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Concept Car of the Week: Mercury El Gato (1970)

Fri, 24 May 2013

Of all the brands that marked American automobile history, Mercury had never been the most popular or the most loved, which ultimately led to its demise in 2011 when Ford chose to terminate the brand. To be fair only a handful of Mercury models are worth remembering: the 1950 Mercury Eight iconic base for custom cars, the 1955 Montclair, the Mustang-based Cougar, the Marauder X-100, the evil Cyclone Spoiler. However one of their coolest creations is fairly unknown mostly due its short concept car life: El Gato, in Spanish translating as "The Cat".

The Cougar never had a fastback version, which was reserved for the Mustang. El Gato illustrates what a fastback Cougar might have looked like, as Ford's ultimate weapon to compete with GM's GTOs and Chevelles and Chrysler's Mopars.

Designed in the middle of the muscle-car era, El Gato is obviously loud, oversized and heavy looking. But come on, it's 1970, you have a moustache, a pair of brown aviators, and a flowery shirt revealing a golden chain on your hairy chest – an overpowered muscle car is the absolute must-have. The metallic lime green paint just transformed it from desirable to irresistible.

Based on the 1970 model year, El Gato features a fairly similar body side to the Cougar, with a strong feature line leaping forward, shaved door handles and a more protruding nose. Chrome bumpers were coming to an end and the rolled front and rear pans were a bold innovation towards a sleeker and more futuristic design.

A '69 Mustang provided the roof, which was then chopped and integrated into the body along with a shorter and more raked windscreen. As a result the cabin appears undersized, emphasizing the large dimensions of the beast.

The tail is very clean, with a large red strip forming the tail lamps, and is crudely interrupted by a racing-style fuel filler-cap. Two square exhaust pipes were unusually placed in the center to let the V8 breathe out. It sat on deep dish 16-inch three spoke wheels with a set of specially designed Firestone LXX Number 1 radials.

Despite being very appealing to the public, Ford never really produced a Fastback cougar. Shortly after its unveiling at the 1970 Detroit auto show, El Gato is believed to have been destroyed as was standard practice for most of Ford's concept cars.

First seen Detroit auto show 1970

Your author, Flavien Dachet, is a UK-based, French-born car designer. You may know him as the purveyor of KarzNshit, a photo blog that if isn't already in your bookmarks, certainly should be.

By Flavien Dachet