After growing from a large pony to a nearly full-size thoroughbred in the 1970s and enjoying increasing success along the way, the time had come to downsize the cat. Yes, I mixed my metaphors.Already established as a near twin to the Ford Thunderbird since 1977, the direction of the next-generation Cougar was no real surprise, especially since, one year earlier, a Mustang-like Capri debuted in the segment originally occupied by the Cougar.
I already featured the Fox-platform Thunderbird, and somehow gave the impression that I wasn’t a fan. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Apparently, my attempt at an honest assessment of the aesthetics of the 1980-’82 Thunderbird struck some nerves, so let me try this again.
The “Foxy Cat” was a boxy cat, adopting the overly square lines that were evident in many cars introduced in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Cougar XR-7 took a proud stance on a 108-inch wheelbase, which was 3 inches shorter than its original 1967 wheelbase.Had Ford chosen a more sporting style for the Thunderbird and Cougar XR-7, rather than sticking with the dated personal-luxury-car image that was a winner in the 1970s, the result may have been more graceful.
The new Cougar had all the requisite personal-luxury-car hallmarks: a padded vinyl roof, fixed rear quarter or opera windows (depending on optioned roof treatment), and a formal grille with an upright hood treatment. The look was completed with a vinyl wraparound strip that encircled the entire car in either black or a contrasting color, depending on exterior décor packages and body-color bumpers—which Ford loved keeping large.