The Dan Gurney Mercury Cougar XR-7G
Q: Greg, I enjoyed your recent article on “Designer” cars. At 61 years of age, all of the examples you used are familiar to me. My buddy even owned a new “Levi” Gremlin for a short time.
I do remember running across a pretty rare example of another high performance version of a pony car I’m sure you’ll recall also.
One of the bosses at my first job in the Summer of ’71 drove a ’68 Mercury Cougar XR-7G. This was the “Dan Gurney” version of a normal XR-7. I remember getting to ride in it a few times and it was a beautiful car, triple black with leather interior, fog lights, 390 big block, and a power sunroof.
Gurney was driving the Woods Brothers’ Mercury in NASCAR races at the time, and was the ‘face’ of Mercury performance.
My friend’s company and family bought all of their cars at our local Lincoln-Mercury dealership. Included were Marquis and Montego wagons, as well as a new Mark 3 and a new Grand Marquis sedan.
Years later, in the mid ’80’s, I realized how rare that XR-7G model was, (619 built), so I tried to track the car down and see what became of it. A friend discovered that the car had been passed down to the son of that boss I mentioned and he drove it around as his first car.
Unfortunately, there was a short circuit of some kind in the switch for the sunroof, and it started an interior fire which burned the car completely to a non-repairable shell. What a pity!
Today, every attempt would be made to save such a rare desirable car, but back then, it was just an old car, resulting in “here’s your insurance settlement, go buy something else.”
So, that was my brush with a truly rare piece of automotive history. Sincerely, Tim Wink, Washington state.
A: Tim, those Gurney XR-7G’s are indeed very rare. Mercury Cougar won Motor Trend Magazine’s 1967 “Car Of the Year” award and Gurney is still regarded as one of the very best race drivers and car constructors ever to call the United States his home. (He was born in New York).
Gurney dominated Riverside road races in NASCAR for the Wood Brothers, driving a car with 121 on the side. (21 is the Wood Brothers regular number). If you’d like to see footage of Gurney winning the Motor Trend 500 there, check it out on YouTube as he did it four times in five races in the 1960s.
I have also attached an ad from Castrol Motor Oil, showing another Ford legend car owner, Bud Moore, along with Gurney, Parnelli Jones and Mercury Cougar GM Fran Hernandez. It shows how involved car makers and oil manufacturers were in racing back then, as they are to this day.
In ending, thanks for the great letter, and for bringing Dan Gurney’s name to the forefront again. He is perhaps best known for Formula 1 racing and Indy Car racing, where his Eagle chassis offerings were some of the best in the business. In his career, he personally drove to four Formula 1 wins for three different manufacturers (Porsche, Brabham and his own Eagle Westlake powered cars), the aforementioned four Riverside 500 wins in NASCAR, and numerous other road racing titles, including Lemans with co-driver AJ Foyt in 1967.
After retiring from driving, Gurney became the heralded team owner and constructor now looked on as one of the best in the history of racing…worldwide. He was the sole owner and CEO of All American Racers from 1970 until his son, Justin, assumed the title of CEO in early 2011. The company operates out of offices in Santa Ana, CA.
In those 41 years, Gurney’s team won 78 races including the Indy 500, 12 Hours Of Sebring, Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and eight championships.
There will never be another Dan Gurney, and it’s good he’s still around to see him at shows and races. (See www.allamerican
racers.com for more).
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes reader questions at 116 Main St., Towanda, PA 18848 or email him at email@example.com)
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