By Dave Turner
“Better Ideas make Better Cars”
Mercury Cougar and Montego 1972-1976
By the mid 1970s Mercury’s range of models could be guaranteed to leave the most ardent student a trifle confused. The new Montego for 1972 went back to separate body on perimeter frame construction, coming in two lengths of wheelbase, 118” for four door cars and 114” for two door examples. For simplicity the 2 door cars are the subject of this piece. Early Montegos were mentioned in MAR 247 and 248.
Two door Montegos for 1972 came in two styles, having either a formal or fastback roofline, those with the formal roofline were the regular coupe and the more lavishly equipped MX and MX Brougham versions while the fastback was reserved for the Montego GT, this effectively was the former Cyclone GT. 1973 saw the arrival of the heavier energy-absorbing bumpers while the ’74 cars had subtle changes to their grille and headlight surrounds, and the rear lights now wrapped around the rear fenders.
Cougars up to 1973 were featured in MAR 234 and 235. For 1974 Mercury wasn’t quite sure where to place their established Cougar line, the Mustang had downsized to be based on the Pinto and this was too small for the Cougar so it was decided that it should become a ‘personal luxury’ model but just below the now quite large Thunderbird. This is how it came to be based on the two door Montego, using its same 114” chassis and the ‘formal’ roofline. No Montego ‘fastback’ appeared for 1974, and the Cougar was now very similar to the Montego MX Brougham in all but detail around the headlights and grille.
By 1975 auto-makers were not only spending most of their development budget on federally mandated controlled height impact resisting bumpers but the imposition of emission equipment was also responsible for pushing up showroom prices by enormous amounts. The only obvious external indication that the ’75 Montego/Cougar possessed were the twin cooling slots in the central bumper section. The Cougar XR7 was the top seller of the entire Lincoln/Mercury range for 1976, despite having nothing more significant in the way of an annual update than the replacement of the styled steel wheels by full wheel covers.
All-change again for 1977, the name Montego was dropped, replaced by Cougar for the entire mid size range of 2 and 4 door Mercurys as well as wagons, the re-skinned 2 door XR7 now closely resembling the downsized Thunderbird.
The only model from this mid ‘70s range of mid-size two door Mercurys to have been found to date, is that of one of the least numerous, the Montego GT that totalled only around 10,000 during its two-year run 1972 to 73.
Extremely simple in concept, this 1:41 inexpensive toy comes from a range known as Funmate and features a one-piece plastic body clipped to a plastic base, the latter including grille/bumper/light details at the front and lights and bumper at the rear. A brief piece on these distinctive toys can be found in MAR 201 while for US readers a couple of 2007 issues of Toy Cars & Models included more information. The vast majority of the range were part of Proctor & Gambles marketing in the US, all featuring models of 1971/2 Fords of various types and made in Japan. The 1972 Mercury Montego GT appears to be the odd one out being made in Hong Kong.
These toys have done well to survive as they came with a spring catapult type launcher that shot them forward and into any object that happened to be in the way.
Mercury Cougar and Montego 1972-76
|Model Maker||Origin||Produced||Model #||Prototype||Length||Scale||Material|
|Funmate||Hong Kong||1970s||797||1972 Montego GT||129mm||1:41||Plastic|
- Funmate 1:41 plastic from Hong Kong: 797, 1972 Mercury Montego GT, the wheels are incorrect, they should be five-spoke.
- Same model, rear view, most details are present in the plastic moulding.
- Base showing the slot into which the launcher fits.
We welcome your comments and questions. Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page.