Remember the children’s fairy tale Cinderella? While her sisters went to all the elegant balls and fancy parties, Cinderella stayed home and was left out of all the fun and revelry. Well, the Mercury Cougar was a lot like Cinderella. While its Mustang and Cyclone siblings were out having a grand time cruising the streets and racing at the drag strip, the Cougar was left behind. And just like Cinderella was changed into something beautiful by the fairy princess, Mercury waved its magic wand and transformed the Cougar into a formidable street warrior called the Eliminator.
In this edition of the Muscle Car Showcase, we’ll take a look at the 1969 – 1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator. In 1969, Mercury finally gave this cat some teeth with the Eliminator package. Now the Cougar had what it needed to hunt down street prey such as goats, road runners, and impalas. No longer overshadowed by its Mustang stable mate, the Cougar finally stepped into the limelight and made a name for itself.
Cougar Eliminator: Spoilers hold it down, nothing holds it back. 1970 Mercury Cougar advertising
Mercury unleashed the Cougar Eliminator concept at the Los Angeles Auto Show in October 1968. Production of the street version began in the spring of 1969. The production car looked pretty similar to the concept with the exception of wheels and rear spoiler. Since its introduction, the Cougar was marketed as a luxury coupe with ads depicting it as elegant and sophisticated. The Eliminator changed all that and showed the world that this cat actually had claws.
Walk around the 1969 Cougar Eliminator and you can see what sets it apart from the base and XR-7 versions. Facing the tomcat, one of the first things you notice is the hood scoop. It’s functional if you were one of the few that ordered the Ram Air 428 engine. A matte black grille with horizontal grille bars and popup headlamp covers adorn the front of the car. Another nice touch is the black spoiler mounted underneath the front valance. Glancing at the side of the car and one of the first things you notice are the side stripes with “Eliminator” graphics. These were available in black or white and ran from the front fender to the front of the rear quarter panel. Bright curb molding with a thin black line graces the rocker panels. From the rear, the body-colored adjustable rear spoiler grabs your attention just like it grabs the air. Bright chrome bumpers, mounted flush to the front and rear, add a little brightwork and flair to the appearance of this mean cat. For 1969, the Eliminator was available in Competition Orange, Bright Blue, Yellow, and White.
Climb inside the interior and take a seat in the Hi-back buckets crafted in Comfort-Weave vinyl. They come in black, white, or blue. From here, you can see that Mercury built the Eliminator with performance in mind. Features such as full instrumentation including tachometer and elapsed-time clock, rim-blow steering wheel, and floor shifter come standard. A black crackle dashboard, custom door trim, and rear seat armrests round out additional standard features.
For the 1970 model year, Mercury gave the Cougar a makeover. Up front, the tomcat sported a new “electric shaver” style grille with center hood extension. Other goodies such as new graphics on the hood and body, blacked-out tail lamps, and more color choices rounded out the changes on the 1970 model.
Mercury outfitted the Cougar Eliminator with a wide variety of V8 engines choices ranging from mild to wild. The base engine for 1969 was a 351 Windsor good for 290 horsepower. For a little more oomph, drivers could order the S-code 390 spitting out 320 horsepower. For those who were really serious about performance, a 428 Cobra Jet packing 335 horsepower was the engine of choice. It should also be noted that the Boss 302 was made available late in the model year. Engine choices for 1970 were essentially the same except for the deletion of the 390 from the options list.
Transmission choices were dependent on the engine ordered by the buyer. Boss 302 equipped cars only got a four-speed manual. Drivers who chose the 351 or 390 engines could choose either a three-speed or four-speed manual or select the Select-Shift automatic. If you snatched up an Eliminator with the 428 engine, you received either a four-speed manual or Select-Shift automatic.
Ford equipped the Eliminator with a heavy duty suspension system. The independent front suspension consisted of upper and lower control arms, anti-roll bar, and coil springs with the rear setup getting a semi-elliptic leaf spring system. The Eliminator’s braking system consisted of hydraulic drums on all four wheels. However, if you wanted a little extra stopping power, two-piece front discs were also available as optional equipment. Standard wheels on the Eliminator were 14 x 6 argent 12-slot steelies with “dog dish” style hubcaps and bright trim rings. F70 x 14 belted traction tires also came standard.
For their April 1970 issue, Car Life tested the 1970 Cougar Eliminator. Their test car was equipped with the Boss 302 engine, four-speed manual transmission, and Super Drag Pak. They were able to get the cat to run from 0 – 60 in 7.6 seconds and pace the quarter mile in 15.8 seconds running 90 mph. So, how does this feline compare with the competition’s pony cars? Car Life also tested a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 for their August 1969 issue. From 0 – 60, the bowtie went the distance in 7.4 seconds and ran the quarter in 15.12 seconds reaching a speed of 94.8 mph.
A recent search of auction and classified sites shows prices for a Cougar Eliminator can vary greatly. Prices range from $23,000 for a 1969 model power by the 351 V8 to $88,900 for a 1970 Boss 302 equipped car in great condition. If you’re thinking about buying a muscle car that is not seen every day, keep in mind that the Cougar Eliminator is a somewhat rare car. Only 2,411 were produced in 1969 and 2,200 were created for 1970. Watch out for clones as parts are available to convert a base Cougar into something that resembles an Eliminator.
Just as quickly as the Eliminator pounced on the scene, it was gone. After a two year production run, Mercury pulled the plug on the Cougar Eliminator. Seems this rare cat did not have nine lives but its legacy still lives on today. One thing’s for sure. This rare cat still grabs attention when it’s seen prowling the streets looking for prey.
Specifications (1970 model, Boss 302, 4-speed manual)
Body & Frame
Type: unit-body construction
Body: 2-door coupe
Layout: front engine, rear-wheel drive
Powerplant: Boss 302 V8
Displacement: 302 cubic inches
Horsepower: 290 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque: 290 @ 4,300 rpm
Valvetrain: overhead rocker arms, solid lifters, pushrods
Bore x stroke: 4.0 x 3.0 inches
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Fuel system: 1 x 4-barrel Holley 780 cfm
Exhaust: dual, reverse flow mufflers
Type: 4-speed manual, fully synchronized
Clutch type: single dry disc plate
Gear ratio: 4th – 4.30:1
3rd – 5.55:1
2nd – 7.27:1
1st – 9.96:1
Axle ratio: 4.30
Type: recirculating ball and nut power assist
Turning diameter: 39.4 feet
Turns lock-to-lock: 3.59
Type: four-wheel hydraulic drums
Front: 10 x 2.50
Rear: 10 x 2.00
Front: independent short-long arms with drag strut, ball joints, coil springs, shock absorbers, and anti-roll bar
Rear: Hotchkiss drive, semi-elliptical leaf springs, shock absorbers, and anti-roll bar
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: 14 x 6 styled steel
Tires: Goodyear Polyglas F70-14
Wheelbase: 111.1 inches
Length/Width/Height: 196.1/74.1/51.1 inches
Weight: 3,610 pounds
Front track: 58.5 inches
Rear track: 58.5 inches
Head room: 37.6 inches
Shoulder room: 55.9 inches
Pedal-seatback, max: 39.0 inches
Performance (Car Life Magazine, April 1970)
0 – 60 mph: 7.6 seconds
Quarter mile: 15.8 seconds @ 90 mph
Braking, 80 – 0 mph: 324 feet