21,000 Original Miles: 1986 Mercury Cougar

I’ll admit: I’m looking for a car to use as my first “flip.” Like so many others, I’d love to make a buck or two on a cheap car that needs minimal work, and with a friend who works for Ford as a master tech, a late-80s Mustang SVO or Thunderbird Turbo Coupe are on my radar as potential buys. Why? Well, I feel like there’s some potential upside to these cars as Gen Xers start seeking out the high-performance vehicles of their youth. While I wouldn’t target a car as nice as this ’86 Cougar here on eBay, other bidders aren’t dissuaded from raising their paddles – although, the reserve remains unmet.

I also wouldn’t pursue a Cougar at this trim level as it’s the more softly sprung version that prioritized luxury over performance. It must have been damn comfortable, too, for the one female owner to stick with it all these years. The color combination is pretty much the standard-bearer for a retiree living in Boca Raton, and the near-perfect cosmetics with all the typical dealer add-ons – wire hubcaps, mudflaps, landau roof, and I’m sure a Rusty Jones sticker in the window – pretty much confirms this belonged to a senior.

With just over 21,000 original miles, this Cougar is in practically new condition. If you told me it was brand-new, I’d have a hard time not believing you given the plastic still draped over the carpets. The dash is in perfect condition, as are the wood trim inlays and plastic surfaces. The seats show no signs of use and the light-colored door panels similarly show no signs of soiling or other damage. The list of features include power seats that still work.

Under the hood is the preferred 5.0L V8, paired to an automatic transmission. The seller notes that this is a Northeast car, used to go to church, the grocery store, and the shore house in New Jersey. Despite the location, the only rust is underneath with some typical surface traces on the suspension and other exposed bits. Otherwise, there’s plenty of evidence here that indicates the Cougar lived in a garage and was used sparingly, with maintenance records to back it up. Find a better one (or, find a tired Super Coupe and sell it to me.)


  1. Brad

    Nice car. Some will want it, most won’t. Performance from the V8 wasn’t too bad, but this is a cruiser, not a performer. As for Generation X – depends on what side of the scale you’re on. Having been born in ’70, and growing up around cars from the 70s & 80s, I can tell you there wasn’t much to pick from in terms of true performance. Instead, I tend to gravitate towards the land yachts of the mid 70s. They can be still found in great condition, and are still affordable. Wouldn’t mind a Mk1 GTI, but they’re practically unobtainium, and go for big bucks when they come up for sale. There are other cars I wouldn’t mind that tend to follow the same trends as the GTI. Anyway, getting back to this Cougar – very nice example, but I’d pass it over. When I think Cougar, I think of the first ones from the late 60’s to the early 70’s – highly desirable, and can command high dollars, too. The crazy prices keep me away from the late muscle cars that I recall as a kid.

    Like 4
    • Superdessucke

      True. How many of the Golden Girls are still alive?

      • Ralph

        Only one, Betty White is the Golden Girls Highlander…….

        Funny thing is, the second I saw this champagne Cougar, the Golden Girls theme is what was playing in my head…..

        “Thank you for being a friend…….”

        Like 5
    • Brad

      My Dad bought one new in ’86, an XR7 with the pucky 3.8 6 banger, FULLY loaded. Never smoked in, always garaged, even at work. Really nice car !

      Like 1
      • Rich Lee

        i have the same car now. with just under 40000 miles.

  2. PaulG

    Nice Cougar, will make someone a nice cruiser.
    The seller’s items for sale runs the gamut, an amazing inventory…

    Like 8
  3. Bakyrdhero

    This Cougar is a breath of fresh air. A true plain Jane. They used to be everywhere and they were really nice cars. As a Gen X’r myself (1980) the Cougar I would look for is an 87-88 XR7 5.0 with the monochrome bumpers and turbine wheels. Those were nice looking cars. My friend had one like this featured car when we were teens. It really was a comfortable ride.

    Like 5
    • Miguel

      I wouldn’t call it a plain Jane. The car does have power windows and probably a few other options, like the V8.

      Thank whoever it doesn’t have the V6.

      Like 3
      • TJohnson

        As another fellow gen-xer, circa 1980, I find most cars from the 80’s through the late 90s to be cheaply built, with genuine plastic parts! In the eighties the cars were slow and there new electronic systems were unreliable. I much rather own a vehicle from the seventies on down.

        If I have any advice for the author, it would be to stay away from that 4 letter f word. As a fellow flipper I have learned that there are some guys on this site that think most cars should be sold for next to nothing. And don’t even think about making a profit! That would just be a disgrace to the hobby.

    • Lance Platt

      Really nice survivor from the Disco Era. Perhaps it wasn’t so special in it’s heyday, but today it’s a rare gem. Cougars were discontinued. Mercury brand was axed. Personal luxury competitors we’re dropped from lineups. V-8 engines are rare. Like a time machine on wheels.

      Like 1
  4. chebby Staff

    Contrary to the 57 Chevy on mags, this with the 5.0 would make the ultimate sleeper.

    Like 5
  5. Jaston

    The earlier models starting back in ’83 were classy. Lots of vinyl, plenty of charcoal gray and muted fabrics. …. That “Cat” symbol even lit up in some places !

    Like 2
  6. TimS Member

    I had an ’89 Cougar and absolutely loved it. And yeah, this looks like an old person’s car. But I haven’t been 19 in a long time so it wouldn’t hurt me. More remarkable for its condition than what it is, but still sticks out for not following today’s formula of being silver, black or white with the charcoal interior.

    Like 2
    • AndyinMA

      Amen; the current color situation is awful. Most dealer lots are a sea of non-color.

      Like 5
  7. KevinR

    Dad had an ’84 Cougar, charcoal gray with red vinyl interior, V8, no vinyl roof but with the wire wheel covers (factory, not dealer added). I switched out the original tires for some 70 series whitewalls which put a little more rubber on the road without my parents noticing. Not a bad driver but nothing to rave about either.

    Oh, the plastic on the floor in this example is not *STILL* draped over the carpets. Every used car detailer in this area puts that stuff down when they clean up a car. I’d bet it’s been down less than day or so before the pics were taken.

    Like 4
  8. Paul Hudson

    I’ve had a lot of experience with these cars. It should have a digital dash too. I had a New 1985 T-Bird I traded after 3 years and 90K miles. I liked it and it was mildly loaded with Power windows but not power locks. It was dark Academy Blue with blue interior. My brother had a more loaded 1986 Cougar. You cold actually get a T-bird with manual windows and no A/C. My 85′ was $11,200 new. Later I had a 1986 Turbo Coupe. I loved that car it was a 5 speed manual and felt very sporty. I loved the turbo whistle. It was fully loaded Silver and Gray. I kept that to 200K miles. All of these cars were comfortable and perfect sized. The mileage on the V6 was 20-25 MPG the Turbo 4 was just as good if not better. The weak link on the V6 was the TFI ignition module and both car had window motor issues that was actually the nylon gear not the motor. I’d gladly buy one today but make mine a T-Bird with the V8. It can take all of the fox body Mustang hop up parts and could be a real sleeper. On second thought I think I’d go for a Mark VIII LSC.

    Like 7
    • Ralph

      The base cluster in these and the Thunderbird was a digital speedo with analog gauges and no tach, the LX Thunderbird and whatever the next rung Cougar was, LS maybe? Had a full digital cluster with a tach and maybe a trip computer.

      Like 2
  9. Bakyrdhero

    Yes, most of these had the digitial gauges I thought, and car gods help you if it was a sunny day and you had sunglasses on and wanted to read them.

    Like 1
  10. DN

    I’ve noticed a lot of dealers, esp on eBay, will line the carpets of used cars with that same plastic. Even on carpet less than pristine as we see in this Cougar.

    Sometimes in lieu of missing floor mats or to conceal wear/stains or just simply added protection.

    Like 1
  11. lc

    My 84 Cougar LS-3.8L that I got off a trade for my moderately lifted 85 Jeep Wagoneer-2.8L, 5spd. The Cougar is a nice driver; comfortable, gold in color, tan interior, etc. I took off the wire hubcaps, and put on the starburst hubs from a 80-82 Cougar which look a lot better to me. It doesn’t have that 1/4 vinyl top which I don’t like anyway. All electric windows, mirrors, door locks, and driver seat work. Premium sound switch and automatic antenna switch are not operable probably due to the installation of the after market stereo. The automatic antenna still goes up and down when the stereo is turned on or off. And it has the courtesy side lights that come on when the turn signals are switched on, and the lights are on. It’s not perfect, but a driver. It has a little over 9k on odometer, but it’s fair to say that it is 109k miles for sure.
    There are two for sale in Denver Craigslist – your pick – a red 84 for 3k or a blue 86 for 1.5k, and both are 5.0L.

    Like 1
  12. Bob C.

    The 1983 restyle (like this one ) was a big improvement over the 1980 to 82 Cougars and Thunderbirds IMO. A breath of fresh air.

    Like 2
  13. Grumpy

    Nice car. 5.0 is a bonus, I never liked the rough feel of the 3.8. I see a massive oil leak. The Y pipe is covered. Could be the rear intake gasket.

    Like 1
    • W9BAG

      I don’t see a massive oil leak. I see a bit of oil weeping from somewhere.

  14. W9BAG

    One of my favorite body styles of the Cougar/Thunderbird. My Dad bought a new ’85 LS. Fully optioned, including the moon roof. It had (unfortunately), the 3.8, but it must have been a good one. No head gasket problems. This is a beautiful car, and I really like the color combination. I would replace the wheels with the Ford turbine wheels, and that’s about it. Happy motoring to the next owner !

    Like 1
  15. T Mel

    Wire wheels? Factory. Landau top? Factory. Dealer add-ons? Wrong. I would suggest to any writers on this site, to not make claims about details of cars you’re not super familiar with.

    Like 2
  16. Daniel Sherrill

    Did this ever sell? Interested – a higher trim level, exact duplicate colors of my first car.

    • Rich Lee

      i have the same car now. with just under 40000 miles.

      Like 1
      • Daniel Sherrill

        Is it gold/tan like this one? If so, interested in selling?

        Like 1
    • Rich Lee

      my 86 cougar has under 40,000 miles. it has the 3.8 liter engine. it was owned by an older couple. im the second owner. it does not have the landau top. it has very minimal rust. it was undercoated by zeibart in the day. im sure this car was garage kept most of its life. it is a sandy gold color with a rose tinted overcoat. tan interior. real clean.
      the bad: digital speedometer has a bulb out. and both window track rollers need replaced. thats all. whats your offer?

  17. lc

    Who knows? I just sold my 84 Mercury Cougar LS for a whopping $700 bucks. It ran very good, and the engine looked very clean and original with the 3.8 Essex. The only thing was it had some blemishes on the body and interior. And the one that I sold had the same color exterior and interior like the featured one here – Sand Beige.

    Like 1
  18. Rich Lee

    dan sherrill. it is forsale email me your contact to richlee63@yahoo

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