September 30, 1966 – The Mercury Cougar is introduced

By Bene Riobó -CC BY-SA 4.0

The Mercury Cougar is an iconic American automobile that was launched on September 30, 1966 for the 1967 model year. Following its introduction it underwent several generations and transformations si. Over the years, it has evolved from a sporty, upscale version of the Ford Mustang to a more luxurious and distinct vehicle. Here is a comprehensive history of the Mercury Cougar.

Introducing the Mercury Cougar

1967 Mercury Cougar. By Greg Gjerdingen – CC BY 2.0

First Generation (1967-1970): The Mercury Cougar was first introduced for 1967 as a pony car, positioned slightly above the Ford Mustang in terms of luxury and features. It was based on the Ford Mustang’s platform but featured unique styling and a more upscale interior. The first generation Cougar was available in a variety of trims and engine options. It featured distinctive hidden headlights, a split front grille, and a pronounced muscular stance.

Updates during the first generation:

  • In 1969, the Cougar received a restyling with a more aggressive look. The convertible option was introduced this year.
  • The high-performance XR-7 model was introduced, featuring a wood-grain dashboard, leather seats, and other luxury features.
mercury cougar
1971 Mercury Cougar XR-7. By Sicnag – CC BY 2.0

Second Generation (1971-1973): The second generation Cougar debuted in 1971 with a larger size and new styling. It adopted a more angular and aggressive appearance, featuring a longer hood and a “prowler” front end design. The convertible option was discontinued after the first year of this generation.

Updates during the second generation:

  • In 1971, the Cougar received the iconic “electric shaver” grille design.
  • The XR-7 continued as the luxury-oriented model, offering more features and comfort.
mercury cougar third generation
Third generation Mercury Cougar. By GTHO – CC BY-SA 4.0

Third Generation (1974-1976): The third generation, often referred to as the “Mustang-based” Cougar, arrived in 1974. It was based on the Ford Torino platform and was larger and heavier than its predecessors. This generation saw a shift towards a more luxurious and comfort-oriented approach.

Updates during the third generation:

  • The 1974 oil crisis and changing market demands influenced the Cougar’s design and engine offerings to focus on fuel efficiency.
  • In 1976, a XR-7G model was introduced, which featured distinctive styling and a limited production run.

Luxury becomes a focus

1979 Mercury Cougar. By MercurySable99 – CC BY-SA 4.0

Fourth Generation (1977-1979): The fourth generation Cougar, based on the Ford LTD II platform, was introduced in 1977. This generation continued the trend of emphasizing comfort and luxury over sportiness. It had a more squared-off design compared to its predecessors.

Updates during the fourth generation:

  • Engine options continued to prioritize fuel efficiency over high performance.
  • The XR-7 remained the top trim level, offering additional luxury features.
1981 Mercury Cougar two-door
1981 Mercury Cougar. By dave_7

Fifth Generation (1980-1982): The fifth generation Cougar underwent significant changes as it moved to a smaller platform based on the Ford Fox chassis. This generation marked a departure from the larger, more luxurious models of the past, and it adopted a more streamlined and contemporary design.

Updates during the fifth generation:

  • The Cougar XR-7 was still available as the higher-end trim, offering more features and a more upscale interior.
1986 Mercury Cougar LS
1986 Mercury Cougar. By Mr.choppers – CC BY-SA 3.0

Sixth Generation (1983-1988): The sixth generation Cougar, introduced in 1983, continued to be based on the Ford Fox platform. It underwent a major redesign, adopting a sleeker and more aerodynamic look, with a rounded front end and smoother lines.

Updates during the sixth generation:

  • Engine options varied, with both V6 and V8 engines available.
  • The XR-7 trim maintained its focus on luxury and comfort features.
cougar car
1997 Mercury Cougar. By Elise240SX – CC BY-SA 4.0

Seventh Generation (1989-1997): The seventh generation Cougar, introduced in 1989, marked a significant departure from previous generations. It moved to a front-wheel-drive platform and shared components with the Ford Thunderbird. This generation featured a more modern and aerodynamic design.

Updates during the seventh generation:

  • The XR-7 model continued, offering a blend of sportiness and luxury.
  • Over the years, there were various engine options and technological updates.

The last Mercury Cougar

2000 Mercury Cougar. By SsmIntrigue – CC BY-SA 4.0

Eighth Generation (1999-2002): The eighth and final generation of the Mercury Cougar was introduced in 1999. This generation returned to a rear-wheel-drive platform, sharing components with the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique. It aimed to recapture some of the sporty and performance-oriented characteristics of earlier Cougars.

Updates during the eighth generation:

  • The exterior design featured sharper lines and a distinctive front end.
  • Engine options included V6 and V8 choices.
  • The Cougar’s production was discontinued in 2002 due to declining sales and a shift in market preferences towards SUVs and other vehicle types.

This Day in Automotive History: On August 30, 2002, the last Mercury Cougar rolled off the assembly line, marking the end of the model’s production history. Over the course of its various generations, the Cougar evolved from a sporty pony car to a more luxury-focused coupe, adapting to changing market trends and consumer preferences.

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