Cars We Remember: Which Mercury Cougar is the rarest of all?
Q: Greg, I’m a big Mercury Cougar lover and I want to know which Cougar you feel is the most rare and why. And as for production, how many were built in my favorite years of 1969 and 1970 and which Cougar had the least number of orders? Thanks much for your answer if you use my question.
— Lou C, Daytona, Florida
A: Lou, let’s start with some information on the Cougar and whittle it all down to the rarest of the rare. I always look at the Cougar the same way I do the Dodge Challenger. Specifically, the Cougar came out in 1967 as a sibling to the Ford Mustang to allow Mercury dealers a vehicle to sell and cash in on Mustang’s popularity, which debuted in 1964. As for the Challenger, it first appeared in 1970 on a slightly longer wheelbase than its brother, the Plymouth Barracuda, which had been selling quite well at Plymouth dealers since 1965.
The Cougar was available in many different states of dress from the heyday years of 1967 through 1970, from hardtop, convertible, XR-7, GT, GT-E, Dan Gurney Special and Eliminator brands. Of these, two are in my opinion most notable and the one many think is the most rare, i.e. the Dan Gurney Special XR-7, is not.
Let me explain. Although the Dan Gurney XR-7 is indeed a great and rare Cougar, a total of 32,492 were delivered over during the two years it was available in 1967 and 1968. Now before I receive a bunch of letters from irate Cougar Dan Gurney fans, I agree that it is a rare Cougar. But it is nowhere near as rare as the two models that follow in this answer.
The 1967 and 1968 Cougar GT is even rarer, as just 11,959 units were built those years. These Cougar GTs came with powerful 390-V8 engines under the hood and we’re good looking cars. However, the most rare is the 1968 GT-E version, where either a 427, 390 horse V8 or a 428 Cobra Jet 335 horse engine sat in waiting. Only 264 of the GT-E models were ever delivered, most with the 427 although no official records exist as to the powerplants.
So, with this knowledge and the fact that the 1967-1968 GT and the 1968 high-performance GT-E account for just 12,223 Cougars ever built, these cars rate an extremely rare nod when making this comparison. But because I feel the GT-E is part of the GT Cougar universe, I don’t consider it a standalone and classify it like I do an L88 Corvette. Granted, it’s worth lots of money, but it is part of the GT family.
Now on to the Cougar I feel deserves the “Top Rare Cougar” award, explicitly the 1969 and 1970 Cougar Eliminator. This “Eliminator” nomenclature originated from the success of the late “Dyno” Don Nicholson’s first ever flip top funny cars dubbed “Eliminator” that debuting during the 1966 drag racing season first with a Comet body and then with the Cougar bodies. These 1969 and 1970 factory Eliminators came with much of the exterior cues that made the Dan Gurney XR-7 so good looking, although this time with Eliminator badges, striping, ram-air hoods, spoilers and other trademarks in one of only four colors, blue, white, yellow or orange.
Under the hood of the 1969 Cougar Eliminator sat one of several engines available. Standard was the 290-horse 351-V8 Windsor with a wedge cylinder head design. Optional was a GT bred 390-V8, 428Cobra Jet or the Boss 302 (the latter to battle the Camaro Z-28). Notable is that two very special Cougar Eliminators were built for drag racing only powered by the Boss 429 Hemi V8 for the aforementioned “Dyno” Don and his arch drag racing nemesis and fellow Mercury team driver “Fast Eddie” Schartman.
Then in 1970, the Cougar Eliminator featured as standard the new 351-V8 Cleveland engine, featuring large cylinder heads that were very similar to big-block Chevy canted valve designs and rated at just 300-horsepower. The 390 engine disappeared in 1970 on the Eliminator line, while the Boss 302 and 428Cobra Jet continued as options. The Eliminator also received new stripes and more colors.
In ending, the total production of Cougars in 1969 and 1970 were 172,412 units. As for the Eliminators these years just 2,411 1969 Eliminators and 2,200 1970 Eliminators were ever built.
Bottom line? If you have a 1969 or 1970 Cougar Eliminator in your garage, regardless of engine, you are sitting on a very rare Mercury. Also, if you are one of the lucky GT and GT-E owners, ditto for you, too.
Thanks for your question Lou and hopes this all helped.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media properties. He welcomes reader questions and input on auto nostalgia, collector cars and old time racing at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, Pa. 18840 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org