- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 14, 2005

“My mother was a very stylish woman,” David Kinney says. Such sentiment is reinforced by the last car she purchased.

Jean Kinney was living in Arlington in 1973 when she went to the O’Brien and Rohall Lincoln-Mercury dealership in the Cherrydale section to get a new car.

What caught her eye was not only stylish but a bargain as well. She purchased a fully loaded 1973 Mercury Cougar XR-7 convertible with 5,000 miles recorded on the odometer because it had been used by the dealership as a demonstrator model.

Only 3,165 Mercury Cougar XR-7 convertibles were manufactured during the 1973 model year and each one had a base price of $3,903 when new. Mrs. Kinney certainly worked a deal on her demonstrator.

Her top-of-the-line 3,530-pound like-new convertible was loaded with standard equipment including a 351-cubic-inch V-8 engine with a two-barrel carburetor that develops 168 horsepower, a Select-Shift automatic transmission with floor shift and the famous Cougar sequential turn signals.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Kinney had only three years and 17,000 miles to enjoy her 16-foot, 7.5-inch-long Cougar. She died in 1976.

Her son, David, inherited the pristine convertible and has spent the past three decades preserving his mother’s last automobile.

“We take it out every Fourth of July for the patriotic Great Falls parade,” he says. The standard 1973 engine capped with a blue air cleaner sporting a “351-2V” decal requires only regular unleaded fuel.

“The car has always been reliable,” Mr. Kinney reports.

In 1973 the Mercury Cougar was more closely related to the Ford Mustang than later models that have been described as ersatz Ford Thunderbirds.

The white convertible top for 27 years protected the white Hi-Back bucket seats with leather seating surfaces as well as the medium ginger-colored carpet and dashboard.

Mr. Kinney replaced the white top in 2000, retaining the original glass rear window.

Mr. Kinney lightly grips a simulated cherry woodgrain three-spoke rim-blow steering wheel with the Cougar emblem at the hub.

The rim-blow feature allows the driver to sound the horn by merely squeezing the steering wheel.

Activating the Cougar turn signals sets the appropriate four-pod taillights into sequential action.

The top end of the 120-mph speedometer has never been tested, nor has the upper reaches of the 6,000 rpm tachometer. This was a stylish car driven by a stylish woman to stylish destinations.

Features on the Cougar XR-7 include power steering, power brakes, power windows and an AM/FM stereo radio.

Five styles of wheel covers were available on 1973 Cougars. Mr. Kinney’s XR-7 convertible is equipped with the optional 48-spoke wheel covers.

Front bumper guards with black vertical protection strips and rear bumper guards provide added protection to the impact-resistant bumpers that met 1973 federal standards.

Another federal standard in 1973 required flame-retardant materials used in the cockpit of cars.

Atop the grille with vertical ribs is the distinctive bright XR-7 emblem, with a wreath on a black background.

A similar XR-7 emblem is on the right rear corner of the trunk lid. Beneath that trunk lid is a surprisingly small 10.4-cubic-foot trunk.

Highlighting the lower part of the body are full-length triple pin stripes.

Inside the car the door panels are molded to incorporate an armrest and a pull strap.

Rear- seat passengers are subjected to much the same treatment with molded quarter-panels with an armrest and an ashtray included.

Courtesy lights are found everywhere, as they should be on an XR-7.

They are in the instrument panel, in the glove compartment, in the console ashtray, in the trunk, under the engine hood and, of course, there is a map light.

The 113-inch wheelbase has provided a comfortable ride to any occupants for about a third of a century. The odometer has recently rolled over 24,000 miles, which works out to an average of less than 750 miles a year.

A Mercury Cougar XR-7 ad campaign in 1973 stated: “No car lives two lives so beautifully. Better than just a sports car, better than just a luxury car.”

Mr. Kinney concurs with the message expressed in that ad. “My mother bought a very nice car,” he says.

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