The great thing about a Cars and Coffee event is the wide variety of cars you’ll see there. The show is “non-denominational” – meaning it’s not limited to exotic or muscle cars at all and you’ll find all kinds of cars (and even military vehicles) to suit every possible interest. In November 2012, for example, we found a fascinating example of a 60s French sports car in the Matra Bonnet Djet V S. Where else would you find one of these, much less one that was driven to and from the event?
One of the interesting cars we found in the December 2012 event was this 1968 Mercury Cougar. It’s one of several Cougars we’ve seen in the show over the years, including a 1970 Boss 302 Cougar Eliminator with a factory Boss 302 package. And just last month it was a 1970 Cougar XR-7 that closely resembled our own 1970 Cougar XR-7.
We liked this 1968 Cougar – a lot – and in fact if it had been for sale we would have bought it on the spot.
As our Ford fanatics readers know, the Cougar was built on a slightly elongated Mustang chassis with all-new (and very different) sheetmetal. Mechanical options were identical (although V-8 only), as was the front and side glass and the interior instruments (in a unique dashboard). But the intent of the Cougar was as an upmarket alternative to the Mustang. The emphasis was on personal luxury, although performance models were offered as well.
Sometimes derided as the “electric shaver grill”, the vertical bars and hide-away headlamps made the Cougar unique and distinctive. The lights are controlled by a vacuum tank, which is prone to rust but which can also be easily repaired. A similar system was used on the 1968 Ford Thunderbird.
1968 was the first year for the new “Windsor” iron black and head OHV 302 cubic inch (4.9 liter) engine that would serve duty in numerous Ford, Lincolns, and Mercurys up thru 2002 Australian Falcons. This engine family began in 1962 with a 221 cubic inch version, followed by 255, 260, and 289 cubic inch versions. By 1968, only the 302 remained in production, (although some 289s were left over in Mustangs). A taller deck height version of this engine stretched displacement to 351 cubic inches in 1969 and was found in many Ford Motor Company vehicles, culminating in the 1995 Mustang SVT Cobra R. The optional engine during 1967 and 1968 was a 390-cubic V-8, and a very limited number were built with 427 cubic inch V-8s.
Rust problems abound in early Cougars and Mustangs. One of the most nefarious issues, found in out own 1967 Mustang, was the inner fender liners rusting underneath the hood hinges. The force of the hood hinge springs would compound the problem. If you spot one of these cars with the trailing edge of the hood slight raised, this is a telltale sign. Fortunately, this Cougar had almost immaculate inner fenders and was very clearly well taken care of. The shock towers are also very clean.
Note the rare factory air conditioning. One option this Cougar doesn’t have unfortunately, is front disc brakes (drums were still standard). Our ’67 Mustang had both aircon and front disc brakes, as well as the very rare K-code engine. Our ’70 Cougar XR-7 had both aircon and disc brakes, along with a 351.
The interior is a stylish mix of Mustang parts (speedo to the left and aux gauges to the right), along with aircon vents and controls, steering wheel, shifter, and window cranks) and up-level trim in the unique dashboard and door panels.
Likewise, the seats were Mustang underneath but with much better trim and unique colors. In some later ’68s, not this example, headrests were introduced before they became Federally mandated the following year.
The rear end of the Cougar was also unique, and featured a vertical bar motif to match the front. However, the taillights were sequential. In turns the lights would start in the middle of the car and move outward in the direction of the turn. Unfortunately, the electronic module that controlled the sequencing was mounted in the lower left hand side of the trunk, behind the wheels, in an area prone to rust. In our own Cougar, this module because water-logged from water kicked up thru the rust holes at the bottom of the fenders. Our sequencing stopped working, causing us to fail inspection one year at a nearby Lincoln-Mercury dealer. When we simply unplugged the faulty module to make the lights work conventionally, the dealer denied us a pass anyway on the basis that the car didn’t come that way. Ridiculous – and we just went elsewhere to get a pass and kept the car like that until we located another module. Nowadays, hese are easily and routinely repaired.
The November 2012 Cars and Coffee in Austin Texas dawned bright and cold… but attendance by car enthusiasts was as strong as always. Here’s an example of one car that we hadn’t seen at an Austin Cars and Coffee before: a 1970 Mercury Cougar XR-7.
The 1970 Cougar was a slight update of the 1969 model. The 1969 and 1970 models are technically thought of as first generation-Cougars, but are in fact very different and much more advanced than the earlier 1967 and 1968 Cougars - even though they share the chassis. 1969 brought an entirely new and unrelated body, and also increases in width, length, and weight.
We were drawn to this familiar and well-preserved 1970 model because of our own 1970 Cougar XR-7. The XR-7 featured up-market wheel hubcaps; these modern aftermarket aluminum “mags” are keeping to the original period but are not related to any factory option.
The interior is a considerable step up from the previous year Cougar, and again makes use of Mustang switch gear, gauges, steering wheel (rim-blow), and seats. This particular Cougar has the full-leather interior in black. Our own XR-7 had the combination cloth and leather interior, in two shades of brown/tan, with a hounds-tooth cloth pattern. We also had the power windows that this car is lacking.
The ’70 Cougar featured a more prominent center grill and matching bumper. The center grill raises with the hood for 1970. The center grill would be even more exaggerated in the next-generation 1971-1973 models. Hide-away headlamp covers are in their last year in 1970.
The leading edge of the fender, a cap mounted to the fender, is less pointed than the 1969 model. The signature vertical bars remain, a combination chrome and black in all models except the Eliminator where they were solid black.
Here we see the first appearance in the Cougar of the 351 “Cleveland” engine. The Cleveland engine offered a wide range of improvements over the older Windsor engine, and considerably improved breathing due to an entirely new cylinder head design. The head was, however, interchangeable with the older Windsor design, a combination of which yielded the “Boss 302″ engine.
This Cougar is in a handsome and very desirable blue color. Our own Cougar was in a similarly handsome light metallic brown. We haven’t seen a Cougar in either of these colors for many years. Note the grill attached to the hood – watch your head!
Cougar XR-7 badge, located on the C-pillar
Interior on the passenger side. The clock in front of the passenger was borrowed from the Mustang and with a start/stop button could be used to get a rough time when racing. The Hurst shifter is non-standard, although a manual-transmission Cougar is a very rare animal.
The 1969 and 1970 Boss 302 Mustangs were homologation specials, built specifically to allow the car to compete in SCCA Trans Am racing. The cars were fitted with special handling options, but the most distinctive feature was the engine itself. The engine was basically a Windsor 302-cube motor fitted with 351 Cleveland type heads. There were reliability problems and several changes were made over the two years of production. The resultant horsepower was only 290. Although the figure was known to be under-rated (probably closer to 350), this was gross horsepower and was measured without engine accessories or driveline. Therefore, the power output was certainly far less than today’s 2011 Mustang GT or 2012 Boss.
1628 Boss 302 Mustangs were produced in 1969, 7013 in 1970. In addition, the Boss 302 engine was also offered in the Cougar Eliminator for both years. 169 were built for 1969. The Cougar was considerably heavier than the Mustang and would perform somewhat less. Authentic Boss 302 Mustangs and Cougars are amongst the most collectible of all special edition Fords and prices remain very high.
Car life reported in July 1969 a 0-60 time of 7.1 seconds and a quarter mile of 14.08 @ 102.85 MPH. While good for that time period, it would be totally unacceptable for today’s Mustangs. Even the 2011 V-6 Mustang handily outdoes that. In fact, the Consumer Reports October 2010 issue shows the 2011 V-6 Mustang overwhelming a 1970 Boss 302 Mustang, with a 0-60 time of 6.2 seconds versus 8 flat, and fuel economy averaging 24 for the v-6 versus only 11 for the Boss. We think this is a very telling example of progress… although as usual we are disgusted to see such a crude chassis after 40 years of so-so-progress. At least Ford finally understands that a base model Mustang doesn’t have to be a miserable box, and it’s taken them 45 years to remember that this was a fundamental reason for the success of the original mid-60s Mustangs.
We’ve had the good fortune to encounter both a Boss 302 Mustang and Cougar this year at the Cars and Coffee shows in Austin, Texas.
We’ll start with this absolutely gorgeous 1970 Cougar Eliminator. We’ve seen several of these over the years but this one looks the best, with a near-perfect restoration. We had both 1969 and 1970 Cougars in our family, and our own loaded 1970 Cougar XR-7 remains a handsome favorite. But it was nothing compared to this one… it’s the car we’d take of the two Boss examples shown here.
In profile, the Cougar was a sexy cat: long, low, lean, and curvy. It doens’t get any better than this from Mercury.
One indication of originality is the drip channel added under the start motor relay. Only Boss powered cars had these. It’s a clear sign that this example is almost certainly an original, although the shocks, battery, and chrome dipstick are clearly not original. This car still even the air injection (“smog”) device present (canister to the right, with hose leading down) – bravo to the owner for this attention to detail.
This 1969 Boss Mustang also made an appearance – again a very sharp looking Mustang, with (amazing for a Mustang) zero fake scoops. In fact Ford went to the length of removing the fake scoop behind the side door handles solely for Boss production. That wasn’t cheap to do, and it shows that Ford understood that a “form follows function” philosophy was what serious enthusiasts expected. That was a practice we wouldn’t see again from Ford until the Mustang SVOs of the 1980s. It’d be great to see Ford follow this practice again… the current Mustang can be ordered with a huge fake hood scoop and 4 non-functional side scoops. Poseurs!
This Boss is far less original than the Cougar above…the intake manifold and air cleaner are, unfortunately, completely wrong.
Will the 2012 and 2013 Boss Mustangs be as collectible as the originals? It’s hard to say at this point, but with only 7500 street cars to be made over two years it’s likely we’ll see high prices in 20 or 30 years. The majority of them will immediately go into storage instead of being used on the roadrace track, as they were designed for. Other recent special edition models such as the Bullets or Machs can be found at low prices… and are often modified past their original specifications. And the 2013 will mark the end of the current model Mustang… it will undoubtedly be replaced by something much lighter but with the same engines and a far better rear suspension. For an original Boss 302 powered car, we’d take the Cougar or Mustang shown here. But for a late model car, we’d rather wait until the Mustang gets replaced in 2014. We have higher expectations than Ford can currently deliver.
Ford finally made the decision to close down Mercury today. And it’s about time… Mercury was dead years ago.
The only questions remaining, are:
1. What about the Cougar brand? This is the only brand name remaining of any value. Everything else became valueless from lack of attention and differentiation years ago. The Capri (and Pantera!) weren’t strictly Mercurys anyway. Ford has played with a two-door Focus-based showcar in Europe that could be a new Capri (in the same way that a Scirocco is to a Golf). But it’s the Cougar brand that interests us the most… the opportunity to build a high-line Cougar based on the Mustang chassis, sharing development costs, and adding to the total number built – is almost too good to pass up. A more sophisticated chassis would be required… and that is apparently coming in 2014, IRS and all.
2. And the Lincoln brand. It’s been known for years that a Focus-based Lincoln (C-segment) is on the way… a show car version of it’s already been presented. As the press release below says, small Lincolns will have to separate themselves from Fords in a unique way. What that might be remains to be seen… hopefully it won’t be a Bobcat grill on a Pinto.
Ford Press Release follows:
FORD TO EXPAND LINCOLN LINEUP AND BRAND EMPHASIS; MERCURY PRODUCTION ENDS IN FOURTH QUARTER OF 2010
- Ford is expanding its Lincoln lineup with seven all-new or significantly refreshed vehicles in the next four years – including its first-ever C-segment vehicle
- Lincoln’s plan accelerates with more investment and attention on standout product design, class-leading technology and powertrains delivering top performance and fuel efficiency
- Lincoln product development, marketing, sales and service resources expanding as the brand competes with Cadillac and Lexus in the marketplace
- Ford will end production of Mercury vehicles in the fourth quarter of this year to fully devote its financial, product development, production and marketing, sales and service resources toward further growing its core Ford brand while enhancing Lincoln
- Existing Mercury owners to receive continued access to parts and service support at Ford
and Lincoln dealers; current Mercury vehicle warranties and Extended Service Plans will be honored; special offers available on new Mercury vehicles through the summer
- Affected dealers to receive specialized support during the transition, as the company continues its transformation to a more profitable dealer network
DEARBORN, Mich., June 2, 2010 – Ford Motor Company will expand and enhance its Lincoln brand lineup with seven all-new or significantly refreshed vehicles in the next four years as part of an aggressive growth plan focused on standout product design, class-leading technology and new powertrains – all aimed at competing with Cadillac and Lexus in North America.
Ford also will end production of Mercury vehicles in the fourth quarter of this year to fully devote its financial, product development, production and marketing, sales and service resources toward further growing its core Ford brand while enhancing the Lincoln brand.
“We have made tremendous progress on profitably growing the Ford brand during the past few years. Now, it is time to do the same for Lincoln,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s president of The Americas. “The new Lincoln vehicles will transform luxury for North American premium customers through an unexpected blend of responsive driving enjoyment and warm, inviting comfort. We will also offer our customers a world-class retail experience through a vibrant retail network.”
Lincoln’s hallmarks will be refined, modern design, the most fuel-efficient premium powertrains and industry-leading technology that create a unique driver experience both in the cabin and on the road.
“Profitably growing Lincoln in North America is an important part of our One Ford plan,” said Alan Mulally, Ford president and CEO. “Our Ford brand is gaining momentum and winning customers around the world. Now, we are going to use the same laser focus to further strengthen Lincoln and deliver even more products luxury customers really want and value.”
The future of Lincoln is building from a strong base that includes the all-new flagship MKS large sedan, the all-new MKT seven-passenger crossover and a significantly refreshed MKZ mid-size sedan – all now in showrooms. The hybrid version of the MKZ will reach showrooms later this year and is expected to be the most fuel efficient premium sedan on the market.
Lincoln’s product actions continue later this year with the debut of the significantly refreshed 2011 MKX crossover, the first vehicle to feature MyLincoln Touch driver connect technology.
This will be followed by another six all-new or significantly refreshed vehicles within four years developed with Lincoln’s DNA of standout design, precise and confident driving experience, class-leading technology and powertrains delivering top performance and fuel efficiency.
Lincoln will be led by expanded product development and marketing, sales and service teams to support the brand’s growth plan and ensure it has a strong cadence of distinct products that are well positioned in the market. Plans for Lincoln include:
- Lincoln’s first-ever C-segment vehicle
- New Lincoln-exclusive powertrains, including an all-new V-6 engine and advanced fuel-efficient transmissions
- EcoBoost engines available in all Lincolns – from the Navigator full-size SUV to the new C-segment Lincoln
- Fuel economy leadership with each new vehicle – leading to Lincoln emerging as the most fuel-efficient luxury lineup on the market
- More useful technology and features than any other competitor – with a special focus on comfort and convenience. New advanced features include: fully retractable glass roofs; adaptive computer-controlled suspensions; electronic, push-button gear-selectors; active noise control; and exclusive MyLincoln Touch driver connect technology
“Lincoln vehicles will reward drivers with smooth, effortless power complemented by agile handling and responsive steering,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s group vice president, Global Product Development. “The cabin is a sanctuary with segment-leading quietness, genuine materials and intuitive, useful technology.”
Lincoln has started gaining traction with customers, as evidenced by market share gains during the past five years. Lincoln’s share of the retail U.S. luxury vehicle market has grown from 4.5 percent in 2005 to 6.3 percent through the first quarter of 2010.
In addition, Lincoln’s reputation with consumers has risen, with favorable opinion and purchase consideration reaching its highest level in the past five years. Lincoln’s long-term durability was second only to Porsche’s in the 2010 J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Survey.
Mercury originally was created as a premium offering to Ford and was an important source of incremental sales. However, the continued strength of the Ford brand – particularly during the past three years – has accelerated the migration from Mercury to Ford for many customers.
Today, Mercury’s customer profile, pricing and margins are almost identical to Ford, but Mercury’s incremental sales have been declining.
The majority of current Mercury sales are to fleet buyers and customers purchasing through employee, retiree and friends and family discounts, which Ford anticipates largely can be satisfied by Ford brand vehicles.
Of Ford Motor Company’s 16 percent market share in the U.S., Mercury accounts for 0.8 percentage points, a level that has been flat or declining for the past several years. That contrasts with the Ford brand, which has increased market share by 2.2 percentage points so far this year on the strength of new products and improved quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and value.
Ford’s strengthening financial position – including the return to profitability and positive cash flow – allows the company to absorb short-term costs associated with the discontinuation of Mercury and to consolidate future product investments into Lincoln.
Today, there are no stand-alone Mercury dealerships in North America. Ford is working closely with dealers to maintain properly located stand-alone Lincoln or Ford-Lincoln dealers, which will offer dealers and the company the greatest opportunity for long-term profitable growth.
New operational standards developed with the company’s dealers will facilitate a Lincoln customer experience that exceeds the expectations of North American luxury customers.
Ford will work closely with Mercury dealers and customers during the transition, including providing existing Mercury owners with continued access to parts and service support at Ford and Lincoln dealers and by honoring current warranties, including Ford’s Extended Service Plans.
“We are 100 percent committed to supporting Mercury owners through Ford and Lincoln dealerships and working hard to keep them as valued customers in the future,” Fields said. “At the same time, we will work closely with our dealers to phase out Mercury franchises and continue to build a healthy, growing Lincoln with strong new products and a profitable dealer network that delivers a world-class customer experience.”
Mercury owners will receive additional details in the coming days explaining the transition and assuring them that Ford and its dealers will continue to provide all necessary parts and service support for Mercury products.
Ford has notified Mercury dealers of the decision and provided details of a financial package that includes payment in exchange for resigning the franchise.
Ford today also informed dealers of special offers on new Mercury vehicles that will be available through the summer to support the sell down of current Mercury inventory and remaining Mercury vehicle production.
“We are taking decisive action and moving into the future with the right plan to deliver profitable growth for all stakeholders,” Fields said. “These moves position us to continue building momentum through strong brands, great products and an unwavering focus on the customer.”
# # #
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 176,000 employees and about 80 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and, until its sale, Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.
We came across this old press release from Mercury today – from 4 and a half years ago. Despite the statement in the press release, the Cougar and the Marauder both suddenly died the following model year. In media interviews at the time, many planned updates were discussed for both (a Cougar SVT version - announced and shown then suddenly cancelled, and a number of Marauder updates including a supercharged SOHC 2V 4.6 and even an aftermarket-supplied gauge package).
The Cougar was based on the Contour/Mondeo chassis – which after several failed product plan churns was finally up for a replacement. The new Mondeo chassis – despite an early plan to bring it to the United States as a Mercury model – would not be seen in the United States (except from Mexican tourists driving them into the ‘states – they get the full car and we don’t!). So that had to change.
The Marauder, based on the Mercury Marquis, was initially a slow seller and a poor performer. Changes made to the engine (such as dual knock sensors, to allow more initial spark advance and low-end response) helped but major technology updates such as a 5-speed transmission weren’t in the pipeline, and the supercharged engine was cancelled. As you know, “Panther” product plans would be kicked around for years before the decision was finally made to let it slowly fade out over time.
A dearth of product plans followed the installment of Bill Ford after the engineered departure of Jac Nasser. Jac was the target of a lot of unfair (and carefully orchestrated from the highest levels) negative attention after the Ford family decided to install the very-unqualified Billy Ford to protect it’s financial interests. Many important product plans were cancelled in the political purge that followed the departure of Jac. Some of these plans include:
- an all-new small rear wheel drive platform for Lincoln – smaller than the LS, purposefully designed to target the market known as the “3-series competitors”. This is really astounding - Lincoln/Mercury would have had a platform that would compete with the G35 family. Unbelievable.
- a major rev of the DEW (LS, T-Bird, Jaguar) platform, leading to many new models including a Panther replacement as well as a world-class Mustang chassis
- all planned updates to the T-Bird and LS (supercharged engine, sport suspension, new dash, functional updates, and eventually a major platform update)
- all advanced plans for Lincoln that were created as part of an effort to identify a “DNA” for Lincoln. These included a Lincoln Continental in the spirit of the early sixties model and a new Mark model. Both were built on a common version of an enlarged next-gen DEW chassis, but were very carefully and extensively tailored for their mission. If the production models had held true to the concepts, they would have been very unique and desirable in the marketplace.
So this leaves us with a struggling company, extensive platform re-use, a very poor financial rating (and getting worse), and many competitive issues.
CHICAGO, Feb. 6, 2002 – Since its founding in the late 1930s, Mercury has been a premium brand with products blending performance, comfort and luxury appointments. As Mercury designers, engineers and marketers begin work on a new generation of vehicles, the stylish convertibles, premium sedans, performance machines and family cars of the brand’s past – and strong brand names like “Cougar” and “Marauder” – will provide ample inspiration for the future.
- 1937: Edsel Ford begins planning a new premium vehicle range between mainstream Ford “Blue Oval” products and Lincoln luxury cars. After considering a number of names, including “Winged Victory,” Ford eventually named the brand Mercury after the winged messenger of the Roman gods, known for dependability, eloquence, skill and speed.
- 1939: The first model year for Mercury included four models, a sedan, two coupes and the Series 99A convertible. The Mercury coupes were considered by designers to be quite avant-garde for the era.
- 1945: The Lincoln-Mercury Division is established.
- 1948: Benson Ford, grandson of Henry Ford, is elected a company vice president and named general manager of Lincoln-Mercury Division.
- 1949: James Dean immortalized the 1949 Mercury when he drove a de-chromed six-passenger Mercury Series 9CM in the 1955 move “Rebel Without a Cause.”
- 1949-51: Mercury coupes become the car of choice for performance tuners and hot-rodders who chopped the tops, removed body trim and filled the resulting holes with lead to create “Lead Sleds” – famous for their long, low, smooth appearance.
- 1950: Benson Ford drove Mercury’s first Indianapolis 500 pace car, a Mercury Series OMC Coupe. The one-millionth Mercury rolls off the line in August.
- 1957: Mercury’s second Indianapolis 500 pace car is a Turnpike Cruiser convertible.
- 1960: Mercury introduces the Comet, the first upscale compact car.
- 1963-64: The first Mercury Marauders, performance versions of Mercury’s mainstream Montclair and Monterey sedans, debut at the dawn of the muscle-car era. Production Marauders capitalize on the success of the Bill Stroppe-prepared Marauder stock cars, including the one Parnelli Jones drove to victory at the 1963 Pikes Peak Hill Climb.
- 1965: Mercury Comets become drag-strip sensations thanks to Jack Christman, who developed the first Funny Car, a lightweight Comet with a supercharged, fuel-injected, nitro-burning 427-cubic-inch V-8.
- 1966: Once again, Benson Ford drives a Mercury pace car at the Indianapolis 500. His Cyclone GT convertible is super-tuned to achieve 0-60 mph in seven seconds.
- 1967: The first Cougar – Mercury’s luxurious pony car – is named Motor Trend magazine’s “Car of the Year.” Chauncey, a three-year-old Cougar, stars in famous television ads for Mercury – “at the sign of the cat.”
- 1968: Cale Yarborough wins the Daytona 500 in a Mercury Cyclone. Actor Jack Lord drives a triple black four-door Mercury Parklane Brougham on the hit television series “Hawaii Five-O.”
- 1975: The Mercury Grand Marquis nameplate is introduced. Grand Marquis goes on to become Mercury’s longest-running, best-selling nameplate, with more than 2.7 million sold.
- 1985: The aerodynamic Mercury Sable, offered as a space- and fuel-efficient front-wheel-drive sedan and station wagon, is introduced.
- 1992: The second-generation Sable is introduced.
- 1996: Mercury enters the sport-utility market with the all-wheel-drive V-8-powered Mountaineer. The third-generation Mercury Sable is introduced.
- 1998: Lincoln Mercury moves its headquarters from Detroit to Irvine, Calif. The Mercury Marauder Concept, powered by a supercharged 4.6-liter V-8, is unveiled at the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas.
- 1999: The fourth-generation Sable is introduced as a 2000 model. The new Sable offers a long list of safety and security features, including the Personal Safety System™, side-impact air bags for front-seat occupants and an emergency trunk release system.
2000 and Beyond
- 2000: Lincoln Mercury-dedicated product development, design and manufacturing organizations are established.
- 2001: The second-generation Mercury Mountaineer is introduced as a 2002 model. The new Mountaineer rides on an all-new chassis with four-wheel independent suspension and offers innovative features, including a third-row seat that folds flats into the floor. It is named a “Best Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The production version of the 1998 Mercury Marauder Concept is unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show. The 2003 model is powered by an all-aluminum 4.6-liter DOHC V-8 and incorporates significant chassis and safety improvements planned for Mercury’s rear-wheel-drive architecture.
- 2002: Brian Kelley becomes president of Lincoln Mercury. Susan Pacheco is appointed as director, Mercury Product Development, Elena Ford is appointed Mercury group brand manager and Darrell Behmer is named Mercury chief designer. The Mercury Marauder Convertible Concept is unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show. The 2003 Marauder and Grand Marquis arrive in dealerships in the summer.
The Truth About Cars has an excellent article about the need for a new Mercury Cougar… and how it might be done. Good reading here: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/content/11499043591900924366/index.php
Stretching the wheelbase of the already-huge Mustang isn’t a good idea… we’re talking about a fully loaded Cougar that would be way over 4000 pounds. The morbidly obese Shelby is already a few pounds from the mark in coupe form (and over the line in convertible… or with a driver on board). Weight is not a good thing… especially in this day and age. And the torsional rigidity of the chassis would suffer.
Furthermore, AutoAlliance doesn’t have room for anything else in any kind of volume whatsoever… not even another 20k cars (as if a profit could be made on 20k cars a year – look what happened to the T’Bird) – unless Mustang sales dip. In two years time, however, the Mazda6 (built in the same facility) is replaced with a slightly larger model… if that car were to go elsewhere (for example to the Fusion plant in Mexico) then some space would be freed up. That doesn’t mean the assembly line could handle any more volume, however. Major layout changes would be necessary.. .and that would be something to do at the next Mustang update (a minor update, apparently delayed to 2010).
But neither the Truth article nor mine (so far) has said anything about the point of a new Cougar - what market it would address. That’s the big question.. one that Mercury lost 40 years ago when the ’71 model was under design. As a former XR-7 owner (a rather large ’70 – which is what the Truth’s suggestion would yield) I can say that the car isn’t about anything the current Mustang attributes could carry over into. It’s upmarket, quieter, better ride, and effortless performance. The ride of the solid axle, for one thing, would never be acceptable (in fact it’s terrible and the car hops skips and jumps over anything in the road).
Ok, I’m on an IRS rant again. My readers should have seen it coming. Lets take a step back.
What we need in a Cougar is a degree more sophistication than the Mustang (this isn’t a Lincoln Mark, but it’s in that direction). That requires an evolution: modern man, upright and tool-using instead of a slumped over knuckle-dragging caveman with a small brain.
Make the Cougar about sophistication.
Assuming use of the Mustang platform: put the IRS (already designed and production-ready) into the car as standard equipment. An IRS is a requirement for the 20th century, and it’s a requirement for the more sophisticated market the Cougar will target. Of course, we already know the Camaro and Challenger will have an IRS, so perhaps this could be back-fit into the Mustang as well. I’m a sly one – whatever it takes to get this into the Mustang.
So I’ve added some weight here (~120 pounds for an SLA, less for a trailing-arm design. The IRS was designed into the platform from the beginning so there is a little less weight penalty here compared to the SN95), so lets remove some too.
First make the platform lighter by using more modern materials (more aluminum in the outer panels, doors, and even the roof – the S197 roof, BTW, is designed with that possibility). That car won’t be able to get any smaller – we’re stuck with a plus-size Mustang for probably 15 years.
And ditch the unsophisticated (and heavy) truck engines the Mustang is saddled with and use Ford’s most modern engines:
- the upcoming 300-horsepower direct-injected 3.5 DOHC V-6 as a base engine (next up after the base 265-horse version which debuts this fall)
- offer the PAG 4.2 liter V-8 as the optional engine – since all of PAG is using that engine and since it was also used in the T-Bird and LS, there won’t be a sharing issue. This engine will be updated in the next few years too and will offer more power and refinement.
Yes, these engines are expensive - but I’m not talking about a stipper $19,995 Cougar. This is a base-30k car, priced to it’s market. And also note that these engines are much lower than the Mustang truck engines – enabling a lower hood on the hypothetical Cougar. And both considerably more advanced than Ford’s sadly aged and dated “modular V-8″.
The PAG V-8 opens the possibility of a performance engine (it will soon be offered in 500-HP form by Jaguar), but this is not a necessity right up front. I want a strong sensation of smooth and effortless power - a smoothness of the engine right up to redline, and flexible across the widest possible band. Drive a modern Infiniti or Lexus 3.5 V-6 and you’ll see what I mean.
The exterior styling has to be 100% differentiated from the Mustang. Less of a fastback design will enable seats with more headroom. The styling, yes, should be done by someone other than Ford. The Truth has that one right. Except make it a competition across all of thr Ford Motor Company styling studios. Get a lot of input as to what the different mindsets see as the Cougar message. Remember that even the legendary J Mays explored a Cougar-type concept and by his own words at the time couldn’t get it right.
The interior design has to be much more sophisticated than the Mustang. No cheap hard plastics (the bane of the current Mustang). I see a very modern dash that is oriented around a nav system in the middle section and offering a sophisticated (aka outsourced – the Mach series has never worked well) 5.1 sound system, with satellite radio and DVD.
And especially far better seats than any current North American Ford product. The seats in every current and near-term (aka Shelby) variant of the Mustang are absolutely terrible – no support in any area of your back or thighs. After suffering thru many of these terrible seats, I’ve come to the conclusion that the seat department at Ford is run by a obese person.
Ford can do better than this… or they can be brought in from Europe. Seats are a central and critical part of a car. And also please put a modern (small) steering wheel on the car – not the enormous Mustang wheel (carrying retro too far). Some manufacturers even out-source these to companies like Momo (Mitsubishi and Honda) and Momo has airbag systems that utilitize OEM airbag systems to reduce development costs. Like the seats, the steering wheel contributes an important feel to the car – something the owner will notice – and be dependent upon – in their every moment with the car. You can see I want a Cougar that provides tactile feedback.
And speaking of which, the Mustang steering system needs to be replaced. It’s numb, little happens for the effort, and there is no feedback. Modern manufacturers outsouce steering rack systems to companies like Getrag. You may not be aware that Ford actually did this once – the last Taurus SHO has a Getrag steering rack. It worked well, especially on lower profile tires.
Aerodynamics? Yes, please – the “open mouth” Mustang has the aerodynamics and high speed stability of a truck. The new Cougar has to be sleek and svelte – like a cat on the prowl. It doesn’t need to be a handling bruiser – although an optional handling suspension should provide flat and competent handling and no less .9g on a skidpad.
Competition for the Mustang? Yes it is going to compete – just as it originally did. You could say that since it all comes off the same assembly line, it will all add into the same bucket of money. Just remember, though, that senior Ford execs were very nervous about spending any kind of significant money on the all-new 2005 model.. and cut budget in several areas. The decision to build an all-new car has been vindicated… the market for luxury coupes is expanding. It’s time to take advantage.
Would I buy one? Yes, and absolutely. I won’t buy the Mustang because of it’s stone-age suspension, hard plastic interior, and terrible seats. A Cougar that handles well and is a pleasure to drive on long trips would be a great daily driver for me.
Now that we’re rewady to procees (or at least I am), there are two more problems to consider:
1. If Ford should pull a “GM” and make Ford of Australia responsible for all rear-wheel platforms… then a delay of some number of years would occur. The next Falcon platform has many of these same issues… except that a 4-dr and right-hand drive has to be offered and that will require some major platform redesign.
2. Ford is out of development money… plain and simple. Look at the overall health of Ford Motor Company and you see a disastrous North American market. Budgets are being cut right and left… platform sharing is the rule (which at least gives us the excellent Mazda6 and Volvo S60 platforms to use). The Mustang is forced to use unsophisticated truck engines.
Unique platforms like the Mustang (platforms which are not shared with anything else) will always be marked as an exception… with special budgetary rules and requiring a very large sales volumes to get any additional funds. The cars that make the bottom line in Ford – family cars, hybrids, large trucks, and even advanced hydrogen research – get all the major funds. These are all must-haves for the very future of the ocmpany – the Mustang is secondary.
So after all is said, we have two very major cost problems that will probably be impossible to overcome given the current conditions:
- A Cougar as I’ve described, and built on the current Mustang platform, would cost Ford well over 600-800 million dollars to develop and launch.
- An all-new worldwide rear-wheel drive platform would cost 3-4 billion dollars – on the low end if the inventive Australians are put in charge (and I believe they should be – the existence of the Falcon – much less FPV – is the proof positive of their worthiness).
Unfortunately, knowing Ford Motor Company… and the long history of the last platform (FOX/SN-95 – really one and the same platform) I seriously doubt we’ll see major any resolution of these problems for 10 years.
Ford Press Release:
Ford sharpens Cougar’s claws with ST200 debut at Frankfurt Motor Show
FRANKFURT, 14 September, 1999 – Ford is promising a treat for driving enthusiasts, with the launch of the high performance 205 PS Ford Cougar ST200 early next year. The exhilarating coupé is making its public debut at the Frankfurt Show.
The Ford Cougar ST200 combines the sporty, free-revving, 2.5-litre V6 engine already acclaimed in the Mondeo ST200 with a unique suspension set-up optimised for agile handling. The result is a car that is exceptionally responsive and rewarding to drive.
“The inherent capabilities and purposeful looks of the Ford Cougar make it a natural choice for the application of performance technology and techniques that we’ve developed and honed in motorsport,” says Will Boddie, Vice President of Ford’s Small and Medium Car Vehicle Centre. “Inspired by the responsive new engine, and with dynamics on the standard car that are already among the best in class, the Cougar ST200 team has been free to create a powerful sports coupé that really sets the pulse racing.”
Increased power and uprated suspension
For the ST200, the power output of the Ford Cougar’s existing, all-aluminium, 24-valve V6 Duratec engine has been increased by more than 20 per cent, from 170 PS to 205 PS. Cylinder heads, camshafts, intake manifolds and the inlet and exhaust systems have all been tuned to develop both extra power and torque. In the Cougar ST200, the engine provides a top speed of 230 km/h and cuts the 0-100 km/h speed to 7.8 seconds.
To handle the extra power, the car’s suspension has been comprehensively retuned, with the clear objective of providing outstanding levels of handling. Overall stiffness has been substantially increased, with measures including the adoption of a larger rear anti-roll bar, while re-balancing of all the suspension elements ensures that the car’s ride comfort is still exemplary.
To suit the character of the Ford Cougar ST200, steering response has also been sharpened, with the emphasis on providing greater ‘feel’ for the driver around the centre point. As a result, the steering responds very directly to driver inputs, contributing further to the car’s performance appeal.
Sports styling details inside and out complete the high-specification package, including new 17-inch alloy wheels, a blue background to the instruments and supportive leather-covered seats. Both the front seats are heated and the driver’s seat has six-way power adjustment. Paint colours will include a new, metallic ice blue which will be exclusive to the Cougar ST200.
The Ford Cougar ST200 will go on sale early in the year 2000 in Germany and selected other European markets (Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland). Prices will be announced nearer launch.