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1967 MERCURY Cougar XR7 289-2 bbl MPG= 10.8 City PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 21:01

1967 MERCURY Cougar XR7 289-2 bbl MPG= 10.8 City


Writing copyright D. S. Brown, photography copyright Chris Benis.

1967 MERCURY Cougar XR7 298-2bbl


In this article we profile a 1967 Cougar XR7 owned by Chris Benis. For the full story of this car see the story on this website filed in the ONE FAMILY section.



The Cougar was introduced over summer 1966 using an ingenious and extravagant ad campaign. Journalists were tantalized with hints of the new car when reports from 'a hunter' appraised them of his progress tracking a Cougar. By the time the car was unveiled at sunset August 2, 1966 on St. Thomas in the Bahamas curiosity about the new car had been taken to the fever pitch.

Lee Iaccoca who is widely known as the father of the Mustang asked his pal, Vic Damone to handle the press introduction. Damone drove a new white 1967 Cougar down the ramp of a WWII aircraft carrier to the beach in St. Thomas where he proceeded to give the audience a great show. The Cougar made a real impression and every car magazine seems to have tested one in the first year of production.

The first Cougars provided to magazines were prototypes with slightly different specs than regular production models. Aside from getting some better equipment these cars supplied provided a higher build quality than cars that would be pumped off the line in volume. A CAR LIFE July 1967 revisit to the Cougar caused them to revise their glowing opinion of a Cougar prototype they tested due to shoddy build quality on the test car they received 6 months later.

The general trend testers agreed upon was that the Cougars were smoother but somewhat slower with marginally less miles per gallon than a Mustang running the same drive train.

The 1967 Cougar adds 3 extra inches wheelbase and 6.7 inches length compared to a 1967 Mustang. The 1967 Mustang was already wider and 2 inches longer than the 1965/6 Mustangs. Mustang added 2 inches to its track for 1967 (58.0) but Cougar track is a shade wider at 58.1. Cougar width is 71.2 compared with Mustang at 70.9. The trunks are similar size (Cougar 9.1 cu ft vs Mustang's 9.0), with the Cougar using a 17 gallon fuel tank vs Mustang's 16 gallon tank. The majority of Cougar's extra space appears in the front and rear passenger area.

123 pounds of sound deadening material in the Cougar roof, floors and engine compartment partially explains why the 1967 Mustang weighs 2,973 lbs curb while the Cougar is 3,110 lbs curb.

CAR AND DRIVER Oct 1966 drove a prototype Cougar set up with the larger 6 inch wheels (only available on the 390 in regular production versions) combined with manual steering and brakes (drums all round) and an automatic transmission. CD was disappointed with the optional 289 225 HP 4 barrel 0-60 MPH time of 10.1 seconds. The 289 achieved a top speed of 117 MPH with the 3.00:1 axle.

In keeping with the Mercury marketing vision ("for the man on his way up to a Thunderbird") CD summed the Cougar up as a compromise between Thunderbird luxury and Mustang sportiness making the 'just adequate' 289 engine the most appropriate engine to match the car's intended purpose. CD was correct: the majority of Cougars were outfitted with a 289 (not the 4 barrel but the lesser 2 barrel) and it was a reasonable compromise machine in that form. CD recorded 12-17 MPG using premium fuel.

MOTOR TREND Oct 1966 compared the new Camaro and Cougar to the Mustang. MT also predicted that the 289-225 HP engine would be the best compromise although they didn't find it lacking and in fact felt it was powerful enough for all but the leadfoots.

POPULAR MECHANICS March 1967 compared a new 1967 Cougar XR7 390 GT to an Aston Martin DB6. Mercury; who footed the bill, intentionally chose an exotic European sports car to run against the Cougar with the European influenced XR7 styling package. Retired Indy 500 champ Rodger Ward did the testing at the Las Vegas Stardust International Speedway. As expected, the DB6 lapped faster, and the XR7 accelerated more fiercely (0 to 60 was 6.1 seconds). The 4 speed Cougar with disc brakes didn't embarrass itself in the comparison which is saying something running against a true sports car.

POPULAR MECHANICS June 1967 tallied up owner's reports for the 1967 Cougar and found that the 289 delivered 16 MPG in the city (23% of 289 respondents). 15% and 17% of owners were getting 14 or 15 MPG in the city. The highway figure of 18 MPG was reported by about 22% of owners. Around 13/ 14% of owners saw highway figures of 17, 19 and 20 MPG.

In 1967 Bob Estes Lincoln Mercury (Inglewood, CA) entered a 1967 Mercury Cougar 289 V8 into the Mobil Economy Run from Los Angeles, CA to Detroit, Michigan. The 2,837.8 mile trip was run from April 4-9, 1967 by Ginny Sims as driver. The Bob Estes Cougar posted higher MPG figures than a lighter Mustang 2+2 also in the event (from Galpin Ford, Sepulveda, CA). The Cougar managed 20.9925 MPG over the route while the Mustang came in with 20.7281 MPG. The class winner was a Barracuda V8 driven by Scott Harvey with 22.3198 MPG. A Camaro V8 from Nickey Chevrolet (Chicago, IL) used more gas with a final score of 19.2757 MPG.

The few owners with 390 engines reported 12, 13 or 14 MPG in the city and either 14 or 17 on the highway.



The fall 1966 Mercury Cougar debut was a great success. Despite deriving from the Ford Mustang platform Mercury did a good job at disguising this fact. Contrast the Cougar with the other new 1967 ponycar; the Pontiac Firebird. Its easier to spot the family DNA the Firebird shares with the Chevrolet Camaro. January, 1967 saw the distance between Mustang and Cougar increase while the distance between Cougar and Jaguar decreased.

The January 1967 introduction of the XR7 option package confirmed suspicions about Mercury's previously subtle aspirations to mimic the Jaguar. The cat logo and some European references in ads are one thing, but the XR7 interior is blatantly derivative of the Jaguar.

The 1967 Cougar XR7 package adds genuine leather seats, console, fake wood dash with full instrumentation, map pockets in the doors, and an overhead console. The dashboard bristles with toggle switches, map lights and warning lights. Similar to the larger Ford Thunderbird personal car the interior resembles a jet cockpit. The XR7 option executes all Thunderbird style gimmicks in a Jaguar type aesthetic. The XR7 package also added about 120 pounds to the car which will penalize gas mileage and acceleration somewhat, but few could protest the worth of those lost milliseconds or fractions of a gallon of gas with such a great interior. Thus, the Cougar XR7 adds 240 pounds over a Mustang which definitely slowed down the 289 engine as well as taxing the MPG potential.


The OOCC 1967 Cougar XR7 MPG= 10.8 City

The OOCC GAS LOGS Cinnamon Frost 1967 Cougar XR7 was built May 31, 1967, 11 days behind the scheduled build date of May 20th. The backlog in Cougars may be attributed to the great popularity of the car during its first year of production. The XR7 package coordinates interior leather seat color with the car's paint scheme. This XR7 has saddle leather seats.

The VIN decodes as follows:

7= 1967 model year

F= Built at the Dearborn, Michigan assembly plant

93= Cougar XR7 Hardtop

C= 289 two barrel engine

The significant digits of the VIN are not shown here. The door tag code DSO 54 means the car was ordered for the Seattle area. The W code indicates the C4 Select Shift Merc-O-Matic transmission. The O code means the rear axle ratio is the standard 2.79:1.

Aside from the XR7 option, console and the automatic transmission, the Cougar is equipped with other options such as power steering and brakes, AM radio, tinted windshield, and rear bumper guards. The tires were 7.35 x 14 whitewalls with 4 ply rating.

The Cougar was sold to Thomas Benis June 30, 1967. He found that the back seat was too cramped for chauffeuring his potential real estate clients and turned the car over to his wife. Thomas' wife, Helen used the Cougar to attend church and take the kids to soccer practice.

Helen drove the car until 1978 when she gave it to her son Chris on his 16th birthday. The 11 year old car was bone stock showing only 92,000 mildly driven miles. The first thing Chris did was mount a set of Cragar S/S Mach 8 mags shod with "Road Hugger" 60Rx14 tires. Air shocks were installed to allow wheel well clearance for the tires.

The 289 lost the stock intake and carburetor to an Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold and a Holley 600 CFM four barrel carburetor. The car also received dual exhausts. The Holley carburetor was never set up quite right, and aside from never being as fast as Chris hoped, the mileage plunged from the 14 MPG with 2 barrel to 8 MPG with the Holley.

In 1979 Chris re installed the stock intake/ carburetor. The other changes remained. Below is one of his original logs from 1980 when the original 2 barrel carburetor and intake were back on the car. The dual exhaust increases engine efficiency over the factory installed single exhaust and radial tires offer less rolling resistance which aids MPG. The "Road Hugger" tires on the Cougar rubbed the front fenders on hard cornering. Chris scored a set of Goodyear Wingfoots which were the 'traction tire' of the time period. The Goodyears came mounted on Mopar mags which fit perfectly.

Christopher drove the Cougar about 8,000 miles during his high school cruising years. The only time the Cougar was out of King County in its life was in 1979 for a highway run to Moses Lake, Washington. The majority of driving was thus stop and go in this log.

67 cougar xry chris gas log


Odometer Gallons Octane   Full Tank?  MPG uncorrected

97,935      04.0      Prem    Not Filled     n.a.

97,971      11.8      Prem    Full Tank      n.a.

98,098      12.2      Prem    Full Tank     10.4

98,211      07.7      Prem    Not Filled     n.a.

98,298      08.7      Prem    Not Filled     n.a.

98,411      05.3      Prem    Not Filled     n.a.

98,459      02.3      Prem    Not Filled     n.a.

98,473      12.0      Prem    Full Tank     10.4

98,600      12.2      Prem    Full Tank     10.4

98,685      08.5      Prem    Full Tank     10.0

98,773      09.8       Ga      Full Tank      8.9

98,906      12.3      Prem    Full Tank     10.8

99,026      10.7      Prem    Full Tank     11.2

99,191      13.5      Prem    Full Tank     11.2

99,343      12.7      Prem    Full Tank     11.9

99,496      12.2      Prem    Full Tank     12.5

99,644      11.6      Prem    Not Filled     n.a.

99,775      03.1      Prem    Not Filled     n.a.

The Cougar used 140.1 gallons to run from the fill up at 97,971 miles to fill up at 99,496 (1,525 miles) which is 10.8 MPG overall city driving. Total of the 10 individual MPG figures is 107.7 which rounds up to 10.8 MPG.

One point which needs to be considered is that carburetors are finicky and having a raised rear end may affect the metering and MPG. Otherwise this Cougar XR7 is an ideal comparison vehicle to match up with the 1968 Cougar XR7 in these GAS LOGS. Both Cougars have stock base axle ratios and stock base XR7 engines with 2 barrel carburetors. Both Cougars have been upgraded from factory standard single exhaust to duals. The only departure from apples to apples comparison of the two years of the XR7 is that the 1968 also has an aftermarket aggressive cam.

The 1968 XR7 package was upgraded from the 289 to the new 302. The 1968 base axle ratio was also more aggressive with a 3.00:1 ratio as compared to the 1967 base ratio of 2.79:1. It seems the greater 'dig' provided by the 1968 axle combined with the greater torque of the 302 allows the 1968 to get more MPG in stop and go scenarios. Police departments discovered this effect in the 1960s when they found that big blocks with 2 barrel carburetors and highway axles got poorer gas mileage in town than big blocks with four barrels and high numerical axles. The 1968 XR7 managed 12.3 MPG city in almost identical weather conditions.

Curb weight of a 'stripped' 1967 Cougar was 3,119 pounds. The 3 speed automatic transmission versions were 3,126 pounds curb. The XR7 package varied weight only slightly with 3,128 pounds curb for an XR-7 with Merc-O-Matic auto trans. As driven weight often included Chris' friends, but his actual commute was just him alone in the car. Overall average load probably upped weight to about 3,300 pounds.

The Cougar XR7 had traveled 99,924 miles when it was permanently stored during 1983.























Last Updated ( Tuesday, 02 May 2017 08:32 )