Mercury Cougar Eliminator History
For muscle cars, 1969 was a banner year. For Lincoln-Mercury Division, 1969 brought the introduction of “Streep Scene” (street and strip), an advertising theme coined by L-M to introduce hot new muscle Mercurys to the auto show circuit.
The Cougar, itself, took on a whole new look for 1969. The new design was a little longer and wider than the first generation 1967/68 Cougars, with side sculpting that swept from the front fenders to the rear wheel wells. The hideaway headlights were now covered by a horizontal grille and Cougar’s trademark sequential taillights became concave, ending in wrap around back up lights.
In the performance arena the Eliminator concept got off to a fast start when the name appeared on the drag strip funny cars driven by “Dyno” Don Nicholson and powered by the legendary 427 SOHC engine. Then there was the “Eliminator” show car, a one of a kind concept car that was introduced to the auto show scene and to the media to test consumer response and capture pre-production publicity.
The actual production Eliminator made its debut in the spring of 1969 in an attempt to boost an otherwise lack-luster public reception to the new model year Cougars. This production model closely followed the design of the original show car and was initially offered in four special colors: white, bright yellow, bright orange and bright blue metallic.
Historical information on the 1969 Eliminator is somewhat murky, making it difficult to determine exactly what was offered and when it was offered.
However, we do know that, initially, three engines were available with the Eliminator option package. In addition to the base 351 Windsor 4V, there was a four barrel version of the venerable 390 GT/Marauder engine and the Cobra Jet 428 engine, with or without ram-air induction.
Late in the 1969 model year, the gutsy Boss 302 engine also became available in the Eliminator. While the Boss 429 also appeared on some Eliminator option lists, this engine is only known to have been installed on two 1969 Cougars, the drag racing cars of “Dyno” Don Nicholson and Eddie Schartman.
While the new Eliminator option package had to share the introduction spotlight with the first Cougar convertible, it more than held its own with bright colors, graphics and high-powered rock & roll engines! Move over pony cars, Eliminator is here! In total, 2,250 Eliminators were produced during the 1969 model year.
For 1970, the new Cougars showed up in dealership showrooms with a redesigned split, vertical grille more reminiscent of early Cougars, and a slightly different tail light treatment. A new base engine was also announced, the 351 Cleveland, but short supplies resulted in many standard Cougars receiving the 1969 Windsor 351.
The Eliminator option package entered its second year with bolder graphics, a black hood scoop and a new slogan: Password For Action! The 300 (gross) horsepower 351 Cleveland 4V became the 1970 Eliminator’s base engine.
While the 390 CID engine was dropped from the Cougar’s engine option list, the scrappy Boss 302 and pavement pounding CJ 428 were carried over from 1969 as optional Eliminator power plants. The Boss 429 was also on the option list again, but there is no record of one going into any 1970 Cougar.
Even though 1970 Eliminator option package production (2,267) was up slightly over the 1969 figure (2,250), the end was near. As 1970 faded into history, unfortunately, so did the Eliminator. Drastic changes were occurring in the auto industry and muscle cars were not exempt.
Pollution regulations, escalating insurance costs and high gas prices were the major contributors to the demise of the American muscle car. When the 1971 Cougar was unveiled, it was an entirely different Cat and the Eliminator had been eliminated.
Photos courtesy of Ford Motor Company, “Dyno” Don Nicholson, Jeff Trainer, and TCCN.