36k Mile Chamois Edition: 1978 Mercury Cougar XR-7

The seller of this 1978 Mercury Cougar XR-7 Chamois Edition is only the car’s second owner. He found it languishing in a Washington garage. It had occupied that spot for decades, but the seller has revived it and returned it to a roadworthy state. It might be 43-years old, but it has a genuine 36,000 miles showing on its odometer. The owner has decided to part with this classic, so he has listed it for sale here on eBay. The XR-7 is located in Portland, Oregon, and while the bidding currently sits at $6,000, this is still short of the reserve.

Isn’t it amazing the difference a bit of old-fashioned elbow grease can make in a case like this? The owner has washed and polished the Cougar, and it looks as sharp as a tack. By the late 1970s, American manufacturers found themselves in a bind. Emission regulations were strangling the humble V8, and high-performance was a phrase most people mentioned in a hushed voice. The Ford Motor Company and its subsidiaries had decided not to down-size its offerings, but they needed some way of tempting potential buyers to part with their cash. That is where the appearance packs came into their own. The 1978 Cougar XR-7 offered two such packages, and the color schemes were essentially reversed between the pair. The Midnight Chamois Edition offered Dark Blue paint and Chamois trim with matching interior upholstery, while the regular Chamois Edition reversed the exterior paint and trim combination. The original owner ordered this XR-7 with the latter combination, and it is nothing if not striking. The original Light Chamois paint shines beautifully, and it appears to have survived its years in isolation with no ill effects. The same is true of the Midnight Blue Landau-style vinyl top, which seems to be as good as new. Rust is not an issue that buyers will need to consider because apart from a light dusting of surface corrosion in a couple of spots on the underside, this Mercury appears to be as solid as a rock. Having said that, I would probably treat that corrosion before it has the chance to deteriorate further. The exterior trim shows no problems, nor do the color-keyed alloy wheels. The owner says that the glass is original, and its condition is as impressive as the rest of the exterior.

There is no other word to describe this Cougar’s interior than spotless. I scoured the supplied photos searching for faults, and it took me some time to strike gold. A tiny piece of faux woodgrain trim is missing from above the radio, but that appears to be about it. The interior is trimmed in a combination of Midnight Blue and Chamois cloth and vinyl, and all of the upholstered surfaces seem to be faultless. There is no evidence of wear or stains and no rips or tears. The plastic trim hasn’t deteriorated, the dash and pad are in good order, while the carpet and headliner look factory fresh. The options list for the ’78 Cougar was as long as your arm, and the original owner chose some good ones without going over the top. It comes equipped with air conditioning, a comprehensive gauge cluster including a factory tach, cruise control, remote exterior mirrors, a tilt wheel, and an AM/FM radio/8-track player.

By 1978, the Cougar XR-7 had been as severely hobbled by emission regulations as most of its peers. The figures tell the story pretty graphically. The engine bay contains a 351 ci V8 and automatic transmission, but that V8 was pumping out a mere 144hp. Point this classic at a ¼ mile, and it would wander through in 19.8 seconds. That was slow in 1978, and most people would consider it glacial today. In keeping with its luxury leanings, this Cougar is also equipped with power steering and power brakes. While it might not be a potent muscle car, this Mercury comes with its share of good news. After decades of inactivity, the owner has returned it to a roadworthy state. He has had all of the fluids flushed and replaced, fitted a new battery, new tires, a new exhaust, and treated the car to a complete service and tune-up. This work has borne fruit because the Cougar is said to drive as nicely now as it did in 1978. The good news doesn’t end there because the vehicle has 36,000 genuine miles on the clock, and it appears that this claim can be verified. Included in the sale is a complete set of service records from day one, along with the Owner’s Manual, various other documents, and the Protect-O-Plate.

If you trace the history of the Mercury Cougar back to its roots, you find that there was resistance to it from no lesser mortal than Henry Ford II. He was opposed to the Cougar concept, but he was eventually persuaded to rubber-stamp its production. It proved to be a wise decision because the Cougar retained its position as the highest-selling model in the company’s product range for many years. In 1978, Mercury managed to sell 213,270 examples of the Cougar. Of those, 166,508 were the XR-7. Today Mercury is nothing more than a distant memory, with the last car bearing the company’s badge rolling off the production line more than a decade ago. Keeping the name alive is important, and that task will fall to survivors like this 1978 Cougar XR-7. It is a survivor that spent too long hidden away, and it is heartwarming to see it back on our roads. It is a stunning, low-mileage classic, but is it one that you would like to park in your garage?


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  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Like Adam says, kudos to the seller for getting it cleaned up…. not what I was expecting from the in-the-barn lead photo. But one can tell from the undercarriage photos that the barn wasn’t the greatest of storage conditions.

    Yes, it’s a prime example of a malaise-era car. But it surely is an eye-catcher today. Nothing like it on the road nowadays. A ‘loud’ color scheme, inside and out, it stands out in today’s sea of black/gray/silver/white. I kind of like it, in its own 1978 sort of way. Would make a fun cruiser, and it shouldn’t cost much to acquire or maintain.

    Like 9
    • FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

      As Bob_in_Tn pointed out, this is the perfect way to present a barn find. Show it “as found” and then repair/replace what it needs to get it running and finally clean it up inside and out. The exterior presents beautifully and the interior with the blue trim is really striking. The only drawback is the feeble 351 under the hood. I’d want to improve the performance because as it sits, it just wouldn’t cut it for me. Not being a mechanic, maybe a Barnfinder would know if the original engine can be “perked up” or if an engine swap would be a better way to go.

      Like 3
    • Terrry

      If I bought this car, I would so yank the blue eyesore out from the inside and recover the seats in chamois colored leather or at least good cloth.

      Like 2
  2. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    Sorry Ford guys, I mean no disrespect, but in IMO that is the most unattractive color that I have ever seen on a vehicle. A green and yellow “John Deere” edition would even be an improvement over this. I do like the reversed “Midnight” edition though, I believe it is much more appealing.

    Like 17
    • Terrry

      This version does look much better, but those seats still have to go! I don’t remember seeing any other version than this one, besides.

      Like 3
    • DON

      The worst color of a car – ever ….Totally agree with you !!

      Like 2
  3. Kevin S of NC

    I had a 1977 Cougar XR-7 with all of the options as my first car, senior year in high school. The 351-V8 smog motor was underpowered but the car was such a smooth ride.

    Like 5
  4. CCFisher

    Somebody at Ford sure did love that chamois color. I think it was available on the entire corporate fleet in the late 70s. By itself, it’s merely unappealing. As part of a two-tone, it’s downright vulgar. Some Ford executives must have looked at that color and seen leather. I see orange, and it does not blend with dark blue in my eyes.

    Like 5
  5. Mike

    Wheels are polycasts, not alloys.

  6. Terrry

    That 351 is probably an emissions “351M”. They can barely get out of their own way but at least they ran. Also, my eyes were sailing along enjoying this car’s appearance, until they saw those seats. They hit a brick wall. My God, what were they smoking when they installed those?

    Like 5
  7. M_Wolf

    All the comments hating on the seats, and I’m over here, hating the boring, limited interior color options in more modern cars, saying “Wow! Kinda bright. At least it’s different and not all black or all gray!”

    Like 16
    • Peter

      Right! Maybe we were pimps in a former life but I’m digging the styling. Would others prefer a faux leather avocado green interior and a medium/dark brown exterior?

      Like 5
      • M_Wolf

        I’d dig a green interior, with the right color paint outside.

  8. DST1965

    I had a 78 cougar back in high school-The only positive things I can say about that thing was it had a nice ride & it went good in the snow, but it sure did like the shoulder of the road, because it had a lot of time sitting there until l could get my dad to tow me home-most unreliable car I ever owned

  9. piper62j

    The interiors of todays’ vehicles are variations of lava rock.. BORING to say the least. This XR7 in one beautiful machine and deserves to be kept in-situ. Even the exterior color differences pop! I had one of these (Not this color) and found it to be very comfortable on long trips.. Great car. This one sold for $9,900.00

    Like 2
  10. Sam Shive

    The colors make me wanna puke.

    Like 2
  11. piper62j

    Sam Shive. If the colors make you want to puke, go find a toilet bowl asap.!!

    Like 1
  12. bone

    Adam ,I doubt you read the comments , but its highly doubtful anyone ordered this “special edition” ; they were at all the Mercury dealerships and were another way to draw customers off the street and away from the competitors. I remember seeing these at the dealerships and wondering who would buy such an awful color car , but obviously some people did !

    Like 2
  13. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    That is one fugly interior.

    Like 1
  14. MrShred

    I think this is the ShamWow edition.

    Like 3
  15. sterling bottomley

    there was many in Minnesota at one time but i do not recall seeing the blue on the seats. did one have to ask for the blue seats?

  16. Glenn C. Schwass Member

    The color of the barf powder used when someone threw up in school. Disgusting as were the baby crap colored interiors that Ford had in the 70’s…Amazing that it’s still around…

    Like 1
  17. Jasper

    I remember seeing plenty of these around. Usually the blue with chamois trim.

    I mean come on folks, it was the late ‘70s! Coming from a three piece suit or one of those fluffy front, silk Dallas blouses point of view, this is right on. Kinda preppy, country club, nautical, but still plenty pimp. Stuff was like this. I actually really dig the interior.

    Like 4
  18. K brown

    One of the photos show a wheel leaning at a very odd angle, not sure what that is all about. Why did Ford bother with that nice floor console and then put the shifter on the column?

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