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4,160 Original Miles: 1988 Mercury Cougar

Talk about a time-warp grandma’s car: this 1988 Mercury Cougar has just 4,159 miles on the clock, as verified by its exotic digital dash cluster. The Cougar looks pretty mint all the way through, from the paint job to the interior, and while it won’t knock your socks off from the performance standpoint – especially with the 3.8 liter six-cylinder under the hood – there’s so few of these sixth generation Cougars left in survivor condition that beggars can’t be choosers at this point. The seller does acknowledge there are some signs of aging, but for $6,750, it’s hard to beat for what amounts to a new car. Find it here on craigslist and located in Asheville, NC.

The turbocharged Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe tends to get all the glory from this era of the company’s big-bodied two-door, but the Cougar was the car of choice for a comfy cruiser if your days of pavement scorching were over. Loosely translated, lots of older folks flocked to the Cougar and standard Thunderbird, which could be had with the Essex V6 like this car or the Windsor V8 if more power was needed for getting to church on time. You could get the turbocharged four that made its home in the Super Coupe, but I don’t see that option pop up too often in the plainclothes models like this.

Despite the low mileage, this Cougar doesn’t present like a time warp car. I’m not sure if that’s because the seller didn’t bother to have it detailed, or if it’s because the storage arrangement wasn’t ideal prior to the Cougar being discovered. I can’t point out too many specific flaws, but the Cougar doesn’t appear to be as fresh as you might expect for having under 5,000 miles. This listing has unwanted inheritance written all over it, with the grandson getting the car that he used to ride in as a kid but having no immediate need for. The interior features upholstery in one of the least desirable color schemes ever offered, but it matches the tan exterior perfectly.

You really can slide into the background with a car like this, if being a wallflower is a priority. It’s also a perfect getaway car, blending seamlessly into traffic, though I might find one with the Windsor engine if some level of pace was a priority. The seller claims the Cougar runs beautifully, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given the low mileage. Whether you’re looking for the lowest mileage Cougar around or simply a vintage automobile you can use every day, it’s hard to go wrong with a specimen like this. I doubt it will ever appreciate dramatically, but that’s not the point with a mass production car such as the Cougar – you buy it because of how it makes you feel behind the wheel.


  1. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    These cars still look sharp today.

    Like 10
  2. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    As Jeff points out, with its goldish-tan paint, beige interior, whitewalls and wire wheel covers, and base powertrain, it comes across as a mundane car. Still, it’s a Cougar, so it has that funky roofline. And it’s a two-door coupe, don’t see many of those today. And not as mundane as a four-door family car of the era, not that anything is wrong with them. Seems like these Cougars have all disappeared, for sure you wouldn’t see yourself coming and going. Not much money to have something different which you could even daily drive.

    Like 9
  3. jwzg

    Friend’s mother had one of these with a 5.0 in 1988. Had NO top end power, but it did have a non-Traction-Lok rear and gobs of low-end torque. I think there’s still a burnout mark on our old street from a power-braking episode almost 34 years ago.

    Like 2
  4. Jcs

    Such a rare combination of oddities of design here. To me, the dash shape comes across as odd. The steering wheel is, um, odd. The radio design is odd. Hell, even the seats just seem…odd.

    My first thought was that this seemed a good deal on an 80s coupe, but then I looked closer. That engine compartment looks flat awful for a supposed 4,000 mile car. Look how that driver’s seat bolster has collapsed, does that suggest 4,000 miles? Not to me.

    Plus its just odd.

    Hard pass on this one.

    Like 3
    • Skorzeny

      ‘You think you hate it now! Just wait til you drive it!’

      Like 2
    • Bhowe Member

      I like the odd. Not the same old standard issue styles like we have today, what will all four black or grey interiors, etc. Quiet supine ride, although low on power would still be a comfortable gentle cruiser.

      Like 2
  5. Raymond

    Stock up on thin film ignition modules and buy the little tool to change em…dosent hurt to carry a back up inertia switch…not exciting engines but mostly reliable, except for those 2 things that will, not might, will fail…

    Like 2
  6. Gerard Frederick

    This car has no eye appeal whatsoever. As far as performance go, I thInk snail pace comes to mind. The insipid colors and the overall lack of generally everything is astounding. How could anyone produce such a thing? As far as the condition goes, there are a ton more miles on this thing than are claimed – a TON! No thanks, not even gratis.

    Like 2
    • Sk8erboy

      And you know it doesn’t have those miles how?
      Love how everyone on comments page speaks like they have carnal knowledge of a vehicles information.

      Like 2
  7. Ten50boy

    If……IF….. this mileage is correct, this car was left outside and uncared for. It looks to have a lot more mileage than claimed. It’s tired. The engine has rust in all the right areas to suggest that it’s been ignored if not excessively used. Besides that v6…..a snooze fest. It’s terrible. Powerless, gas hungry…boring……ask how I know……yeah, owned numerous Ford products with the same lame drivetrain because they were cheap to buy (no one wanted them) and leave them at train stations in NY while I worked. Absolutely pedestrian and boring. Hard pass. Don’t care if it’s “rare”. Unless the thing has the turbo 4 or a v8 swap…. It’s not worth snot in my book

    Like 2
    • Gary

      I live about 3 hours from this Cougar. It’s been for sale for several months. I have a pearl white ’96 XR7, mine has the 4.6 engine. The 3.8 is famous for head gasket failure. My Brother replaced it twice in his ’88 T-bird. I pass on this one, regardless of the low mileage.

      Like 1
  8. 88T-BirdnLB

    I own an 88 Thunderbird LX with the 302 with 46k. It was stored in a garage under a dust cover for at least most of it’s life and never sat neglected for any particularly long period of time (driven infrequently but consistently). It is clean, but also not a time capsule, and nearly anything that got touched regularly shows more wear than this car. If this car were left outside for any long period of time, I’d expect that black bumper filler would be even more faded than it is, and the headlights would be even cloudier. I love mine for what it is, and was a total impulsive nostalgia buy as I had owned an 83 in high school. It seems that even though kept under pretty reasonable conditions for a 33yo Ford product, it’s basically made of paper mache today. Every electrical connection and everything held together by glue or plastic is just the slightest bit of use away from crumbling. I’m sure that’s par for the course for most 80’s cars these days, and if you’re willing to treat it like a full-size AMT model, they certainly have a personality unlike anything made today! I’d be inclined to believe the mileage, especially since the digital odometer does in fact have a 6th digit (why it doesn’t show up as a 0 when unused as the 5th does is beyond me). The digital dash has a light to indicate the cluster has been replaced as well, and as it is part of the lcd display, I’m not sure how (or why) one would bother to defeat that on a car like this. But as an owner of a low mileage (though not this low) example of one of these, I can say that at least to me, the visible “signs of aging” are very much in line with the imperfections my car has. GLWTS!

    Like 4
  9. Denny

    My wife had 3 of those and 2 T birds. She killed them all ..Wait until you have to take the whole dash out to change the heater core. 3.8 was under powered .,good looking cars for that year.. Way too much maint. to keep them going.

    Like 2
  10. Kenn

    What does GLTWS mean?

    Like 2
    • Jeff Boyd

      Should be GLWTS. “Good Luck With The Sale”

      Like 1
      • Jcs

        I accidently hit thumbs up instead of reply, much like my mis-type of GLWTS.

        That was a pretty a- hole thing to say, Gerard. Please accept my sincerest apologies for inadvertently offending your sanctimonious attitude regarding your obviously superior intellect.

        FY, AYM

        Like 5
      • Jcs


        Like 2
    • Gerard Frederick

      Exactly Kenn! Sadly some guys on this blog delight in being o so cute and write drivel in mysterious languages. They apparently don´t understand the basic tenets of written communications.

      Like 1
      • 88T-BirdnLB

        My apologies, oh wise one. I didn’t realize using a simple acronym I’ve seen here countless times to express a genuine sentiment was such mysterious drivel! I certainly hope my violation of the basic tenets of written communication don’t impede your sagely evaluation of 33 year old luxury coupes. Smh. Roflmao. Ffs! Whoops, I guess I just can’t help myself!

        Like 6
    • TCOPPS TCOPPS Member

      GLWTS=Good Luck With The Sale

      Like 3
  11. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    Don’t forget it’s auction counterpart;
    My thumbs are tired from typing all that. That’s why we have cute acronym’s to aid in our written communication.

    Like 5
  12. CCFisher

    “You could get the turbocharged four that made its home in the Super Coupe”

    The turbo 2.3 was available in various forms in the ’83-’88 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe and the ’84-’86 Cougar XR7. It was not available in other Thunderbird and Cougar models.

    Like 0

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