WAPAKONETA — Charles Drexler, of Wapakoneta, owns this 1972 Mercury Cougar XR7. He took it to the Westgate Charity Car Show, held at Apollo Career Center in June.
“It was the first car I ever bought when I was a kid,” said Drexler. “I’ve put a lot of work into it.”
The Mercury Cougar was first introduced in 1967 as a more luxurious version of the Ford Mustang. The Cougar had more emphasis put on luxury than performance. Ford’s Lincoln-Mercury division was trying to bridge the gap between the Mustang and the Thunderbird when it created the Mercury Cougar. The Mercury Cougar was available in two body styles, the base version and the XR-7 version. The XR-7 package included a wood-rimmed steering wheel, an overhead console and leather/vinyl seats. Car enthusiasts were impressed, as the 1967 Mercury Cougar garnered the prestigious Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award.
Even though the Mercury Cougar was an upscale version of the Mustang, it still managed to make a mark on the American street landscape. Its main competition was the AMC Javelin, Chevy Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Plymouth Barracuda and Pontiac Firebird, all muscle car machines.
The Cougar was important to Mercury’s image for many years, and advertising often identified its dealers as being “at the sign of the cat.” Beautiful women were seen leading big cats on leashes during the 1970s television ads. The marketing team went further in 1972 when it produced the sales brochure for the Mercury Cougar. It read, “Cougar — rare, elusive, the most magnificent cat in North America.”
For the first time in the history of the Cougar, there were more XR-7 models produced than base models. The Mercury Cougar placed in the middle of the pony car pack when it came to sale in 1972. The Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro were number one and two.
Drexler’s “cat” includes a 351 Cleveland V8 engine with a four-speed transmission.
“I drive it, but mostly to car shows,” said Drexler.