Rare Find: 1968 Mercury Cougar XR7-G

Built to serve as Mercury’s entry into the pony car market and sharing the many of the same underpinnings as the Mustang, in terms of collecting, the Cougar has never really stepped from under the long shadow cast by the more famous Ford. Yet Mercury’s “luxury sports car” was offered with a wide array of performance options through the late sixties, giving rise to several variants whose rarity contrasts with their affordability. The example here is one of the rarest: a 1968 XR7-G. It’s located in Sacramento and listed here on craigslist for $17,500. Many thanks to Patrick F for the tip!

Just 619 examples of the XR7-G were produced in 1968, with 188 of those earmarked for Hertz. To put things in perspective, 1,253 Shelby GT350 Fastbacks were produced that year in the very same factory: following the end of operations at Shelby’s Los Angeles facility, the adjustments for both the XR7-G and all the Shelby Mustangs were handled by A.O. Smith in Detroit. Legendary driver Dan Gurney provided his services in the advertising campaign, as he had for the Dan Gurney Special; however, on this car Mercury decided it would make do with only a sixth of Gurney’s last name. By all accounts, Gurney was not very involved in the design or production of the XR7 variant. This job instead fell on the shoulders of Shelby Automotive Incorporated, a corporation distinct from Shelby American which Ford had set up to manage the productions of Shelby Mustangs– which explains how both they and the XR7-G wound up being subcontracted to A.O. Smith.

From the pictures, the car appears to be sound and have minimal rust-through. Even the sun roof appears to be mostly there, though it would be nice to get a look at it with the panel retracted. The vinyl roof is long gone. Under the hood we see the advertised 390 4v, which was good for 320 horses from the factory and is one of the lucky examples fitted with the aluminum “running cat” valve covers. The body plate indicates that this was mated to a three-speed Merc-O-Matic– making this one of just 296 similarly-equipped 1968 Cougars– and while you might bemoan the lack of a four-speed, good luck finding one: there were just 14 of those made with this engine. The shot of the interior might raise some doubts about the current transmission, though, since the car is missing the wood shift handle common to all XR7-Gs. As always, careful personal inspection is the best policy. Speaking of the interior, it will definitely need a complete tear-down and extensive restoration, though everything seems to be present. This might even allow the buyer to consider adding period-correct air conditioning, which does not seem to be an option that the original owner was willing to pay for.

While not running or driving, the overall condition of this example would make it a solid candidate for restoration. Its rarity and the story associated with this version of the Cougar might even make it a paying proposition. The involvement of Gurney, the differences between this and the base Cougar (especially when compared to the Dan Gurney Special), and the Shelby connection make this a very desirable car; especially when Shelbys are mostly priced out of the reach of mere mortals. Although it definitely lacks the cachet of the Shelby Mustangs, numbers-wise it offers respectable performance, with a 0-60 time in the neighborhood of 7 seconds. All of which makes a pretty compelling argument for putting a cat in your garage.

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Comments

  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    I don’t claim to be a Cougar expert, though I do like them. I had to have Google help me with the items which make up a XR7-G. It looks like this has most? all? of the parts. Overall this ***might*** be a good candidate for a restoration. But the Craigslist ad doesn’t really provide enough info. Needs more pics, and a car like this cries for a Marti Report.

    Like 12
    • Bill

      I had an xr7 390 4v , close pattern 4 sp, that was beyond wicked, wonder if it was a g variant

      Like 1
      • CATHOUSE

        Most likely it was a regular XR-7 and not an XR-7G. There were VERY few 4 speed XR-7G cars built. Do you have the VIN for the car? Any old photos? Other paperwork or documentation?

        Like 1
  2. Ramone Member

    It’s a bit rough, but rare and has tons of potential. As a Cougar owner I’m drooling over this thing.

    Like 10
  3. Derek

    Is that another one sitting next to it?

    Like 1
    • CATHOUSE

      Yes, it is.

      Like 1
  4. Ted-M

    Very rare with the sunroof!

    Like 5
  5. Howard A Member

    Weeeeell, to most of us, there are a couple race car drivers who will go down in infamy, Dan Gurney is one of those drivers. I’m not sure our heroes will carry over to the future, “Dan who, Dale who, Eric ( Medlin) who”? I always liked the XR7, ( why they put the oil pressure gauge in front of the passenger, I’ll never know) but like Mr. Romney’s Rambler, it’s the car itself people want today, not some previous fading icon that may have endorsed it 50 years ago. While it is a great find, Cougar-wise, by the time you’re done helping the resto shop owner put another level on their house, again, just go buy one. Something like this is a big job, and fewer and fewer are equipped to tackle a restoration like this. Not to beat a dead horse here, but if this was a COUPLE grand, bring it back down to where regular folks could enjoy it, be great, but it’s already priced out of our league, and that’s a shame.

    Like 18
    • Mountainwoodie

      Seller has a dartboard with concentric circles of denominations in thousands . Had he a better arm he might have hit the $20,000 circle……….such are the vagaries of true valuation in our beloved hobby. Leaving $2500 on the table……..

      But it is a less than common variant.

      Like 1
  6. dave

    i have a 1967 rx7 390 in good shape with a lot of extra parts call 309-686-5107

  7. Don Sicura

    Too little car for too much money.

    Like 4
  8. chuck

    Too bad Ford didn’t copy Chrysler’s small side marker lights in ‘68.

    Like 5
    • DON

      I agree , I always liked the 67-68 Cougars , but the 68’s marker lights looked like an afterthought or something that should have been on a larger car ,like a Lincoln…Oh yeah, the steering wheels are awful too

      Like 1
  9. James Martin

    But it is rare! 17000 dollar rare?

  10. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Back in 1968 I was a poor young man recently employed with the Boeing Airplane Company. I worked the swing shift and everyday when going on shift another employee would just be getting off, he was the lucky owner of a new 68 Couger XR7 390 with 4 speed. It was all black and he would burn the tires as he spun donuts before leaving the plant. Oh how I envied him. He didn’t keep it long as he bought a new Cadillac the next year. By then I was able to buy a new car but I went with a Nova.
    God bless America

    Like 6
  11. tphaff Member

    Hopefully, a person with deep pockets will scoop this up and do a Concours restoration on it for this baby sure does deserve it. I’m going through a 68 xr7 gt 390 fully loaded & I mean fully loaded, all factory 4-speed Cougar and love the body lines on this. I was going to go Fastback but everyone else is so onward Cougar. Whoever buys this will appreciate the end results.

    Like 3
  12. John Yasenko

    My knowledge of these specail edition cars is limited;
    But, seems to me the cougar in the background has the side mldg kit a G is supposed to have. Grills are different to I think.
    Some had 427 V-8’s, automatics only, not many built, mayeb a W code?
    Respectfully,
    John

    • CATHOUSE

      The XR-7G did not have a body side moulding on it. You are thinking of the GTE package. Those cars received a special body side moulding that followed the lower body line. The lower part of the body below the moulding was painted an argent silver on the GTE. Above the moulding the car would be painted any regular Cougar color. The grilles are all the basically the same. The XR-7G received a special emblem on the passenger side grille, you can see this emblem in the last photo in the above article. The GTE grille was blacked out, no chrome. They also had a special bar that ran across the length of the grille. The W code 427 was a part of the GTE package. Yes they only were offered with an automatic transmission. Later in the model year the R code 428CJ was also available in the GTE. There were 3 R code GTEs built with a 4 speed, all the rest were automatic transmissions.

      Like 2
  13. Timothy Donovan

    Looking at a $30,000 + investment- the $17,500 payout. No where worth it!!!!

  14. John F Sullivan

    Drove a teal colored 67 Cougar with 390 to my senior prom. I belonged to an friend who also a REAL 65 GT350, rubber floor, spare bolted in the back with no rear seat, black side pipes, no radio, no power steering…the real deal!

    Like 1

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