Beware of Imposters!
Everyone has his or her favorite year classic Cat. Unofficial polls of on-line Cougar enthusiasts have shown the favorites to range from the original 1967 standard hardtop sporting a 289 engine, to a 1970 XR-7 convertible powered by a CJ 428. However, make no mistake, the most frequently “cloned” classic Cat of all is the growling Eliminator.
Owners of authenticated Eliminators might be pleased that the look of their cars has become so desirable that original Eliminator colors, graphics, scoops, and spoilers are showing up on Cougars of all years and models. At the same time, the trend toward copycat Eliminators can result in Cat Scratch Fever of the worst kind for prospective buyers.
Often, when an Eliminator is found found for sale, the potential buyer is unprepared to verify the authenticity of the vehicle by visual inspection, and sometimes the time frame in which a “buy” decision must be made will not allow research. The reason Eliminators are difficult to authenticate visually is that they were created with option packages, instead of being distinct Cougar models, like the XR-7. Standard and XR-7 Cougars have a unique body series number in their VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) codes, but there is nothing in the VIN or on the data plate to directly indicate that a car was ordered with the Eliminator option package.
While not recommending the purchase of any classic car without thoroughly checking it out, we will use this section to define Eliminators and provide you with details that will help identify a real Eliminator. Remember, also, that reproduction data plates are available, so look for evidence of tampering on the rivets holding the plate to the door, or indications that the driver’s door has been replaced. Even if the car you are considering fits with all of the criteria shown here, we strongly suggest you verify its authenticity through one of the services shown at the bottom of this page.
Cougar VIN Codes and Data Plates
In this section we’ve compiled quick check lists of “should be” and “could be” VIN and data plate codes to help you eliminate obvious Eliminator clones. For those who are not familiar with the formats of classic Cougar VINs and data plates, the illustrations should be helpful.
Cougar VIN Codes
All Mercury Cougars built between 1967 and 1973 used the VIN code format you see here. On 1969/70 models, the VIN code plate is attached to the windshield frame at the bottom on the driver’s side.
Cougar Data Plates
The factory installed data plates on classic Cougars to provide dealership service personnel with some basic information about each car. This information includes:
- Body Style
- Exterior Color
- Interior Trim
- Axle Ratio
- Transmission Type
- Delivery District
In addition, data plates carried the car’s VIN. On 1969 and 1970 models, data plates were located on the rear edge of the driver’s door.
VIN Code Quick Check
- Model Year Code:
- The Eliminator option was only available during the 1969 and 1970 model years, so to be an authentic Eliminator, the first digit of the VIN code must be a 9 or a 0.
- Assembly Plant Code:
- Eliminators were only built at the Dearborn, Michigan factory, the second character of the VIN must be an F.
- Body Series Code:
- The Eliminator option was only available on standard hardtop Cougars, so the combined third and fourth digits of the VIN must be 91.
- Engine Code:
- While Eliminators could be ordered with any optional Cougar engine, there is one VIN engine code that guarantees a Cougar is an Eliminator. During the 1969 and 1970 model years, the G engine code identified a Boss 302 engine. Since Boss 302 engines were only available in Eliminators, a G engine code positively identifies an Eliminator.
Data Plate Quick Check
- Body Style Code:
- Since the Eliminator option was only available on standard Cougars, the body style code must be 65A.
- Exterior Color Code:
- During the 1969 model year Eliminators came in four colors, so the exterior color code should be 3 (Competition Orange), 6 (Bright Blue), 9 (Yellow), or M (White). For 1970, the Eliminator color codes were 1 (Competition Orange), D (Competition Yellow), J (Competition Blue), M (Pastel Blue), U (Competition Gold), and Z (Competition Green). If the exterior color code on the data plate is blank and the DSO code is six digits long, it indicates that the car was ordered with a non-standard paint color. Keep in mind, however, that while some of the colors listed above were supposed to be available only on Eliminators, some were also available on any Cougar. Also, “Eliminator only” color codes have shown up on Cougars which were not ordered with the Eliminator option.
- Interior Trim Code:
- For 1969, the data plate trim code must be 5A (black), EA (white) or 5B (blue). In 1970, the list of Eliminator trim choices grew to include 1A (black), 1B (blue), 3A (blue w/houndstooth check), 5A (black Comfort Weave), 5B (blue Comfort Weave), AA (white), and EA (white Comfort Weave). As with the exterior paint codes, all of these interior trim choices were available on any standard Cougar, so the correct trim code indicates that the car could be an Eliminator, but doesn’t guarantee that it is an Eliminator.
- Axle Ratio Code:
- There are no clues here because Eliminators could be ordered with any axle code that was available on Cougars.
- Transmission Code:
- All of the transmissions that were optional on Cougars could be ordered with the Eliminator option package, so the data plate transmission code could be any code that is correct for 1969/70 Cougars. It should also be noted that a four-speed manual transmission was required with the Boss 302 engine.
- District Office Code:
- Aside from a six digit code that indicates a special order paint scheme, there are no DSO codes that are unique to Eliminators. There is one code, however, which might indicate that the Cougar you are looking at has a unique history. A DSO code of 84 indicates a Home Office Reserve car, which was built for use by L-M Division. In most cases, DSO 84 cars were used by L-M executives, but some of these cars were built for other special purposes, such as magazine road test cars and as prizes for contests or special promotions.
Sources for Eliminator Authenticity Verification
The only way to guarantee that a Cougar you may be considering is really an Eliminator is to check its pedigree by ordering a copy of the car’s original invoice or its production information from one of the sources listed below.
P.O. Box 1013
Dearborn Heights, MI 48127-1013
(Boss 302 cars only)
25 Brookline Lane
Dearborn, MI 48120-1037
Marti Auto Works
12007 W. Peoria
El Mirage, Az. 85335
If the specific car you are considering has been recorded in the national Eliminator Registry, information may be available from the Eliminator Registrar, whom you may contact through the Mercury Cougar Eliminator Registry, or with the numbers below:
918.655.3352 or 918.655.3251
Again, we strongly urge you to verify the authenticity of any Eliminator you may be considering for purchase before you agree to buy it!
Photos and art courtesy of TCCN.