You know, for all the sports car concepts made during the jet age, precious few influenced production cars. After all, it's one thing to design tail fins on a large coupe, but on a sports car?
In America only two really qualify as "Jet Age" sports cars: various years of the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet Corvette. That's it.
But what if Ford had produced this Cougar 406 concept prototype? Would it have ushered in a totally different line of American sports cars?
I don't know…but I do know that it's one of my favourites from the 1960s.
The Cougar marked the start of a serious motorsports push for Ford. Less than a year later, negotiations between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari would end in Ford's determination to humiliate the Italians in racing. It's hard to tell whether or not Ford wanted to produce their own sports car line or simply buy out an existing manufacturer…like Ferrari.
Aside: You'd think that the 1955 Lincoln Indianapolis by Carrozzeria Boano Torino paved the way for the Cougar nearly 10 years earlier, but this isn't necessarily the case. A sketch is online of a similar-looking concept car, by J.R. Samson dated from 1954. Labeled "1955 Ford D-523," it's the best evidence that Ford had been mulling a sports car for quite some time.
Even though the roofline is sporty and the gullwing doors are impressive, anyone familiar with the Mercedes-Benz 300SL will wonder how Ford managed to engineer such a large door opening without compromising rigidity. In the Mercedes-Benz, a tube frame chassis with large sills for strength makes for a smaller door opening and more difficult ingress / egress for the less coordinated among us.
For that touch of luxury, the doors were electrically operated, too.
Ford was right to see the threat of sports cars from Europe—even if their only answers were the Thunderbird, GT40, and Mustang. A Cougar could have fit nicely above the Mustang and Thunderbird, taking on the best and brightest from overseas.
Other novel show car features included pop-down headlight covers and rocket-like tail lights. These details were a little bit behind the times, but let's not forget what motor was under the hood.
Oh, just a 427 cu. in. V8 engine with 406 horsepower—surely enough to put the Cougar at least 25 horsepower ahead of even the most potent Corvette.
And that's where the trail of information dries up. All part of the fun, I suppose…