Saturday, February 05, 2005

Pimp My Ride: I ♥ Cougar

1969 Mercury Cougar [via Musclecarclub]

By now, many of you are beginning to notice my obsessions: pop culture, literature, seventies soul and disco, the gym, go-go boyz, muscle cars and 007 movies. Not necessarily in that order.

Last weekend, you'll recall my orgy of sixties memorabilia—watching Diana Rigg in that iconic television show The Avengers, as well as the Bond girl in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Often dismissed because it was the lone George Lazenby film, it's one of the better of the genre and features some taunt chase sequences. Several involve Rigg and Bond driving a cherry red 1969 Mercury Cougar (above).

There's one thing about the Cougar that will be forever stamped upon my memory: retractable headlights. It might seem common place today, but at the time it was quite innovative. The hood scoop, blackout grille and retractable lights helped catapult the Cougar into history. My father had a Cougar; as a child, I remember sitting in the driver's seat in our driveway, playing with the lights. Retract. Display. Retract. Display. Ah, the simple pleasures of childhood.

1970 Mercury Cougar [via Musclecarclub]

Cougar was introduced in 1967 as upscale version of the Ford Mustang. Its styling was mature and refined, and it rode on a three inch longer wheelbase than the Mustang. Despite its emphasis on luxury, the car packed a powerful punch. The standard engine was a 289 cid V8 with 195 horespower. That's not much to get happy about, but performance packages were available up to a staggering 390 cid V8 with..ahem...335 horsepower.

By the end of the decade, the car was longer and heavier. A new convertible joined the two-door hardtop. Mercury also introduced the "Eliminator" package, standard with a 351 cid V8, rated at 290 bhp. If that wasn't enough to make you happy, the automaker also offered numerous after-market parts and supplies, including racing stripes, scoops and front and rear spoilers.

By 1970 (above) sales were declining, but the car's styling was still sexy. The Mustang was more popular than ever, and Plymouth and Dodge had made serious inroads in the pony car market. Mercury decided to re-brand the car as luxury performance. In later years, the car became longer, heavier and less popular with performance enthusiasts. But in its heyday, Cougar was a force to be reckoned with.

I ♥ Cougar.