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Originality Abounds: 1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7

Seeing this 1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7 made me think of its virtues vs. those of its crosstown rival, the Pontiac Firebird, both new market entrants in 1967. And of course, there’s the inevitable comparison between the Cougar and its corporate cousin, the Ford Mustang. This much I know, I have always appreciated the first-generation (’67 – ’70) Cougar more than either the Mustang or the Firebird, especially the ’67-’68 version – more on that to follow. Today’s find is claimed to be an all-original, one-owner car, and that sounds like a good start. It’s located in Seattle, Washington and is available, here on craigslist for $19,500.

Back to that Cougar/Firebird comparison. As previously stated, both were introduced in ’67 as upscale versions of the Mustang and Camaro, respectively. I clearly remember the Cougar’s introduction, but not the Firebird’s. To my eyes, the Cougar didn’t look like a Mustang while the Firebird seemed more like a Camaro wearing a Pontiac nosepiece.  The Cougar didn’t offer a convertible until ’69 while the Firebird went with a drop-top right out of the gate. The Cougar used a longer wheelbase than the Mustang (111″ vs. 108″) but Firebird stayed with the F-body 108″ stretch that the Camaro utilized. Cougar said no to six-cylinder engines while Firebird embraced its OHC unit – pretty heady stuff for a late-sixties domestic. Finally, the Cougar employed standard Ford engines while the Firebird was Pancho all the way – no Chevy small blocks allowed. So, both manufacturers employed similar as well as different characteristics in their pursuit of market share.

Looking at this XR-7, the upscale Cougar, I don’t really see much Mustang – certainly not in the front end where hide-a-way headlights were the order of the day. The concept of a long hood/short deck is obvious but that’s about it. The seller tells us that this Merc has always been garaged and well cared for and it looks it. The finish is aged but still presents well and there’s no sign or crash damage, parking lot mishaps, or rust. It’s nice to see the original wheel covers still in place – those were so often tossed in favor of something more sporting wheel-wise. The exterior appears to need nothing.

The interior is not so fortunate. The seats are a combination of leather and vinyl and the leather portion looks like an English smoking parlor that has moved to a rough part of town. Perhaps the leather portions can be rejuvenated but they look like they could be beyond repair. As for the rest of the environment, it all checks out. The dash, instrument panel and gauges, door panels, and center console show well with a carpet that reveals some completely expected and typical fade.

The seller informs us that, “the car runs and drives great” but tells us nothing about its mechanical specifications. The VIN isn’t included so that can’t be decoded for engine determination but my vote is that the powerplant is the standard XR-7, and new for ’68, 210 gross HP 302 CI V8. The seller mentions that the shocks and front “tension rod” (the strut rods for setting the caster?) bushings have been replaced. Making the rear wheel connection is a three-speed Merc-O-Matic automatic transmission. Of concern is this car’s mileage, it is stated as being 164K miles so I imagine that Windsor V8 may be starting to exhibit some effects from all that wear. While the engine may not need a rebuild immediately, it would be something for the next owner to keep in the back of their mind.

Back to that one owner item, unless the seller can prove that he bought the car new, I run with the assumption that he picked it up from the original owner and is now flipping it. Documentation is included so that matter should be easily put to rest. If I had my druthers, I’d take this Cougar over a similar Mustang, or a Firebird, or a Camaro for that matter, and I don’t consider myself to be a Ford guy – certainly not in the truest sense. I just like the look of this generation Cougar and the originality aspect of it is reassuring. That said, that mileage would have me a bit concerned, how about you?


  1. Nevada1/2rack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
    It’s a workable project and nice to have a Cougar at a car gettogether than all the SS clones and Yenko wannabe’s-unless it’s a Yenko Stinger tribute!
    Drive it then fix it as needed.

    Like 15
  2. Driveinstile Member

    I still remember as a little kid seing the sequential turn signals. That was huge for a little car crazed kid. I still think they’re great. I agree that these didnt look much like a Mustang. They always looked more upscale The early Cougars are definitely my favorite.

    Like 26
  3. Concinnity

    At least with that mileage, you know the car has been used, and the bearings and seals won’t have dried out.

    Like 13
  4. Thedge

    In 1968 My father surprised our family on Easter Sunday bringing home a brand new Cougar. Orange with a black top. My mother was not pleased…

    Like 20
  5. DrD

    It does share one thing with the Mustang…that awful floor shifter! You would think the designers could come up with something a bit more luxurious for the Cougar. But l guess its easier and cheaper to use what you got, its in everything from a Mustang to a Pinto!

    Like 3
  6. Sniperfox

    My 68 XR7 had the 302 4V engine. Not an earth shaker but very responsive for what it was. I loved the design and the interior. Definitely a step up from the early Mustangs and base Cougar as far as luxury.

    Like 4
    • David Nelson

      I have the same engine in my 68 xr7. I have no desire to upgrade as it is more than adequate for me as style over speed.

      Like 1
  7. R.J. Rains

    Friend had a ’68 Cougar GT factory 390 4 speed, he added a cam and 428 heads, close ratio 4 speed and headers, ram air shaker hood (factory from a mustang) and five spoke cragers… would pop the front wheels off the pavement the first two shifts. That’s the Cougar I remember…

    Like 6
  8. John Phillips

    I thought that obnoxious energy absorbing steering wheel center ran for more than just ‘67. Is that the correct wheel? My aunt had a ‘67 with the 289 2v and I thought it was a Mustang hauling a bunch of dead weight. Pretty, but not sporty. I thought Ford did what they did best with the Cougar: took a great idea, added 400 pounds, four inches of wheelbase and some trim and then multiplied it all next generation. Park an original Falcon or Comet next to one nine years later. Same for t-birds. Bigger, heavier, bloated. Finally, the Cougar grew into a mini LTD.

    Like 5
    • DaveK

      ’67 was the only year. That is the correct steering wheel for a ’68.

      Like 5
    • David Nelson

      I hated the looks of my 68 steering wheel in my xr7 so much I replaced it with a 67 one!! Adds some much-need bling and sportiness to the rather stark xr7 interior.

      Like 3
  9. Timothy Phaff

    13 to 15k. It needs a lot to take it to a show or drive it. Full resto would be double plus of what it would be worth after the resto. Nice stater Cat.

    Like 0
  10. Mountainwoodie

    I had a ’69 Cougar convertible in college among my many sequentially owned rides. It’s only fault was it had a slushbox which is a death penalty offense in my narrow view of the auto world :)

    That said, nothing like a drop top and the frame was fairly stiff on the curves and of course the wind in the hair routine can’t be beat.

    Amazes me what beaten up cars bring or asked even if they have a deco package, like the XR-7..

    Ah well…………love the Cougar profile

    Like 0

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