Junkyard Find: 1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7


1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7 in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWith 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.

1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7 in California junkyard, interior - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7 in California junkyard, cougar emblem - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsCougar 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.

1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7 in California junkyard, instrument cluster - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsVery 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.

1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7 in California junkyard, 351M engine - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe ’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.

1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7 in California junkyard, vinyl roof - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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?

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