On Life Number Eight: 1968 Mercury Cougar XR7

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When you start a project, it is ideal to begin with the most rust free car you can find.  Rust repair isn’t easy or cheap, and repairing severe rust on unibody cars takes skill and specialized tools.  Ideally, you need a good welder, measuring equipment, and placing the car on a rotisserie would make the job much more pleasant.  While it can be done in a home garage, the skill level and the amount of labor make the task daunting.  What if you could start with a totally rust free car, but you were basically left with little else?  This sun baked 1968 Mercury Cougar XR7, being sold on EBay in frosty Gilbert, Arizona, is currently at only $2,024, and has not hit its reserve yet.  It has as nice a body as you can find, but will the rest of the restoration be feasible?  Many thanks to Robby, the reader who found this interesting car for us.

Mustangs and Cougars from the sixties are notorious for having severe rust problems.  These unibody cars are often found with rusty floor boards, door sills, and rocker boxes.  While patch panels are available, and not that expensive, many owners tend to ignore rust until it becomes impossible to ignore.  Others pass these cars on to starry eyed dreamers with little mechanical skills who never notice problems until it is too late.  I’ve seen Mustangs that were beautiful outside and inside, but were all but gone underneath.

So, this brings us to this 1968 Cougar.  On the plus side, all the metal parts on this car are rust free (except for surface rust).  It is an XR7 model originally equipped with a 390 cubic inch V-8, and the engine was fed by a two barrel carburetor.  Furthermore, it is an X code car with factory disc brakes and the big block handling package.  It had a C-6 automatic transmission and a standard 3:00-1 rear end.  The exterior color was white and the interior was black leather with vinyl trim.  Obviously, this was quite the car in its day.

The seller purchased it as a parts car from a gentleman who had a collection of cars.  This gentleman had stripped the car for painting, and never got around to the job.  After digging a bit deeper and assessing the condition of the car, the seller determined that the car was too good to part out.  There is no information given as to the whereabouts of the engine and transmission, so I guess it is implied that you will have to find those yourself if you decide to restore the car to original.  A number of parts are included with the car, just not some of the most important elements.

The condition of the front suspension and of the car as a whole lead the seller to state that they think the 23,000 mile odometer reading to be authentic.  With the engine and transmission missing, I guess that matters only when it comes to moving parts that are left with the car.  Regardless, this Arizona car must have fine sand packed into every orifice after sitting for decades in the desert sun and wind.  Anything on the car that has a bearing surface will need to be stripped down and restored anyway.

The big story on this one is the complete lack of rust underneath.  If your intent was to build the perfect Cougar from the ground up, then this would be the place to start.  After blasting this one, it would look like a new body off the assembly line.  You would spend a fortune, but restoring a rust bucket is an exercise in financial futility as well.

With the drivetrain missing, it will never be a true numbers matching car.  The interior is completely roasted by the sun, and you could spend a small fortune in there getting it back into shape.  So, what do you do with a car like this?  Store it away and wait for a rust bucket or a wrecked car to come along and transfer parts?  Use it as the base for making the Cougar of your dreams?  Or, utilize the body as a base for a Bud Moore Trans Am tribute car?  What do you readers think the new owners should do with it?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Metoo

    I will never forget my first ride in a Cougar. A friend in th AF was giving me a ride to the base. He had just gotten it. His wife, a horrible shrew, was in the passenger seat. At one point she turned to him and said “Wicks, (yes, she always referred to him by his last name) we should have gotten a mustang”. I always figured he must have divorced her at some point.

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  2. 68 custom

    neat car when new, I guess if you had a rusty one to use for parts you would finish up with a sweet cat!

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  3. John M.

    The Cougar is the perfect foundation for a build. It’s solid and it shares the same mechanical components with it’s twin the Mustang. The only limitations for the builder is funding and the imagination on which direction to take this cat in.

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  4. Michael

    Significant project that has already passed the price point of no return. A buyer would be better of resto-modding this that trying to bring it back. Although everything underneath is Mustang, interior parts are not as readily available as the seller would like one to think. The correct repo leather interior (upholstery only) will set you back around $2k alone not to mention trying to source original dash pad, instrument clusters etc. Most of the 390 parts were shared with the Shelby’s of that era so those are not cheaper either if you were to go with a correct date code engine. This coming from someone who recently restored a ’67 XR7-GT.

    The car/options are quite rare, I would love to see a Marti-report, but like most Mercurys that do not have much secondary market value these days because they are not a… Mustang!

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    • TriPowerVette

      I’m sorry, MIchael. Exactly which 390 parts does this car share with Shelby? I am listed in the very first Shelby registry ever printed, along with my brother’s and my 1967 GT500. Try as I might, I can’t think of anything on a Shelby engine that is 390, much less ‘most’ of the parts.

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  5. Karguy James

    Too bad the body is so nice because restoring that one would be a huge money pit. The big block exhaust manifolds are worth about $350. Like he was considering doing, it would make a nice GTE donor.

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  6. Rodent

    There has been what appears to be a very nice 67 XR-7 GT on the local Craigslist for $30k for weeks. No affiliation with seller, but it seems like it would take a lot more than $30k to make the white one nice.


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    • fish56

      Wow, that is a beautiful car!

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  7. Alfie

    I agree with Michael.

    You can’t really go two ways about restoring an old car, unless you had been planning for something like this way in advance.

    You can either pay for a toasted car and spend the majority of the budget on labour, or you can start with a nice body and pay just as much in pieces, odd and ends, and god know what else it needs. Additionally, Cougars don’t bring in that much money as compared to other muscle cars. You won’t win much in the monetary department, period.

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  8. tyler

    460 big block c6 or top loader 4 speed or maybe a t56 9 inch out back with 3.73s
    repaint it white with the black interior.

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    • mike D

      460s would be easy to source ( Lincoln Marks) but it would be too nose heavy , since the likelihood of finding the ” correct” 390, is nill, a crate 351 would probably do the job. I would like it because it is NOT a Mustang would also put a 4 or 5 speed in it and if you have the bucks , a leather interior would be nice! or Recaro buckets kicking stereo system .. to keep it low profile, Merc hubcaps, or baby moons ( of course repaint or replace the wheels) black walls, good to go!

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  9. Jamie Palmer Jamie PalmerStaff

    Coyote + 6 spd. Bud Moore paint scheme. Appropriate suspension mods. A/C. Drive it!!!!!

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  10. George Soffa

    Worked for Central Motors Lincoln Mercury in Pueblo, Colorado when this was new! One guy ordered a Fire engine red 427 sideoiler GTE from Vietnam as he was coming home, so took delivery in December, 1967 ! After new car setup, I got to take one quick spin in it and it was damn quick . This barn find brought that dream back up to build a GT-E tribute but that would require the $25k a sideoiler brings today!! Another $20k to build it , at least !!

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  11. packrat

    The ideal car to pair with the one that I saw some years ago out of the north, that showed well in and out, better than driver chrome and glossy paint–until you realized that the few visible rust holes in the lower valance actually indicated the sagging floorboards and the frame were a soft, crunchy rotten mess. The interior was in beautiful shape, and the drivetrain was complete if worn–but every panel around the bottom needed the last four inches cut out, as did the wheelwells, and the frame was way too gone even as it was driveable.

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  12. Bill Owens BillOMember

    My uncle bought a red 1967 Cougar (base model) brand new and kept it about 11 years before replacing with a new 1978 LTD Landau. I mentioned to my cousin that he should have kept it and “fixed it up” (not sure if I knew the term restoring at that point), but he said it was very rusty.

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  13. Ed

    Looks like a great orig, unhit body.

    If it was only a 69 camaro body!

    This is the best way to start a project.

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  14. PRA4SNW

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