Monday, March 29, 2010

Why Are There Not More Cougars On The Prowl?

I was doing a little reconnaissance (er...research) today on 1967 and 1968 Cougars on eBay. I do this from time to time just to check what's out there for sale and see if there's any interesting ideas on other rides that I could steal. The thing that caught my attention was that there were a lot of Classic Cougars for sale on the site today. Of the 50 total Cougars listed for sale (1967-2002), almost half of them (24 to be exact) were 1967-1970 models. Wow! There is a lot of classic Dearborn iron and steel out there for sale.

There could be a few reasons for that upsurge in old metal for sale. First, Spring is here and it starts the classic car selling season.  Second, tax time is less than a month away and people need to pay some taxes or pay off some debt.  Third, Spring cleaning season is here and the wife wants one of the "project cars" to go. Finally, the seller has gotten the itch for another car and the current one has to go to fund the new car.

So, that got me to thinking...with all of those Cougars for sale to make viable car show vehicles why are there not more Cougars on the prowl?

According to The Classic Cougar Network site Mercury produced over 150,000 cars in the first year 1967 and over one-hundred-thousand units the next two years in a row.

1967 Cougar – 150,893
1968 Cougar – 113,741
1969 Cougar – 100,085
Total – 364,719

If you throw in the 1970 Cougar, which shares much of the same characteristics as the 1969 model, there another 72,365 Cougars produced during a 4 year span bringing the total number to 437,084. Many consider the 1970 Cougars to be the end of the muscle car era for Mercury and the 1971-73 were just the beginning of the bloated, luxury models of the 1970's.

Most Cougars that I see for sale are still mostly in original condition with at most only the engine, paint or interior modified from stock. If modified, these Cougars usually have at least one of those areas still mostly original.

Further, the buyer can pick up a Cougar in very good condition for under $10,000 and almost anything over that threshold is either rare (i.e. GTE, XR7-G, or Eliminator) or in great or perfect condition. This is one of the reasons why I chose to buy a classic Cougar in the first place. The Cougar is a reasonably priced muscle car that usually came with more options than the Mustangs. So why would the Cougar popularity wane unlike the other 60's pony cars?

Another reason that I chose to buy a Cougar is that every car that rolled off the assembly line in the classic period (1967-1973) has a V-8!  That fact should be a huge incentive for car guys. There are no 6 cylinder engine swaps to figure out here like the Mustang or Camaro.  There is either a V-8 engine in the bay or the empty motor mounts are ready for one to be dropped into place.  The Cougar also came with motors that are both desirable and easy to find parts to rebuild or find more torque and horsepower. According to research done by the The Classic Cougar Network site, the 1967 came standard with the 289 and the buyer could also have opted to buy the big block 390.  In 1968, the engine options got even better - buyers could check the box for a 289, 302, 390, 427, and the 428 Cobra Jet. The zenith came in 1969 with the addition of the standard 351 Windsor engine, the Boss 302 and the 428 Cobra Jet/Ram Air to the line up, and in 1970 the 351 Cleveland was added too. The 289 was dropped in 1969 and the 390 was dropped in 1970, but you get the picture.

Cougars have the same issues as other muscle cars from the era. Rust can be prevalent in the floorboards, cowl, shock towers, rocker panels, lower doors, lower quarter panels, and behind the rear window. Other issues tend to happen with the vacuum operated flip up headlamp doors and the electronic sequential turn signals. Both of these issues can be remedied rather easily if most of the stock components still survive. The only issue that I see keeping Cougars from prowling the streets is the lack of new sheet metal to fix rust. There are companies that sell floors and patch panels, but no one sells full doors, hoods, trunk lids or fenders.

So what makes the other Pony cars more desirable? Let's start with the Mustang. For many classic car enthusiasts the Mustang is an affordable entry car to get into the hobby.  This can certainly be said for the Mustang Coupes. Due to their production numbers Mustangs are ubiquitous at car shows and in the print media. Over 2.25 million cars were produced from 1964-1969 and Ford was the clear leader with almost 2.6 million Pony cars (Mustang + Cougars) produced from 1964-1969. The popularity of the Mustang means that parts are available from a wide number of sources giving the owner easy access to restore one of these cars or even clone their favorite example. The Mustang prices start to go up when rarity enters the picture (i.e. Shelby, or GT cars) or when the words Fastback or Convertible come behind Mustang. Furthermore, Dynacorn makes shells for 1967-70 Mustang Fastbacks and you can build a completely new classic car from scratch. The 1967 or 1968 will set you back $15,500 and the 1969 or 1970 is $16,500.

Production Numbers
1964 Mustang – 126,538
1965 Mustang – 409,260
1966 Mustang – 607,568
1967 Mustang – 472,121
1968 Mustang – 317,148
1969 Mustang – 299,824
Total – 2,232,459

Similarly, the Chevrolet Camaro has been pre-eminent through the car show circuits and gracing the covers of car magazines for years as well. However, in recent years, prices for Camaros have skyrocketed along with other popular GM models. A buyer can hardly afford a rustbucket or a shell for under $7,500. The popularity has also led to negativity too. The First Generation Camaro has received scorn from some dyed-in-the-wool car guys because it seems as if a magazine like Hot Rod, Car Craft, or Popular Hot Rodding can’t go to print without having a First Generation Camaro on the cover or as a featured car inside the magazine. Furthering the popularity meter, Dynacorn is even making complete replica shells of this icon in both hardtop and convertible platforms for 1967 and 1969.

1967 Camaro – 220,906
1968 Camaro – 235,147
1969 Camaro – 243,085
Total – 698,138

The Pontiac Firebird seems to fall somewhere in-between the Camaro and the Cougar. A buyer can still buy a decent Firebird hardtop for under $10k and they aren’t as many at the car shows around town. According to Trans Am World site, Pontiac made only 276,683 of the First Generation Firebirds, which is 88,036 less than the Cougar production numbers from the same time period. That’s like another year of production numbers for one of those cars in that era. Nevertheless, Dynacorn still produces both a hardtop and convertible shell of the 1969 Pontiac Firebird. Where’s the love for other Ford models from Dynacorn?

1967 Firebird – 82,560
1968 Firebird – 107,112
1969 Firebird – 87,011
Total – 276,683

Finally, the Plymouth Barracuda is a different beast altogether. Plymouth never did sell too many Barracudas in the first place.  From 1964 to 1969 they sold less Barracuda's than Pontiac dealers sold from 1967-69. This could partly be from the fact that the Barracuda didn't receive a big block until 1969 and never received a Hemi between the front fenders. The Second Generation Barracudas are popular among the drag racing guys, but the money really goes up when the year on the title shifts to 1970's. Mopar parts are easier to come by generally, but due to low production numbers these cars are rare in general and the passing of 40 years has sent plenty of these cars to the crusher.

1964 Barracuda – 22,443
1965 Barracuda – 64,596
1966 Barracuda – 38,029
1967 Barracuda – 62,534
1968 Barracuda – 45,412
1969 Barracuda – 31,987
Total – 265,001

So, if you're looking for a muscle car to get into the hobby why not choose a Cougar?  There are many surviving vehicles with a combination of options including power steering, power brakes, automatic transmission and even air conditioning.  Further, 1967-1973 Cougars share the same platform as Ford Mustangs and so parts for floors and shock towers are easy to obtain. Finally, Ford crate engines and transmissions can be dropped in with ease. Get out there and start looking or get in touch I know where a few are right now!


Anonymous said...

Hi, my husband has a 67 cougar and I would like to fix it up for him before he gets back from deployment. The problem is I don't know where to begin. What am I looking at concerning cost of a restoration? Thanks, Shannon

Scott said...

Shannon, this can vary greatly depending on the condition the vehicle is in at this time and what items it needs to "fix it up". The cost is also going to be higher if you are not doing any of the work yourself. I would be happy to talk to you more in depth about this project. Maybe you can send some pictures and I have a couple of ideas to keep costs down. If you leave your e-mail address I will be happy to write you back. - Scott