1967 Mercury Cougar XR-7

The introduction of the 1967 Mercury Cougar was a rousing success. Buyers took to the new ponycar and its many options. But soon they were clamoring for more.

1967 mercury cougar xr-7
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The elegant 1967 Mercury Cougar XR-7 was a mid-year arrival.

Though the 1967 Mercury Cougar was known for its option-laden packages, body style was the only place where you had no choice. If you wanted a 1967 Mercury Cougar, you took a two-door hardtop or nothing. There was no convertible like Mustang, and no fastback, either, rejected as not having the desired styling image.

The official reason was that quality could be more easily controlled. As Zimmerman stated, "You can screw-in quality with only one body style," and the first Cougars off the line did indeed exhibit above-average workmanship.

Yet it's also true that even with the shared Mustang components, L-M had already reached its $40 million tooling limit, and adding a convertible would have busted the budget by some 20 percent.

For most tastes, choices elsewhere more than made up for the lack of a convertible. To begin with, there were three engines, all V-8s. (Sixes were precluded by the Cougar's higher status and price compared to Mustang.) Standard was a 289-cubic-inch powerplant with two-barrel carburetor and 200 horsepower, the same small-block that had proven so popular with Mustang buyers.

Better performance was available from perhaps the most balanced ponycar engine of all time, the 225-horsepower version with single four-barrel carburetor. For brute force you ordered the "Marauder GT" unit with 390 cid, four-barrel carburetor, dual exhausts, and 320 horsepower.

1967 mercurt cougar xr-7
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
This handsomely maintained 1967 Mercury Cougar XR-7 shows off the Cougar's swanky styling.

Transmissions came in four varieties: basic three-speed manual with floor-shift, a heavy-duty edition of same, the old standby Merc-O-Matic (now with Ford Motor Company's "Select-Shift" intermediate ratio hold feature), and four-on-the-floor.

Those seeking the sportiest Cougar ordered theirs with the GT Performance Package. This included the 390 V-8 with low-restriction dual exhausts, plus a special handling suspension beefed up via heavy-duty front and rear springs and shocks, larger-diameter stabilizer bar, and six-inch-wide wheels wrapped in wide-oval whitewall tires. You also got power brakes with front discs and quick-ratio (16:1) power steering.

But the best was yet to come. At mid-model year, L-M escalated the luxury level with the 1967 Mercury Cougar XR-7 (buyers could assume the letters stood for something like "extra ritzy"). Bucket seats were standard on all Cougars, but they had leather wearing surfaces on the XR-7. You also got a trick (for its time) overhead console, borrowed from Thunderbird and encasing reminder and courtesy lights.

Rounding out the equipment list were "competition-type gauges that fully report engine operation," map pockets, door pull straps, woodgrain steering wheel and dash appliqué, and appropriate emblems on the dash and roof rear quarters.

A variation on the XR-7 was the Dan Gurney Special, issued to honor the race driver's involvement in the Cougar's terminally successful Trans-Am racing effort. It added "turbine" wheel covers, a chrome engine dress-up kit, and an official Dan Gurney signature decal.

1967 mercury cougar xr-7
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The cylindrical bodysides of the XR-7 blended in nicely with crisp greenhouse and beltline edge.

By the time its 1968 models were ready, L-M had built 150,893 of the 1967 Cougars, including 7,400 GTs and 27,000 XR-7s. Those were respectable numbers, but far short of the projections Motor Trend had made almost a year earlier.

However, L-M was quite happy, thank you, because it had projected only about 60,000 sales owing to the new GM competition and Plymouth's restyled 1967 Barracuda. What no one knew was that Cougar sales would go down for the next five years.

Keep reading to learn about the 1968 Mercury Cougar.

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