Survivor Cat: 1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7

While the Ford Mustang has proceeded in a predictable direction over the last 57 years (except maybe for the Mustang II hullabaloo), its corporate cousin, the Mercury Cougar went all over the board, ultimately ending up somewhat the way the Mustang did during its aforementioned brush with shrinkage (’74-’78) – more on that later. But right now, let’s take a look at where the Mercury Cougar parked itself in 1979 with this nicely preserved XR-7 example. It is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is available, here on Barn Finds Classifieds for $6,875.

Briefly and starting in 1967, the Cougar was related to the Mustang but presented a longer, and more upscale bearing. That trend continued and in ’71 the Cougar grew right along with the new “BIG” Mustang. At this point, Cougar straddled the worlds of both personal luxury coupe and 2+2 pony car. Where the Mustang got downsized for ’74, the Cougar was upsized, now reaching into the realm of intermediates such as the Mercury Montego and the Ford Torino. It was the introduction of this third-generation Cougar (’74-’76) that the connection to its pony car origins was severed. The jump to full-on intermediate happened to Cougar in ’77 as it completely replaced the Montego and now offered both a four-door sedan and station wagon body styles. This fourth-generation Cougar lasted through 1979 and saw a final year production volume of over 170K copies. Of note, the last of the Mercury Cougars, the eighth generation (1999-2002), got considerably down-sized through the use of the combined Ford Probe/Mazda MX-6 platform, and like the Mustang II of a generation earlier, relied on a four-cylinder engine as its standard prime mover. There were no more four-door sedans or station wagons with gen-eight, just a single three-door liftback coupe. After 2002, no more Cougar, and after 2011, no more Mercury.

The seller refers to this ’79 Cougar as a “pretty plain-jane car for what it is” which I believe undersells it a bit. It is a more upscale XR-7 trim level which got a prospective buyer louvered opera windows, a padded landau top, nicer interior fabrics, faux inside wood trim, 15-inch wheels, a rear stabilizer bar, and additional brightwork trim. And considering this Mercury’s 42 years of age and 98K miles of use, it still presents nicely – a strong finish, bright chrome, and no signs of rust or crash damage.

Powered by a 133 net HP, 5.0-liter V8 engine, the seller states, “Runs & drives great” and then further suggests, “Mechanically, I would drive her anywhere!” The engine appears about how you would expect a 98K mile, 42-year-old V8 engine to look. It is mentioned that the cruise control unit works but not the A/C. The sole transmission available in ’79 was a three-speed automatic.

While bucket seats were an option for the XR-7, the original owner of this Cougar specified a blue, cloth, split-bench seat environment. From what can be seen, the upholstery, dash pad, and carpet appear to be clean and belies this car’s mileage. The interior shadows prohibit getting a good look at the instrument panel but there’s no reason to suspect any issues.

I’d call this Cougar a survivor and it perfectly encapsulates late ’70s Detroit motoring, a time that was on the precipice of big change. Passenger cars the size of this Cougar, that hadn’t yet been downsized, were in for a substantial shrinking starting in 1980. Get ’em while you still can, right?


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  1. Stevieg Member

    There actually is a thin Crack in the dash pad. It does not show up well in the pictures, but it is there. Otherwise the interior is very nice.
    It really is a nice car. I just bought it, took it straight to a muffler shop for what I thought was a bad “Y” pipe. Turned out to be both catalytic converters. Brought it home after the exhaust repairs, & it doesn’t fit in the garage lol. I don’t want to leave it on the parking slab all winter, so up for sale it goes.

    Like 7
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Thx for the update!


      Like 1
      • Stevieg Member

        No problem.
        For the record, I took a bunch of underbody shots at work today. If anyone is interested, I am happy to provide them.

        Like 4
    • Mark C

      Slick old Cougar and at a fair price. Where do you find these rust free cars in Wisconsin? I live in Missouri and it’s tough to find. If I had one more garage bay! GLWTS Steveig

      Like 3
      • Stevieg Member

        Thank you Mark.
        I have been very fortunate in finding rust free cars here in the rust belt. How do I do it? Patience & luck lol.
        I have bought some of them in my collection in Arizona & New Mexico.
        I will be rebuilding the collection after I resettle in the southwest in a couple years. I’ve been selling them off to take care of financial responsibilities, but this one I just bought. I wanted to keep it, but I have no way to get it up north to my cousins barn in Hayward Wisconsin without driving it through salt. I am unwilling to do that. Otherwise it will sit on my parking slab all winter, also not a good option. So I guess I gotta sell it.

        Like 4
  2. David G

    Seller mentioned the car has A/C but it doesn’t work. The A/C doesn’t work because it does not HAVE A/C to begin with. Reminds me of an ad a couple of years ago on craigslist in southern California. A gentleman selling a 1971-’72 Ford F-250 truck mentions that he had his regular mechanic, a 30+ year master ASE certified technician “performed a thorough check of the entire factory A/C system, and found that the buyer would just need to have a simple re-charge done for it to blow ice cold again.” You guessed it, it is a NON-A/C truck. Never had it to begin with. Sure wish I was a buyer with some free time to go and check it out. I would tell the seller let’s go see this “mechanic” you speak so highly of to have the “A/C” recharged. If it blows cold when he is finished, I will pay you the full asking price for the truck. Would be worth saying just to see the look onn the seller’s face when caught in a huge lie.

    Like 4
    • Stevieg Member

      It has the dash vents for air conditioning. It has the dashboard controls for air conditioning. It was originally equipped with air conditioning, but it currently does not work. So instead of being rude and trying to discredit me, ask questions first, schmuck! My phone number is in the ad. Call me and talk to me in person instead of on a public forum. Or maybe you just prefer to hide behind the screen & keyboard & not be a man lol.

      Like 19
      • David G

        Wasn’t trying to be rude, apologize if it sounded that way. Your Cougar may have had a dealer installed A/C system at one point in time (as you mention it having four A/C vents in the dash), but it was not manufactured with factory air. It does not, in photos provided, have any A/C components in the engine compartment. Not even a condenser. It is a beautiful car in near pristine condition, it just never had a factory A/C system.

        Like 4
      • Stevieg Member

        If you weren’t trying to be rude, then I apologize…because I was lol.
        That being said, I would think that if it had the vents & controls, it is probably factory a/C. Someone probably removed the components over the years. No hard feelings on my end, I hope none on yours. I guess missing components could be why it doesn’t work lol.

        Like 4
    • Stevieg Member

      Time for Stevieg to eat crow lol. A/C inop becausequipped equipped lol. David G was correct. I never actually looked. Guy I bought it from told me it is inop.
      I called him after I noticed that the controls are not for an A/C car & asked him why he told me inop. He said he thought it had climate control & it didn’t work.
      So David is correct & I taste toe jam because I put my foot in my mouth lol. I apologize to all, especially David.
      Happy holidays to all!
      By the way, I am dropping the price by $1,000 to asking $5,875. I really want the car off my parking slab before snow flies.

      Like 2
  3. Peter panassow

    Shrinkage??? 😄😄😄 that killed

    Like 2
  4. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    That looks like a jewel, Stevieg! Someone will be getting a very nice car here.

    Like 3
    • Stevieg Member

      I just wish I had somewhere to put it for the winter.
      Thank you Scotty, she is a sweetheart!

      Like 2
    • Gary

      I agree, it’s a beautiful car. One of my favorite cars. Was my Triple white ’75 Cougar XR7. Just like the one Farrah drove in the commercial. It was peppy, quiet and rode like a Lincoln. After 10 years I sold it to a good friend. Her idiot Husband destroyed my car in less than 6 months. Still makes me mad, just to think about it, Your Cougar is really sharp Sir.

      Like 1
      • Stevieg Member

        Thank you Gary!

    • Stevieg Member

      I don’t have room.

  5. Stevieg Member

    And I think there would be zoning issues with that here

  6. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member


    Not to mention the price! $900 is a little pricey for me at least.
    Why don’t you search for a garage to rent. Or for that matter, rent a “you store” space and put the car in it.
    Just trying to give you some options if you really don’t want to sell it.

    I am obviously a GM person. Never really cared for FoMoCo offerings, except maybe a few Thunderbirds and Lincolns. Back in the early to mid 80s I was working at a Buick dealership and they had a really nice red 1979 Cougar on trade in I considered buying. Real pretty car, although I don’t really care for red cars. Long story short I ended up with a 1974 Buick Apollo with a V8. Tire smoking car.

    • Stevieg Member

      Here in Milwaukee, a garage or a “U Store It” type place would both easily top $100.00 a month, if in a decent part of town. I would rather just sell it & buy something else a hair smaller, or just wait until I can get up to my cousins barn in Hayward & buy something I really like.
      Actually, this was strictly an impulse buy lol. I still am in a financial spot where I should be selling more off yet instead of buying lol. My fault for buying something I can’t even park lol.
      I would LOVE to keep it. But between parking & realizing how bone-headed it was for me to buy it at this stage, it just needs to go.
      Someone make me a reasonable offer & come get her!

  7. Mike Saucier

    Bought a silver blue with white top and interior rare 351 and it was a great car. Unfortunately, at only about 4 months old a drunk idiot on a 2 lane bridge crossed over the center line and basically hit us head on and totalled it. That long hood saved us from serious injury. A friend with a body shop repaired it and his wife drove it for several years after.

  8. Keith D.

    I grew up loving the Cougar. I had an 88 XR-7 5.0 Black/Grey leather, the 77-79 Cougar was a cool car. But an XR-7 without the Mercury sport turbine rims?? Sure this is not the base model Cougar?

    • Stevieg Member

      It is an XR7. The base Cougar had different tail lights and it did not have the fake vents in front of the rear quarter windows. That is pretty much all that makes this one any different than a base Cougar lol.
      Whoever bought this new would have been better off getting a base Cougar & adding a air conditioning or something, just to make it more comfortable.

  9. Keith D.

    @ Stevieg Oh okay, but still wondering about the caps instead of the rims. As well as the possibility of a center console shift normally offered on the XR-7 as well. Your assurance that it’s an XR-7 is valid because you own the vehicle. I was never a Cougar aficionado, but it sure has the look of a Base model.

    • Stevieg Member

      I agree, it is a very basic car. Back when this car was made, floor shift was an option. Air conditioning was an option. Even the far more common rally wheels was an option. Go find a sales brochure for these. They are for sale cheap on eBay. The sales brochure for the 1979 Cougar will highlight all of the differences between this XR7 & a base Cougar.
      One of the easiest ways to tell it is an XR7, besides the tail lights being a completely different shape, is the XR7 badging on my car lol.
      Badging can be glued on. The differences in tail light shape can’t be changed nearly as easily. Do a Google search of a standard 1979 Cougar. You will see the difference.

    • Stevieg Member

      So I just went & Google 1979 Cougar myself. I didn’t see 1 picture of the base Cougar tail lights lol.
      So, whether you believe me or not, it is an XR7.
      At this point, I have other things in my life to deal with & worry about other than the bizarre combo of equipment on my Cougar.

      • Keith D.

        Gotcha…Good luck and Happy Holidays!

  10. Stevieg Member

    The Cougar has sold!

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