1988 Mercury Cougar XR-7 coupe

For 1988, Mercury’s Cougar personal luxury coupe received relatively few changes after 1987’s substantial restyling. For one year only, the XR-7 received a distinctive monochromatic paint scheme, available only in Oxford WhiteMedium Scarlet, and Black. Creating this look involved changing the wraparound bumper and body-side moldings from black to body color, and deleting the Medium Smoke lower-body accent used in 1987.  The sportiest Cougar also received 15-inch cast-aluminum wheels that had previously been seen on contemporary Ford Mustang GTs. Finally, analog instruments returned to the XR-7 after one year with a digital dashboard.

Though the Cougar LS made do with an Essex 140 bhp 3.8 liter/232 ci V6 with fuel injection as standard power, all XR-7s came with a Windsor 155 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with sequential fuel injection. Both engines received power increases in 1988, with multi-port fuel injection and a balance shaft for the V6 being worth 20 bhp, while split dual exhaust brought another 5 bhp for the V8. No matter what the engine, all Cougars came with Ford’s corporate AOD four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive.

Recorded 0-60 mph times are spare for the 1988 XR-7, but would likely have been a little under 10 seconds in the 3,485-pound car. Fuel economy ratings are more readily available; the XR-7 was rated 18 city/25 highway by the standards of the day (16/23 by today’s standards). With a 22.1-gallon gas tank, a Cougar XR-7 owner could expect an impressive range of 390 to 430 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on all Cougars included tinted glass, aero halogen headlamps, a front air dam, dual outside power mirrors, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, and power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes. Inside, air conditioning, cloth upholstery, and an electronic AM/FM stereo with four speakers were included. The Cougar’s base price was $14,134—about $31,700 in 2020 dollars.

XR-7 pages from the 1988 Mercury Cougar brochure

With a base price of $16,266 (about $36,500 in today’s dollars or about what a 2020 Ford Mustang GT fastback goes for), the XR-7 added a Traction-Lok rear axle, a Quadrashock suspension, and P225/60R15 performance tires (a size still easily available) on 15-inch body-color cast-aluminum wheels. Inside, a sport steering wheel, articulated sport seats with power lumbar support, and a full-length center console were included.

Exterior and mechanical options for the XR-7 included a power moonroof ($841), an electric rear window defroster ($145), an engine block heater ($18), and Argent versions of the standard body-color cast-aluminum wheels. Inside, automatic temperature control ($162), power windows ($222), fingertip speed control ($182), and a tilt steering wheel ($124) were all available. Upholstery options included a leather-wrapped steering wheel ($59), leather seating surfaces ($415), and six-way power seats (either driver’s side only [$251] or driver and front passenger [$502]). A range of audio options included an electronic AM/FM stereo with a cassette player and four speakers ($137), the Premium Sound System with a power amplifier, two additional door-mounted speakers, and premium rear speakers ($168), a graphic equalizer ($218), and a power antenna ($76).

The 1988 Cougar sold well—Mercury moved a total of 113,801 units, with 14,488 (almost 13%) being XR-7s. For unclear reasons, Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track any Cougar after 1973, though they do value Ford Thunderbirds through their entire production history. Eighties Cougars occasionally show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this blog entry, there’s a Black 1987 Cougar LS with gray cloth seats and 33,000 miles listed for $6,900. Make mine Black, please.

Thanks to COOL CATS (a site devoted to the 1983-1988 Mercury Cougar) for providing helpful context for this post.

Other Mercurys I have written about include the 1983 Grand Marquis sedan, the 1986 Capri hatchback coupe, and the 1987 Lynx XR3 hatchback coupe. Regarding the Cougar’s Ford Thunderbird sister, I’ve written about the 1980 coupe and the 1983 Turbo Coupe.

1986 Mercury Capri hatchback coupe

Hemmings is making a go at auctions. One of their first offerings is a white 1982 Mercury Capri RS coupe with red vinyl bucket seats, a Windsor 157 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with a Motorcraft 356CFM two-barrel carburetor, a four-speed manual, and 33,000 miles. That’s enough to get me to generate an update to this four-year-old post about the later 1986 version.

“Proof that getting there can be a fun experience in itself.”

Mercury made three attempts at the Capri. The first was an imported version of the European Ford Capri and was sold from the 1970 to 1978 model years as first the Capri and then the Capri II. The second was Mercury’s version of the Fox body Mustang and was sold from 1979 to 1986. The final version of the Capri was an imported version of the Australian Ford Capri and was sold from 1991 to 1994. Sense a trend here?

For 1986, Mercury’s Capri had three engine choices and two transmission choices. Standard on the GS was the Lima 88 bhp (aargh!) 2.3 liter/140 ci in-line four with a Carter YFA one-barrel carburetor mated to a four-speed manual transmission. Power options for the GS included the Essex 120 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with fuel injection and the (wonderful) Windsor 200 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with sequential fuel injection that was standard on the 5.0L. All three engines could be paired with a three-speed automatic transmission for an additional $510 (the V6 required the automatic while the 5.0L came standard with a five-speed manual transmission with overdrive).

Mileage ratings for the various configurations ranged from 23 city/28 highway (21/26 by today’s standards) for the four-speed manual/in-line four combination that I’m not convinced that anyone bought to 17/25 for the “big daddy” five-speed manual paired with the V8.

Performance with the 2.3 liter four paired with either transmission was ghastly. 0-60 came in about 15 seconds, which meant a Capri driver with the Lima engine would see only the taillights of Iron Duke powered Camaros and Firebirds (such a sad competition!). Moving to the V6 paid significant performance dividends, dropping the 0-60 time by about 3.5 seconds. Of course, the V8 was by far the best: even the automatic was in the 7 second range, while the manual could do 0-60 in about 6.5 seconds.

The base price for a Capri GS was $8,331 (about $19,700 in 2019 dollars). For that money, the Capri came relatively well equipped by mid-1980s standards. External features included halogen headlamps, tinted glass, and the distinctive bubble-back rear hatch with rear-window defroster. Mechanical equipment included power steering, power brakes, and P195/75R14 tires (still available thanks to Hankook and Kumho) on 14-inch wheels with turbine wheel covers. Inside, power windows, interval wipers, tilt steering wheel, and an AM/FM stereo radio were standard.

Pages from the 1986 Mercury Capri brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The more sporty Capri 5.0L stickered for $10,950 (about $25,800 in today’s dollars) and added the V8 mentioned above, dual exhaust, and P225/60VR15 tires (a size still readily available) on cast-aluminum wheels.

Exterior options for both the GS and the 5.0L included a flip-up open-air roof ($315) or a T-Roof ($1,100). Inside, buyers could add air conditioning ($762), power door lock group ($182), speed control ($176), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette ($300).

MercuryCapriSales

Sales for the last of the second generation Capris were not at all good, but Capri sales had not been good for years—Mercury’s traditional problem wedged between Ford and Lincoln. By 1986, Capri sales were about 9% of Mustang sales.

Fox body Capris sometimes show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and eBay Motors, but there’s not a lot of activity. I’ll say they are uncommon rather than unloved. Make mine Smoke Metallic, please.

Updated September 2019.

1987 Mercury Lynx XR3 hatchback coupe

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“… the sporting side of Lynx.”

1987 was the final year for the Lynx—Mercury’s version of Ford’s Escort compact. The Escort would soldier on for many more years (through model year 2002), but from 1988 forward the smallest American-built Mercury would be the Topaz—still a compact, but larger in almost every dimension. For 1986 and 1987, the top of the line Lynx was the XR3 hatchback coupe.

The Lynx XR3‘s standard (and only) powertrain was a “High Output” 115 bhp 1.9 liter/113 ci inline four with Bosch fuel injection paired to a five-speed manual transmission. Mileage was good—25 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (about 22 city/31 highway by 2018 standards). Acceleration was reasonably quick: 0-60 came in about 10 seconds in the approximately 2,400-pound car. With a 13-gallon fuel tank, Lynx XR3 drivers could expect a range of 310 to 345 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $8,808 Lynx XR3 (about $20,100 in today’s dollars and close to what a 2018 Fiesta ST hatchback costs) included an asymmetrical grille, an aerodynamic front air dam with built-in fog lamps, wide wheel flairs, a rear spoiler, dual power mirrors, and P195/60R15 Goodyear Eagle GT tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch cast-aluminum wheels. Inside, cloth sport bucket seats, power steering, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a locking fuel filler door with remote release were included.

Standard equipment on every Lynx included front-wheel-drive, rack-and-pinion steering, a four-wheel independent suspension, aero halogen headlamps, low-back individual reclining seats, and a folding rear seat. The Lynx was not a large car—there aren’t many small coupes left to compare it to, but the current Honda Civic coupe is 5 inches wider and about 10 inches longer.

XR3 page from the 1987 Mercury Lynx brochure.

Since the XR3 came relatively loaded for a compact car, there weren’t many options available. Seven separate options available for lesser Lynxes were standard on the XR3. Exterior and mechanical options for the XR3 included tinted glass ($105), a rear window wiper/washer ($126), and an engine block heater ($18). Inside, air conditioning ($688), speed control ($176), and a tilt steering wheel ($179) were available.

The final-year Lynx didn’t sell very well: a total of 39,039 in a year when Ford sold 374,765 Escorts. First-generation Escorts and Lynxes were once so prevalent on American roads, but have now virtually disappeared. You occasionally see Lynxes for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there are none out there as I write this in July 2018.

Make mine Smoke, please.

Other Mercury’s I have written about are the 1983 Grand Marquis sedan, the 1986 Capri hatchback coupe, and the 1988 Cougar XR-7 coupe. I have also written about the 1981 Ford Escort hatchback coupe.

1983 Mercury Grand Marquis sedan

As I walked to the train earlier the week, I saw an eighties Mercury Grand Marquis sedan idling on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. It stood out because of its size (at 214 inches these cars are more than a foot longer than a 2018 Lincoln Continental) and its new for 1979 squareness. Reason enough to write a (rare) Mercury blog entry (my only other one so far is about the 1986 Mercury Capri).

“A Lesson In Luxury”

For 1983, Mercury renamed all versions of the full-size Marquis to Grand Marquis and moved the Marquis name to the mid-size Fox platform. Other than the name change, changes for the Grand Marquis were relatively modest: there were new full-width wraparound tail lamps and a modified grille. New options included a remote locking fuel filler door ($24), locking wire wheel covers ($168), and a Tripminder trip computer ($261) which showed month/day/time, elapsed time, average speed, average MPG, instantaneous MPG, and gallons of fuel used. In their annual “Charting the Changes” roundup, Car and Driver once again made the ritual complaint that there was still no de Sad package.

The standard engine in 1983 was Ford’s 130 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with fuel injection paired to a four-speed automatic. Somewhat strangely to our modern eyes, the optional power upgrade was a carburetted version of the same motor with 145 bhp. These were not fast cars—with an almost 3,800-pound curb weight, 0-60 came in about 12 seconds. Mileage with the standard powertrain was 17 city/27 highway by the standards of the day (14/20 by today’s standards). With the 18-gallon fuel tank, Grand Marquis drivers could expect a range of 275 to 355 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $10,718 Grand Marquis (about $26,900 in today’s dollars) included a coach vinyl roof, coach lamps, halogen headlamps, power brakes (front disc and rear drum), power steering, and P215/75R14 steel-belted white sidewall radial tires on 14-inch wheels with deluxe wheel covers. Inside, cloth/vinyl Twin Comfort Lounge seats with dual front seat recliners, a four-spoke luxury (the Grand Marquis brochure mentioned luxury a lot) steering wheel, an analog quartz clock, and an AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers were included. Standard items that Mercury proudly listed that do not impress in 2017 included a front stabilizer bar, seat belt warning chimes, and carpeted lower door trim panels.

Upgrading to the $11,273 LS added tinted glass, luxury cloth Twin Comfort Lounge seats, cloth-trimmed headrests, right-hand visor vanity mirror, map pockets in front seatback, luxury door trim with armrest woodtone inserts and courtesy lights, dual beam dome/map light, dual fold-down front center armrests, rear-seat folding center armrest, and the all-important LS badge on the rear decklid.

Exterior and mechanical options included the Traction-Lok differential ($95) and cast aluminum turbine spoke wheels ($361) which required P205/75R15 tires ($17). Interior options included manual air conditioning ($724), automatic air conditioning ($802), 6-way power driver’s seat ($210) or driver’s and passenger’s seats ($420), power door locks ($123), fingertip speed control ($170), and tilt steering wheel ($105). Audio options included a host of optional radios with 8-track or cassette player, a power antenna ($60), and Premium Sound System with two additional speakers in the front doors, upgraded rear speakers, and an extra power amplifier ($175 base/$145 LS). Leather seating surfaces ($418) were only available on the LS. All these options meant that a loaded Grand Marquis LS could quickly get close to the Lincoln Town Car’s pricing territory—I quickly priced one to $14,584 (about $36,700 in 2017 dollars).

The Grand Marquis sold well for Mercury in 1983—72,207 sedans, 11,117 coupes, and 12,394 Colony Park wagons made it one of the division’s best sellers—23% of sales in a year when Mercury also offered the Capri, Cougar, LN7 (remember the LN7?), Lynx, Marquis, and Zephyr.

The first-generation Grand Marquis sometimes shows up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. Make mine Midnight Blue Metallic, I think.

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