Rare M-Code 4-Speed: 1970 Mercury Cougar XR7

The Mercury Cougar was a car that very nearly didn’t happen, and it must have been a relief for Ford Management when the vehicle sold far beyond their initial expectations. Apart from a brief break during 1998, the Cougar soldiered on in one form or another through until 2002. However, the 1st Generation cars like this 1970 Cougar XR7 tend to grab the attention of enthusiasts. This is especially true when the vehicle in question is in excellent condition. That describes this one nicely, and it represents the chance for an enthusiast to slip behind the wheel of a classic that is being offered for sale with No Reserve. Located in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, you will find the XR7 listed for sale here on eBay. The bidding has been set to open at $21,000 in the winner-take-all auction. There has been no action to this point, but 65 people are watching intently. I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder Tommy T-Tops for referring this beauty to us.

This Cougar has spent its life in the dry New Mexico climate, but it seems to have reaped most of the benefits that this can offer with few of the penalties. The original Deep Gold Metallic paint still shines beautifully, while the White vinyl top presents well. There is no evidence of the sort of UV damage and baking that can be the down-side of life in the sun, which suggests that this is a car that has been well cared for. The owner points out that it isn’t perfect, with a few minor marks and blemishes. These are hard to spot in the photos, and it seems that they would be considered acceptable in a survivor-grade car. The big news here is the lack of rust. That is where the drier climate pays dividends because the Mercury is claimed to be 100% rust-free. I can’t see any evidence of external issues, and I’m quite happy to believe the owner’s claim on this. The trim and chrome shine nicely, while that unique grille with the hidden headlights looks perfect. The glass shows no signs of defects, while the original wheels look pretty good.

While it was based on the Mustang, the Cougar was perceived and marketed as a more luxurious alternative to its cousin. This XR7 reinforces that perception by having seats that are upholstered in Medium Brown leather. That’s where we find one of the very few interior flaws because the covers on both front seats show splits and other deterioration. It isn’t earth-shattering because replacement covers in the correct material and pattern are easy to find for around $350. The dash pad has some hairline cracks, and there are several options available to address these. The buyer could choose to attempt to repair the damage using a product like Polyvance. It’s a fiddly process, but anyone with an eye for detail should be able to achieve a good result. Glue-on covers are also available for $150, while reproduction pads sell for about $450. The rest of the interior presents well enough that I would almost certainly choose the last option. There is a wear mark on the glove compartment door, and some wear on the wheel rim, but the rest of it looks very nice. Everything inside works as it should, except for the clock (surprise!). The Cougar is fitted with its original AM/FM stereo radio, but I’m surprised that the original owner didn’t choose to tick the box beside air conditioning on the Order Form.

The Cougar might have been slightly heavier and more luxurious than the Mustang, but it could still offer impressive performance if the owner chose the right specifications. In this case, the Mercury was ordered with the 351-4V V8, backed by a 4-speed close-ratio transmission. The competition suspension option also should provide better handling than you might expect in your average Cougar. With 300hp on tap, the vehicle should be capable of launching through the ¼ mile in around 15.1 seconds. A Mustang with an identical drivetrain combination would complete the same journey in 14.9 seconds. Still, when you consider that the Cougar carries an additional 305lbs due to its more luxurious equipment and trim, the figure stands up exceptionally well. There is plenty of good news here and not a lot of bad. It appears that the Mercury is numbers-matching, and the engine is in good condition. When it is cold it can smoke slightly and be a little bit stubborn, but the owner suggests that the carburetor might need a rebuild. This is reinforced by the fact that both of these issues disappear when the engine has some temperature on-board. The clutch also chatters when the pedal is about ¾ out, suggesting that a replacement might not be far away. However, it is said to run and drive well, with no other vices or issues.

This 1970 Mercury Cougar XR7 is a rare treat because the Marti Report suggests that it is 1-of-108 built with this drivetrain combination. Its condition is a long way above average for an original survivor, and it wouldn’t take a lot of time or money to push it to the next level. To a certain extent, the Cougar has been overlooked by some enthusiasts who have a Mustang in their sights. That also tends to make them a tempting alternative because buyers have the chance to get more for their money from a Cougar. The owner quotes some NADA valuations in his listing, and I generally tend to treat those with caution. Sometimes they can be a long way off the mark, but they seem to be pretty close in this case. Given its originality, condition, and specifications, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the bidding sprint beyond $30,000. I do find the lack of bidding to this point to be slightly puzzling, although maybe some of those people watching the listing are waiting to drop a last-gasp bid. That could be a wise tactical move for anyone who has designs on this classic. Would you wait, or would you submit a single bid to see if it gets a reaction?

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Comments

  1. Steve Bush Member

    I always liked these and this one is apparently pretty nice. But perhaps the seller should have fixed the relatively minor issues mentioned here and/or lowered the opening bid to a more reasonable number if he wanted a quick sale.

    Like 11
  2. Ray

    The clock in my 1970 xr7 convertible just needed a really good cleaning and oiling and it started working. Definitely worth the effort. The 4V Cleveland and 4speed should make for a fun drive.

    Like 18
  3. Steve R

    Nice car that can be used “as is”, with no need for a restoration. The buyer will likely be a Mercury or someone that is into real “survivor” cars from this era who will want to make their own decisions as to what areas of the car they want to address. The price is reasonable, good luck trying to find another car comparable in condition for the same price.

    Steve R

    Like 6
  4. JoeNYWF64

    Nice!
    “Needs 99 octane or higher?” Maybe a typo.
    Didn’t know you could get a tach w/o aux gages.
    Manual shifter seems out of place in this luxury car.

    Like 1
    • Mitchell Gildea Member

      I think it looks awesome. Executive hot rod I call it

      Like 11
    • Skorzeny

      Joe, to some like me, an automatic is out of place in *any* car. Love to see the manual in this. You actually have to be awake to drive it.

      Like 21
    • Knightomite

      The old cougars never really were a “luxury” car , just a step up from mustangs. People that wanted a luxury car , bought Lincolns and Cadillac’s. But the manual transmission is a plus in any sports car..luxury edition or not.

      Like 2
  5. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    Looks like a nice car but as Steve Bush commented, the seller should have addressed the clutch and carb issues if he wants top dollar. Any potential buyer taking it for a test drive will probably be disappointed with a chattering clutch and a stuttering engine. The 351 Cleveland is a great motor and the four speed is a big plus though the lack of an A/C is a little disappointing. I’m sure this car is worth decent money but the new owner will be faced with putting more money into it to address these issues.

    Like 5
  6. Bob_in_TN Member

    Nice car, interesting, not commonly seen. Period-correct colors. Don’t see these with four-speeds very often: only 108 1970 XR-7’s with this engine/transmission combination. I too would have thought this would be an easier sell if the mechanicals and upholstery had been sorted out.

    Like 8
  7. Skorzeny

    Joe, to some like me, an automatic is out of place in *any* car. Love to see the manual in this. You actually have to be awake to drive it.

    Like 6
  8. Connecticut Mark

    Nice car , just to send it out, I would rather have that AMX if I am going to pay this much money.

    Like 2
    • srsalespro

      I agree. It’s 15k max ad it sits.

      Like 1
  9. local_sheriff

    Such a great year Cougar and that color perfectly balances between cool and ugly. Remember seeing another ’70 XR-7 rotting away behind a barn some 30 years back in this exact hue, only this wore the über-cool Houndstooth vinyl roof. Loved it from the moment I saw it but it was way beyond salvation

    Like 1
  10. Erik

    I have always loved Cougars as classic cars as the more affordable alternative to the more costly Mustangs and would even go as far as to say the Cougar was more refined than it’s Mustang cousin. But…Putrid urine color is suddenly okay and desirable as well? Hmmm….No. By all means I get that this car is a “period correct survivor” so it would be a shame to repaint it and nobody should change the body color as I fully support the notion as “it is only stock once” and this was how they made them and how somebody chose to appoint theirs when ordering it new. But is this all how desperate our hobby has become or how over inflated asking prices have become that a car in this putrid color and this “luxury appointment” is fetching these level of prices? In that case, lets go find grandmas old turd brown Malibu and cash in now or let’s save a late model powder blue Camry so someday our kids can hit the jackpot someday. SMH

    Like 3
  11. Mike_B_SVT

    That’s a beauty! Great details still present ~ pinch weld blackout, original trunk mat and underlay. Probably has the build sheet still under the carpet, and maybe under the trunk underlay as well.

    Keep in mind it’s 108 XR-7 hardtops in ’70 with the 351C-4V and close-ratio 4-speed. There were another 169 that had the wide-ratio 4-speed. Yeah, still quite rare!

    Really a very low option car – BUT! It was a Retail order, so someone walked into the dealership and ordered it exactly how you see it. If it weren’t for the 4-speed trans this car wouldn’t even be talked about :-/

    Also, those are not the original wheels. There’s no wheel option shown on the Marti Report, so this car would have originally come with the dog dish hubcaps and trim rings.

    As for the Competition Suspension, it was really only an option on the H and M code cars (351-2v and 351-4v). The Boss 302 and 428CJ would have included the comp suspension as part of the engine package.

    I have to wonder, was the original owner on a tight budget when they placed the order, or just going for a simple but elegant hot rod? No power brakes or steering, but upgraded to XR-7, with a slight engine upgrade and a bump from 3-speed manual to 4-speed manual. Just a few “appearance” options ~ console, vinyl top, protection package, and a radio upgrade.

    Like 2
  12. Kevin

    My 1st car was a 70 xr7 351c 2v,automatic, was a beater I limped home for $100,had big plans for it,but was a wild 17 year old,and took it out and wrecked it.live and learn!

    Like 1
  13. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Rare 4 sp in a Cougar – glad it survives !

    Like 2
  14. Mike

    I seem to remember Road & Track, Car Life, or Sports Car Graphic did a comparison in 1968 or 1969 between a Jaguar 420 Saloon and a Mercury Cougar XR7. The Jaguar came out second in the comparison so it was probably Car Life. If memory serves the Jaguar with its independent rear suspension won in that category and rear seat ingress and egress. While questionable this at least indicated a good value for the money for the Cougar at maybe 60 – 70% of the cost of the Jaguar. With a close ratio four-speed I wonder what kind of RPMs this Cougar turns at 70mph.

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