Topless Show Car: 1970 Mercury Cougar XR-7 Convertible

It must be “Sell Your Rare Cougar Month” or something.  I just found another first generation Cougar and this one is quite a collector’s dream.  The owner claims that this one was an in-house order by Ford for the 1970 Chicago Auto Show.  To add to the story, it was the 51st 1970 Cougar made and it is both a convertible and an XR-7 model.  The icing on top of this big cake of awesomeness is that all of this has been documented by a Marti report.  But wait , theres more!  This rare cat is currently for sale on craigslist for just $5,000 and the seller, who is located in Tallahassee, Florida, is highly motivated to sell.

This cropped copy of the Marti Report breaks down just how well optioned this car really is.  Under the hood is a 351 cubic inch V-8 engine paired with a FMX Select Shift automatic transmission.  At the rear, it has a standard axle with 3.00 gearing.  Other options included white wall tires, a console, power front disc brakes, power steering, a stereo radio, intermittent wipers, and rallye wheel covers.  The interior was outfitted with dark tobacco leather high back bucket seats and the exterior was a beautiful deep gold metallic paint.  The convertible top had a glass rear window and was black in color.  All in all, minus the peg leg rear end, this one had some really nice options.  To be fair, the high geared rear end would make this car a good highway runner.

As usual, a good deal comes with a great deal of work needed.  There appears to be rust problems at the bottom of the door and around the rear wheel well of the passenger side.  The owner did not include any pictures of the driver’s side.  Barring some strange occurrence, my guess is that the driver’s side is in a similar condition.  Of course, especially for Ford products of this vintage, if you see rust, there is likely more that you can’t see.  The owner doesn’t address the rust issue in the description, but he does say that the car sat in a carport since 1981.  He does add that the car is all original and he has spent a fair chunk of money tracking down date correct exhaust manifolds and a proper four barrel carb intake for the engine.

The picture above, which I believe to be a digital photograph of a rather old film picture shows the car with the front clip removed.  The only thing that I see that raises a bit of an alarm is that the metal just forward of the passenger side strut looks separated for some reason.  Hopefully one of our readers can school us on whether this is normal or if it alludes to a problem of some sort.  Other than that one area, I cannot see any accident damage and the rust seems to be just surface rust.  By the way the car sits in the pictures above, the engine may be out.  It does look to be higher in the front than stock, but I would expect it to sit even higher if the engine and transmission were out of the car.  It is just hard to tell based on the small amount of information we have to go on.

The owner does a lot to push the rarity angle for the car, but I tend to look at a car from a restorer’s standpoint.  While I would not buy this car without doing a thorough inspection for rust and missing parts, this one looks to be in good shape on both counts.  Once again, it is hard to tell, but I think I see a little rust damage in the sill area.  Even so, these parts are available and not too tough to cut out and weld in new panels.  If it were mine, I would strip it back down to the bare shell, ruthlessly track down and eliminate any rust, and build it up as a great highway cruiser.  Adding Vintage Air and a limited slip rear end would be mandatory, and covering the floors and firewall with a Dynamat type insulation would go a long way to cut down on heat and road noise.

The owner has priced the car at $5,000, and I think you could probably get it even cheaper if you showed up with a trailer and some cash.  Even at that price, you have a fair amount of distance between the purchase price and what it would go for if it had a good quality restoration.   If you restored it, letting it go would probably be hard to do.  The color combination looks dynamite, and the show car story makes the car an interesting conversation piece.  To add to that, this is a car that you could really enjoy on a multi day tour.  These Cougars are comfortable, reliable, and easy on the eyes.  I know there are a lot of Cougars out there for sale this month, but this one is, at least in my opinion, the best deal of all.

Fast Finds


  1. DrinkinGasoline

    It will take a True Cougar Lover to put up for this one. Labor of love is an understatement.

  2. C Carl

    351C with a 4bbl. Big ports, closed chambers. I don’t know much about body work but this motor has potential.

  3. Stang1968

    By 1970, the Cougar was already on the second generation.

  4. Mountainwoodie

    Isnt this the larger 2nd gen Cougar? I guess no one thought the car very valuable for a very long time. Now all of a sudden what used to be something is worth five grand……sic transit gloria

  5. jmuder

    way to much work, a nice car redone, but still not worth a bunch of money. no 51 or not.

    • 455Bob

      “too” much work.

  6. RoKo

    The second generation Cougar began in 1971.

    • Mike_B_SVT

      Depends on how you define “generation”. The ’69 & ’70 are significantly different from the ’67 & ’68 model years, much like the ’69 & ’70 Mustangs are quite different from the previous years. Almost no parts are “correctly” interchangeable between a ’70 and a ’67/’68. Sure, you can make them fit, but they aren’t right.

  7. PaulbZ3

    Apparently the ad has changed. Now they want $3500 w/o the “date coded” built engine which they want to use in another project. They’ll sell the motor with the car for $2500. So you have a non-original engine or no engine “show” vehicle that needs a lot of work and or money. If the owner isn’t willing to put it right there is probably more wrong with the car that is making it costly to bring back. Check the torque boxes…

    • Bob Gordon

      The M code 351C is date code correct as well as the intake and exhaust manifolds.
      The motor that does not go with the car is the 1973/351C 2v motor that is in the car now….that motor will be used in another project. You read it wrong.
      I just spent almost $4k getting the motor professionally rebuilt by Voss Racing Engines including the cost of the intake and exhaust manifolds.
      My price is very reasonable for everything.
      Yes it needs a full restoration but is not as bad as all of you are making it out to be.
      I’ve restored 33 Classic Mustangs, 12/ 69 – 70 Cougars, 6 / 70/71 Torinos and most of them needed more work than this car.
      If you know how to properly fabricatell and restore sheet metal then none of this should scare you.

  8. Randy

    I’ve restored nearly two dozen 69-70 Cougar convertibles. This one may be early production, but that’s about it. Also, every one of the early Dearborn cars in 1970 that I have seen or owned had a 351 Windsor in it. There weren’t enough 351C engines available at the time.

    For those that might consider this car, I’d tell you that the chrome and aluminum trim for the car costs about $6000 to replace, and that’s if you have decent cores to trade. Add that to the cost of any metal work and you’re upside down in a hurry.

    It’s a worthy project, but you’d better be able to do the work yourself or REALLY like this color combination to make it worth it.


      I am pretty sure though that all 1970 M code Cougars received a 351C. I have never seen a factory 1970 351W M code engine.

      • Bob Gordon

        Yup, M code 351C 4V, Quench heads from the factory.

    • Keith

      Good info Randy. We are doing a 69 Convertible right now with what was a very rare color combination: sort of a pastel yellow exterior with jade green interior and a white top. And you are correct the trim costs is $$$

    • Bob Gordon

      None of the 12 69 – 70 Cougars I’ve RESTORED EVER cost me $6k to restore the trim/bumpers/grille.
      I’m not sure who you’re taking your parts to but they’re getting you good!

  9. Dale Davis Member

    Wow, this one makes mine look pretty good. This one we’ve resprayed with two stage. It’s a rust free, original XR7 leather, 69k mile and the 351C. Guess I’ll get on with the Marti report.

    • St. Ramone de V8

      Thanks, Dale! Nice car.

  10. Mike_B_SVT

    “The owner claims that this one was an in-house order by Ford for the 1970 Chicago Auto Show.”

    Bob doesn’t just claim this, he has documentation to back it up and presents it right there in the CL ad. Notice the picture of the Ford factory invoice, right next to the Marti Report? Near the bottom of the options list you will see “401-D-221 SHOW CHICAGO”, indicating that this car was built for the Chicago Autoshow in the fall of 1969.

    I think the hardest part with this car will be finding the correct Tobbacco colored interior pieces. Money only gets you so far when parts effectively don’t exist any more :-(

    Bob IS a motivated seller, but he is also busy with other projects. He is smart enough to realize this and is trying to make the car as marketable as possible for anyone who may be interested.

    Does it need significant work? Sure, most projects do. The difference is that most project cars were not ordered by the factory specifically for show duties.
    How will that affect the value when completed? Difficult to say, but it would sure give you bragging rights ;-)


      If you are in contact with the seller you might want to pass along to him that he could really help himself out if he included some information about the interior. There are no photos of it and other than telling us the color in the CL ad he makes no mention of what is or is not included with the car. You are correct that the tobacco color is not a common color. At one time I had a complete hardtop interior in that color, but it went to Australia several years ago.

      • Bob Gordon

        Interior needs to be restored too.
        West Coast Classic Cougars has the Dark Tobacco upholstery in stock.

  11. Rob S

    Looking closely to the pics, I noticed right away that the core support is damaged, the right front apron is toast, obviously, and the right rear apron is bent where it meets the firewall. This cat has been crunched in the kisser kinda hard! No telling what the left side has to offer.
    All of this is repairable but now the $$$$ are starting to rack up. Some detailed pics would be helpful. Maybe this is why he is so “motivated”
    Definately worth saving! !

    • Bob Gordon

      The shock tower has not moved and there’s no frame damage, yes, the core support and right front apron needs to be replaced from a small accident at one point in its life.
      I love how people think this is what’s motivating me to sell the car.
      If I had the time to restore the car it would be on a rotisserie in my shop.
      I’ve got way too many projects right now and would rather see somebody get the car that has the time to restore it back to its original condition.
      Here’s my motivation. …I’m too busy with customers cars and have no time for my own stuff….I need the space in the shop!


    To answer submitter Jeffs’ question about the right front inner fender apron, no it is not a common problem for it to look like it does in the photo above. This is a normal area where the fender aprons overlap the shock tower to find rust. If the rust gets real bad there will be a hole in this area, but it will look like a rust hole. What it looks like to me is what poster Rob S has said above, this car was hit. If you look at the seperation it looks more like a cut, not a rust hole. My guess is that that photo was taken inside a body shop, the car in the background is covered in plastic. Most likely this was the beginning of the repair to the accident damage.

    • Bob Gordon

      It was a minor accident that ripped that apron, so yes it’s seperated at that top lip.
      The pics are in my restoration shop.
      It was never properly repaired.
      The car had a 69 front clip when I got it.
      I’ve since hunted down clean rust free 70 sheet metal, that’s why it’s got green fenders and hood.

  13. Bob Gordon

    I’ve gone back in and revised my Craigslist ad. Go back and check it out!
    Hopefully it’s a little more clear for everybody now.
    It needs a full restoration other than the motor has been professionally rebuilt and ready for paint.

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