Curbside Capsule: 1981 Mercury Cougar XR7 – Mercury Throws a Cutlass at the Cougar

(first posted 10/3/2012. A follow-on to the ’77 Cougar sedan recently posted)    This Cougar has been taunting me for months.  I keep seeing it at the same interchange and always too far away to capture a picture–that is, until now, even though I was able to capture only two pictures. I thought the Cougar nameplate had been fairly straightforward during this era. Boy, was I ever mistaken.

These Fox platform-based Cougars share a lot with the eighth-generation 1980-82 Ford Thunderbirds.

There were not only XR-7 models….

but also standard Cougars, in both two-door and four-door variants.  A friend of my mother’s even had the wagon version. And oh yes, there was a Ford version called the Granada.  Remember those?

Look at the left column: You could even get a standard Cougar with a four-cylinder engine and four-speed manual transmission. I would imagine such cars are pretty rare.

Nineteen eighty-one was only 31 years ago, but notice how color choices have dwindled since then.  Doesn’t  “Pastel Chamois” (perhaps the color of our featured car), sound great—or at least so much better than the “Light Silver Metallic” so frequently found today?

Mercury knew they had a good thing going with the Cougar name.  In 1979, Mercury sold 170,000 Cougars, some 164,000 of which were XR-7s. Just two years later, a total of 37,275 XR-7s would find happy homes.

It seems like Chrysler put the LeBaron name on half the cars they built between 1977 and 1995. Similarly, Oldsmobile smacked a Cutlass nameplate on nearly everything post-1980. Apparently, Mercury was just as guilty of trying to spread the Cougar cheer.