A close look at the 1967-1968
Not exactly hot on the heels of Ford Division\'s extremely successful Mustang, was the 1967 Cougar. Actually, the decision to go ahead and build Mercury\'s version of the Mustang was made in February of 1965. The Cougar was envisioned to be a more elegant, high line Pony car that would exude a bit more class and yet still encompass the qualities that made the Mustang so popular--a smaller sporty sedan that would handle well and still be economical enough for the younger customer.
Sharing the Mustang\'s proportions, the Cougar, however, was limited to a single body, a two door notchback hardtop, with no comparable fastback or convertible. Beneath the skin, the Cougar was all Mustang, but there were some differences. The Cougar was built on an 111 inch wheelbase, three inches longer than the Mustang\'s. The front suspension was the identical with coil springs mounted over the upper control A-arm with tried and true Leaf Springs at the rear. The Cougar, though, got somewhat softer suspension bushings for a softer ride. One minor area where the Cougar was different was through the use of articulated drag struts on the front suspension. These imparted less shock to the body structure in keeping with the Cougar\'s luxo image. The Cougar was also equipped with a special sound deadening package which added 123.5 lbs. to its weight.
And in keeping with the luxury, refined image, there was no need to offer an economy oriented six cylinder engine. The 1967 Cougar was offered with three engines- a 200hp 289 c.i. V-8 which used a two-barrel carburetor and single exhaust system--this served as the base engine. Adding dual exhausts and a four-barrel carburetor upped horsepower to 225 on the small-block "Super 289" Ford while those opting for the GT Equipment Package automatically got Ford\'s big-block 320hp 390 c.i. V-8. On the Cougar, and other Mercury\'s, the 390 was called the Maurauder 390 GT.
All engines could be had with either a three speed manual, four speed manual or Mercury\'s Merc-O-Matic three speed automatic.
The Cougar was quite different from the Mustang when it came to styling. Most noticeable was the front end "electric shaver" split Grille treatment with concealed headlights. At the rear, the Cougar came with T-Bird sequential taillights. There was no mistaking the family resemblance in the interior. The steering wheel is similar to the Mustang\'s as is the two pod dash layout and console.
As with any other collectible, the greater number of options enhances the car\'s appeal. The Cougar is no exception. If you are interested in a Cougar, try to get one that is equipped with the XR-7 package, which was introduced in January of 1967. Much was made of the Cougar\'s Euro theme and the XR-7 accentuated this. In the interior the dash was covered with burled walnut applique while the regular warning lights in the right hand dash pod were replaced with three gauges for fuel, water temperature and amps. A 6,000 rpm tachometer was housed in the right dash pod, complementing the 120 mph speedometer on the left pod. The clock, which was located in between the two large pods was relocated to the center console, underneath the radio on the XR-7. Adding to the European flair, was a row of Jaguar style toggle switches above the center vent which controlled various interior lights and an overhead console which contained warning and map lights. Also included in the XR-7 was leather and vinyl upholstery. XR-7 identification was located on the passenger side of the dash and on the C-pillars.
The strongest performing street Cougars were those equipped with the GT Performance Group. Included was the 390 c.i. engine (the 390 could also be had without the GT Group), the Performance Handling Package (stiffer springs and shocks, larger front anti-sway bar, wider 6" rims, and faster steering with a 16:1 ratio. Also included was power front disc brakes and F70x14 WSW tires. The optional styled steel wheels, nice on any Cougar, were a natural complement to those equipped with the GT package. GTs are identified by the fender mounted GT emblems behind each front wheel well.
Lincoln-Mercury entered a team of Cougars to compete in SCCA\'s Trans-Am series in 1967. The Mercury Team Cougar was managed by Dan Gurney (who also drove) and came very close to winning the championship. In the end, both the Cougar and Mustang teams won four races apiece, but Mustang edged Cougar out by two points. To commemorate Gurney\'s involvement, a low production Dan Gurney Special was built. It wasn\'t a performance model by any means, but rather a trim package. It consisted of special Turbine wheel covers, chrome engine components and Dan Gurney Special decals for both rear quarter windows. The package was available with any Cougar engine.
Styling changes were minimal on the 1968 Cougar. Front and rear side marker lights, federally mandated, were the most noticeable while in the interior, a redesigned steering wheel was the most visible change. Not so readily visible was the collapsible steering column and starting with 1968, the rear view mirror was affixed directly on the windshield.
Engine selection was a bit more complicated than before. The standard engine was the a 302 cubic inch V-8, rated at 210hp. The 302, was basically a stroked 289. The optional four-barrel/dual exhaust version of the 302 was rated at 230hp. Some Cougars were also equipped with the two-barrel version of the 289 rated at 195hp. XR-7 and Decor Group optioned Cougars got the 210hp 302 as the base engine.
The big 390 continued unchanged, however it was now available in two versions--a two-barrel carbureted Maurauder 390 P rated at 280hp and the 390 GT rated at 325 hp. The 325hp 390 was the standard version on Cougars equipped with the GT Equipment Group.
The largest engine available was a hydraulic cammed 427 c.i. V-8 rated at 390 hp at 5600 rpm. The 427, however, was only available for a short time during the 1968 model run and it was phased out in December 1967. It was available only on the Cougar GT-E and only 338 were built.
The GT-E came with a two tone paint job--the lower body areas were painted silver while the front Grille and rear taillight blades were blacked out. Also distinctive was the use of two horizontal chrome strips on the grille. Other visual stimulation included a non-functional "power dome" hood, and chrome quad exhaust tips. 7 Litre GT-E emblems were located on the front fenders beneath the Cougar emblem. In the interior, besides the base interior, the GT-E could be optioned out with the XR-7 interior.
Although the 427 was Ford\'s premier race engine, it had some disadvantages as installed in the Cougar. It was available only with an automatic transmission and it could have used a larger than the stock 650 cfm Holley carburetor to take advantage of the engine\'s true potential. And it was expensive at $908.00.
Still, it was Ford\'s best engine and it had a tremendous race heritage. A member of the FE series, it was first introduced in 1963 and it became an engine of many variations. For the 1968 Cougar, a Low Riser version was installed. (It used a low rise type of intake manifold). This particular version used Cylinder Heads similar to production 390 heads, but with slightly larger valves. The biggest difference between the 427 and other FE series engines was the cylinder block. The 427 block was superior for two reasons. It had stronger cross-bolt main caps and a much better oiling system, which incorporated an oil gallery at the side of the block. For this reason, the 427 is sometimes referred to as the "Sideoiler".
Ford, on April 1, 1968 introduced the 428 Cobra Jet engine as an option on fastback and hardtop Mustangs. So, too, the 428CJ became the standard and only engine on the GT-E Cougar, but a regular Cougar could also be optioned out with it. The 428CJ was available with either a four speed manual or a C-6 automatic.
The 428CJ engine was basically a production 428 fitted with 427 Low Riser cylinder heads. The heads, however, utilized intake ports that were slightly larger, similar in size to those found on the Medium Riser 427. The camshaft was identical to the Low Riser and 390 GT engines, but a larger 735 cfm Holley carburetor was mounted on a cast iron copy of the 428 Police Interceptor intake manifold. The 428CJ also used an oil pan windage tray. It was rated at 335 hp at 5200 rpm, which was obviously on the low side.
Instead of the Firestone Wide Ovals, the 428CJ Cougars got Goodyear Polyglas F70x14 tires mounted the styled steel wheels. These were the best street tires available at the time. The Cobra Jet equipped GT-Es also came with a functional Ram Air hood.
Not surprisingly, only 264 GT-Es were built. The Cougar was promoted as a luxury Pony car rather than a hot street car and so there was little reason for the street racer to invest in a Cougar when he could get the same equipment in a lighter Mustang for less money.
Although though the Cougar was no longer a Trans Am competitor, a Dan Gurney XR7-G was available in the spring of 1968. Even though the option was available with the 302 c.i. engine (and larger), there was more to the package than the 1967 Dan Gurney Special. It came with the non-functional GT-E hood, fog lamps, hood pins, a European type outside rearview mirror, the styled steel wheels, wide-oval radial tires and chrome exhaust outlets. In the interior, the XR7-G was equipped with a special console, a walnut shift knob, a simulated leather wrapped steering wheel and a power sunroof. The sunroof, was also available on other Cougars as well. According to most sources, there were 759 Cougars equipped with the optional sunroof and either 304 or 421 XR-7G Cougars built.
With most collectibles, the first year of production usually has special significance. To a certain extent, this is true with the Cougar as well, but it is also tempered by the fact that over 150,000 were built and that there aren\'t any truly significant 1967 models. A Cougar GT or a 390 c.i. equipped XR-7 are certainly more desirable than the base model. The Dan Gurney Special is certainly rare, but besides the decals, there really isn\'t much to it.
For 1968, the GT-E stands out because of its low production and is one of the more desirable Cougar collectibles. The XR7-G also stands out, especially if equipped with the 390 c.i. V-8.
You can pick up a 1967-68 Cougar for a lot less than a comparable Mustang. However, unlike the Mustang, there is very little in the way of reproduction body and trim parts available so be sure to get one that is as complete as possible.');