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words & images: Leanne Gichard

This 1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator XR-7 takes no prisoners; it is sleek, mean and not for the faint-hearted.  The sound of the exhaust is like the roar of a cougar on steroids and no detail has been left to chance on this cat. 

The ‘Cougar’ was ordered as an export model and bought here by an officer serving in ‘Operation Deep Freeze’, who sold it to another officer when he was redeployed elsewhere.  The car then went into storage for a number of years and was recommissioned approximately 15 years ago in Dunedin.  From there it ended up in Christchurch, where the current owner (Colin) bought it two years ago.

“I was actually looking for a Ford Mustang when I saw the advert for the ‘Cougar’ and as Mercury Cougars are becoming very rare, both here and in the United States, I decided to buy it.  It really is like a luxury Mustang of that era, with a Ford 351 cubic inch (5800cc) V8 motor,”  Colin says.  Needless to say, this car can fly.

Manufactured by Lincoln-Mercury (a luxury division of Ford Motors), this vehicle has eye-popping detail.  In true American style, the profile is lean and seems to go on forever.  From the blacked out front grille (reminiscent of Darth Vader’s helmet) with hideaway headlights to the superb chrome trim, the ‘Cougar’ is original, inside and out and is in immaculate condition.  It looks the business from every angle. 

The interior is well-finished, with a simulated wooden dashboard, comfortable, high-back leather seats and the most extraordinary push-down locking knobs you could hope to see – little chrome smiling skulls with ruby red enamelled eyes! Tan leather upholstery with horizontal pleats makes a statement and silver cougar emblems adorn the centre of the steering wheel and dash. 

The streamlined roof is clad in black hounds-tooth patterned vinyl and even the tyres are fitting – Tiger Paw CTS Uniroyal.  Black racing stripes on the bonnet and side panels add to the drama.

If you thought the front view of the ‘Cougar’ was cool, the rear view is equally impressive.  With concave sequential tail-lights surrounded by yet more gleaming chrome.

“I love the colour of the ‘Cougar’ but my wife isn’t so keen,” says Colin.  “We took it on a trip and it is a car that attracts a lot of attention.” I can see why.

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.