Very Rare 1970 Mercury Cougar Boss Eliminator May Be the Finest Unrestored Example in Existence

Very Rare 1970 Mercury Cougar Boss Eliminator May Be the Finest Unrestored Example in Existence

Maybe if Mercury had simply called its Boss 302–powered Cougar a Boss 302, production would have totaled more than 638 units in 1969 and 1970. Mercury made 169 after production started in mid-1969 and 469 for the 1970 model year.

Instead, Mercury packaged Ford’s very special, race-bred, Trans-Am Boss 302 engine into its Eliminator series with little fanfare. On the outside, a Boss 302–powered Cougar was an Eliminator, with no special name to give away the racing motor under the hood.

For 1970, the Boss 302 was one of three Eliminator engine options, starting with the standard 290hp 351 four-barrel of the Cleveland variety with canted-valve heads. According to the Eliminator Registry, some of these MM-code 351 four-barrels were actually Windsor motors due to shortages of the Cleveland. The 428 with 335 hp, in either Cobra Jet or Super Cobra Jet tune, replaced the 390 of 1969. At the top of the heap was the Boss 302, rated 290 hp.

(In Ford’s hierarchy, Boss was a step above Cobra Jet, despite horsepower ratings. Boss was above any engine in the 1969 or 1970 Shelby Mustang lineup, as well.)
The Boss had less power and fewer cubes than the Cobra Jet, but Ford had engineered its Boss version of the 302 with special canted-valve heads to breathe at high rpm to win on racing circuits in the hot new Trans-Am series.

Mercury had fielded Cougars in the Trans-Am in 1967 and, with a very successful Bud Moore team, had almost defeated Ford’s Carroll Shelby-led Terlingua team that season.

Mercury dropped out of the Trans-Am in 1968 for political reasons. Ford almost shot itself in the foot. Cougar beating Mustang on the racetrack would not have been smart marketing. Mustang was the million-seller. Cougar was the luxury sibling with much lower production.

Therefore, the presence of a Cougar with a Boss 302 engine, which the SCCA required Ford to homologate for the Mustang by producing a certain number of units for the street, was not a necessity in the Cougar line, and might not have even been a good idea.

The engine was sitting in Ford’s arsenal, ready for installation, and Mercury was building performance Cougars on the same line as the Boss 302 Mustang. Mercury added this engine to its Cougar performance lineup for the Eliminator only.

Today, enthusiasts like Dave Wyrwas are extremely glad it did. Dave has owned three Boss Eliminators, the popular and more respectful name he and other enthusiasts today are calling an Eliminator with the Boss 302 option. A Boss label might have done wonders for this car’s visibility when new.

The street-legal Boss 302 Mustangs get respect for their racing exploits, so an Eliminator with the same engine should as well, and does in the collector car world today. There is also no performance difference from the Merc to the Ford, and enthusiasts like Dave (who is the registrar of the national Eliminator Registry) favor the look of the Cougar over the Mustang.

After seeing so many Boss 302 Mustangs, the recognition of what is essentially a Boss 302 in Cougar skin causes heads to turn and jaws to drop. A common response is, “I thought they only made Boss 302 Mustangs.”

Mercury might not have utilized the Boss name, but it did compete with sibling and rival Mustang to try to create a superior-looking muscle car. Mercury was handicapped from the get-go because, unlike Mustang, Cougar had no fastback body style. The Eliminator was based strictly on the coupe.

But what a hot car Mercury turned its coupe into with its 1970 Eliminator package! Except for rear window slats, which would not have been the same on a coupe, Mercury checked all the boxes (and some that Mustang did not) with its Boss 302.

Very visible is a deck-mounted wing spoiler with “Eliminator” spelled out in large letters. Mercury added side stripes, black hood graphics, blacked-out taillights, a blacked-out grille, a matte-black fiberglass front air dam (with a stone guard between the light covers and bumpers), and Ford racing-style side mirrors.

Mercury painted 1970 model Eliminators in one of six special colors, with the names of all the paints except Pastel Blue beginning with the word Competition. Dave’s Eliminator is Competition Blue, which is the same paint code as Mustang’s Grabber Blue. The four other colors were Competition Orange, Yellow, Gold, and Green. As with any Ford product of the era, an Eliminator buyer could special-order a custom color.

Inside, Mercury continued its performance barrage with high-back bucket seats and a Hurst T-handle shifter, Boss Eliminators being four-speeds only. Laid out across the flat-black camera-case instrument panel is an elapsed time clock and full gauges for amps, fuel, water temperature, oil pressure, and an 8,000-rpm tachometer. Clearly, Mercury outdid Mustang’s Boss 302 inside.

Dave’s 1970 Boss Eliminator came with a set of 3.91 gears in a Ford 9-inch Traction-Lok differential. A 3.25 gearset was standard, a set of 4.30s optional. Every car had a Performance Handling Package and F70x14 black sidewall traction tires with raised white letters.

Eliminator is a drag racing term, as in Top Eliminator. Dyno Don Nicholson campaigned Cougars on the dragstrip for Mercury and used the term Eliminator on the sides of his race cars.

The Mustang wasn’t the only Ford with a Boss 302. By process of elimination, the Cougar also came with this Trans-Am-bred racing engine.

At A Glance
1970 Cougar Boss Eliminator
Owned by: Dave Wyrwas, Merrimack, NH
Restored by: Unrestored original
Engine: 302ci/290hp Boss 302 V-8
Transmission: Top Loader 4-speed manual
Rearend: 9-inch with 3.91 gears and Traction-Lok
Interior: Standard black vinyl bucket seat
Wheels: 14×6 steel with hubcaps and trim rings
Tires: F70x14 Goodyear Polyglas

check out the gallery for more photos of this very rare and beautiful car:

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originally written by Jerry Heasley for