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Fact: Every running seventh-generation (1989-1997) Mercury Cougar is equipped with the Bostonian Edition vinyl-roof package. Every one.
In the annals of automotive retailing, there are few–if any–model names that have been applied to more body types or market segments than Mercury’s Cougar badge. Over the moniker’s multi-decade run, it was used on coupes, sedans, station wagons, convertibles, pony cars, muscle cars, luxury cars, and, at the end of its run, a front-wheel-drive sporty hatchback.
By the mid-Seventies, Mercury wasn’t selling much beyond gussied up Fords. Wedged between Ford and Lincoln in FoMoCo’s family album, Mercurys were charged with drawing a customer type that was somewhat more affluent than Ford intenders, yet nowhere conservative enough to commit to a Lincoln.
by Don Sikora II
Note: The following story was excerpted from the February 2016 issue of Collectible Automobile magazine.
Introduced for 1967 as an upscale Mustang cousin, the Cougar quickly became the shape-shifter of Mercury’s cars. First it morphed into an intermediate-sized personal-luxury coupe, the success of which tempted Mercury to extend the Cougar name to four-door sedans and station wagons. For 1983, Cougar returned to its two-door roots as a conservative variant of the highly aerodynamic Ford Thunderbird. While that ’83 is important in the Cougar saga, it’s the 1987 and ’88 versions that we’d like to suggest as your next set of cheap wheels.
The folks that bring you Consumer Guide and The Daily Drive also produce Collectible Automobile magazine, a highly respected bi-monthly automotive history magazine that is about a year and a half away from celebrating its 30th anniversary. One of CA’s most popular regular features is Car Spotter, which runs two or four pages every month. It’s a simple concept: Eagle-eyed readers from all over the world spy interesting old cars in their daily travels, take a few decent snapshots, and send ’em in to us. These aren’t car-show photographs or glamour portraits; these are “man on the street” pics of vintage vehicles hidden in plain sight, be it on the street, in someone’s backyard, or in the supermarket parking lot.
My dad was a coupe man, though I cannot say he owned coupes on purpose. He was a bargain hunter, and a car’s door count was less important than its price. Nonetheless, my sister, mother and I never complained about having to squeeze into the back seat. For the most part, my dad’s Chevrolet Nova 2-door, and multiple Oldsmobile Cutlass and Pontiac Ventura coupes, offered sufficient rear-seat space, provided you didn’t mind negotiating the path past the folded front seat—and for the most part, we didn’t mind.
Just as consumers are now beginning to grapple with the notion of owning an electric vehicle, car buyers once debated whether or not go with front-wheel drive. Really. Front-drive cars were still a fairly new, unfamiliar idea to the average American car shopper in 1983, though the pioneering front-drive Volkswagen Rabbit had been selling in volume on our shores since 1975.
As Collectible Automobile Editor-in-Chief John Biel has pointed out, a good number of vintage car ads were staged alongside swimming pools. As a swimmer, I appreciate the positive association between aquatic fun and cool new cars. But pools aren’t the only bodies of water automakers liked to feature in their advertising.
Sadly, our official home-office archive of Consumer Guide new-car-test magazines is pretty thin before 1970. We do have a digest-size magazine from 1967, but it’s most prices and such—no photos, no specs, and no test-drive evaluations.