Dominating a Plymouth Duster, this rust-free kitty is as solid as the day it rolled off the assembly line thanks to its zero-humidity desert home. The massive 5-mph impact front bumper is missing, a great excuse to whip up a lightweight fiberglass replacement. Earlier '67 to '70 Cougars aren't burdened with the heavy federally mandated 5-mph bumpers introduced for '71 and beyond. The power front disc brakes were a $62.40 option in '73. Dominating a Plymouth Duster, this rust-free kitty is as solid as the day it rolled off th The Mercury Cougar has always lived in the shadow of the much more popular Ford Mustang. And sales figures prove it-Mustangs generally outsold Cougars five to one. But as Mustang prices spiral out of reach for most of us, the beefier Cougar starts looking pretty good. Here's a sweet '73 XR-7 that's ripe for resurrection. Though all Cougars built in 1973 were powered by 351 small-blocks (the Boss 302 and 428 Cobra Jet options were eliminated after 1970, the 429 Cobra Jet after 1971), buyers in 1973 could still choose between the basic 168hp two-barrel or the 351 Cobra Jet four-barrel, which was nearly 100 hp stronger at 264 hp. Also available for the final time in 1973 was the optional Top Loader four-speed for Cougar Cats with a penchant for power shifting. Let's dig in and see what this desert relic has to offer. Groovy Factoids •75 percent of all fullsize '73 Mercurys (Monterey and Marquis) were built with vinyl roofs. By contrast, 98 percent of all '73 Cougars were vinyl clad, as luxury replaced raw performance. •The original Cougar XR-7 option debuted midyear in '67 and included a woodgrain dash, a leather interior, and special trim. Do not confuse the XR-7 with the awesome GT-E 7.0L option, which mandated 427 or 428 big-block power. The rugged stamped metal trim tags used on most Ford Lincoln-Mercury products through 1969 were replaced by fragile, laminated plastic stickers affixed to the driver-side door in 1970 and beyond. Easy to destroy during a repaint and vulnerable to peeling in harsh climates, this one's still fully legible, so let's read and learn. The VIN is 3F93H531236, which breaks down to: 3 ('73 model year), F (Dearborn assembly plant), 93 (Cougar XR-7 hardtop), H (168hp 351 two-barrel), 531236 (production sequence). Below the VIN line, the codes are as follows: Body 65F = Cougar XR-7 hardtop, Color 9A = White, Trim EF = Medium Ginger interior, Trans X = FMX three-speed automatic, Axle 2 = 2.75:1 ratio, open differential, DSO 52 = delivered to the Los Angeles dealer district. The rugged stamped metal trim tags used on most Ford Lincoln-Mercury products through 1969 The sun-parched interior is still complete right down to the standard-issue floor shifter. The XR-7 was the top level of Cougar opulence and included toggle switches (seen above the knobs to the right of the steering wheel), a tachometer, a trip odometer, an alternator gauge, an oil pressure gauge, and a map light. Externally, bright stainless rocker trim and specific emblems elevate the XR-7 above base Cougar hardtops (which carry body code 65D). For '74, the base Cougar was dropped, and all were XR-7 equipped. The sun-parched interior is still complete right down to the standard-issue floor shifter. The burly 9-inch rear axle stands ready for massive horsepower increases and will survive well above 400 hp despite standard 28-spline axleshafts. The dual exhaust was likely owner added since only the 351 Cobra Jet cars were factory equipped with duals in '73. Who cares? Let's stuff this one full of FRPP 5.0 DOHC Cammer crate engine power and a Tremec five-speed. The burly 9-inch rear axle stands ready for massive horsepower increases and will survive By Steve Magnante Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!