by Dave Weber, images by Doug Breithaupt
The Cougar was first introduced by the Lincoln-Mercury Division of Ford Motor Company in 1967. It was to be an "upgraded companion to the already successful Ford Mustang . The styling however, did not have many similarities except the Cougar was first produced as a 2 door hardtop. A convertible was introduced in 1970, but a fastback model never saw production. The Cougar has always seemed to be in the shadow of other Fords, first the Mustang and then the Thunderbird. At the same time, the Cougar has been the most high-profile mercury model for over 30 years. Perhaps this explains why Mercury is on many expert's lists to follow Plymouth and Oldsmobile into the automotive boneyard.
The Cougar was instrumental in Mercury adopting the slogan, "the sign of the cat"! Mercury also used other cat names including the Bobcat and Lynx to re-enforce this image. The Cougar featured many styling amenities. The grille was split and the enclosed headlights were designed to disappear when not in use. The taillights in sections of three on each side featured sequential turn signals.
In 1969, the XR-7 sports model made available a special high performance car designated as the "Eliminator" . Naturally the car was equipped with a V-8 power plant. The 1971 model featured a new centralized grille which was bordered by inset dual headlights. A unique half roof vinyl top was also available.. The convertible was discontinued in 1974. Body styling changes were minimal during this period. The car was produced to mirror the appearance of the larger full size Mercury line.
The Cougars continued into the 80s utilizing the style of the midsize Mercury and Ford models of that era. By this time the Cougar had become a companion model in styling concepts to the Thunderbird. In 1981 the first 4 door sedan was introduced as a companion to the 2 door hardtop XR-7 . In 1982, the Cougar line introduced a station wagon called the Villager. The grille was modified and featured vertical strips inside a chrome rectangle.
A new curvaceous shape was introduced in 1983. The only major sharp angle in contrast was the rear window line which was almost perpendicular to the roof and rear trunk lines. The grille and taillights were modified in 1985 and in 1987 the rear side windows were radically restyled and the rear window had more of a slope. In 1989, another styling exercise occurred . This was similar to the other models in the Ford and Mercury lines.
The 1997 model retained much of its earlier styling trends and was considered a "more formal version of the Thunderbird". But the Cougar line was discontinued soon after. However in 1999, the name was revived and given to a smaller wheel-based car. It used the Mystique/ Contour platform and introduced "new edge " styling. It was not equipped with a high power engine and could only hold 4 people. But soon after the New Millennium arrived, this model also met its demise.
Most of the small scale ( approximate 1/64) models of this car replicate the first 4 years of Cougar production and feature the top of the line XR-7. But thankfully, a few other models have been made available to the collector community. I will summarize each toy/ model manufacturer in alphabetical order. One curious note is how many of the Cougar models have appeared in shades of green. This may be the result of the first Matchbox Cougar appearing in green and others following suit. It is possible some models may have been omitted due to error or lack of knowledge of their existence. Any corrections or additions are invited.
Aurora was another plastic model manufacturer. They were known for their motorized slot cars. In addition Cigar Box models were issued in the early 70s. These were the same plastic bodied models but were attached to metal baseplates. The 1967 Hardtop # 6116 was part of their line.
Corgi, following their divestiture from Mattel, issued a 1969 Convertible in the James Bond Series in about 2000. These models were actually made and provided by Playing Mantis for Corgi to sell in the European Market soon after The Johnny Lightning Series was available in the US. The only difference in the castings is the baseplate identification which reads Corgi.
|Corgi Juniors issued a 1969 XR-7 Hardtop model # 3369 in 1969. This casting also saw use as a police cruiser and fire chief car and became part of the Corgi Rockets line.|
|Ertl issued a 1969 Eliminator Hardtop in their American Muscle Series just prior to becoming part of Racing Champions. Both the hood and trunk lid open on this very realistic model.|
F+F was a plastic promotional model manufacturer. They issued many and various one piece plastic models which were available in Posts cereal boxes in the 60s and early 70s . Their contribution was a 1967 Hardtop.
|Hot Wheels entered the small scale diecast market in 1968. One of their first models was the 1967 Custom Cougar Hardtop # 6205 with a hinged hood. This was followed by a modified casting in 1970. The engine hood was absent and the car was named the Nitty Gritty Kitty as a 1968 model # 6405. A remake and modification of this model was issued in 1998 in the Collectible 30th Anniversary Set. In 2002 a new casting of the 1967 Hardtop was issued as a First Edition # 17 model # 52935 and is still available.||
1967 Custom Cougar Hardtop #6205
1967 Hardtop #52935
|Also in 2002 a "Tuner" model of the smaller bodied car was issued as a First Edition #16. Although no other manufacturers have as yet produced this replica, the version is a poor representative of the full size car. Mattel chose to take many unnecessary design liberties which detract immensely from the possible realistic appearance. The car is tampoed with a garish design and orange windows and an orange plastic hood are used. A better version of this model appeared in HW's collector line.||
Nitty Gritty Kitty (1998 remake)
1999 'tuner' Coupe
Jet Wheels were produced by Mego , recognized as a toy figurine company. They used the tools from AMT and reissued the 1967 Hardtop # 9102 in addition to some newly developed tools in the late 70s. Except for the modified baseplate , the castings were the same.
|Johnny Lightning issued their first Cougar in the Muscle Cars USA #1 Set in 1965. It was a 1969 Eliminator Hardtop #207. The next casting appeared in 1998. It was the 1969 James Bond Convertible #655. Also issued that same year was a 1970 XR-7 Convertible #001 in the Classic Gold Series. A 1967-68 XR-7 Hardtop #095 was issued in 2000 in the Muscle Cars USA Set # 4. This same model appeared in in JL's send-off of the original HW Spoilers series, with an exposed engine. Detail and quality has greatly improved with each new casting .||
1969 Eliminator Hardtop #207
1969 (James Bond) Convertible #655
1970 XR-7 Convertible #001
1967-68 XR-7 Hardtop #095
|Marx from Hong Kong produced 2 castings of the 1967 Hardtop.They appeared in the 60s- 70s era. The larger model in about 1/66 scale features a one dimensional printed paper interior. According to collector Kimmo Sahakangas, a smaller model equivalent to the Tootsietoy Jam-Pac models was issued about the same period.|
Matchbox issued their first model in 1968 of a 1967 Hardtop #62-C. It first appeared in the Regular Wheels line and then became a Superfast model in 1969. A modified version called the "Rat Rod" was issued in 1970 #62-D. The open engine compartment contained an oversize powerplant that protruded upwards. The rear end was noticeably raised to present the model as a Hot Rod! It remained in the 1-75 line until 1974. Also issued by Matchbox in 1978 was a Cougar Villager Station Wagon model #74-E . It had a hinged rear drop type tailgate.
1967 Hardtop #62-C
"Rat Rod" #62-D
Cougar Villager Station Wagon #74-E
Playing Mantis, separately from the Johnny Lightning line, issued a less expensive set of muscle cars in 1997. These were slightly smaller in scale and didn't have the additional detail of the larger models. Their 1969 "Alley Cat" #407 was also a Hardtop model.
|Racing Champions produced their 1969 Eliminator Hardtop in 1998. Model #213 was part of the Mint Edition Series. The car featured an opening hood with a detailed power plant.|
This concludes my summary of all Cougar models known to me. There may be others , possibly from the more obscure producers in the Orient. But at this time I cannot think of any . Can you?