COUGAR ON THE PROWL
1973 was a hell of a year for the American auto industry. That was the year of the Oil Embargo by OPEC that caused the first gas crisis in U.S. history. People waited in lines sometimes hours long just to be told that the station had run out of fuel. Cars built without a shred of thought to their efficiency filled the dealership lots as people flocked to smaller rides like the Beetle. In the midst of all this the car I'm featuring today was delivered:
This is a 1973 Mercury Cougar XR7 in White. The color is really sort of a cream. There was a color choice that year called Special White that was truly bright white.
From its introduction in 1967 through '73 the Cougar was the Mercury version of the Mustang. In the beginning it was a trim and athletic little muscle car, fully capable in keeping up with the fastest rides on the road if properly equipped. However by this time it was a bloated and slow yacht sprinkled with gaudy "luxury" touches like that brown vinyl roof and garish red glass medallions. The base engine was the 351 Cleveland, good for just 168 horsepower. Stomp on the gas, have some lunch, listen to the radio, and eventually you'll reach 70mph.
Take a look at that red emblem announcing this Cougar as one of the fabled XR7 models! This option package, which took over for the extra fast Eliminator option of earlier years, amounted to things like the vinyl roof, 3 spoke steering wheel with woodgrain insert, chrome rocker panel trim, etc. When the sporty option means adding weight to the car with no additional power you know you're in dire times.
At the very least these days this beast looks like nothing else on the road with it's 3 part grill and massive ships prow front end. From experience I can tell you the ride is mushy soft and handling is akin to steering a building.
That super low roofline has a bit of a gangster look though. The rear sail panel is a flying buttress style with the rear window inset a bit. The larger Mercury Marauder had this same detail with the curious addition of the trunk being painted flat black.
This is one lucky owner to still have a set of XR7-specific hubcaps! Amazingly they are available on ebay, probably because these beasts get parted out and crushed more often than restored.
Behold the peanut butter luxury of this Cougar interior! Not a single thing is missing, and it seems to have every option available. Somebody has lovingly stored this ride as it is in immaculate condition.
I love the brindle coloring of the vinyl. This is part of the reason I'm convinced this car is a near-perfect original as opposed to a well done restoration; finding this exact material would be almost impossible. The other reason is that restoring this car would cost more than the thing would be worth when it was complete. A beautiful '73 XR7 convertible just sold on ebay for $6,500!
Here is the last gasp for the Ford/Mercury sequential taillights; when you used the turn signal the inner of the 3 red lenses would light first, followed by the center and finally the outer light. They look very cool when in action, and these are well protected behind that aftermarket bumper guard.
This vinyl roof design is specific to the XR7. The standard Cougar vinyl went from the rear edge of the door glass forward, leaving a body-colored "basket handle" on the back third.
Well we'll now leave this beast here where I found it in Park Slope. Of all the cool and uncool rides I run across in NYC it's the ones like these that get me the most excited. Rare, yet not valuable, is a combination that usually guarantees you'll never see an example of a certain car. Every so often though you stumble upon one where maybe somebody conservative bought it for their midlife crisis car, storing it carefully in a heated garage for decades. Take a good look as you may never see one again!