Q: Greg, which of the Mercury Cougars would you like to own if you could choose just one? I owned a few Cougars in my day, but I never had any of the high-performance models. Charles P., email from Massachusetts.
A: Charles, if I could choose just one, I’d probably opt for the 1968 GTE 427 or a 1969/1970 “Eliminator” with the Drag Pak 428 Cobra Jet (CJ) option. The Eliminator car was named in honor of the late “Dyno” Don Nicholson’s “Eliminator” Cougar and Comet Funny Cars, which blazed the nation’s drag strips coast to coast from 1966 to 1968.
As for the 427 Cougar, only 357 were ever built, making it the rarest of the rare Cougars because of the 427 “W” Code side oiler engine. (I guess I’d probably opt for the 427 based on numbers only.)
Mercury’s Cougar premiered in 1967 as an upscale version of Ford’s Mustang. It came in many different forms, from a mild mannered 289 V-8 (the standard engine) to the 428 powerhouse. Built on a 3-inch-longer wheelbase than Mustang, the XR-7 was its most luxurious model while a GT with a 390 V-8 was the top performer in ‘67.
In 1968, the GTE came with the rare 390 horse 427 until May, while GTE’s beginning in June of ’68 featured the famous CJ 428 engine and a very modest 335-horsepower label. The Eliminator arrived in 1969.
The 1970 Cougar was the last of the “real Cougars” as Mercury integrated more toward the Thunderbird line in 1971 by increasing its wheelbase two more inches to 113. It ended Cougar’s “Pony Car” status, and by 1974 the Cougar was basically a bulky Thunderbird clone.
Today, Cougars from 1967 to 1970 are all very collectible, especially the convertibles. Of the near 375,000 Cougars built in its four years of production, only about 13,500 were ragtops. The most collectible, no surprise, are the 428 Cobra Jets, the 427 GTE, and the Eliminator CJ model. However, even the aforementioned mild mannered 289 V-8s bring some nice dollars in good shape.
In summary, regardless of vintage, if you have a ’67 to ’70 Mercury Cougar in your garage you should count yourself as lucky. If it’s a convertible, count yourself double lucky. If it’s a 427 side oiler, you’re triple lucky.
Thanks for your question.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media and welcomes reader interaction on collector cars, nostalgia motorsports or anything automotive at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.