When Mercury redesigned the Cougar for the first time for the 1969 model year, it was like the transition from puberty into adulthood. With maturity came a more cleaner grille and concave taillights, not to mention a baroque character line that made no bones that the Cougar came from Ford's more luxurious division.
But the big news were the convertible and an Eliminator performance package that took over where the GT and GT-E left off, plus a new standard motor that set it apart from the standard Mustang. With a breed of cat to suit any personality, Mercury was on a roll. Here are two Cougars for two different cats.
Really, the 1969 Cougar was a fat cat of sorts. Despite keeping the same 111-inch wheelbase, shipping weight was up 375 pounds from 1967 in part due to almost four inches added to overall length (another two-plus inches was added for the 1970 facelift!). The new convertible was available in both base and XR-7 trim levels much like the hardtop, although the Eliminator wasn't available on the base ragtop. Motivation for both was upgraded from the trusty 289/302 to the new 351 “Windsor” with two-barrel carburetor and 250 horsepower. For more go, the same motor with a four-pot carb was available with 290 horses, plus two big blocks: a 320-horse 390, and the 428 Cobra Jet with 335 horses. Additionally, the Boss 429 was installed in two cars factory drag cars.
The Cheetah: Cougar Eliminator
When the 1967 Cougar was introduced, you could spec it out with the GT Performance Group, which included the Marauder 390 GT V-8 rated at 320 horsepower with 10.5:1 compression and the obligatory dual exhausts, low-restriction air cleaner, power front disc brakes, handling package, and Wide Ovals. Nineteen sixty-eight saw much of the same but the introduction of the GT-E made the Cougar more of a true GT, not to mention being the only FoMoCo ponycar to ever receive the 427; it was replaced mid-year by the 428 Cobra Jet which, unlike the 427, was available on “regular” Cougars, even those without the GT package. While the GT sold in respectable numbers, it was never competitive against the Firebird 400 and Camaro SS 396. Even the 340 from the 1968 Barracuda ran rings around the 390. The 427 GT-E wasn't much of an improvement because, at 357 built, it was too rare to contribute to any street cred. The Cobra Jet was even rarer, but enough Mustangs and other FoMoCo vehicles were built with the CJ - not to mention the CJ’s dominance at the NHRA Winternationals - to bring some equity to the Cougar. This would continue with the 1969 Eliminator.
Likely influenced by “Dyno” Don Nicholson’s Mercury drag car, the Eliminator package was available only on the base Cougar hardtop and came standard with the following:
- 351-4 (M-code) paired with three-speed manual transmission
- Blacked-out grille
- Hood scoop (functional only when the ram air package was ordered for the 428 CJ)
- Performance handling package
- Racing-style left side mirror
- Front and rear spoilers
- Twelve-slot wheels mounted on F70-14 tires
- Performance axle ratio
- Rocker moldings (borrowed from the XR-7)
- Full instrumentation
- Clock to time ETs
- Choice of four colors (Yellow, Competition Orange, White, or Bright Blue)
- . . . and a few interior trim items like hi-back buckets, courtesy lights, and rear armrests
Optional for the Eliminator was the 390-4 (S-code), 428 Cobra Jet (Q-code), and the same with ram air (R-code). All these engines were available on any other Cougar, but the Eliminator was the sole beneficiary of another motor, the Boss 302 (G-code). All told, 2,250 Eliminators were built for 1969.
The featured Competition Orange Eliminator is owned by Harry A. Unruh of White Rock, British Columbia. He bought a new 1967 Cougar while in college but when he caught a glimpse of the new ‘69s, he had to have one. Catching a glimpse of a Competition Orange Eliminator in the January, 1969 issue of Hot Rod magazine, Harry's resolve went up a few notches. He managed to visit a Lincoln-Mercury dealership while visiting family in Vancouver and found the exact one he wanted in stock; he signed the papers on August 1, 1969. Like many young men, his responsibilities changed as his family grew, so he sold the Eliminator in 1974. It was soon totalled by the new owner.
Years later, now with an empty nest, he decided to hunt for a replacement Eliminator. He found a Competition Orange car on a “For Sale” site but the ad was about 18 months old. Harry emailed the seller anyway and, to his surprise, the Eliminator was still available, but what he didn’t expect was for it to be his old, totalled car. This was August 8, 2009, just over 40 years since he bought it new. You can visit his website for more on this incredible story.
The Mountain Lion: Cougar Ski-Pac Special
Upon first glance, this car looks like a 1969 Cougar painted in 1970’s Competition Green (Ford 's name was “Grabber Green”). Closer inspection shows it to be a special edition Cougar created for a regional promotion. Called the Ski-Pac Special, 152 base Cougars hardtops were built for this promotion. Information is somewhat lacking for these interesting vehicles because the local ads posted online are of poor scans, but it seems they were base Cougars (not the XR-7) with special-order paint, limited slip differential, upgraded tires, tinted glass, power steering, and wheelcovers; I believe a ski rack also was included. In this car’s case, the Marti Report shows it to be a base 351-2 Cougar with a three-speed manual transmission, which was the standard configuration. Additionally, 424 base Cougar hardtops were built with a special-order color - in this car’s case, it’s called Turquoise - but only six of those were built with white buckets with blue appointments; there’s no saying how many of those six were Ski-Pac Specials without asking Marti Auto Works to delve into their database.