1969-1970 Mercury Cougar
In typical fashion, the Cougar in its first major restyle, got bigger and heavier in 1969. The resemblance to the original 1967 model was certainly there, but the car looked larger and heavier, and it was, too. While wheelbase remained the same at 111 inches, the body was 3.5 inches longer and 2.9 inches wider. The unique sequential turn signals remained but the electric shaver front grille was replaced with a horizontal rib affair with a central bulge with the headlights remaining hidden. From the side, the most noticeable change was the use of horizontal character line that started at the front fender and gradually dropped down to the rear wheel opening. In addition to the two door hardtop, a convertible model was made available. Another visual change, which was also adopted by most of the American manufacturers, was the deletion of the side vent windows.
In terms of models, the standard Cougar could be upgraded with the luxury oriented XR-7 package which could be complimented with the newly available power side windows. The GTs were dropped but it wasn\'t until April 1 of 1969 that a performance Cougar model was once again available (although the big 428CJ engine was available on the standard Cougar at the beginning of the model year) and it was the Cougar Eliminator. More on the Eliminator under the Specials section later on.
Engine availability was juggled somewhat. The previous base 302 c.i. V-8 was dropped and replaced by the 351 c.i. Windsor V-8, a new engine, which was basically an enlarged 302.
By increasing the stroke of the 302 to 3.5 inches, the block\'s height was raised by one inch to accommodate the longer stroke. At the same time, the crank journals were resized, resulting in an engine that has no interchangeability with the 289/302 engines, save for the heads. The heads, by the way, did have slight larger ports. Because the engine was built at Ford\'s Windsor plant, it came to be known as the 351W. Ford\'s other 351, the 351C, was available on Cougars during 1970-73. The 351W was the only 351 cubic inch V-8 that was available on 1969 Cougars. The 351W was rated at 250 hp with a two barrel Autolite carburetor and 290 hp with a four barrel. The 290hp version also came with a dual exhaust system.
351-4V powered Cougars could also have been equipped with the 351 Performance Group which consisted of the Competition Handling Package, F70x14 whitewall tires and special hood stripes.
The old Maurauder 390 was still available, to bridge the gap between the 351\'s and the 428\'s, rated at 320hp. Acceleration over the 351-4V was negligible while it tending to detract from the car\'s handling because of its greater weight.
The same 428 Cobra Jet that was introduced in the late 1968 GT-E Cougar, was the top engine option, however it was available in three versions-and all were rated at the same 335hp.
The first 428 CJ was available without a functional hood scoop. The Ram Air version of the 428CJ was known as the 428CJ-R and it used a special air cleaner assembly that incorporated a trap door which let outside cool air enter the carburetor whenever the gas pedal was floored. It worked, too, as quarter mile times usually improved by 2 mph and 0.2 seconds.
A third available version was known as the 428 Super Cobra Jet Ram Air(428SCJ). It came with Ram Air but it had some additional important features. Available only when a 3.91 or 4.30 axle ratio was ordered, its main difference was that it used special cap screw connecting rods, similar to the 427 Le Mans rods. These were much stronger and, accordingly, more reliable a higher engine rpm. Part of the SCJ package included an engine oil cooler, mounted in front of the radiator. This was good for a thirty-degree drop in engine oil temperature, again a measure to increase reliability. Ford did not issue a different engine code for the SCJ, but any 428CJ-R Cougar with the axle code V(for 3.91) or W(for 4.30) were SCJs.
All 428CJ Cougars were equipped with the Competition Handling package-stiffer shocks and springs as well as the staggered rear shock absorbers on those equipped with a four speed manual transmission. The three speed manual transmission was standard with engines up to the with either a close ratio four speed manual or three speed automatic a mandatory option on the 428s.
Prior to the release of the Eliminator package, 428CJ equipped Cougars could be identified with the dual contrasting stripes that embellished the hood bulge. These had CJ428 lettering and a cat imprint at the center of the front part of the hood bulge.
Perhaps the most interesting new engine that powered 1969 Cougars was the Boss 302 V-8. The Boss 302 was a mid-year (April 1, 1969) introduction, coinciding with the Eliminator package. Available only with the Eliminator, the Boss 302 powered Eliminator was Mercury\'s version of the Boss 302 Mustang which was built to qualify the Mustang in SCCA\'s Trans Am Series. Even though Cougar was no longer involved in the Trans Am Series and that the Cougar didn\'t have the same sort of muscle car image the Mustang had, it was necessary from a marketing point of view to offer the same high performance engines.
The Boss 302 was quite an engine. The block was a strengthened version of the production 302 block, with four-bolt main caps. It used a forged steel crankshaft with forged connecting rods that were the same as those found on the old High Performance 289. All of this was done to ensure reliability . The reason for the excellent power output was the redesigned cylinder heads. These had extremely large intake and exhaust ports, canted valves measuring 2.23 inches on the intake and 1.72 inches on the exhaust and adjustable rocker arms. As a comparison, the High Performance 289 had valves measuring 1.78 inches intake and 1.44 inches exhaust. An aluminum high-rise intake manifold with a large Holley 780 cfm Holley four barrel provided induction. A subdued mechanical lifter camshaft was used as was a dual point distributor and dual exhaust system. Very little else was really necessary to convert this into a full-blown race engine.
To ensure reliability on the street, Ford installed a rev-limiter, which stopped the engine from revving over 6150 rpm. The engine was good to 7000 rpm, wit an occasional burst to 7500 rpm. Even with the rev limiter, the Boss 302 was rated at 290 hp at 5800 rpm.
Obviously underrated, the Boss 302 powered Eliminator could cover the quarter mile in the high fourteen second range and with 0-60 mph times under seven seconds. The only thing to watch out for in the Boss 302 is that the stock pistons usually cracked between 10,000 and 30,000 miles, resulting in a rebuild. If you find an original Boss 302 with under 30,000 miles you should expect to rebuild the engine.
With the GTs gone for 1969, Mercury introduced the Eliminator option package in May 8, 1969. The Eliminator helped to give the Cougar some visual punch, as well as to compete with other muscular pony cars. The Eliminator was not a different model but rather, an option package. Included were front and rear spoilers, a blacked out grille, argent styled steel wheels with F70x14 Goodyear tires, a flat black non functional hood scoop, a driver\'s side color keyed rear view mirror and a twin side stripe with an Eliminator decal just behind the door. In the interior, the Eliminator was equipped with high back bucket seats and the dash was complimented with a tachometer and rally clock. Mechanically, all Eliminators were equipped with the competition suspension, dual exhausts and power front disc brakes. A four speed manual or three speed automatic were mandatory options. Only four colors were available; white, bright blue metallic, competition orange and bright yellow.
Any Cougar, with the exception of those equipped with the 351 two barrel V-8 could be optioned out with the Eliminator package. However, the Eliminator was not available on convertibles. Because it was introduced late in the model year, only 2,411 Eliminators were built in 1969. Eliminators could also be optioned with the Eliminator Decor Group which consisted of a more luxurious interior.
When the Eliminator was announced in March of 1969 at the Chicago Auto Show, it was mentioned that the Ford\'s Boss 429 NASCAR engine would become optionally available on the Cougar. The Boss 429, based on the regular 429 c.i. big-block V-8, featured aluminum hemi type Cylinder Heads along with a host of other improvements. Ford decided to install the engine in specially modified Mustangs in order to homologate the enginefor NASCAR stock car racing. However, only two Cougars were built with the Boss 429 engine, making them the rarest of all the high performance Cougars.
Returning to a vertical grille theme, the 1970 Cougar resembled the 1967-68 models, however, the center grille divider had a more pronounced bulge, which added 2.3 inches to the Cougar\'s length. The bodywork, in other respects, remained essentially unchanged from 1969. Unchanged, too, was model availability. The base Cougar was complimented with the upscale XR-7 and the performance Eliminator. Once again, the convertible could only be had as a base or XR-7.
Mechanically, an additional engine was introduced, the 351C(Cleveland) V-8. The 351C, while having the same bore and stroke as the 351W, was a completely different engine using different cylinder block and heads. The heads, were similar to those used on the Boss 302, in that they were a canted valve design which had considerably more airflow potential. The 351C replaced the previous 351W with the four barrel carburetor and was uprated to 300hp. The base engine on the Cougar was the 250hp 351 (it could have been either the 351W or the 351C) which used a two barrel carburetor.
The old 390 was finally retired, while the 428CJ and SCJ remained the top engine options. Somewhat different from 1969, the 428CJ was upgraded to SCJ status when the Drag Pack option package was ordered. It included the engine oil cooler, a 3.91:1 Traction Lok rear or a 4.30:1 Detroit Locker rear unit. The 428CJ/SCJ was more often seen in an Eliminator optioned car, but it was possible to get one in base Cougar or XR-7-hardtop or convertible.
You\'ll find that some of the factory literature proclaims that the Boss 429 was optional on the Eliminator, however, there were no Boss 429 Cougars built in 1970.
There were several minor, yet important refinements, that helped to make the 1970 Cougar a slightly better car than the 1969s. This is especially true in the suspension department. On the Eliminators, wheel rim width was increased to 7 inches while models equipped with performance suspensions, benefited from the use of a rear anti-sway bar-1/2" on 351 equipped cars and 5/8" with the 428s. Four speed equipped Cougars automatically got a Hurst shifter and all Cougars with a dual exhaust system got a new system that used two mufflers rather than the previous single transverse muffler.
From a collector\'s point of view, it was once again the Eliminator that has the most interest. The base engine for 1970 was the 300hp 351C with the 290hp Boss 302 and 335hp 428CJ & SCJ optional. And of the three, the Boss 302 and 428CJ/SCJ powered Eliminators are more in demand. Production for the Eliminator totaled just 2,200, broken down to 450 with the Boss 302 engine, 1,306 with the 351 and 444 with the 428CJ.
The 1970 Eliminator, in terms of styling, was very similar to the 1969 version. Front and rear spoilers, blacked out hood scoop, front grille and taillight panel, color-keyed side view mirrors, side stripes in addition to a special stripe treatment on the hood bulge and on the rear wing spoiler. You\'ll find that most Eliminators sported five spoke styled steel wheels although a hubcap/trim ring wheel was also available. Color choice expanded to the so-called Competition Colors. These were Competition Yellow, Blue, Green, Orange and Gold. Deep Gold Metallic, Pastel Blue and Red were added at mid-year.
An XR-7 equipped Cougar is more desirable than a base model; so is one equipped with one of the big-block V-8s particularly the 428CJ/SCJ V-8 engine. Because production was fairly low, the 1969-70 Cougar Eliminator stands out. Once again, the edge goes to a 428CJ/SCJ or Boss 302 powered model. On the other hand, a 351C equipped Eliminator will probably be quicker than a Boss 302 and as quick as a 428CJ on the street.
It will be somewhat more difficult finding a nice 1970 convertible because production dropped by about 50%; still, either year is a worthwhile investment, particularly if it is an XR-7 with one of the larger engines. You\'ll find that Cougar prices will be lower than a comparable Mustang model.