The 1967-1973 Mercury Cougar tried to accomplish what other ponycars did in the 1960s -- find a market niche. Thunderbird found its place when Ford transformed it from two-seat boulevard cruiser to four-place "personal-luxury" car.
Ford's Mustang had an easier time. As the first ponycar, it simply carved out a niche all its own. The public was waiting for a nifty-looking compact that captured the "think young" spirit of the 1960s at a price almost anyone could afford. Mustang did just that, and it scored big. Designers of the Mercury Cougar noticed.
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A 1970 Mercury Cougar hardtop with Eliminator package and race-tuned Boss 302 V-8. See more classic car pictures.
Copycats naturally turned up almost overnight, and soon virtually every Detroit outfit was turning out a ponycar -- or soon would be. Plymouth's "glassback" Barracuda had appeared at about the same time as Mustang, in early 1964.
Accompanying restyled versions of both cars for 1967 was new GM competition, the Chevrolet Camaro and, at mid-season, its Pontiac Firebird spin-off. AMC was about to launch its Javelin for 1968. The bandwagon was filling up fast.
It was inevitable that Ford Division's intramural rival, Lincoln-Mercury, would want to get in on this action. The question was exactly how to go about fitting a smaller model into a fleet traditionally made up of, shall we say, large cars.
L-M divined the answer by a thorough evaluation of market statistics. The division went into this research with three distinct options in mind, the intention being to let the numbers determine what the end product would be.
Basically, the choices came down to a car similar to Thunderbird in image, style, and price; a Mustang clone, set apart from the Ford by little more than an L-M nameplate; or a two-seat sports car. The last was a nice idea, but highly unlikely in view of the market studies that had defined the Mustang itself.
What ultimately appeared was a different kind of ponycar: a bit larger, a little more luxurious, and incorporating what Ford Motor Company and L-M felt were the most attractive elements of both Mustang and Thunderbird. Today we know it as the first Mercury Cougar.
Go to the next page to learn about the early development of the Mercury Cougar.
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