A lot of consider the Mercury Cougar as simply nothing more than a Ford Thunderbird, but higher-end. It may well surprise many Ford, Mercury as well as Ford Mustang and Mercury Cougar enthusiasts that 35 years ago that the Cougar “Pony” Car used to tear up the Trans-Am racing circuit.
Originally, this car was a concept that Ford subsidiary, Lincoln-Mercury, was playing with, for quite a while, as a sports sedan. I believe that February 1963 was the time when the design staff, marketing and advertising, and company execs began conceiving the preliminaries the Cougar.
The success of the Ford Mustang was what's necessary to put the wheels in motion. Nothing is more enticing than possible success of the fast car market. The name Cougar evoked a fast creature. Both the names of Mustang and Cougar evoke an image of sleekness and fast speed as well as agility.
The Cougar is shorter than the Ford Thunderbird but only by 3 inches. It is built as if it was a muscle car. In most cases, the Mercury Cougar and the Ford Mustang, a great deal of similarities with their predecessor, the Ford Falcon. Conceivably these are the key reason why the Cougar is highly demanded by hobbyists of NASCAR diecast cars. The Mustang was the best originating out of the Ford Falcon product line. The Mustang ought to be very thankful for the so called compact “Family” car. The Ford Falcon made it possible for both the Ford muscle car and Mercury legend to quickly develop, inexpensively and easily built around a proven and heavy duty base platform. Not surprisingly, the initial Mustangs happened to be copies of the Falcons.
There seemed to be a lot of the Ford pony car built into the Mercury Cougar, using the identical Falcon front wheel suspension and a solid rear axle with four-leaf springs. The base model came with a 289 cubic inch V8 engine making 200 bhp (gross), but the better deal was the model with a 390 cubic inch V-8 that made 320 bhp. Additionally, a GT (Grand Touring) version had a performance handling package and power disc brakes that replaced more standard front brake drums.
The Cougar became a racing legend when in the late 60s Lincoln Mercury asked Bud Moore to lead a Cougar-based team at the SCCA Trans-Am Championship. Team Cougar made up of drivers, Parnelli Jones, Dave Pearson, Dan Gurney and others. The year after formation,, Dwayne "Tiny" Lund driving a Cougar went on to capture the NASCAR Grand Touring Championship.