Oh man, this is one of those kits that immediately caught my attention when I spotted it first years ago and never having been able to find it for a moderate price only increased the super strong desire to get one of ’em. But I finally got one, brand spanking new from 2006. I mean, it is still yet another one of many MPC releases from the 1970s re-released around seven times under three different companies, but I won’t hold that against the kit, really.
The 1968 Cougar is easily one of my favorite cars, hell I like it even more than the ’69 Camaro and this is coming from someone who practically handles Camaros like they’re the second coming of freakin’ Christ. The ’67 and ’68 Cougar had such a basic, yet overly aggressive look about them with the hidden headlights, sort of sharp shapes in the body work and the two giant tail lights, like a Mustang on cocaine. But since MPC hasn’t made a ’68 Cougar kit since, well, 1968, I looked for the second best, the last Cougar before Ford turned the Cougar into a luxury car and moved it off the Mustang chassis – the ’73 Cougar in question.
Originally released in ’73 by MPC as an annual kit, it came with a ton of customizing options, the usual MPC fodder with awkward build quality but generally it was a pretty damn good kit all around given the tooling situation of the late sixties and early seventies. Then in 1985, Ertl Company takes over MPC and the same year they begin doing what they’ve been doing ever since: patching up old popular MPC molds and updating them. Among many, the Cougar saw itself being released as “The Cat” – a molded entirely in black kit that can either built to be a factory stock XR-7 with a 351 cubic inch Windsor V8, or as The Cat with sidepipes, hood scoop, different carburetor, large headers, so on. Y’know, typical MPC extra goodies.
The kit then saw itself being re-released as such in 2002, 2004(which is this one) and 2006, just without the spectacle being built up around “The Cat” and just putting a normal Cougar on the box and shoving a single decal sheet in there with just The Cat stripes. No license plates, no Mercury decals, just a bunch of gold stripes. So you gotta dive into your left-over decal sheets or hit up Best Model Car Parts for some license plates and what-not.
That being said though, the Ertl company taking over MPC did do this kit some serious good. Unlike the 1969 Cougar, a kit which has lived in crappy oblivion since it’s inception and still is a hot mess with its last 2015 release, the ’73 Cougar is a crisply molded piece of awesome! It still has all the customizing goodies along the stock parts(including the good ol’ Mercury wire-dish wheel covers), such as Torq-Thrust wheels, BF Goodrich Radial T/A branded tires(though the lettering is friggin’ massive), optional engine parts such as different carburetors, headers, valve covers, rocker covers, so on. And the mold quality on the pieces is superb, all the lettering, detailing and so forth is clearly visible.
Now onto the dirty side of this kit… It is still very, very much a MPC kit. When I said “awkward” about the way it goes together, I meant that. The chassis floats under the the whole thing, the way the wheels are attached is quite frankly a invention of a Goddamn madman if not a idiot; there’s no simple prongs, instead you awkwardly connect the hubs to the axles by completing the shapes(the axle end is one half of a circle, the wheel hub is the other) like some sort of demented puzzle, something that the weight of the wheel itself makes nearly impossible.
So what I ended up doing was fashion a pair of arms the wheels could hang onto and slathered it all in epoxy to get the ride height to match the rear end, and of course so the God forsaken wheels would stay on. It’s like the AMT/MPC Cougar curse lives on.
The interior bucket floats on the windows, the engine block is floating on the sway bar and has no designated arms, the engine bay piece is very prone to warping(read this is a common issue cause it hasnt got a plastic sprue through it keeping the sides apart) and can/will ruin the stability of attaching the wheels cause its the only place on the front where the chassis will meet and be attached to the rest of the car and it can go on and on like this.
And should mention, for all the extra parts this kit has to make a whole different Cougar out of, it doesn’t have a rear view mirror or side-mirrors. Well, it might have side mirrors, I found some tear drop shaped things on the chrome tree that vaguely look like mirrors, but honestly they may as well be chunkier plastic flash.
In the end it’s a damn hassle, this kit. The chassis detail is a horrendous amount of fidgeting and crafting just to get it to go together and not fall apart with the faintest touch, the wheels don’t stay and the ride looks crooked… But, I enjoy having made it, despite the trouble. It is a rare kit these days, just as the early second generation Cougar’s a rare one as well, it was one of the last Cougars that was considered sporty and it began the trend of the Cougar ‘shape’ that was brought back to life in the late 1980s.
’73 Mercury Cougar XR-7 specifications:
Skill Level: 2
Molded in: Tan/White