Model Year Info

The 1986 Mercury Cougar

General Info  |  Options  |  Colors

Page Revised: 10 May 2019


The 1986 model year was a virtual carryover from the previous year.

Now in its fourth and final year of the first-generation aero Cougar, not much had been slated as far as updates, so the 1986 model year was a virtual carryover from the previous year. There were color changes inside and out, and the addition of a U.S. federally-mandated center high-mount stop lamp (CHMSL) in the rear window helped differentiate the 1986 models from the 1985s. The V6 and V8 models gained a larger 22.1 gallon fuel tank. Otherwise the car received very few other changes.

The 1986 Cougar XR-7

1986 Cougar XR-7

Relatively few but significant changes were made to the XR-7 model in 1986. In a switch, the 5-speed manual transmission was now standard; the 3-speed automatic was optional. Exterior mirrors were now black instead of body color. Some new exterior colors added a little spice to the XR-7's lineup, and no longer was grey the only interior color choice.

1986 Cougar XR-7 Interior

The previously-offered Oxford and Charcoal interior was no longer available for 1986. Instead, the base grey interior was a combination of a new medium warm grey called Smoke trimmed in a deep cool grey named Raven. The optional two-toned leather seats now blended in much better with the rest of the interior colors. And that wasn't the only big news: the XR-7 could also be outfitted with Canyon Red or Desert Tan interiors.

1986 Cougar XR-7 Trunk Nomenclature

An newly documented visual change to 1986 XR-7 models is the addition of the large "TURBO" badge on the trunklid, with the "XR-7" now moved up from the taillight reflector next to the new "TURBO" badge. This seems to be a mid-to-late-model year running change.

1986 Cougar XR-7 Lower Stripes

A closer look at the lower stripes on the XR-7 model.

1986 Cougar LS


1986 Cougar LS

The Cougar LS received no major updates in 1986.

1986 Cougar LS Interior - Cloth

The Cougar LS interior in Desert Tan cloth.

1986 Cougar LS Interior - Leather

The Cougar LS interior in Smoke Grey leather.

1986 Cougar SEFI 5.0L V8 Engine

Perhaps the biggest change in the drivetrain for 1986 was the upgrade of the 5.0L V8 to sequential electronic fuel injection (SEFI) adopted from the Mustang. The roller lifters were a running addition, making this the debut year for the Cougar roller block. The new parts and fuel injection resulted in an additional 20 hp, now up to 150, and greatly improved torque output. The Cougar/Thunderbird cam was ground for torque output at lower rpms—perfect for towing. Unfortunately, the Cougar/Thunderbird did not receive the same High Output (200 hp) treatment as the 1986 Mustang, nor did it get the performance dual exhaust. But at least the 5.0 became more modern. This was the only year for the SEFI 5.0 in this body style.

1986 Cougar GS


1986 Cougar GS

Like the LS model, the GS had no major alterations for 1986.

1986 Cougar GS Interior

The GS interior, shown here in Regatta Blue cloth, remained the same as the previous year.

1986 Cougar GS Base Wheel

As if the Cougar didn't have enough wheel choices before, a new basic wheel was offered in 1986 (standard on LS, optional on GS). It is officially known as the 14" styled steel wheel, but in reality it was little more than a glitzed-up full spare wheel, complete with beauty rings and a minimal center cap. Interestingly, the Mustang offered similar rims on its SSP police package.

1986 Cougar 3.8L V6 Engine

The 3.8L V6 rated at 120 hp was still unchanged from its debut in 1984. A new option for the V6 was the AOD 4-speed automatic overdrive transmission.

1986 Cougar Power Moonroof

An exceedingly rare, late-year running addition was the factory power moonroof. Scheduled production was for March 3, 1986. While all indications were that moonroof-equipped cars were produced, it's been extremely difficult to find a real specimen out in the world, since the cutoff date for ordering cars was usually around late May or early June of a particular model year. That left a window of mere weeks to order the power moonroof. It's only been recently that we've corroborated the existence of such cars.

1986 Cougar Power Moonroof

This Thunderbird has all the correct gear for a power moonroof, so we will accept it as fact. This car in particular was produced in January 1986 as a test mule, then donated to a vocational school for mechanics to learn their trade. Unfortunately the car is not in good shape anymore but it does have the unique distinction of being the first documented 1986 moonroof car we've ever run across.


Sales jumped up again for 1986, thanks to the additional V8 power, and things were definitely in full swing for the aero Cougar and Ford in general. Because of cars like the first generation aero-look Cougar, Ford now had a solid foundation for its new rounded styling and the American buying public flocked to the new shapes in droves. As pleasing as the results were, Ford wasn't exactly sitting still. For the next two model years the Fox-based Cougar would receive a mild freshening, further pushing the envelope of its aerodynamically-formed shape, and modernizing the car even more. But for 1986, the raw lines of the Cougar remained the style leader.

Features Unique to 1986 Cougars:
  • TURBO badge on XR-7 trunklids
  • Steel wheels (only year for this option)
  • Smoke interior color (only year in this body style)
  • Taupe interior color (only year in this body style)
  • Midnight Wine exterior color (one year only)
  • Regatta Blue Metallic exterior color (light blues were unique to each model year)

Tech Specs

ENGINES GS: 120 hp CFI 3.8L (232 cid) V6; optional 150 hp SEFI 5.0L (302 cid) V8
LS: 120 hp CFI 3.8L (232 cid) V6; optional 150 hp SEFI 5.0L (302 cid) V8
XR-7: MPI OHC turbocharged 2.3L (140 cid) I-4; 145 hp (automatic) / 155 hp (manual)
TRANSMISSIONS 3-speed automatic (C3) - XR-7 only, optional
5-speed manual (T-5) - XR-7 only, standard
3-speed automatic (C5) - V6 models, standard
4-speed overdrive automatic (AOD) - all V8 models, optional on V6 models
BRAKES Front: 10.0" vented disc
Rear: 9.0" drum
SPECIFICATIONS Wheelbase: 104.0"
Overall Length: 197.6"
Overall Width: 71.1"
Overall Height: 53.4"
Cargo Capacity: 14.6 cubic feet w/mini spare; 13.2 cubic feet with full spare
Fuel Capacity: 22.1 gallons (GS & LS); 18.0 gallons (XR-7)
Passenger Rating: 5 (4 with full console option)
CURB WEIGHT GS: 3,083 lbs.
XR-7: 3,169 lbs.
HOW TO SPOT ONE 1986 Cougars had flat taillights, new interior, new-style grille, and a third brake light in rear window.
RECALLS Cougar XR-7 4-140 2.3L SOHC Turbo Safety Recalls
1. 87S36 SEP 87 Recall 87S36 Fuel Line Retainer Clips

Cougar XR-7 4-140 2.3L SOHC Turbo Emissions Recalls
1. 93E45 SEP 94 Recall 93E45 - Catalyst Replacement

V6-232 3.8L Emissions Recalls
1. 91E14 MAY 92 Recall 91E14 Catalyst Inspection/Replacement - 49 States
2. 91E03 JAN 92 Catalyst Inspection/Replacement Emissions Recall 91E03
3. 90E88 SEP 90 Recall 9OE88 Catalyst Replacement, 49 State
4. 89E83 DEC 89 Recall 89E83, Emissions Control Modifications
5. 89E77 AUG 89 Emissions Recall 89E77 Emission System Modifications
6. 88E73 APR 89 Recall 88E73 CAT Convertor and Y-Pipe Replacement

V6-232 3.8L General Recalls
1. M56 FEB 88 Heater and Engine Bypass Hose Replacement - Program M56

V8-302 5.0L Safety Recalls
1. 87S36 SEP 87 Recall 87S36 Fuel Line Retainer Clips

V8-302 5.0L Emissions Recalls
1. 89E79 DEC 89 Recall 89E79, Emission Control System Modifications


Production Breakdown

  • 135,904
  • 129,400
  • 6,504

GS + LS Production

XR-7 Production

Note: We do not have separate breakdown figures for the GS and LS models as of now.