There’s a saying among engine builders: “There’s no replacement for displacement.” The designers at Mercury took that adage seriously when they built the 1969 Cougar Eliminator. With the optional 428 cubic inch Super Cobra V-8 under the hood, the everyday ride turned muscle car did 0-60 in a blistering 5.6 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 14.1 seconds and 103 MPH.
Introduced in 1967, the Cougar started out as a slightly modified Mustang, with styling changes to give it a more “European” look. Intended for the general public, it straddled the fence in performance and design, trying to be all things to all drivers. Then, starting with the 1969 model year, the powers-that-be at Ford decided to craft a version that would appeal to those with a need for speed.
The Cougar’s body was completely restyled for ’69. It was made larger, with sweeping, sculptured side panels, sequential taillights, and concealed headlights behind the horizontal grille. Then a special “Eliminator” package was made available, named after the drag racers driven by “Dyno” Don Nicholson. It included a blacked-out grille with a silver mid-section and an air scoop on the hood.
Four engines were available, but, since the ’69 tipped the scales at 3800 pounds, the only one capable of giving it real power was the 428 cubic inch behemoth. It came with an ultra-tough suspension package and hood striping. With other Cougar packages the air scoop was purely for show; with the 428 it was for power.
A ’69 Cougar with the Eliminator package would set a consumer of the time back around $4400.00, give or take a few bucks depending on the options chosen. An AM radio with antenna was available for $60.00, for instance. Nowadays these vehicles fetch considerably more, especially the super-rare convertibles.
It many ways the ’69 Eliminator was the end of an era. Beginning in 1970, Cougars would include locking steering columns and other federally mandated safety enhancements. Throughout the decades to follow, concerns over pollution, overall inflation, and soaring gas prices transformed the Cougar into a blander, tamer shadow of its once-mighty self, safer but nowhere near as fun to drive. I guess that’s the price of progress.
Written by Bill Wilson
Photo courtesy of Barrett-Jackson