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1967-1973 Mercury Cougar

Early Mercury Cougar Development

Early Mercury Cougar development was outlined by two authors in a publication of the mid-1960s.

1967 mercury cougar model
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Mercury Cougar styling work began in February 1963, but the new car's major elements weren't in place until late 1964.

In a technical paper entitled The Mercury Cougar -- Why and How, presented to the Society of Automotive Engineers, B.T. Andren and T.J. Feaheny described this plusher pony as Ford Motor Company's "second major engineering response to the growing light-specialty car market . . . The Cougar, however, represents a specific response to the luxury end of this amazing light-car market. It is the only contemporary American vehicle that quite fits this class, and as such, European makes of this class can be numbered among its competitors . . . The Cougar represents not a new version of an existing model, but a fresh response to a segment of the market that is the major sales phenomenon in today's American automobile industry."

The target buyer was youthful, well educated, married, and perhaps a little more affluent than the average Mustang customer. The concept initially involved a "family sports car," perhaps harking back to the Studebaker Hawks of the mid-1950s. Later, the aim was a car "for the man on his way to a Thunderbird."

With all this in mind, the engineers and designers went to work.
It's important to note that L-M didn't really want a Mustang clone, and it didn't get one. As division general manager Frank Zimmerman, Jr., observed, "No stable has ever had two active Kentucky Derby winners."

Yet even with all the givens of the new model's tightly defined concept, the Cougar still went through five major development stages before an acceptable design was found.

1967 mercury cougar
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Development of the Mercury Cougar was virtually complete by May 1965.

Competitive clay models for what was code-named T-7 (the Mustang project had been designated T-5) were begun by the various corporate styling studios in February 1963. The final design was approved two years later.

First-stage proposals looked like nothing so much as fastback versions of the compact Mercury Comet. Stage-two ideas were more futuristic but hinted at what the finished product would look like. In stage three, the initial sharp creases were rounded, the fast-back became a notchback, and a vertical-bar grille arrived.

At one point there appeared a clay model with styling that combined features from the eventual Cougar with some from the first production Camaro/Firebird, an historical oddity that was, nevertheless, pure coincidence. It could hardly have been otherwise, since Cougar and the GM ponycars all debuted the same year, and neither firm could have known everything the other was doing.

For more on the early design of the Mercury Cougar, go to the next page.

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