Custom Cougar (1968)

  Muscle car madness of the late '60s was in full swing, and Mattel's timing to enter the diecast
market couldn't have been better. The decision to market realistic rods that emulated some of
the most popular muscle cars of the day, and the use of ground-breaking high tech wheel bearings
would revolutionize the diecast industry. These cars were eye-appealing in their dazzling
"spectraflame" paint finishes, and boy were they FAST!!

Almost half of Mattel's starting line-up included cars which were patterned after some of the
most popular street rods and cruisers of the era. These scaled down and souped up miniatures of
real 1:1 cars are referred to as "Customs" by collectors.

The Custom Cougar, based on the 1967 Mercury Cougar, was a highly detailed rendition of the
real life car. The Mercury Cougar was a creation borne out of the success of the Ford Mustang.
Mercury, a sister company to Ford, implemented many design elements of the Mustang into the
Cougar, while establishing a more luxurious automobile. Luxury aside, a Cougar equipped with
a 390 c.i. engine could run with the best at 16 seconds in the quarter mile.

 The Custom Cougar held true to it's real life counterpart with features such as a "raked" stance,
mag wheels and opening hood to reveal a finely detailed 8-cylinder engine. Also noteworthy are
the beautiful body trim lines and exceptional front grill and tail light panel detail. Front bucket
seats came standard!


The casting was produced for approximately two years and was manufactured at both the Hong
Kong and US factories. HK-made Cougars include a much more detailed base than US-made cars,
but other than subtle nuances, the general body shape is the same.

Depending on the exterior color, Cougars came with the following interior colors: HK cars
included white, silver, olive-brown, orange-brown, and light blue; US cars included white,
champagne and dark brown. Steering wheel colors follow the typical pattern used on other first
year castings in that HK colors will be black, while US colors will match the car's interior color.
Windshield hues also conform to the typical pattern of HK tinted blue and US clear.

To simulate the vinyl roof found on some 1:1 Cougars, some Hot Wheels Custom Cougars are
found with a flat black painted roof. HK Cougars in spectraflame olive, gold, and the highly elusive
grouping of red, aqua, green and purple received black roofs. No US Cougars were adorned with
a black roof.

A feature found on some early Custom Cougars is a nose cone or "tooth", painted in the car's
body color. This "painted tooth" variation can be highly elusive and will add a premium to the
selling price, but buyers are cautioned to use discretion, as these can easily be faked.  Production
colors were limited to blue, orange and lime (see the Color chart for a full breakdown), and the
process of applying this extra spot of paint was halted early on, most likely in an effort to cut
costs and manufacturing time.

A "painted tooth" HK Cougar in orange.

Early HK Cougars also came with either two or four deep dish wheels (with the rarer "bubblegum"
style deep dish wheel showing up on most).  As shown in the 1968 collector's catalog, these cars
were available only in blue and orange, and they were the only two colors produced with matching
interiors (light blue and brown, respectively).

An early HK Cougar with rounded "bubblegum" deep dish wheels.

Four different bases were cast during the Cougar's production: two for Hong Kong and two
for US cars.

HK early or preproduction base without raised text bar or "Hong Kong" printed in rear section.

HK normal production base with raised text bar and "Hong Kong" printed in rear.

US early base with small gas tank.

US late base with large gas tank.

Color chart

lime common
green common
gold hard to find
purple very hard to find
very hard to find
very hard to find
light blue
very rare

olive (black roof)

gold (black roof)
hard to find
red (black roof)
very rare
aqua (black roof) very rare
green (black roof) very rare
purple (black roof) very rare
lime US
very hard to find
blue US
very rare
blue HK
very hard to find
orange HK

Mike Fiamengo's awesome aqua US Custom Cougar!

A gold US Custom Cougar.  Does it look familiar?  (Courtesy of David Thompson)

An unspun US Custom Cougar in green.

Rare red US (L) and HK (R) Custom Cougars!

Above and below: a pre-production blue Cougar with no interior.

A pair of rare "ice blue" Custom Cougars.  (Courtesy of Roy Nakamura)

A pair of "painted tooth" US Custom Cougars in blue.

A one-of-a-kind orange-over-chrome Custom Cougar!  (Courtesy of Bruce Pascal)

Antifreeze and lime Custom Cougars.

Photo & info credits: Cary Davis

Top photo contributed by Mike Fiamengo


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