Jade Dream: 1977 Mercury Cougar Villager
I have a long history with the Mercury Cougar Villager. Which is kind of odd, as it’s an all but forgotten model, offered for a single year, 1977. True, it was essentially a 1972–76 Montego Villager with a new front clip with the oh-so-trendy formal grille, quad rectangular headlamps, and stand-up hood ornament, but it has been permanently etched into my brain for one reason and one reason only: Matchbox.
I grew up in the 1980s, and my parents noticed I was interested in cars from an extremely early age. My first memory ever was going through the car wash at the local Shell station; I was in a kiddy seat in the back seat of my dad’s root-beer brown 1979 Pontiac Bonneville. So this goes back a long way! As a result, they got me all manner of Hot Wheels, Pocket Cars, Zylmex, and Matchbox toy cars. And one of my most prized possessions then was a metallic lime green Matchbox Mercury Cougar Villager.
I’m not sure why, but it became one of my favorite toy cars, along with a Pocket Cars Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham and Lincoln Mark IV. At any rate, I carried it with me everywhere, and despite all odds, it has survived to the present day, albeit in somewhat rough condition. Even as I got older it was a keeper, and when I was around 12 my parents somehow found me a mint condition version at an antique store, complete with the original tiny box.
Fun fact: about five years ago I mentioned to my dad that if he needed any ideas for my upcoming birthday, I didn’t have the blue Matchbox Cougar Villager, which is somewhat rarer than the lime green one. He found one, got it, but it took forever.
Turns out it was an even rarer nonmetallic blue Villager, a Bulgarian version not sold in the States, and it came from—yep, you guessed it—Bulgaria! It has pride of place in my home office now.
Around the time I got my original Matchbox Villager, my maternal grandmother, Mae Stamp, had a triple jade green ’77 Ford LTD II Brougham, so perhaps that’s why I latched onto my mini-wagon. I loved her car, in fact, I called her Grandma Green Car. So that’s a distinct possibility. Plus, I liked wagons, Mom had two wagons in the same era: the daily driver, a ’77 Volvo 245DL, and lurking in the garage and only driven on nice days, a bright red ’73 Volvo 1800ES sportswagon.
But what about the genuine Cougar Villager? All 1977 Cougars were restyled, but underneath they were still essentially the 1972-76 Montego. A big difference was the addition of a station wagon and a four door sedan, something never before offered as a Cougar. But since the Cougar essentially replaced the midsize Montegos, they had to offer other bodystyles to round out the line. The whole lineup was essentially a renamed Montego. The Cougar itself had been a slightly restyled, fancier Montego since 1974, when it lost its kinship with the Mustang and got larger and Broughamier.
The same thing happened over at Ford, where the ex-Torino/Gran Torino became the LTD II, with the Gran Torino Squire becoming the LTD II Squire. While the Cougar and LTD II sedans and coupes would last into 1979 before being discontinued, the station wagons were a one-year wonder: after ’77, they were gone for good.
Which makes them pretty rare these days. I only ever saw one LTD II wagon, a non-woody version in navy blue sitting parked at Sunset Marina when I was there with my dad, circa 1991. I’ve never seen a Cougar Villager in person. The primary difference between the two was the LTD II had stacked quad headlamps, while the Cougars had their quads horizontally situated.
The 1977 Mercury Cougar wagon came in two versions, the $5104 Cougar wagon and the $5363 Villager wagon. Villagers added, first and foremost, wide swaths of Di-Noc vinyl woodtone appliques along both sides and on the tailgate. Standard was a two-barrel 351 CID V8; a 400 CID unit, also with a two barrel carb, was optional.
Villagers added a deluxe steering wheel, electric clock, the aforementioned woodgrain exterior trim, deluxe wheel covers, power tailgate window, deluxe sound insulation package and front Flight Bench Seat with a folding center armrest. A Brougham interior package was also available, and is shown on both the green and blue versions seen here. Plusher seats and fancier door panels with “Brougham” plaques were the primary additions.
Options included color-keyed sport mirrors, cornering lights, AM/FM/MPX radio with Quadrasonic 8-track tape player, a roof rack and a rear-facing third-row seat. All rode a 118″ wheelbase and had an overall length of 223.1 inches. Unlike today’s shades of gray, interiors were available in saddle, jade, dark red, medium blue and chamois.
And there’s a reason if you’ve never seen one: Only 4,951 Cougar wagons and 8,569 Cougar Villagers were built for the year.
This particular one, resplendent in the very same Jade Green with matching Brougham interior as my Grandma Mae’s LTD II Brougham, was spotted on Marketplace back in September 2021:
“77 Cougar Villager Wagon. 6 passenger, 351m V8, Automatic, fmx I believe? 9” rear end w/ economical 2.75 gears, A/C, converted to r-134, power locks, all 5 doors, 2 way tailgate w/ power window, split front bench w/ power driver’s seat, cruise control (have never tried), AM/FM stereo, not working.”
“I have owned this vehicle for nearly 10 years of which the majority of that time has been spent in a heated pole barn.
Solid car; some rust around the edges. Was purchased new in Minnesota and lived most of its life in Arizona. Has had a repaint at some time in its past. Interior is original aside from new headliner. Braking system is all new except rotors and drums. Also has new shocks at all 4 corners. Car is not perfect but it is a very uncommon find as they are pretty scarce. Have some hard to find parts (including upper door seals), manuals, and dealer literature that are included too! $14,500 obo, no trades.”
I saved the link back then, but while putting this column together I saw it is now long gone. Here’s hoping she went to a good home. I’ve never seen one of these up close, so maybe I’ll see this one someday! That would be excellent.