When the Mercury Cougar was introduced on September 30, 1966, members of the automotive press reached for a handy trope. This new upmarket pony car, they typed, was “a Mustang in a tuxedo.” Based on the Ford Mustang, the pioneer of the pony car movement, the Cougar boasted a luxury interior, a slightly longer wheelbase, and a more generous list of standard equipment. And in its own way, the Cougar was as successful as its low-priced sibling.
With sales of nearly 151,000 units in 1967, the Cougar was not in the same league as the Mustang at more than 472,000 cars produced, but for the Mercury brand it was a smash hit, accounting for nearly half the division’s total volume that year. Motor Trend magazine named the Cougar its 1967 Car of the Year, and other accolades followed. While the first-generation Cougar was discontinued in 1970, Mercury continually rebooted the nameplate over the years, often with products that shared little with the original pony car theme. The final, eighth-generation Cougar of 1999-2002 was a compact three-door coupe with front-wheel drive.