XR-7 Hardtop Coupe
The 1979 Mercury Cougar was available as a base and XR-7 trim levels. The base model was available as a hardtop coupe or a pillarless hardtop while the XR-7 was just a hardtop coupe. The base level accounted for 8,436 sales while the ZR-7 was vastly more popular, with 163,716 examples sold.
Mechanical changes for 1979 included a new electronic voltage regulator, a modified carburetor, and a plastic battery tray. Other changes included modified under-the-front-bumper spoiler.
The base engine was a 302 cubic-inch V8 backed by a SelectShift three-speed automatic transmission. They came standard with power steering and brakes, rear bumper guards, quad rectangular headlamps, wraparound amber parking lamps, stand-up hood ornament, full wheel lip moldings, and rocker panel moldings.
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2016
The XR-7 models were given additional luxury amenities, body-color tape stripes, horizontal-style warp-around taillamps, 15-inch wheels, dual-note horn, and special wheel covers with Cougar inserts. They also had a padded landau vinyl roof with louvered opera window, full wheel lip, and rocker panel moldings.
There were 172,152 examples of the 1979 Cougars. Of those, 163,716 were XR-7 Hardtops. 94,633 of those came with the 302-2V engines, of which 86,925 had FMX Automatic Transmission. Of them, 3,330 were painted Medium Dark Orange Metallic. Of those, 1,265 had Chamois Vinyl Split Bench Seats. 1,126 of those were ordered with Chamois Landau Vinyl Roofs. 328 of them had AM/FM Stereo Radios. Of these, 152 were equipped with Tilt Steering Columns. 140 of those had Speed Control, of which 76 came with Power Windows. Of them, 37 were ordered with Rear Window Defrosters. 26 of those had Chamois Paint Stripes. Of these, 13 had the Appearance Protection Group. This particular car is one of those examples.
The Mercury Cougar appeared in 1967 as a sport-luxury vehicle. The muscle car era was in full swing and Mercury used a longer version of the Ford Mustang chassis complete with two doors, leather bucket seats, and V8 engines. In its inaugural year, Motor Trend awarded it their prestigious award, the Car of the Year. The Mercury brought style, sophistication, and speed. The engine options ranged from a 289 cubic inch V8 engine producing nearly 200 horsepower to a 390 cubic inch 8-cylinder power-plant capable of producing 335 horsepower and an amazing 427 foot-pounds of torque. The high performance 390 cubic-inch engine ran the quarter-mile in sixteen seconds and raced from zero to sixty in 8.1 seconds. A three-speed synchromesh gearbox was standard and a four-speed manual and three-speed Merc-O-Matic were also available, allowing for customization to suit all types of drivers and styles. The suspension was modified from the Mustang platform to include a longer rear leaf spring and an upgraded front suspension, the result was a softer, comfortable ride with a sports-racing heritage. An optional firmer suspension complete with stiffer springs, solid rear bushings, larger shocks, and wider anti-roll bars, were available for a price. If the driver preferred luxury over performance, the XR-7 package was available. This included competition instrumentation, walnut dash, leather-covered automatic transmission shifter, wood-trimmed steering wheel, and a combination of leather and vinyl seats. Just over 27,000 of the XR-7 option was ordered during its introductory year. The XR-7 option was offered for all years the pony-car Cougar was produced. More than 150,000 2-door Cougar hardtops were produced in 1967.
The success and popularity of the car continued in 1968 although sales did drop by around 40,000 vehicles. There were still well-over 110,000 examples produced in 1968. The base engine was the 289 V8 engine producing nearly 200 horsepower. The muscle-car era was heating up, and so were the available engines that Mercury was offering. A 427 and 428 cubic-inch engine became available with the 427 producing 390 horsepower and the 428 producing 335. With the 427, the Cougar could run from zero to sixty in 7.1 seconds and the quarter-mile in just over 15 seconds. The 428 was offered near the close of 1968 model year, a move that was intended to allow the buyer with customization room while keeping insurance and safety personnel content. When compared with the 427, the 428 did better on satisfying emission requirements and had around fifty-less horsepower. A performance package was offered, the GT-E, complete with the 427 cubic-inch V8 matted to a SelectShift Merc-O-Matic, power disc brakes, hood scoop which did nothing except add to the aggressive look of the vehicle, various performance and handling upgrades, and steel wheels.
The cougar changed in many ways in 1969. A convertible option was now offered, the 427 engine option was removed, and the wheelbase became wider and longer resulting in a heavier vehicle. Sales were still strong but they just barely cleared 100,000 units. Mercury introduced the Eliminator package available in blue, orange, and yellow exterior colors. Under the hood lurked a four-barrel Windsor 351 cubic-inch V8 capable of producing nearly 300 horsepower. The base engine was a 302 cubic-inch 8-cylinder producing 290 horsepower with the top of the line engine a 428 cubic-inch 8-cylinder producing just under 340 horsepower. Mercury offered products such as Weber carbs and deep-sump oil pans that amplified the performance to meet customer performance requirements. Larger brakes, sportier suspension, engine modifications, and performance products did make the car a stronger force on the drag strip but it was often shown-up by the smaller and lighter muscle cars of the day.
For 1970 the Cougar continued to grow in size. Although the size meant more interior room for the passengers, it also meant more weight. The Eliminator was still available, now with a 351 cubic-inch Cleveland 8-cylinder engine producing 300 horsepower. The 302 cubic-inch V8 rated at 290 horsepower was the base engine. A 429 cubic-inch 8-cylinder big-block with Ram-Air induction offered 375 horsepower and 440 foot-pounds of torque. With less than 4,300 convertible options sold during the 1970 model year, it guarantees their exclusivity in modern times. Although the size of the car and the available engines grew, sales did not. Just over 72,000 examples were produced in 1970.
The muscle-car era was beginning to decline due to stiff safety and emission regulations, gas shortages, and steeper insurance premiums. Mercury decided to continue the Cougar on the path of luxury with sport-tendencies, resulting in a larger wheelbase. The Eliminator package was no longer offered. The 351 or 429 cubic-inch engines were all that were offered. Horsepower ranged from 285 through 370 depending on the engine and configuration selected. 3,440 convertible were sold and nearly 63,000 combined total Mercury Cougars were produced in 1971.
In 1972 the 351 cubic-inch V8 was all that were offered. Sales were around 54,000 units with the hardtop configuration proving again to be the popular option. Horsepower was now rated in SAE Net horsepower. The Cougar produced between 168 through just over 265 depending on the configuration. The same continued into the 1973 model year.
With sales around 60,000 in 1973, Mercury decided it would be the final year for the Cougar in the 'pony' car configuration. Mercury continued to use the name 'Cougar' in various models.
Built atop an enlarged Ford Mustang chassis, adorned with luxury Mercury had become famous for, and powered by high-performance engines, the Mercury Cougar was a well-rounded vehicle. It was designed to offer performance while keeping the occupants comfortable and content.By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2007