Cougar Road Tests 1967
Among avid classic car enthusiasts, Brooklands Books is a household name. Brooklands and equally well known Motorbooks International are two of our primary sources for books about classic cars.
Booklands is perhaps best known for their magazine road test collections. Many of you will recall the recent TCP series of road test summaries based on Brooklands' 1947-1959 Mercury Road Test Limited Edition. During the next few months we're going to take a look at some road tests reports that hit even closer to home for classic Cat enthusiasts: Booklands Road Test Limited Edition/Cougar 1967-1973, compiled by R.M. Clarke (ISBN 1 85520 4525)
This is quite a book, containing thirty Cougar road test reprints from magazines like Car & Driver, Motor Trend and Car Life—some of the most popular car periodicals of the era. Of course, what we show you here is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the book's contents. You'll need to get your own copy to to get the whole story.
Purchasing a copy of this book will take a little doing. Brooklands' web site doesn't list it, nor was I able to find it at any of the usual on-line sources, like Amazon.com. It's possible that the book is out of print, but I have seen it here and there (my copy came from a museum bookstore). Your best bet is to contact Brooklands directly (see the resource panel for contract information). You could also try ordering it from a bookstore, like Border's or Barnes & Noble (be sure to give them the ISBN number). It's also possible that a copy might show up on eBay. However you find this book, it's worth the effort.
We chose this road test reprint to summarize because it is one of the earliest major magazine Cougar reports I've seen. It appeared in the October, 1966 edition of Car & Driver, which appeared on newsstands late in September, very close to L-M's introduction of the Cougar on September 30 at Principal Motors in Monterey, California.
Since it was no secret that the new Cougar was built on the Mustang platform, Car & Driver opens their road test with a comment on the Mustang/Cougar relationship: "A lot of you readers are prepared to sneer at the Cougar. ('Just a hoked up Mustang with another one of those dumb animal names.') Well, sports fans, we're here to tell you that this is one pretty good automobile."
"Well, sports fans, we're here to tell you that this is one pretty good automobile."
Continuing on this theme, they point out a few of the differences between the two cars, including their wheelbases (Mustang's 108" versus 111" for the Cougar) and the completely different sheet metal. Car & Driver's conclusion is that, while the Cougar was not as rough-and-tough sporty as a performance Mustang, the Cat was much more luxurious and it still had the ability to go around corners.
Next comes a paragraph about the "legal problem" between Jaguar and Mercury concerning the similarity of the Cougar's stalking cat logo to Jag's leaping cat emblem. Lincoln-Mercury may have lost the lawsuit (if there really was a lawsuit), but they sure came out ahead in the publicity department—establishing an absolute link between their Cougar and the European Jaguar that was supposed to have influenced the Cougar's design.
"Despite its Mustang underpinnings, the Cougar has its own personality. It combines a dash of sports sedan with the luxury of a personal car and comes out miles ahead."
Describing the car L-M had provided for this road test, Car & Driver said, "Our test car was something of an odd-ball, being an engineering prototype assembled without regard for any overall logic. It had the 225-horsepower, 289 cu. in. V-8 coupled with Ford's own 3-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel non-power drum brakes, non-power steering, stock suspension, F70-14 Firestone Wide Oval tires on 6-inch rims and a bunch of luxury/comfort options like basketweave "breathing" upholstery. It wasn't set up as an enthusiast's package, but—with no power assists—neither was it the proverbial yachtsman's delight."
What follows at this point in the road test was a lengthy discussion of Cougar's luxury, performance and convenience option offerings. Of interest is Car & Driver's observation that, since the available 390 GT engine and Ford's performance 427/428 engines share the same block, there is room under the Cougar's hood for one of these hotter mills. Also, C & D's descriptions of Cougar interior appointments reminds us of the fact that this article precedes by a couple of months the introduction of the XR-7 model.
"With a list of options as long as an ape's arm, you can make your Cougar an enthusiast's machine or a yachtsman's delight."
Following a comparison of Mustang/Cougar suspension, along with the observation that the Cougar's ride is much smoother, Car & Driver described the handling of their test car: "Bending our test Cougar into a sharp turn on a poor road surface would send the wheels pointing every-which-way, and—the slack being taken out of the rubber parts of the suspension—violent wheel movements could be distinctly felt through the suspension. We expected the car's attitude to become as obviously confused as the wheels, but no, the Cougar tracked around the turn in the chosen direction and on the intended line. The steering characteristics remained neutral and predictable, with the car neither washing out at the front end nor getting twitchy at the rear. It leans a lot, looks terrifying, feels untidy, but it's really one of the best-riding, best-handling standard passenger cars we've ever driven."
C & D reported that acceleration was lackluster with the 225 horsepower 289, but they figured that the Cobra HO version of the 289 would be too noisy for the Cougar and that the 390 would make it nose heavy. Their conclusion was that, in spite of its limited performance, the 225 horsepower version of the 289 was likely to be the best compromise in the Cougar.
"It leans a lot, looks terrifying, feels untidy, but it's really one of the best-riding, best-handling standard passenger cars we've ever driven."
The Car & Driver road test team liked Cougar's Sportshift automatic transmission. They said it wasn't as good as Chrysler's Torque-flite, but it was miles ahead of the 2-speed Powerglide automatic GM used in their small cars. C & D expressed the opinion that the Sportshift tranny was more convenient than a manual, with performance characteristics that were roughly equal in normal driving.
After even more Mustang/Cougar comparisons of interior space and price (they had to guess at Cougar's MSRP because the article was written before that information was available), Car & Driver wrapped up their Cougar road test like this: "In short, we dig the Cougar. It seems like a better way to go the 'personal car' route than either the Mustang or the Thunderbird. It doesn't go to the extremes that make the Mustang an 'almost' sports car and the Thunderbird an 'almost' luxury car but cuts and wide and sensible path down the middle. We wish it well."
Car & Driver's Early Cougar Road Test Data Panel.