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Mercury’s Undervalued Cougar

by Stephen Cox
Sunday, January 12, 2014

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1968 Mercury Cougar
I have a confession to make. I don’t pay much attention to the multi-million dollar collector cars on the auction block. They prance across the stage looking really hot and endlessly tease you with something you know you can’t afford. Insert Britney Spears joke here.

However, I do have a raging passion for under-appreciated cars that average, everyday people can actually buy. Cars like the 1968 Impala small block, the A-code 289 Mustangs, or the early 302-powered Mavericks are not garage queens. They will never see the inside of a museum. They will spend their days doing what real cars are supposed to do… driving.

One of the best “average guy” muscle car buys on the market today is the shockingly affordable first generation Mercury Cougar. The Cougar has everything. It’s a great looking sports car that’s an authentic member of the Muscle/Pony car club. It was offered as either a big block behemoth or a small-block street hustler.

The XR7 trim package supplied above-average comfort and a touch of class that elevated it above the common street machine. The Eliminator option package turned the Cougar into a stoplight monster. The car even had a great ad campaign featuring a live cougar, usually accompanied by a sexy model. 

And best of all, this late-60’s and early 70’s icon is affordable. Yes, you’ll still pay a premium for some models. The 428-powered XR7’s and Eliminators, for example, will set you back $50,000 to $70,000. But lowering your sights to a small block model opens up a world of modestly priced possibilities. Let’s take a look at a few of them from Mecum’s recent auctions.

A pristine, second-year 1968 model with only 2,000 original miles on the odometer sold for $25,000 at Mecum’s Schaumburg auction (near Chicago) in late 2013. Tan with a black vinyl top and a magnificent wood steering wheel, the car was completely drivable. It’s 210 horsepower small block 302 and automatic transmission held bidding to a level that an average person could actually consider.

1970 Mercury Cougar 351
A Candy Apple red and black 1970 model at the same auction sold for only $28,000, a strikingly plausible price for a wicked street machine. This Windsor powered car boasted 351 cubic inches complemented by black racing stripes, a hood scoop, and rare front and rear spoilers. Once again, the small block engine and automatic transmission kept the final price within reach for gobs of prospective buyers.

And the Cougar buy of the year came in December at Kansas City, where Mecum’s twice-annual auction sold a mist green, 289-powered 1967 Cougar with all original body panels for $20,000. The car was loaded with factory options including power windows and factory air conditioning and came complete with the dealer invoice and build sheet.

Like any other classic automobile, these cars won’t stay at this price forever. The classic car industry has its own ebb and flow, and right now the first generation small block Cougars are among the most undervalued cars on the auction block.

Stephen Cox
Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions
Co-host, Mecum Auto Auctions
McGunegill Engines/Boschett Timepieces #31

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