Junkyard Find: 1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
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!
Isn’t this your year to join the cat set?If you like these junkyard posts, you’ll find 1,700+ more of them at the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.
Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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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.

  • Sobro Needs moar Roots.
  • RHD Questions? None, no, not really. Interested in some random Hyundai? No, not at all. Yawn.
  • Formula m Alfa-Romeo had the great idea to unveil my all time favourite car at the world expo in Montreal. Never built or Sold in North America. The called it the Alfa Romeo Montreal. Never even sold in North America.
  • RHD Nice little car. Give it comfortable seats, price it very competitively and leave the Alfa Romeo script on the grille. We need a smaller, cheaper electric car, and this could be just the thing to bring AR back. Heck, rebrand a variant as a Chrysler, so that potential buyers actually have something to look at in the showroom. Give it a nice long warranty. The wheels are great, hopefully the rest of it will follow through.