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Misc. Fox Info: Fox Cougar Convertibles


Mercury stopped producing the factory Cougar convertible in 1973. After that, no other Cougar left the factory as a convertible model. However, that does not mean that they don't exist.

The 1980's saw quite a boom in aftermarket conversions for all vehicles, beginning around 1982, because there weren't any factory convertibles of any kind for nearly a decade. This was due to poor overall car sales, a recession in the U.S. economy, and high oil prices. But savvy aftermarket companies listened to what the public wanted, found their niche and starting kicking out droptops of popular coupes. The Fox-chassis Cougar was no exception, and the new aero body style in 1983 was a tantalizing prospect for a removable roof. At least three different companies offered a convertible Cougar between 1983 and 1988, but none in large numbers. As a result these cars have become a sort of "holy grail" for Fox Cougar collectors and admirers.

We've documented quite a few Fox-chassis Cougar convertibles and while they're sometimes difficult to find, they are definitely out there if you look hard enough, thanks to the Internet. If you own one or have more information about one please contact us with your information.


1983
A
company named Armbruster/Stageway Inc. of Fort Smith, AR offered the first known Fox aero Cougar convertibles in 1983. From what we're told by a former owner, approximately 10 were built.

1983 Cougar Convertible

Left: This is the only known photo and information we've been able to find about the 1983 Cougar convertible.

 

1984
T
he 1984 Cougar convertibles were offered by Coach Builders Ltd. in High Springs, FL, near Gainesville. At the time of production, Coach Builders was converting nearly a dozen types of cars into convertibles, and even shipping them overseas. Total production of Cougar convertibles remains unknown.

Recently a person at Coach Builders was contacted and he confirmed that they do not have the records on Cougar convertible production. Also, it is believed that Coach Builders continued to convert Cougars until 1988.

1984 Cougar Convertible

Left: Along with the structurally reinforced body, all factory-installed features remained. (NOTE: The rims on this car were not factory).

1984 Cougar Convertible

Left: Note how the smaller side quarter windows are treated; they're very slim and totally unlike the factory quarter windows, a feature which also seems to be unique to Coach Builders cars.

1984 Cougar Convertible

Left: The Coach Builders windshield header design seems to be unique, as it sits lower and helps seal out water and wind. A full custom headliner and an extra-thick top with matching boot were luxury touches.

  

1985-86
T
he best known 1985-86 Cougar convertibles were produced by Car Craft Company in Lima, OH, in the greatest number of any aftermarket convertibles for the Fox-chassis Cougar. Only 89 of these rare Cats were produced in 1986; figures for 1985 are still unknown but at least 16 were made. The original plan was for Car Craft to produce around 1,500 convertibles, but due to budget and time constraints, and straying from the company's main business (limousines and hearses), production was ended abruptly after the 1986 model year. Unfortunately no conversion records of the 1985-86 Cougar convertibles exist anymore, but the production totals for 1986 have been confirmed from a former employee of the company.

Car Craft convertibles are noted for their high build quality and features. Significant body bracing, chrome windshield cap and top surround pieces, a top boot and even a heated window option are some of their trademarks. Custom sheetmetal panels were built around the rear seat area, while the rear seat itself was chopped and narrowed to fit. Interestingly, the front seat belts were simply cut to make them lap belts only, which was apparently legal at the time. Aside from the small headliner panel above the windshield, virtually everything else in the interior was left stock.

The original cost of the Car Craft conversion was between $8000-10000 US, a high number today but an extremely high number back in the mid-1980's. Relatively speaking, the cost of a new converted Cougar would exceed the cost of a fully loaded Lincoln Mark VII LSC at the time. Still, Car Craft did an amazing job converting the cars, especially when considering that it was all done with the limited resources of mid-1980's technology.

1986 Cougar Convertible

Left: The 1985-86 Cougar droptops were made from base (GS), LS or XR-7 models, depending upon what the dealers sent to Car Craft. Shown here is a 1986 LS in Canyon Red.

1986 Cougar Convertible

Left: The optional glass back window with rear defroster, as denoted by the very small visible area in this photo, was estimated to be on about half of the convertibles made in 1985-86. Also, the third brake light on 1986 models, relocated to the trunklid, was a generic aftermarket piece and is not a Ford part.

1986 Cougar Convertible

Left: This 1986 convertible has a standard plastic back window, which had a very large visible area, as seen here.

1986 Cougar Convertible

Left: Almost all of the top components—including the top itself, skeleton, motor, cylinders, and latches—are adapted directly from a mid-1980's Buick Riviera convertible. Even the weatherstripping, window motors, window switches, and related wiring are from the Riviera. All parts carried GM numbers.

1986 Cougar Convertible

Left: One of the noted features of Car Craft Cougar convertibles is the larger side quarter window, again adapted from a Riviera.

1985 Cougar Convertible

Left: The 1985 convertibles were visually identical to the 1986 ones, except without the trunklid-mounted third brake light.

1983 Cougar Convertible

Left: Interestingly, Car Craft didn't just modify brand new Cougars in 1985-86; there exist examples of 1983 and 1984 Cougars that got converted in 1986 and in fact have 1986 conversion numbers. Apparently this was an accepted thing by both dealers and Car Craft. Shown at left is a 1983 (black) and a 1984 (white) that both have 1986 conversion numbers.

1984 Cougar Convertible
1986 Cougar XR7 Convertible

Left: This automatic '86 XR7 is one of the few XR7's known to be made into a convertible. It is unknown if any 5-speed XR7's were made.

1986 Cougar Convertible

Left: Most of the Car Craft convertibles seem to have had the factory-optioned vent windows for increased wind deflection, but several have been spotted without them, like this one.

1986 Cougar Convertible Console

Left: In order to install a top switch, Car Craft came up with a brilliantly devious solution: modify a passenger-side power seat switch and make a new cover plate to denote the changes. The joystick operates the top motor, while the former seat recline switches work the small side windows. This car has the standard consolette...

1986 Cougar Convertible Console

Left: ...while this car, an XR7, has a full console. The principle still worked the same with either configuration. It is unknown if any of the Car Craft convertibles had dual power seats; if they did, either the top switch had to be moved to another location, or perhaps the passenger side switch was mounted elsewhere on the seat.

1986 Cougar Convertible

Left: A special sticker is affixed to the driver's door of the 1985-86 Car Craft convertibles and contains a conversion date and serial number of the conversion. It also states that at the time of conversion, it conformed to all U.S. laws.

1986 Cougar Convertible

Left: The easiest way to spot a Car Craft convertible is the silver brushed aluminum badge on the trunklid. Car Craft used the same badge on other vehicles it converted, mostly GM vehicles such as Cadillacs and Buicks.

  

1987-88
T
here were approximately 24 Cougar convertibles made in the 1987 model year by Coach Builders International of Gainesville, FL (presumably the same company that built the 1984 convertibles).

1987 Cougar Convertible

Left: An interesting feature of the 1987-88 convertibles is that the quarter windows are rather small and are physically attached to the roof, a great attempt to keep the "C" shape of the original windows.

1987 Cougar Convertible

Left: Viewed with the top down, the 1987-88 body style is much more horizontal around the shoulder area than the previous body style.

1987 Cougar Convertible
1987 Cougar Convertible

Left: Note the absence of a chrome cap over the windshield. The current owner of this '87, who also owns an '86 convertible, has stated on record that the 1987-88 convertibles don't have as many touches as, say, the Car Craft cars. Regardless, the cars seem to have held up quite well and are very uncommon indeed.

  

Misc. Convertibles
T
here is one known 1987 20th Anniversary Cougar convertible. It was bought brand new and the owner had it shipped to Florida on a trailer to convert the car. It was then trailered back to his home in MI. To this very day, it has been on and off trailers its entire existence and has under 50 actual miles! The owner has told us that when his car was being altered, the company was converting a 1988 white XR7 that was to be delivered to a sheik in Saudi Arabia.

While we regret that it's simply not possible to get solid production information about the 1983-88 Cougar convertibles—mainly because of the passage of time—we believe the above information to be true and relatively complete. Keep in mind it's entirely possible that there are some convertibles made by other aftermarket companies that we haven't accounted for. Still, we feel confident enough to proclaim that the total number of Cougar convertibles made from 1983-88 was roughly 200 to 250, making them legitimately rare cars indeed.

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