Power Tour Here I Come: 1978 Cougar XR-7

Every year, my Facebook account is inundated with pictures and stories from the Hot Rod Power Tour group. If you didn’t know, the Hot Rod Power Tour is a seven day, seven city tour featuring more than 6,000 vehicles and over 100,000 spectators. Taking a different route every year, the Power Tour is about as much fun as you can have on four wheels (notice I said on, not in).  Rumors are rampant that the tour will only be held for the next two years, and I really want to participate before it is too late. The good news is that I think I may have found my ride, thanks to our pal Pat L. This amazingly well kept 1978 Mercury Cougar XR-7 in Shelby Township, Michigan being sold on craigslist for an eye popping $12,500 is just the ticket.

Before you call the guys in white suits, hear my reasoning.  When I read the posts from the Power Tour gang, I hear about three constants each year.  The first is the weather.  Air temperatures are usually in the mid to high nineties, and it rains a lot.  Sometimes the storms are flat insane.  Second, the waiting.  Because the tour has gotten so big, participants often spend a lot of time sitting in their cars waiting to get into the venues at each tour stop, and we won’t even begin to talk about garden variety traffic jams.  Third, is the amount of supplies people bring.  Carrying spare parts, tools, extra fluids, and enough luggage to have a week of clean skivvies requires some square footage.

Still not seeing my wisdom?  Well, factor in that this is not Hot Rod’s Drag Week, which is a tour that stops at motorsports complexes for organized drag racing.  Your only races will be for the bathroom at each gas station you stop at on the Power Tour.  This is like one big, cross country cruise.  Now you are starting to pick up what I am laying down!  What better way to cross the country than in a luxury cruiser from the 1970s?  Everyone calls them boats for a reason.  They float down the highway, they are smooth riding, and you can be the captain every day of the week!  Brilliant, right?

Think back to what I said about the Power Tour.  You need a safe, comfortable place to wait out the weather.  Next, you need a cool and comfortable place to wait out the traffic.  Finally, you need a spacious trunk to load your necessities into.  Now, take a gander at the pictures above.  Take an extra special look at the picture of the interior of this immaculate Cougar.  Does this beautiful cat not meet all the requirements in high style?  The argument gets a lot stronger the more you learn about this machine.

The current owner’s picture must be in the dictionary under the word “fastidious.”  He has gone to outrageous lengths to make sure this car stayed perfect from the factory.  It has never been driven in snow.  The car was kept in a heated garage with no windows to let in any damaging UV rays.  The oil was changed every 2,000 miles, and its only diet has been 93 octane Amoco Ultimate gas.  The list goes on and on in the ad, but the kicker is the mileage.  It has less than 33,000 miles on it.  Just look at the undercarriage picture above.  I think he waxed the undercarriage as much as he waxed the body!

Everything in, on, and under this car is perfect, and the price reflects it. The only flaw in my plan is that it is too nice. It would almost be a shame to take a Cougar that has been so well loved on the Tour. Almost. Maybe if I swore on a stack of Haynes manuals that I would detail it properly on return, the car gods would grant me a special dispensation for at least one Power Tour. Just think of what a pleasant week it would be, floating from city to city in one of these magnificent land yachts.

Anybody want to partner up and go halfsies on this mocha marauder and seven day tour?  Special discounts given for supermodels!

Fast Finds


  1. Todd Zuercher

    Love it! Sounds like a great plan. Make sure the AC is blowing cold. I had some Bronco buddies drive theirs this year and they said it got pretty hot and sweaty at times. Based on the car in the background in the photo, I’m guessing this seller really has a thing for these 70s boats.

  2. Jaymes

    Like everything about this

  3. King Al

    Nice car. Not my most favorite colors. Would be great for a tour w/ new tires.

  4. Chebby

    I like your dream Jeff, but that there is a mediocre car, albeit in nice condition. Greedy seller too. “It’s absolutely perfect….but needs tires and exhaust….dealers, pay me first then get your profit”. Sure, they can turn around sell it for $25K.

    This brown beast is a Power Turd, and if you’ve had to rely on cars from the mid-seventies you know what I mean. Cranky emissions systems, anemic power and thirsty mileage, and you’d be amazed how small that back seat and trunk are (especially with the full-size spare in there) in relation to the six-foot hood.

    If you want an old Ford for the Power Tour, that gold 67 Galaxie wagon has an unsmogged 390 and A/C too. You can sleep in the back, perfect for when it breaks down…or when you make a new friend on the tour ;-) Plus, it’s fun in a silly way, where this car is humorous in irony, for how sad Detroit had become by 1978.

    Also, those plastic hubcaps on the Cougar are from a FWD Mercury Sable….

    • Jaygryph

      Man I dunno what you’re talking about, the trunk on my 78 Brougham sedan is huge. It’s not 60’s lincoln huge, but it’s pretty cavernous.

      Power numbers are not all a car is about. These are a silly car, but they’re rather comfy on the highway and they love eating up miles that way.

  5. RoselandPete

    I love the early Cougars but am somewhat saddened as to how they morphed into Mercury’s version of the T-bird.

  6. Keith

    Mercury sales were off the roof with the 77-79 Cougar. Everyone loved the styling, the comfort, the ride, the motor, and that stylish Lincoln like grille with the cat hood ornament insignia. If I’m not mistaken, sales were equal if not better than their look-alike cousin Ford Thunderbird. Very memorable model Cougar.

    • Bill Owens BillO Staff

      Sales of the Cougar were good, but not as good as the Thunderbird; in the three year period, Thunderbird sold nearly 1 million cars:


      Cougar XR-7 only (there were also 2 door hardtop, 4 door sedan and wagon [1977 only] Cougars also but they did’t sell as well, these were equivalent to the Ford LTD II)

  7. Matt

    Great article Jeff!

  8. Scott L

    This was my first financed Vehicle when I was younger LOL Not any longer time has passed. However it was a smooth riding vehicle and quite dependable over many vehicles available new today. I don’t think there was ever a problem from the factory that costs lives resulting in a recall. I do have one question though as some of you may have the answer. Mine was dark green and I mean exterior and interior to match. Is this how they all were manufactured?

    • Bill Owens BillO Staff

      No, you could get interiors in a different color from the exterior. I’ve had 3 1978 Thunderbirds: first was black, dove gray top, dove gray vinyl interior; second was white, dark blue top, dark blue leather interior, current one, pictured below, is brown, brown top and white leather interior.

  9. Dutch 1960

    Those side shots make me realize how these cars have such a seriously short wheelbase relative to their length. The traditional corner shots hide that feature.

  10. Rick

    Like the idea but Chebby’s right. Buy that gold 390 station wagon. Way easier to work on if anything breaks, 390 parts are plentiful and easy to source, and all you need is a hammer, vise grips and duct tape to fix it. Way better than trying to trace some obscure vacuum leak from a some dried up hose way up under the dash on this cougar that shuts down your AC. Plus you can leave your wide collar plaid leisure suit and dingo boots at home.

  11. Rock On Member

    You don’t get much cleaner than this. Too bad all that effort wasn’t put into a more collectable model.

  12. LAB3

    If someone has a connection to these via a relative, life event or similar situation then it would be hard to beat this example. That aside, it’s a glorified Squaremont!

  13. Dave

    The seller isn’t really looking to sell this car, not at this price. This is the most least desirable model for an XR7. The low mileage is the only thing going for it. Ad doesn’t state which power train but will guess the 302. I owned a 78 XR7. Bucket seats, center console and power everything. Great cruiser but could not move out of its own way to save itself. Ansolute shame the correct wheels are missing too. Will take a very specific person to want this car at that price.

  14. RBatsch

    Wow…no wonder I’d completely lost interest in the Cougar somwhere in my youth. I thought this was some sort of LTD old man’s Ford…what, I still think that!

  15. Bob Erdman

    Too bad about the upper radiator hose. Must be sucking instead of flowing. Drill a small hole in the stat and that will stop.

  16. Clinton

    Meh…these were and still are blah. Way better purchases out there for less than 12.5k . This guy needs to out the pipe down as far as the price goes.

  17. Touring Fordor

    I liked the earlier ones much better.

    Was I the only one to notice the collapsed radiator hose?

  18. Peter R

    If you want to do the tour in style and comfort, buy the Benz for a lot less money even after doing the tensioners, etc. One of the best over the road cars ever made and with lots of room for three friends and their luggage.

  19. YooperMike

    Can you say, “boat eh” ?

  20. Chris

    Is a pretty toy ladies n gentlemens boy do i remember those days i had a 1979 ford thunder bird just this one ! I wish i had the money to get this one i saw one like this few years for over 16k with Lowe miles! Yes indeed pretty toy! Good old days those cars with 351 motor i had a 76 gran torino with 351 w motor nice toys! Indeed!

  21. Neil

    I don’t care if the guy was out there daily with a polishing rag . There is NO WAY that fuel tank and strap have 30 K on them, let alone the culmative years. I call BS on that !!!

  22. Bill Owens BillO Staff

    If you are seriously considering this car, I think it is a little pricey but being a one owner does make it worth more. I just bought the attached similar brown 1978 Thunderbird Town Landau in March for $4250 with 45,000 miles and was one family owned. Mine has more options but I have to admit this Cougar is probably in better shape than mine. BTW, I couldn’t find the size of the trunk on the Cougar, but the Thunderbird’s is 15.6 cubic feet and I’m sure the Cougar’s is similar in size; I would call that adequate and similar to most of today’s mid size sedans, but smaller than most 70’s full size huge car trunks would have been.

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