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1967-1973 Mercury Cougar

1970 and 1971 Mercury Cougar

The 1969 Mercury Cougar carried on into 1970 with only a minor facelift and the expected equipment and drivetrain revisions. The split grille and vertical-bar motif returned, only the center divider was now a proboscis carrying its own little matching "grille-let."

Convertible and hardtop coupe versions of the Mercury Cougar continued in standard and XR-7 guise, while the Eliminator was demoted to option status. The NASCAR 429 disappeared from the option list, but a 375-horsepower street unit with conventional heads replaced it, though availability was very limited.

1970 mercury cougar xr-7
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Only 1,977 of the 1970 Mercury Cougar XR-7 models were built.

Prices and government regulations continued to proliferate almost inversely with sales, which now dropped to about 72,000 units, less than half the 1967 total. The ragtops were particularly scarce -- only 2,322 standards and just 1,977 XR-7s -- and they'd become scarcer still.

When the 1971 models debuted, Mercury Cougar -- and some Mustang -- fans must have felt the way two-seat T-Bird partisans had when the 1958 "Squarebird" arrived. This new third-generation Mercury Cougar wasn't a bad car, but it was certainly a different car.

Wheelbase lengthened to 112.1 inches, overall length stretched from 190.3 to 196.9 inches, and front track spread from 58.1 to 61.5 inches.

Styling was changed, too, and not wholly for the better, being of the bulkier, more rounded school found on the rank-and-file Mercury Montego intermediates.

Up front was a new three-element grille, with a blunted beak flanked by two oblong openings. Quad headlamps were retained, but they were no longer hidden.

Remarkably, the 1971 managed to look quite different from that year's larger, lumpier Mustang, even though both shared the same basic body shell. It all added up to a car that was less sporty and more cushy than any previous Mercury Cougar.

1970 mercury cougar
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1971 Mercury Cougar grew larger in response to the increasing size of the Ford Mustang.

In retrospect, this evolution demonstrates the process of "natural selection" in the automotive world. Originally conceived "for the man on his way to a Thunderbird," the Mercury Cougar was now on its way to becoming a Thunderbird, a transformation dictated by a rapidly changing commercial environment.

The 1971 Cougar can be described as a car of trade-offs. The 351 engine was detuned, but the 429 became a full-fledged option. The Eliminator was eliminated completely, but the GT option was reinstated after a one-year absence.

The closely coupled Euro-style cockpit that had turned on one group of buyers gave way to a roomier, more luxurious Interior that appealed to yet another group.

Continue to the next page for more on the demise of the Mercury Cougar.

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