Derived from its corporate cousin, the Ford Mustang, the Cougar debuted in 1967 and skewed more towards the performance luxury car segment—which was also heating up with cars like the Buick Riviera, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Dodge Charger in the mix.

front center cougar logo on hood grille
(Image/Summit Racing – Patrick Miller)

As a result the Cougar was a tad longer than a contemporary Mustang and had a bit more refinement, yet it was careful not to step on the toes of Ford’s own luxury coupe, the Thunderbird, either.

Better still, thanks to V8 power and performance trims like the Eliminator, GT, and XR7, these early Cougars gave heavy-footed drivers plenty of bite.

front grille shot of a 1970 mercury cougar
(Image/Summit Racing – Patrick Miller)

To say that Mercury’s luxury performance car was a success would be an understatement: Merc sold a ton of Cougars during its debut year in 1967. That success carried on to a 1968 model and then a facelifted 1969 edition that ditched the Cougar’s signature “electric shaver” grille.

But for the first-gen Cougar’s final year in 1970, the iconic grille returned, accompanied by a revised hood center section with a blacked-out beak and a new bumper/light treatment too.

rear quarter view of a 1970 mercury cougar
Fun Fact: Mercury Cougars of this vintage had sequential taillights. And though they were made famous on contemporary Shelby Mustangs, the taillight feature actually appeared earlier with the Ford Thunderbird back in 1965. (Image/Summit Racing – Patrick Miller)

1970 was the lowest-selling year for the first-gen Cougar—but Mercury still moved over 70,000 of them.

(In fact, the slight sales slip might be attributed (in part) to anticipation for the redesigned 1971 models primed to hit dealer showrooms.)

blue 1970 mercury cougar front grille shot
(Image/Summit Racing – Patrick Miller)

We spotted this clean blue edition on a spring day in the Summit Racing Retail Store parking lot and we immediately knew it had to be a Lot Shots feature. Thanks to its clean Nordic Blue paint and a healthy V8 rumble, this tough cat was tough to miss.

We chatted with the owner briefly and he told us that the Cougar still carries its original 351 Windsor engine—though the three-speed auto has been ditched in favor of a five speed manual.

Windsor, Cleveland, and Modified: There were three distinct 351ci engines in the Ford recipe book, and you can learn about the Ford 351 engine differences here.

351w windsor engine in 1970 Mercury Cougar
The flipped air cleaner lid is an old hotrodder’s trick. Though sucking in more hot engine air probably won’t improve power output much, we bet that rush of air sounds great every time you mash the throttle pedal. (Image/Summit Racing – Patrick Miller)

Like so many of its contemporaries, the second-gen. Mercury Cougar got bigger and plushier during a 1971 refresh, with perhaps a tad less emphasis on tire-shredding performance.

That said, the Cougar remained a strong seller in the Mercury lineup—and the nameplate would survive through eight distinct generations before fading away after 2002 as a front-wheel drive coupe wrapped in Ford’s “New Edge” styling.

The Mercury brand itself would be shuttered in 2011.

interior of a 1970 mercury cougar with a 5 speed swap
We bet that swapped five-speed is oodles of fun from stoplight to stoplight. (Image/Summit Racing – Patrick Miller)

All told, survivor-spec Cougars like this are an excellent example of (somewhat) under-the-radar classic cars that give you gobs of style, a little comfort, and a nice throaty V8 under your right foot.

And we’re glad we caught this one early in the spring as it prepares for a summer of prowling the streets.

close up of a mercury cougar hood emblem
(Image/Summit Racing – Patrick Miller)
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Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in an old Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.