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Find Reviews by Make:The Truth About Cars | Down On The Junkyard By Murilee Martin on February 8, 2011

The Cougar name has been slapped on so many different Mercurized (Mercurated?) Fords that it gets hard to keep them straight. I never much cared for the over-gingerbreaded Mustang-based version, but the big Thunderbird-based late-70s Cougar seems properly Mercurial.I found this one in my local self-service wrecking yard, parked tail-to-tail with the Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas Press Bronco that we saw a while back. Check out that “Quartz Electronic” clock with calendar function! Sure, it probably stopped working by 1980, but I’m still tempted to buy it for my collection of vintage car clocks.Remember those weird plastic-coated “mag” wheels Ford liked so well during the Malaise Era?This one has the optional 166-horsepower 400M engine, which made a respectable 318 lb-ft of torque. It was quite thirsty, but got all that luxury moving pretty well.

And hey, Cheryl Tiegs did the ads for it!>Posted in Down On The JunkyardTagged as1970s, 1978, 1978 Mercury Cougar, cougar, Denver, Down On The Junkyard, junkyard, Junkyard Find, Malaise, Malaise Era, Mercury Cougar"Toyota Surprises With Numbers, Waits For DOT Findings""Volkswagen And The Unions: That Was Easy" Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

52 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Mercury Cougar...”

  • dswillyFebruary 8th, 2011 at 9:20 am

    My aunt had the LTD II version of that when I was a kid.It had those fake luggage straps on the trunk, good stuff.Now lets talk about the early Bronco in the background.

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  • IronghostFebruary 8th, 2011 at 9:20 am

    on the other hand, that’s a ton of engine bay you could fill with something more fun.LSx swap, turbodiesel swap… heck, a lot of fun.

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  • Educator(of teachers)DanFebruary 8th, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Sudenly I have the urge to grab some of the badges off this yacht and slap them on a Grand Marquis.

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  • Sajeev MehtaFebruary 8th, 2011 at 9:29 am

    As a fan of the “standard sized” Fords of this era, I gotta say that finding one with a moonroof is a pretty big deal. At first it was just a decently optioned Cougar, but then I saw that and went, WOW!

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  • ZackmanFebruary 8th, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I’m like an old, skipping record – I could never understand why, with so many pillarless hardtop models still available back then, why the fixed quarter windows? How much did Ford save in weight and money? As far as the car is concerned, A friend had one of those in T-Bird form and was nice unless you were in the back seat on a hot day. I preferred the 60’s variant much better. I can’t prove it, but the Fords seemed more awkward than the comparable GM cars of the same period. Still, that bright red w/white atoned for a lot of sins! Yes, they were quite uneconomical to run, too, but gas was still less than a buck a gallon.

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  • friedclamsFebruary 8th, 2011 at 9:45 am

    From the ad: “Padded tire deck”Pretty much defines 70s malaise and the decline of Detroit for me.

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  • Trend-ShifterFebruary 8th, 2011 at 9:56 am

    My ex 79 Cougar was one of the best cars I ever owned.I bought it at 13,000 original miles and drove it 110 miles a day on the rough Detroit roads for over 6 years.Later it was my son’s college car.Salt, gas prices, and college graduation finally won and I decided to sell it.Here is ebay picture when I sold it.It was still running great.Sold it for Lemons pricing.Link:http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5193690019/

    I once swapped some lower profile rims & tires. It handled really great and the car had a completely different character!But had to go back to the tall sidewalls because of potholes.

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  • obbopFebruary 8th, 2011 at 10:05 am


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  • slance66February 8th, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Learned to drive on one of these (77 XR7), and it effectively became my first car at 16.It was a pretty solid reliable car, lots of torque with the 351, if not fast.It was almost impossible not to run over 2-3 curbs a week in these things.You could not see or feel where the front wheels were with the immense and high hood, low seating position and overboosted steering.Still, you never forget your first.

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  • geozingerFebruary 8th, 2011 at 10:18 am

    By the summer of 1978 our 4 year old Mercury Montego was due for replacement. Not that it was worn out, but at the time we had the financial means to change out cars more often. My father would usually buy a new car in early February (ostensibly as a Valentine’s Day present to my mother)(and the cars were usually red, too), but the reality was the deals were much better then than in spring. He wanted to wait until the 1979’s came out, however his myocardial infarction changed all of our plans.A friend of mine in university had a 1979 Cougar XR7, which had the weirdest groan coming from the transmission. We drove that car all over the midwest (usually in one of those “road trip” spur of the moment ideas) with the tranny groaning away. It never broke or even slipped. The only time the car ever stranded us is when we pushed our luck with judging just how empty the E on the fuel gauge really was. Sad to see such a nice old car in the boneyard. I guess that’s the fate for everything, though…

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  • threeerFebruary 8th, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Reminds me of our 1976 Mercury Montego.Well, except for the padded roof…and the quarter window…and the cloth interior (ours was vinyl).But the car served us faithfully for 13 years, with hardly an issue.As my mother and father were preparing to return to Germany, my mother fatefully decided to sell it off to a local salvage yard.Naturally, about four weeks after they moved, I saw the blue bomber out on the road again!Say what you want about that car (heavy, thirsty..all of the above apply) but it ranks as one of our most trustworthy vehicles.

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  • Mike66ChryslersFebruary 8th, 2011 at 11:13 am

    My granddad bought one of these as his last winter beater, replacing a late-60s Oldsmobile after the V8 became a V7.The Cougar was a metallic plum color.In retrospect, I don’t know why he bought a 2-door.It probably didn’t work well with his bad leg.He had also never owned another Ford product in his whole life. I seem to recall it being fairly reliable, although it rarely went on trips beyond the city limits.Once it left him stranded at the mall.He got out a rubber mallet from the trunk and gave the ignition control module a good smack, started it up and drove it home.I assume he replaced the ICM at some point not long afterwards.When he died, one of the first things my dad did as executor of the estate was to get rid of that car.

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  • geeberFebruary 8th, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Ah, the late 1970s…when respectable people drove around in big, bright red cars with equally bright white vinyl roofs and side trim. And huge chrome grilles on the front.

    Now everyone drives around in grey, silver and medium metallic blue sedans and SUVs.

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  • hatumanFebruary 8th, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    The gas gauge is bigger than the speedometer.Draw your own conclusions.

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  • VanillaDudeFebruary 8th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    The reason these cars were popular is because they matched the deep shag carpeting, the dripping mineral oil swag lamps with the cherub inside, the crushed velour leisure suits with the white patent leather slip on shoes, Jimmy Carter, denim suits, Bee Gees, flared polyester jump suits, pre-AIDS, Farrah-haired buyers who knew these cars were groovy enough to keep on truckin’ to Studio 54.

    You can blame these delightful faux gothic plastic creations on our eternal need to look better than the guy driving in the family vehicle.And, you can…“Blame it all, on the nights on Broadway…”


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  • gator marcoFebruary 8th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    My wife owned a 79 Cougar when we got married back in the early 80’s. We drove away from the reception and immediately had to go to a car wash to remove some of the decorations from her “baby”. Kept it until we had a couple kids and traded it in on a minivan.The Cougar was red with the white interior, certainly not something to put messy children in. It rode like a living room couch. Poor mileage, but it was pretty reliable. Of all the vehicles we’ve owned over the years, if we could have just one back to keep forever, that would be the one.

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  • VerbalFebruary 8th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Those plastic-coated wheels were notorious for getting stuck to the brake drums/discs.Under hard braking, the heat would melt the plastic coating, which would cool and re-solidify.Later, when you tried to take the wheel off, you would remove the lugs and the wheel would stay put.Also, the center caps on those wheels lasted an average of two weeks before disappearing.Good times.

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  • doug-gFebruary 8th, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    The interior has held up well (except the headliner), Ford must have used better plastic than GM back in those days.

    Also, isn’t Cheryl Tiegs “green” now and hang with Ed Begley, Jr? I might be confusing my 70’s models.

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  • doug-gFebruary 8th, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Ford kept the exposed-shifter-tube until, what?, 1963?Really distracted from the interior in MHO.I always wondered if it was a royalties thing – as in GM might have patented the collar (for lack of a term) and Ford would have to pay to use it.

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  • autobahner44February 8th, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    New junk then, old junk now. DILLIGAF? Crush it…

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  • MRF 95 T-BirdFebruary 9th, 2011 at 2:16 am

    Back in the mid-80’s I owned the prior generation, a 1975 which was basically a dressed up Montego/Torino. A baby Mark IV. For me this was a step up from my 70 Mustang coupe which was showing it’s age w/ 200 + K on it. Quite sporty for the personal luxury segment, but a far cry from the 67-73. It was sliver with the magnum 500 wheels and typical rococco styling overkill of the era: maroon landau vinyl roof, opera windows. Though the matching maroon vinyl interior w/ buckets console and floor shift, gauge pkg made it sportier than a less stellar Torino/Montego. It was fairly reliable and the 351 was smooth and powerful w $1 and change fuel did not put much of a hurt on my wallet. I did the normal maintence but for some reason the A/C compressor blew a rod through the case so I replaced it with a junkyard one. Then the engine rear main seal started leaking which I think was a problem for some 351’s of this era so instead of fixing it (though some of those oil treatments from your friendly auto parts store tended to slow the leak)I ended up selling it for $600; roughly what I paid for it.

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  • big_gmsFebruary 9th, 2011 at 6:21 am

    Alright, maybe I (sometimes) have poor taste in automotive style, but I think this is a nice looking car for its era. I’ve always had a thing for the ’77-’79 Cougar, preferring it by a slim margin over the T-bird of the same era, which to my eyes is also not a bad looking car. I like the slightly more angular styling of these as opposed to the somewhat more rounded lines of the mid ’70’s Cougars.

    I did not know those wheels were plastic coated! Weird. All these years I thought they were aluminum alloy.

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  • GS650GFebruary 9th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Cheryl was serious material back then, the Jill Wagner of that generation.

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  • VanillaDudeFebruary 9th, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    I am old enough to have stood open-mouthed at the ugliness around me, and young enough to have believed that it was the way it was supposed to be and completely normal. I am a history addict and believe that regardless of the historical period, people don’t change and that the concept of progress is just another advertising jingo applied by crooks and liars.

    I am really glad to have lived through the 1970s unscarred. When I see the older generations and how they flounded and struggled through that period of time, I believe that there was some kind of powerful Jedi Mind Trick being sent through Doobie Brothers music or perhaps through The Dry Look hair products sold back then. Mustaches. Wow. How completely frightening and damn ugly. Chest medallions and perms for men? It got to be so bad Queen and Chicago are considered some kind of awesome rock groups. Did eight trak stereo really alter music so much that this kind of barf was sold as entertainment?

    You want to know why there was a Reagan and conservative movement over the next twenty years? Because the only folks untouched by the debris of the 1970s were old fashioned conservative Amish folks in Yoder Kansas who finally had enough of the crapfest around them and staged a coup to return us to our roots.

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  • cfclarkFebruary 9th, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    One of my college friends had the use of one of these (I say “the use of”, because it was lent to her by a prof and family with whom she was rooming) one summer–this would have been in around 1990 and I think it was the T-Bird version. Always hysterical to see this slight, nerdy-looking Asian girl pull up in a classic ’70s schlockmobile. I think she really enjoyed the incongruity of it all.

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  • MadHungarianFebruary 9th, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    I had a ’77 T-Bird for a while, which I bought because it was cheap, and cosmetically perfect, and I am a sucker for over the top 70’s styling.It is probably one of the most space-inefficient designs ever — the exterior dimensions are within an inch or so of a ’77 Sedan deVille all around but the back seat is useless and the trunk is tiny.The driving position is weird, low and the pedals are very far away, which I guess works if you are long legged but guarantees a visit to the chiropractor after a long trip if you are not.The Cougar lacks the distinctive T-Bird basket handle roof.Sorry, the padded tire deck doesn’t make up for that.

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  • biskitMay 8th, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    My parents bought a ’79 model new in 1980, a leftover in green that was probably difficult to sell because of the color. They were happy anyway, as I believe it was the second new car they’d owned. I really liked the car. I remember the truck key cover would remove your fingertips if it slipped or you bumped it while opening the truck! That’s a memory I’d lost until now. Thanks for finding this one, Murilee.

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