After the surprise success of the Mustang, launched in April 1964, Ford had its hands full producing the popular pony car. As competitors in this hot new market planned rival models, Ford countered with one of its own. Mercury unveiled the Cougar just four days after Chevrolet debuted the Camaro on September 26, 1966.
The Mercury Cougar was based on the Mustang, but it took a different approach than General Motors did with its Camaro and Firebird siblings by giving the Cougar entirely different sheet metal and a longer wheelbase. (Chrysler adopted the same method with the E-body Challenger and Barracuda in 1970.) The Cougar’s split grille and flowing lines were edgier than the Mustang, and its longer profile showed a bit of European influence.
Unlike the Mustang, every first-generation Cougar was V-8-powered and could be had with Windsor, Cleveland, and FE engines with displacements from ranging from 289 to 428 cubic inches. Just about every Mustang V-8 option was available in the Cougar except the Boss 429, although two purpose-built drag racing Cougars were eventually fitted with the Hemi competitor. With no rare Boss 429 model to take the lead, the most valuable Cougar is the 1969 Eliminator with the 428/335hp Super Cobra Jet engine, which has an average #2 (Excellent) value of $149,000.
Total sales for the first-generation 1967–70 Cougar came in at 437,000, which would seem like a huge success, and it was—especially considering that Mercury never made a Sportsroof variant for the Cougar and convertibles didn’t enter production in 1969. Those impressive numbers were overshadowed by the Mustang, however. That four-year sales total didn’t match Mustang’s 467,000 sales in 1967 alone. Over the same four model years, Ford moved more than 1.25 million Mustangs.
What that means for the potential collector is that the Cougar isn’t as iconic, but nor is it common, so while the model’s high production means Cougars are easy to find, they’re a bit more unique at a car show. Mustang’s sales success also ensured that the aftermarket would cater to the huge audience, so there are still plenty of suspension upgrades available. Cougar will happily accept the vast majority of chassis parts meant for a Mustang. Even some subframe connectors interchange, despite the longer wheelbase.
The future collectability of first-gen Cougars remains promising, as Hagerty valuation specialist James Hewitt notes, “Gen X and Millennials actually quote the car pretty strongly. They make up 56.22 percent.” Further proof comes from increased quoting activity from Gen Xers, which has risen 16.4 percent over the past 12 months. Across the first-generation Cougar, the median #2 value has increased from $28,700 two years ago to $36,900 today. A convertible top will add another 17 percent or so. If those numbers seem a bit high, plenty of younger buyers are quoting #3 (Good) cars, which are often excellent drivers. The average insurance quote value is $21,360, up 8.3 percent from a year ago—an all-time high for Cougars.
If you’re in the market for a lightweight pony car but find that Mustangs are a little bit too ubiquitous for your taste, then the 1967–70 Cougar might be the right fit. Easy to restore and maintain, with a plethora of V-8 options, there’s no bad model in the bunch. Pick your favorite grille, pick your displacement, and go!