[49] For 1984, the steering column was redesigned, returning horn control to the steering wheel.[57] As part of the introduction of the XR7, the model introduced an instrument panel including a tachometer and turbocharger boost gauge.[57] For 1985, the interior underwent a complete redesign, with new door panels and dashboard; a redesigned rear seat expanded seating capacity to five passengers (four passengers with full-length console).[52] The standard instrument panel was a digital speedometer with analog secondary gauges; a fully digital instrument panel was optional (the XR7 was given a fully analog instrument panel).[52]

For the 1987 model year, the Cougar saw few changes to its interior, with the XR7 adopting a fully digital dashboard as standard equipment.[51] For 1988, the analog XR7 dashboard made its return; along with the deletion of the boost gauge, the tachometer was revised for a lower-revving V8 engine.[54]


The sixth-generation Cougar continued the trim nomenclature of its predecessor in modified form, with the Cougar GS serving as the base trim, the Cougar LS as the luxury trim, and the Cougar XR7 as the high-performance version. The GS trim was largely used for internal purposes, with advertising dropping the designation entirely.[49] For 1987, to move the Cougar upmarket, the Cougar LS became the standard trim level, with both V6 and V8 engines available.

For 1984, the XR7 made its return after a year-long hiatus. Serving as the counterpart of the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, the XR7 was fitted with a performance-oriented suspension, a turbocharged 2.3 L engine (shared with the Turbo Coupe and Mustang SVO), blacked-out window trim, and full analog instrumentation. In 1987, to better distinguish the Cougar XR7 from the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, the turbocharged inline-4 was replaced by the 4.9 L (302 cu in) "Windsor 5.0" V8, along with a standard 4-speed automatic.

20th Anniversary[edit]

For the 1987 model year, Mercury produced the Mercury 20th Anniversary Cougar as a commemorative edition.[59] Derived from the Cougar LS, the 20th Anniversary Cougar was produced in a near-monochromatic exterior (Cabernet Red with Midnight Smoke moldings); the wheels, all badging, and regular chrome trim were finished in 24 karat gold, with a gold-trimmed C-pillar emblem.[59] The trunk was fitted with a (non-functional) luggage rack.[59]

The 20th Anniversary Cougar included the 4.9 L (302 cu in) V8, sport-handling suspension with quad rear shocks (derived from the XR7), and 15-inch alloy wheels (from the Mustang GT, painted gold).[59] Along with a limited-slip rear axle, the only options offered were a power moonroof, power antenna, illuminated entry, keyless entry, automatic climate control, and an engine block heater.

In total, Mercury produced 5,002 20th Anniversary Cougars; 800 were reserved for Canada.[59]


Model Year Units
1983 75,743
1984 131,190
1985 117,274
1986 135,904
1987 105,847
1988 113,801

Seventh generation (1989–1997)[edit]

Motor vehicle

Seventh generation
94-97 Mercury Cougar.jpg

1997 Mercury Cougar XR7 Sport

Also calledFord Cougar (Mexico)
Model years1989–1997
AssemblyLorain, Ohio, United States
Body style2-door coupe
LayoutFR layout
PlatformFord MN12 platform
RelatedFord Thunderbird
Lincoln Mark VIII
Engine3.8 L EssexV6 (1989–1997)
4.9 L (302 cu in) Windsor 5.0V8 (1991–93)
4.6 L ModularV8 (1994–97)
TransmissionFour-speed AOD (1989–1993) or 4R70W automatic
Five-speed manual M5R2(1989–90)
Wheelbase113.0 in (2,870 mm)
Length1989–1991: 198.7 in (5,047 mm)
1992–94: 199.9 in (5,077 mm)
1995–97: 200.3 in (5,088 mm)
Width1989–1994: 72.7 in (1,847 mm)
1995–97: 73.1 in (1,857 mm)
Height1989–1991: 52.7 in (1,339 mm)
1992–97: 52.5 in (1,334 mm)
Curb weight3528 lb (1600 kg) with V6
3666 lb (1663 kg) with V8

On 26 December 1988, the seventh-generation Mercury Cougar was introduced for the 1989 model year.[60] Developed from the second quarter of 1984, as a counterpart of the tenth-generation Ford Thunderbird, the $2 billion redesign of the two vehicles was intended to create handling benchmarked against far more expensive coupes (BMW 6-Series, Mercedes-Benz 560SEC, Jaguar XJS) while remaining in the same price segment.[60][61] During the development of the 1989 Cougar, the form factor of coupes shifted significantly, as the quartet of GM G-body coupes were replaced by front-wheel drive vehicles; the introduction of the Acura Legend by Honda marked the introduction of Japanese-produced luxury vehicles.

At its 1989 debut, the Cougar was marketed largely as the flagship coupe of the Mercury division. As Mercury revised its model line during the 1990s, the Cougar became the sole two-door model offered by the division. As market demand shifted away from large two-door coupes, the Mercury Cougar and Ford Thunderbird were discontinued after the 1997 model year, with the final example produced on 4 September 1997.


The seventh-generation Mercury Cougar is built upon the Ford MN12 platform.[60] Designed specifically for the Mercury Cougar and Ford Thunderbird, the MN12 chassis retained the use of rear-wheel drive. While its exterior footprint changed negligibly, in a major change, the wheelbase was expanded nine inches to 113 inches (longer than a Mercedes-Benz 560SEC).

Centered around the design of the MN12 chassis was its use of four-wheel independent suspension in place of a live rear axle.[60] With the exception of the Chevrolet Corvette, the Ford MN12 chassis marked its first use in a mass-produced front-engine rear-drive American automobile. In front, the Mercury Cougar was configured with a short/long-arm wishbone suspension.[60] As an option, the Cougar was available with 4-wheel antilock disc brakes (standard on the Cougar XR7).[60]

As part of the 1989 redesign, the MN12 chassis was powered solely by a 3.8 L V6, as the lowered hoodline of the MN12 was too low to fit the 4.9 L (302 cu in) V8, making it the first time a V8 was not available in the Cougar or Thunderbird.[60] LS-trim Cougars were offered with a naturally aspirated 140 hp version of the V6, while the XR7 was powered by a 210 hp supercharged version (serving as the replacement for the turbocharged 2.3 L inline-4). The naturally aspirated V6 was paired with a 4-speed automatic transmission, while the supercharged V6 was offered with a 5-speed manual (with the automatic as an option).

For 1991, a 200 hp (149 kW) version of the 4.9 L (302 cu in) Windsor 5.0 was introduced featuring a redesigned intake manifold to allow sufficient underhood clearance.[62] Offered as an option on the Cougar LS, the V8 replaced the supercharged V6 in the XR7 (which also marked the end of the 5-speed manual in the MN12 Cougar). Originally slated for 1993, the 1994 Cougar shifted from the overhead-valve 302 cu in (4.9 L) V8 to a 205 hp 4.6 L SOHC V8 (shared with the Mercury Grand Marquis).[63] In another 1994 change, the 4R70W electronically controlled version of the AOD 4-speed automatic was introduced for both the V6 and V8 engines.


As the sixth-generation Mercury Cougar had proved successful in the marketplace, the 1989 redesign of the Cougar was largely an evolution of the previous generation, with updates of many previous design elements. The upright notchback roofline underwent a major revision, with the controversial upswept quarter windows of the previous generation abandoned.[60] While proportioned differently, wraparound headlamps and taillamps were modeled similar to the Mercury Sable. As a result of the longer wheelbase, the rear overhang was shortened. During the development of MN12, Ford designers sought to develop increased differentiation between the Cougar and Thunderbird. While fenders and doors are common between the two vehicles, in comparison to the 1983–1987 generation, fewer visible parts are shared.[60]

As part of the shift to the wider MN12 chassis, the Cougar again became a 5-passenger vehicle (for the first time since 1982). As a result of the wider interior, all Cougars were fitted with a center console with a floor-mounted shifter.[60] In following with the previous generation, LS-trim Cougars were fitted with digital instrumentation; the Cougar XR7 was fitted with an analog instrument panel.[60] Originally slated to be launched with dual airbags, cost overruns and market demand necessitated the use of automatic seatbelts to meet passive-restraint requirements.[60] For 1994, the interior underwent a complete redesign (similar to the Lincoln Mark VIII), with dual airbags replacing the automatic seatbelts.[63] For 1997, the Cougar received a new instrument panel (similar to the Taurus/Sable), with cupholders added to the center console;[64] several items were removed as part of de-contenting, including the courtesy lamps, underhood light and glove box light.

During its production, the seventh-generation Mercury Cougar underwent several revisions. For 1991, the Cougar underwent a slight facelift, with new headlamps, taillamps, and front bumper; the facelift is distinguished by a smaller grille (1989–1990 versions extend above the headlamps).[62] For 1994, a second facelift saw a revision of the grille, taillamps, and a simplification of the side molding. The interior was also revised at this time and now included dual airbags with a wraparound style interior.[63] For 1996, the Cougar received a major restyling sharing its entire front fascia with the Ford Thunderbird except for the front bumper cover and grille. The bodysides received wide body-colored cladding.[65]

  • 1989–1990 Mercury Cougar LS

  • 1997 Mercury Cougar 30th Anniversary Edition


At its launch, the seventh-generation Mercury Cougar retained the same model trims as before, with the LS geared towards luxury and convenience features and the XR7 geared towards performance and handling. Externally, the LS was given chrome window trim while the XR7 was nearly monochromatic with black window trim.[60] To optimize its handling capabilities, the XR7 was fitted with many model-specific features. In addition to the 210 hp supercharged V6 (replaced by a 5.0L V8 in 1991), the XR7 featured four-wheel antilock disc brakes, electronically adjustable handling suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a 5-speed manual transmission.[60][66][67] To differentiate the XR7 from the LS, the model was fitted with sport seats, two-spoke sport steering wheel, and full analog instrumentation.[66][67]

For 1993, Mercury revised the Cougar model line, with the XR7 becoming the sole trim level, dropping the LS and the monochromatic sport-oriented XR7 (eliminating some overlap with the Ford Thunderbird). Adapting much of the equipment of the previous LS, the 1993 XR7 adapted chrome exterior trim and a standard digital instrument cluster, with four-wheel disc brakes becoming an option.[68] In contrast to the previous LS, the 1993 XR7 offered both V6 and V8 engines.[68]

Alongside the LS and both versions of the XR7, several limited editions of the Cougar were produced. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Mercury Cougar, in 1992, the 25th Anniversary Mercury Cougar was an option package (nearly exclusively on XR7 models).[69] Equipped with 15" BBS alloy wheels, all examples were painted green with a tan interior (with green carpet). Other features included model-specific trunk lid and C-pillar badging and an imitation trunk lid luggage rack.[69] To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Mercury Cougar, for 1997, Mercury produced a 30th Anniversary Mercury Cougar XR7 as an option package.[70] Distinguished by its use of Lincoln Mark VIII wheels, the 30th Anniversary Cougar featured model-specific C-pillar emblems, embroidered seat and floormat emblems; the option also included commemorative items shipped to the owner.[70] Approximately 5,000 25th anniversary and 5,000 30th anniversary Cougars were produced.[69][70]


Model Year Units
1989 97,246
1990 76,467
1991 60,564
1992 46,928
1993 79,700
1994 71,026
1995 60,201
1996 38,929
1997 35,267

Eighth generation (1999–2002)[edit]

Motor vehicle

Eighth generation
2001-2002 Mercury Cougar -- 03-30-2011.jpg

2001–2002 Mercury Cougar

Also calledFord Cougar (Export)
Production1998 – 9 August 2002
Model years1999–2002
AssemblyFlat Rock, Michigan, United States
ClassSport compact
Body style3-door liftbackcoupe
LayoutTransverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
PlatformFord CDW27 platform
Wheelbase106.4 in (2,703 mm)
Length185.0 in (4,699 mm)
Width69.6 in (1,768 mm)
Height52.2 in (1,326 mm)
Curb weight2,892 lb (1,312 kg)
1999 – 2000 Mercury Cougar photographed in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canda.

By the mid-1990s, Ford engineers had completed design work on the third generation of the Ford Probe. Intended for a 1998 model year launch, the new Probe shifted its design from the Mazda MX-6 to a platform shared with the Ford Contour. At the end of the 1997 model year, Ford announced a major streamlining of its coupe offerings, with Ford discontinuing the Thunderbird and Probe; Lincoln-Mercury lost the Cougar and Lincoln Mark VIII (the latter, after 1998). To make room for the updated 1999 Ford Mustang and all-new Ford Escort ZX2, the Contour-based Ford Probe continued into production, with Ford shifting the vehicle to the Lincoln-Mercury Division to adopt the Mercury Cougar name.

After skipping the 1998 model year, Mercury introduced the eighth-generation Mercury Cougar for the 1999 model year at the 1998 Los Angeles Auto Show. Serving as the replacement for the Ford Probe, the first front-wheel drive Cougar shifted market segments from two-door personal luxury coupe to three-door sport compact, introducing the first Mercury sport hatchback coupe since the 1986 Mercury Capri.

While marketed in Europe and Australia under the Ford brand, the eighth-generation Mercury Cougar was the first Mercury car since the 1991–1994 Mercury Capri sold without a direct Ford model equivalent in North America.

Initially outranking its predecessor in sales, the eighth-generation Cougar (marketed towards younger buyers, similar to the ZX2) struggled to compete for sales against sedans (the Mercury Sable and Grand Marquis) in the Mercury model line. While coupes had traditionally been offered in Lincoln-Mercury dealerships for several decades, the shift of the Cougar to the sports compact segment presented a challenge to sales personnel acquainted with marketing luxury-segment vehicles to new-car buyers along with attracting younger buyers into Mercury showrooms.

In 2002, Ford announced another restructuring of its model line, with 2002 marking the final year for the Cougar, Mercury Villager, Lincoln Continental, and Ford Escort. The Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique (Ford Mondeo MkII) ended production in 2000, with the Cougar outliving it by two model years. As part of the model line revision, the Ford Mondeo platform was no longer used in North America until its consolidation with the 2013 Ford Fusion; the Mercury Cougar was effectively left without a donor platform.

The last Mercury Cougar rolled off the assembly line on 9 August 2002; following the end of its production, the Mercury model line offered no cars with four-cylinder engines until the 2006 Mercury Milan.


The 1999 Cougar shared the Ford CDW27 world-car platform introduced by the Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique. The first front-wheel drive Cougar, it was designed with fully independent multilink suspension.

The 1999–2002 Cougars were available with two engine options, the 2.0 L Zetecstraight-4 engine with 125 hp (93 kW; 127 PS), and the 2.5 L Duratec V6 with 170 hp (127 kW; 172 PS). Also, two transaxle options were available: the manualFord MTX-75 transmission or the automaticFord CD4E transmission (available in the US with either engine, although the I4/automatic combination was extremely rare; supposedly only 500 Cougars were built with the I4/auto).

"Sport Package" models of the V6 featured four-wheel vented disc brakes (from the Contour SVT), 16-inch alloy wheels, and the speed governor removed. With the electronic speed limiter removed, the top speed of the car was limited by drag and engine power in top gear at redline, around 135 mph (217 km/h).[citation needed] While this was considered attainable given enough road, the automatic transmission version could not reach this speed without significant engine modification. However, the manual transmission version of the car, when given enough road, was capable of reaching speeds of around 145. Without the sport package, the speed governor was set at 115 mph (185 km/h) due to the H-rated tires with which the car was equipped.

Ford also prepared two high-performance concept-only versions; one dubbed the "Eliminator", which was a supercharged version built with aftermarket available parts, and the other the "Cougar S", which featured new bodywork, all-wheel drive, and a 3.0 L Duratec engine.

A high-performance Cougar S (not to be confused with the concept) was discussed in the press, which was essentially a Cougar with a Contour SVT engine; however, this version never made it into production. The Cougar S was so close to production, though, many of its parts are still available to order from the dealership and it is listed in many parts catalogs and insurance databases.[citation needed] It was also to be sold in Europe as the Ford Cougar ST200.


This generation of Cougar had a far more contemporary package, with modern DOHC 24-valve six-cylinder Duratec engines, a fully independent multilink suspension, and front-wheel drive. This was also the first hatchback Cougar, and the first to have its own body, unshared by any Ford (except its European twin Ford Cougar). The body design used a philosophy Ford dubbed "New Edge" design: a combination of organic upper body lines with sharp, concave creases in the lower areas. The Cougar's body, and the New Edge idea in general, was introduced as a concept called the Mercury MC2 in 1997 and was considered a bigger version of the European Ford Puma.

Ford also sold this generation of Cougar in Europe and Australia as the Ford Cougar.

There were several paint and trim packages:

  • Special Edition (2000 model year) available in Zinc Yellow, leather interior with yellow stitching on the seats
  • C2 (2001–2002 model years) available in either French Blue, Silver Frost, or Vibrant White, along with special blue interior accents.
  • Zn (2001 model year) available with special Zinc Yellow, special Visteon hood scoop, and spoiler.
  • XR (2002 model year) available in either Black or XR Racing Red, with special black and red seats and interior trim, also came with 17-inch silver wheels with black accents on the inner spokes.
  • 35th Anniversary (2002 model year) versions were available in Laser Red, French Blue, Satin Silver, and Black; most came with leather interiors with silver center sections on the seats. They also came with 17-inch machined wheels, the same as the XRs without the black paint on the center spokes.
  • Roush Edition (1999–2000 model years) Available mostly in white and silver color choices, this car was built under the Roush name with bodywork to the front bumper, back, side skirts, and more. A total of 112 were made during its two-year production.

For the 2001 model year, the Cougar was updated with new headlights, front and rear fascias, and updated interior trim.

US production numbers[edit]

Model Year Units[71]
1999 88,288
2000 44,935
2001 25,044
2002 18,321

Ford Cougar (Export)[edit]

Main article: Ford Cougar

In 1998, Ford launched the Cougar at the 1998 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.[72] Without the Mercury brand in Europe and Australia, Ford marketed the Cougar as the Ford Cougar through Ford of Europe and Ford of Australia from 1999 to 2002. Replacing the Ford Probe in European markets, the Ford Cougar was manufactured in the United States. Slotted above the Ford Ka and Ford Puma (both based on the Ford Fiesta subcompact), the Cougar was marketed as a mid-sized coupe.

With the exception of Ford Blue Oval badging replacing Cougar emblems on the exterior and interior, both Ford and Mercury versions are essentially identical. Export Cougars also have clear marker light lenses (in place of amber) and amber rear turn signals. In the United States, the Ford Cougar was built in both left and right-hand drive, with the latter allowing for its sale in the UK and Australia.


In 1967, NASCAR race car builder, Bud Moore, campaigned Mercury Cougars in the Trans-Am Series with Ford Motor Company factory support. The team featured drivers, such as Captain Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, Peter Revson, David Pearson, and Ed Leslie. Factory support ended towards the end of the season and the Cougars began to show their wear. Ultimately, Mercury lost the championship to Ford by two points.[73]

In 1968, Bud Moore took his Cougars NASCAR racing in the newly formed Grand American series. Driver Tiny Lund dominated the series and took the championship. After the Cougar changed to the Thunderbird platform in 1974, the body style was raced in NASCAR. The Wood Brothers Racing team with David Pearson and later Neil Bonnett was successful with the car and scored a number of victories until the body style became ineligible following the 1980 season. The next year (1981) saw the previous Cougar teams switch to the Thunderbird when NASCAR mandated the smaller (110-inch-wheelbased) cars, though oddly the Thunderbirds had to have their wheelbases extended 6 inches because the actual wheelbase of production cars was 104 inches.

From 1989 to 1990, Lincoln-Mercury Motorsport fielded Cougars of the new body style in the GTO class of the IMSA GT Championship. The cars collected the championship both years and continued the teams' streak to seven manufacturer's championships.



Car Lot Classic: 1980 Mercury Cougar XR-7 – That Very Common Dishonest Car – Yours For $2995; Hurry!

CC 193 003 800

(first posted 3/15/2013)    If I ever run out of cars to shoot in Eugene (not likely), I’ll just start hanging out in our sister city to the east, Springfield. The other day, I stopped in at two car dealers; Springfield Buick, and Dan’s Automotive. This used car lot on Main Street was surprisingly chock-full of CCs, and I’ll give you a full tour later, so don’t go off about the Stude in the background. But the queen of the lot deserves its own special moment, since it’s one of my all-time favorite cars.

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Since all too many of you here have a habit of taking my words too seriously way too often, I just lied. This is not one of my favorite cars. Rather, quite the opposite. I positively hated it when it came out; the only question was whether I disliked it more than its big, fat predecessor. I did, actually. Why?

Where to start? Its monkey-assed trunk? That was just a start, and I suppose not all that egregious of a sin. But it was out of proportion to the rest of the car. This “Cougar” was just a tarted up Mercury Zephyr, the Ford Fairmont’s kissing cousin. And I rather liked the Fairmont and Zephyr for what they were: simple, honest cars in the mold of Volvos. I even titled my Fairmont CC “That Very Rare Honest Car”

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That means I get to title this “That Very Common Dishonest Car”. No harm or rudeness intended to you lovers of this fine car, but when you take a simple box of a car and tart it up like this to be a personal luxury car wearing a name that once really mean something in terms of design and performance, it is more than a wee bit dishonest, in the way we all-too often allowed ourselves to be suckered by Detroit’s latest parlor trick.

Why am I such a carmudgeon? I should be telling you how sharp this car’s “gracefully styled luxury half-vinyl roof with intriguing quarter-window treatment”  are and how tasty this some-kind-of-animal-skin-like-texture-and-patterned-padded-vinyl top is. My apologies; on second thought, they are sharp, and that padded top is very tasty indeed. They must be; why else did I pull in to shoot this Cougar on a grey drizzly day?

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At least in its first year’s incarnation, the Foxy Cougar was actually V8 powered. But it didn’t feel like it, since the standard 115 hp 255 cubic inch (4.2 L) version was as dishonest as a V8 engine has ever been: six cylinder (barely) performance, and not all that economical too boot. But by 1981, there was no more pretense: the Pinto 2.3 L four was now standard, rated at 88 hp. And the 200 inch (3.3L) six was also on tap, even though it was rated at the same 88hp. How did Ford manage that, given the 43% greater displacement? Another parlor trick.

But the 5.0 L V8 was optional, sporting all of 130 hp. And the beloved AOD automatic too. Difficult times; or times made even more difficult for not trying just a wee bit harder. Except for Ford’s Department of Pretense. They were obviously working overtime then.

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I’m almost disappointed that we’re not looking at plush velour seats in bordello red. Actually, I’m a bit confused at what we are looking at. The 1980 brochure suggests that the distinctive triple-opera window roof was part of the Luxury Group package. But that also included “Twin Comfort Barco-Loungers” with semi-loose pillow look or something like that. These look so plain and ordinary; not very dishonest at all. And are they just plain vinyl? That just doesn’t read like genuine leather. Who’s being fooled now?

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The offer on the windshield certainly is unusually honest too: 0% interest on an old car; what a deal. Wonder how much he got it for? $700? $800. Wonder how much it cost Mercury to tart up a Zephyr and turn it into a Cougar XR-7?


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In my defense, I will tell you in perfect honesty that this generation of Cougar was a sales flop. Its chunky 1979 predecessor sold over 170k units; barely 58k of these 1980s found good homes. So I guess I wasn’t the only one who didn’t care too much for them. Honesty is the best policy.

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Ford Cougar

Not to be confused with Ford Kuga.

Motor vehicle

The Ford Cougar is a coupé that was produced and sold in the European market between 1998 and 2002, and sold in Canada and the United States from 1999 to 2002 as the Mercury Cougar.

The car was originally intended to be the third generation Probe, but after rationalization of the three coupés available in the United States, the Probe name was dropped in favor of the Cougar. It is an example of a sports coupé/liftback.


The Cougar was Ford's second attempt to reintroduce a sports coupé in Europe, in the same vein as the successful, but long discontinued Capri – the first attempt having been the Mazda MX-6 based Probe. Just as the Capri had been based on the Cortina, the Cougar was based on the large family car available at the time, the Mondeo.

The car went on sale in Europe in December 1998 to mixed reviews, partly due to the then-new and controversial New Edge styling, a crisp style which was subsequently applied to most of the Ford range. Cougar sales levels did not achieve those of predecessor Capri models.

Like its (indirect) predecessor, the Ford Probe, the 1998 Cougar was sold and built in the United States. Cars destined to be sold in Europe and the United Kingdom were finished in Ford's Köln plant in Germany, where the cars had European specification lighting installed, Ford badges applied (and in the case of the United Kingdom and Australian cars, converted to RHD); in the United States, it had different branding, in this case being branded as the Mercury Cougar, while in Europe and Australia, it was known as the Ford Cougar.

In Britain, Ford unveiled the car in July 1998, at the British Grand Prix, Silverstone. The television advertisements featured the silver model driven by Dennis Hopper due to his appearance in the film Easy Rider. At the same time, Steppenwolf's song from 1968, "Born To Be Wild" played, as this was featured in the film and the same scene the advertisement recreated.

The Cougar was retired from the European market in August 2002, after its withdrawal from Britain, in February 2001. After the first two years of production, only 12,000 units reportedly had been sold in the United Kingdom. Released in Australia in October 1999, the Cougar only came with the 2.5 L 24-valve Duratec V6, and continued until March 2004.



The Cougar came equipped with the 2.0 L 16-valve Zetec, or the 2.5 L 24-valve Duratec V6 engines with two specification levels, largely equivalent to a Mondeo Ghia (standard) and Ghia X (simply X).[2] Manual and automatic transmissions were available. All variants came with 16-inch alloy wheels as standard.

The 2.0 L version had 96 kW as standard, while the 2.5 L was rated at 125 kW.[3]


2.0 16v2.5 L 24v2.5 L 24v (Automatic)
Engine Zetec, EDBA Duratec
Cylinders/Valves R4/16 V6/24
Displacement 1988 cc 2544 cc (2495 cc from June 2000)
Max. power 96 kW (129 hp) @ 5600 rpm 125 kW (168 hp) @ 6250 rpm
Max torque 178 N⋅m (131 lbf⋅ft) @ 4000 rpm 220 N⋅m (162 lbf⋅ft) @ 4250 rpm
Drive Front wheel drive
0–100 km/h

(0-62 mph)

10.3 s 8.6 s 10.4 s
Top speed 209 km/h (130 mph) 225 km/h (140 mph) 206 km/h (128 mph)
Weight EU norm 1,315 kg (2,899 lb) 1,390 kg (3,064 lb) 1,410 kg (3,109 lb)
CO2 Emissions 202 g/km 228 g/km 240 g/km
Years 1998–2002 1998–2002 1998–2002


The car has been described by critics as “(putting) its power down effectively and (tackling) twisty roads with confidence.”[4] The standard wheels had 215 mm wide tyres, which greatly contributed to its cornering abilities.


An "X-Pack" was available on the larger engine; this included leather upholstered and heated front seats, with six-way electric adjustment for the driver's seat, and a Ford RDS6000 six speaker radio with six CD autochanger.[5]

Available at an extra cost, and not included in the "X-Pack" were heated windscreen, electric tilt, slide sunroof, and metallic paint.[5]

Safety and security[edit]

The standard safety kit includes driver, passenger, and side airbags, plus ABS brakes and seat belts that reduce chest injuries. The Cougar included an engine immobilizer, remote control central and double locking systems, and an alarm.[6]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Cold Start -- Ford Cougar 2.5 V6


Cougar 1980 ford


Ford Cougar Brougham 1983 Venezuela.wmv


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