How the 1967 Mercury Cougar Was Born
The Mercury Cougar was being made before the Mustang. It was starting to be made in 1963, which is a long time ago. The people who were making it were worried about the success of the car, because there had been an Edsel and it didn't do well back then. But then there was the Mustang and it did really well and so they started making more cars from 1964-1967.
The development of the 1967 Mercury Cougar started in 1963 when two Ford studios competed to design it. The Lincoln-Mercury Advanced Styling Studio won and from then on, they refined the design.
The car was supposed to be ready for production in 1966, but there were some delays. The official launch happened in September 1966 in Monterey, California.
The Ford Motor Company created the Mercury Cougar. It was a model of the Mustang, but it was more luxurious and had a European feel. The company did this because it didn't want a competitor to the Mustang.
The cost to make the Cougar was only $40 million, which is not very much money by today's standards. This meant that only one model would be available at first, and it would be a two-door hardtop.
However, that didn't mean that Cougar's product planners weren't thinking about other models. The first and foremost model they were thinking of was a convertible model, especially because 15% of Mustang's early sales were ragtops.
Development photos from the period show that up to mid-1965, a convertible model was seriously considered. But to keep the program for the first-generation Cougar within budget, the convertible would have to wait until the Cougar proved itself in the marketplace. The convertible wouldn't appear until the launch of the Cougar's extensively restyled 1969 model.
In 1964, Ford looked into a four-door version of the Mustang. They did not seriously consider this idea. It is not surprising because Ford was positioning the Cougar in between the Mustang and Thunderbird.
The project died because of budget cuts. This is different than for the convertible where there were actual models made, rather than just drawn up in pictures like with the four-door one.
Overall, the Mercury Cougar was a very successful car. Even though it did not sell as many cars as the Mustang, it still sold 150,893 cars in its first year which is good. It's also great that 47% of those buyers had no trade-in either.
The Mercury Cougar won Car of the Year for 1967 when it came out and it got even more popular with the introduction of an even more luxurious car called XR-7 which has wood grain on the dash and European style switches like Jaguar would have.
Thanks to this collection of images provided by the Ford Archives, we can follow the development of the Mercury Cougar from its modest beginnings to its introduction in the fall of 1966, into an increasingly competitive ponycar marketplace that included Chevrolet's Camaro, followed six months later by Pontiac's Firebird, and in 1968 with AMC's Javelin. Those were great times.