Junkyard Find: 1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1979 mercury cougar xr 7
With all the generations of the Cougar that Mercury sold, from the Mustang-based ’67 through the Mondeo-based ’02, which one sold the best? That’s right, the rococo Thunderbird-sibling 1977-1979 models, and most of them were luxed-up XR-7s.Yes, the Man’s Car, slathered with chrome and vinyl and menacing feline-themed badging, proved to be the ideal machine for the Disco Period of the Malaise Era, and I’ve found this well-preserved ’79 in a Northern California self-service yard.
The California sun really beats up car interiors, but the leather-influenced vinyl on this car’s Twin Comfort Lounge seats still shines with Quaalude-tinged glory.
Cougar badges may be found all over this car, though the mean-looking cat-faced hood ornament got snapped off by some junkyard shopper before I got there. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when most junkyard cars were of 1970s vintage, I grabbed a few Cougar cat badges in addition to dozens of “leaping ungulate” emblems from early-1970s Impalas, and now they decorate my garage walls.
Very few analog clocks from Detroit cars will function after about age five years, but I hooked up my $6 junkyard car-clock tester to this date-function-equipped beauty and it worked just fine. Now it resides in my extensive collection of junkyard-obtained car clocks.
The ’79 Cougar XR-7 had a 140-horsepower 302-cubic-inch (5.0-liter) V8 as the base engine, but the original purchaser of this car wanted a little bit more power to move 3,887 pounds of somewhat obese cat and paid extra for the optional 5.8-liter, 151-horse 351M V8.
The padded landau roof shows signs of sun damage and almost certainly hides catastrophic rainwater-induced rust. It sure looked classy when new, though. MSRP on the ’79 XR-7 came to $5,994, or about $22,500 in 2019 dollars. Lots of flash for not much cash!
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  • Oldschool Oldschool on Oct 21, 2019

    Who cares about how great MPG’s modern vehicles get, or how safe they are. They all mostly feel cheap inside and look bland as heck compared a late 70’s Ford product. Opening one of those doors takes some strength, because my 79 Mark V is a tank. Driving that car makes you feel important, and special. Nothing really today on the road truly makes people do a double take. With all the issues of the mid-late 70’s malaise era American cars, they at least had presence. Not all were good cars obviously, but the luxury full size RWD Fords and GM vehicles were cool and rode so buttery smooth that they put many modern vehicles to shame in ride quality and road isolation with their body on frame design. My name is deceiving, I’m not some old fart defending the classics here, but a young guy that didn’t grow up around those tanks sadly. I’m a product of the 80’s and 90’s and although I grew up around many 80’s and 90’s cars, I couldn’t stand looking at them. All so boring and small. Always did love seeing 80’s and 90’s Cadillac Fleetwoods and Lincoln Town Cars cruising on by however. All the imports didn’t do anything for me. I once wanted a 94 Acura Integra, as Acura’s was all the rage in the 90’s. But that interest waned since everyone in my peer group wanted an Integra with a GSR motor. Fast as hell, but super uncomfortable to drive on the streets where I live with all the broken pavement and potholes.

  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Oct 22, 2019

    My choice of Malaise from this era would hands down be a downsized A/G body mid size coupe with a V8 4 BBL engine. bucket seats, F-41 and rally wheels. This way you got better handling combined with decent seat comfort, enough interior room, a big trunk, reasonably attractive exterior sheet metal (in most cases), far better MPG than the competing whales from Ford and Chrysler due to being 400-600 LBS lighter and the hop up potential with these cars is endless. They can range from tepid 231 V6 highway cruisers to tarmac LS1 terrors.

  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.