Driven: 1977-1979 Mercury Cougar XR7

I was positive this was a Ford product when I first spotted it in the parking lot of Fry’s at 19th and Union Hills. But as I walked closer to it, I began to doubt myself when I noticed the wreath on the back.

After I got a little bit closer I realized it was a Ford vehicle after all. One that I am pretty sure I haven’t seen before. I mean, yeah it resembles a Thunderbird from that time period, but something just looks odd about it. Apparently, the XR7 models like this one had special louvers on the side windows in an attempt to make people mentally associate the car with the Lincoln Mark V more so than the Thunderbird. The decorations do a pretty good job, the car looks a lot meaner and more interesting than a Thunderbird.

It’s pretty obvious what that emblem on the trunk is meant to remind people of, huh?

Of course, since it was the late 70s, the car was slower than a glacier of frozen piss. The only engine offerings I can find any mention of were a 302, a 351m, or a 400m with 134, 161, and 173hp, respectively. No, I’m not kidding. 134 horsepower in a car with a curb weight of right around 3,900 pounds. And you thought the “frozen piss” comment was a little bit uncalled for at first, didn’t you?

So yeah, maybe the car wasn’t all that fast from the factory. And maybe it’s not quite up to the mobster-sized proportions of the Mark V, but it’s definitely still something unique. If it were mine, I’d probably just pop the hubcaps off, cut the springs, scrape off the vinyl, and drop a Cleveland motor into it, but it’s cool that someone is out there keeping it stock too, because you don’t ever see these any more. It’s the first one I’ve ever seen for sure.

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About Mike Ross

I love anything you can drive. But I love it even more if it has a small block Chevy or Ford motor, a turbo, four wheel drive, is a hatchback, or was made in the 80s. My ideal car would be a combination of all of these things, and I'm working on building a time machine so I can go back to the 80's and convince Chevy and Ford to collaborate on a twin-engine, single turbo 4x4 XR4Ti/Fox Mustang/Third Gen F-body and hide one in a mineshaft for me to recover in brand new condition. Look for a blog post about it just as soon as it happens. Or maybe it already did, and I've already posted about it in the future and the internet just needs to catch up with it. Okay, my head hurts, never mind.

19 thoughts on “Driven: 1977-1979 Mercury Cougar XR7

  1. Hi there Mike! I’m Julie and that’s our car! LOL I remember seeing you hovering around the car on our way out of Frys that day! How funny! Now I know what you were doing! Thanks for the nice write up about the’s my husband’s pride and joy. We bought it a couple years ago from a nice guy who had it at a car show. It’s pretty on the inside too, all original white leather. All the parts on the car are still original too. It’s hubbies dream to fix it up really the meantime we drive it around town and really enjoy the ride. It’s such a pretty car, isn’t it? We’re honored you like it too! HUGS, Julie (the girl in the big red car)

    • Hi Julie! Thanks for responding with the information about the Cougar, and for being a good sport about seeing your car on our site. It’s cool that you guys are taking care of it and I’m happy to hear it’s got a 351w.

      Next time I see you guys around I’ll be sure to say hello!

    • I had a 1977 XR7 with the 351 CID Windsor engine, and C5 auto trans, and full instrument cluster package. Dove gray. I bought a 1979 XR7 with the 400M engine in it. Trans was bad, so I shoehorned an FMX into the beast. Maroon, with the basic idiot light cluster. I loved my 1977, but sold the ’79 not long after getting it roadworthy.

  2. I had a 78 that looked identical to that, that had really cool factory spoke wheels and WHITE bumper guards that matched the side mouldings ( there were actually three up front and were smaller; I thought they brought out the “pointiness” of the nose better)…. anyway, it was one of the prettiest and nicest riding cars I ever had, however, it was a mechanical nightmare, engine and transmission problems galore! (all before 50K miles) …. anyway, I still have fond memories of it… that particular red with the white trim made for one gorgeous-looking car. Too bad my particular one should have left the factory in a lemon yellow. 🙁

    • Wow! That sounds like a rare option! I’m not surprised to hear of your troubles though, the late 70’s in general were a poor era for automotive construction and reliability. If you have any pictures of your ’78 that you’d like to share, I’d love to feature them on the site. Thanks Ed!

  3. My first new car was a 1979 Mercury Cougar XR7 fully loaded. It had the 302 engine, I really wanted to 351 but couldn’t find one. I drove that car for 140,000 miles and I used it to tow a boat. The transmission did go out around 80,000 but that was the only real issue I had with the car. Back in the 70’s you had to be more aware of your car in order to get good service. We did oil changes every 3 months or 2,000 miles. Cars had to be winterized, antifreeze, thermostat’s, tune-ups where something we did every fall or 12,000 miles which ever came first.

    • Thanks for comment, Jim! Do you have have any old pictures of the Cougar? I’d especially love to see a picture of it towing a boat!

  4. Like your article on the Mercury Cougar. I have a 1978 Cougar, the model is a midnight blue chamois edition in very good condition in England.

  5. I just got a ’77 xr7 and I think it has around 138,000 miles on it. There’s a few problems that I can fix pretty easily but is there anything that’s notorious for breaking on these cars that I should be aware of?

  6. Does anyone know how many 1977 xr7 were sold with the bucket seat shifter on the floor with full gauges. I have one and have never seen another

  7. In 1988 I bought a well maintained cougar just like the one in the photos. It was a boat and we felt so safe driving that thing. My friend put a giant dancing bear, ala Grateful Dead on the hood before she sold it to me. Would never have done that myself, but it really added character, driving down those Detroit freeways.

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