If you’re in the market for a midsize car today, you have plenty of choices. Well, for now, as the ever present crossover is rapidly compelling the manufacturers to kill off the traditional midsize sedan. Several nameplates from which to choose–Camry, Impala, Fusion and Optima and of course Accord, to name a few. And they all come in the same flavor of competent albeit repetitive design and styling. Where’s the flair, man? Once upon a time, before safety standards, emissions and plain old public demand trumped style, a buyer could get virtually whatever their heart desired, right down to colors, options–and yes, Virginia, even a body style other than the now-ubiquitous four-door sedan. Want an aqua Skylark convertible with a white interior, V8 and four-speed? Done! How about a red Lark Wagonaire with a red interior, 350 McKinnon (nee GM) V8, power retractable roof over the cargo area, and automatic transmission? No problem. You could have those cars and everything in between–in 1965. Everything from cheapskate beige two-door post with manual everything to fully loaded sports convertible with a fire-breathing powerplant. So let’s set the way-back machine to Autumn 1964 and see what we can get.
Note: Please welcome Joel Miller to Riverside Green. Another emigre’ from the old site, Joel’s passion is 1970s Detroit rolling stock, particularly the 1977-81 Firebird and full-size 1973 Pontiacs. -TK
The car that first really hooked me was the Mercury Cougar. I was probably four or five when I first spotted a ’69 or ’70 Cougar though the window of my mother’s Mark III Lincoln. Whoa, what’s that? The sequential turn signals were mesmerizing!
At around age six, I finally figured out what I was looking at. From that point on, everything was about the Cougar. My half-brother drove a white ’69 XR7 for a few years, although I don’t ever remember riding in it. I probably stared rust holes in it though!
The last few years of Mercury’s existence, say 2005-2010, were painful to watch. Though the marque had a pretty consistently bumpy road through the years (cheap Lincoln or fancy Ford?), there were still some interesting cars. Who could forget the loaded, tri-tone 1957-58 “senior” Park Lanes, 1967-68 Cougars and the fastback Cyclones of the late Sixties? Or the full-on Broughamtastic Marquis, which first appeared in 1967 as the top-drawer big Mercury? Heck, the Marquis pretty much WAS Mercury the last decade of its existence. So let’s take a look of some of its Seventies forebears, shall we?
The 1977 Marquis was essentially the same as the 1975 Marquis. The main difference was that in 1977 most of its competition had gone on a crash diet and turned out leaner, meaner, and yet more space efficient as well.
And “The New Chevrolet” and its siblings sold like dollar beer at the ball game. What to do? Simple: Improvise.
A four door Cougar? Oh yes! Once upon a time, in the ’70s, nameplate recognition actually meant something. And cars had actual names! Starting in 1974, the Cougar coupe finally broke it off with the Mustang body and chassis-wise, becoming a super-luxe Montego while the Mustang became a sequel and shrunk.
The reconfigured 1974 Cougar dropped all sport pretensions, and became a mini-Mark IV of sorts, with that ’70s domestic “boulevard ride” and lots and lots of options. Despite the loss of the convertible, sales of the ’74-’76 Cougar were extremely healthy.
So healthy, in fact, that when the time came for a redesign in 1977, the L-M powers-that-be decided that even more would be even better. Oh sure, the top-of-the-line XR-7 coupe was still in evidence, and even sharper with bladed fenders, quad rectangular headlamps and even more options! But there were several new additions that the folks who’d been driving Cougars since 1967 may have been surprised to see.