The Aero Cougar at 40
Still can’t believe I’m typing these words but our beloved aero Cougars and Thunderbirds are now FORTY YEARS OLD.
It’s amazing, humbling, frightening, and encouraging all at the same time.
I can tell you where I was when I first saw the 1983 Cougar in the flesh. It was around March of 1983. (The 1983 models were a partial year here in the United States and were sold to the public starting around the end of February 1983). I was 13 years old, about to finish up my 8th grade year in primary school, and it was a few months before Return of the Jedi was released.
Because of where I lived growing up, it was kind of difficult to get on an official, organized baseball team. My town wasn’t large enough for its own team and surrounding towns usually closed their borders to outsiders, but starting in 1982 that all changed when a neighboring village was short on kids. That was also a fantastic year, but turning 13 meant that I graduated from Little League (9-12 years old) to Babe Ruth League (13-15 years old). If you’re not too familiar with baseball, this means I went from a tinier field to one the size of a Major League Baseball park. It was a scarily huge jump in size. And naturally, being a 13-year-old, I was relegated to outfield duty which wasn’t really too bad but also not the first base position that I really wanted. You had to work your way up to that. I was simply happy to be on a team at all.
That was a particularly rainy spring. Lots of mud at practice, and lots of wind since we began practicing in March, with games slated for late April or early May. We practiced at the field where we’d be playing games, and that was inside a public park with a main road that circled the entire park. There were always people using the park, riding bikes, walking, and cruising on through.
That’s when I saw an aero Cougar for the first time.
It was not as earth-shattering as you may think. At the time I was paying way more attention to all the pretty girls at the park than the cars driving through there. But I remember loving the car’s shape and noted how different it was from other vehicles of the era. It stuck into my subconscious, I suppose.
Fortunately we had a pretty warm April and May. We had a lot of good games that year, and although my team was middling record-wise, it was still a great year to be alive.
I have always said that if I could go back in time to any point in my life and relive it all again, it would be the spring of 1983 for all the reasons above and then some. Almost all of my relatives were still alive and healthy. Music was just starting to get modern and wonderful. I was about to start high school which went surprisingly well. I was riding high on life, so to speak, and the Cougar sighting was just one of many images from that year which still drift through my memory banks.
I didn’t get to ride in an aero Cougar or really see one up close until my senior year, four years later, when my family went car shopping for me. But by then I was ready to jump feet first into the automotive world.
It kind of goes without saying that the Cougar’s shape changed my life in many ways. I never saw a car as more of a sculpture before. I never thought I could enjoy daily driving a vehicle like that. I never thought I’d own one, let alone several. And I certainly never thought I’d find so many people in this world that felt the same way about them like I do.
So happy 40th birthday, 1983 Mercury Cougar and 1983 Ford Thunderbird. You are the cars that started the aero revolution and deserve all the praise that you’ve earned. I own a huge debt of gratitude to you and can’t imagine life without you.