Model Year Info
Fox Cougar Convertibles
Page Revised: 10 May 2019
Mercury stopped producing the factory Cougar convertible in 1973. After that, no other Cougar left the factory as a convertible model. But as always, the aftermarket tends to fill voids left by car companies to the point where the aero Fox-chassis Cougar was transformed into convertible form.The Cougar's new aero body style was a tantalizing prospect for a retractable roof.
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 retractable 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.
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.
This is the only known photo and information we've been able to find about the 1983 Cougar convertible.
The 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. The company recently changed names to Convertible Builders, LLC dba Droptop Customs.
The best known 1985-86 Cougar convertibles were produced by Car Craft Company in Lima, OH, in the greatest known numbers 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, as well as other GM convertibles like the Cadillac Coupe deVille and Buick Riviera), 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 to us from a former employee of the company.
Interestingly, we've discovered through the years that not all 1986-converted cars were 1986 models. Since the parts and tooling were identical to older model years (1983-85), Car Craft Company would apparently convert the older models and give them 1986 conversion numbers. This means the actual number of 1986-model cars is smaller than the 89 confirmed builds; estimates are that 80 1986 cars were produced.The best known 1985-86 Cougar convertibles were produced by Car Craft Company in Lima, OH.
Back when these cars were new, Lincoln-Mercury dealerships from all over the U.S. would send over the Cougars to Car Craft Company, the conversion was done, then the cars were shipped back to the dealers for sale. Conversion time took approximately one month. It appears that a customer could custom order a convertible through the dealership, and it's also probable that dealers could get one for themselves ("on spec") to show off and eventually sell.
Car Craft Cougar 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. The front seat belts were simply cut to make them lap belts only, which was apparently US-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.
Car Craft Company eventually became part of a larger company called Accubuilt in Lima, OH.
There 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).
There 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 XR-7 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.