1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT – AMT

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (1)The mid to late sixties were a period of aggressive advances and what one could call a sort of coming of age. The fifties had the United States booming left, right and center with opulence, slapping chrome on every inch of the house, fancy leather and bright colors everywhere, music getting wilder and wilder, cinema getting better and better, the golden age of TV kicked off and the cars, while they don’t really appeal to me, but late fifties is Americana to its Miss Belvedere burying heart. And as the sixties came around, the United States began living less like the wild party apartment and honed in on all of its specific parts and began improving on ’em something fierce, in most cases for better, in some for worse.

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One thing that was for the better was the introduction of the ’64-½ Mustang, the literal introduction of the pony car. A car so damn desirable that it kickstarted nearly ten years of the toughest brawling for number one among car manufacturers, it had every big company doing their own take on the pony car to get a slice of the pie. The semi-official checklist is: affordable entry, long front and short rear, focused on being sporty all around, mainly equipped with small block V8s and aggressively aimed at younger buyers. Before you know it, Chrysler chucked the Barracuda at the world two weeks before the Mustang hit the market but it got adapted over the years into its magnum opus; the ’70-’74 ‘Cuda(and the Challenger on the same platform), AMC brought the Javelin in ’67, GM pushed the Camaro and Firebird on the market in ’67 too and it even spread globally; Ford Europe making the now equally legendary Ford Capri, Toyota bringing the Celica and Nissan the Fairlady 240Z, whats the one omission here? Well, Ford, just like GM and Chrysler had more than one name under their umbrella and had Mercury design their own more luxurious version based on the new ’67 Mustang platform.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (5)And what came out of it is in my opinion, arguably one of the prettiest muscle cars ever designed. Ford had it be designed as such that it would eye more European to the American customers, with more ‘alien’ design cues to things like the giant “electric razor” grille and the sharp fender angles. How it looks more European is way the balls beyond me as a European but I suppose its nicer to say its “European” instead of “less bulbous than what we’re used to“. It was twinned to the Mustang from its inception to about 1973 when Mercury was turning their entire lineup into luxury cars, which was, y’know, fair point, the Cougar was a luxurious pony car that could be optioned to be a roaring beast with bare bones everything else but deep down it was… well, luxurious. But never mind its ill fated thirty year voyage beyond muscle car kingdom, the 1967 and 1968 were prime years for the cars and while Semon Knudsen took over the design of the Mustang, he had them turned into heavier, slower, clunkier and generally just fat versions of what they once were(I should add here though that I do really like the ’69-’73 Mustangs, but yeah they are just… unnecessarily huge), the Cougar kept being what it was until the fuel crisis in 1973.

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And AMT back in the day was responsible for fashioning kits out of the newly arrived Cougar until 1970, in which MPC took over but before that happened, AMT pushed out these kits which were three in one kits with a plethora of options(which thankfully included stock, yeah believe it or not, sometimes you didn’t get a stock version) and quite crisp detailing. And boy I had been looking for a 1967 or 1968 Cougar since I started building kits again and after that disappointment known as the ’69 Cougar, and I just never found one for less than 120 bucks. Until I found one while randomly browsing eBay looking for the newly released ’85 Olds from Revell… It was on offer for thirty bucks, nearly brand new with all bits still in plastic from a French seller. Of all places, I found one of the most elusive kits just 230 miles away from me. Now I found out the kit was purchased in 1972 or so by someone as a gift, it got transported to Europe with a family moving at one point or another and sat around for a long, long time. So bidding wars erupted, paid 80 euros for it in the end but… worth it. So damn worth it. Immediately hit up Keith Marks for the ’68 Cougar sheet he has on offer and bought some metallic blue after seeing this particular picture of a Cougar(a design I’ll be mimicking on the upcoming ’92 Cougar) – what color blue is it that I procured for this build? Well, you’re quite wrong – it’s a Goddamn Skoda color of all things. It’s their “Race Blue Metallic” color and boy oh boy does it pop.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (9)So right away upon seeing the kit in my hands, two thoughts entered my mind. One; holy shit detail is crisp, what the hell kind of magic did they use in 1968 and why can’t AMT Ertl even reach similar heights in friggin’ 2018. Two; Jesus, Mary and Joseph Stalin the detail is so crisp, is this kit really from 1968 or was the seller just full of shit!? The body is so unbelievably good and the fit of the body parts is also stellar, it’s only in the engine bay where the detail takes a fairly colossal hit. The engine is either a 302ci V8 or a 390ci V8 I can’t tell, it’s rather hard to tell, the radiator is just a single piece, no shroud or anything, the fan blades are huge, as are the other parts besides the battery, which is a tiny little cube. Oh and no reservoirs, nothing. It’s really, really bare bones in there. So I opted to take another Mustang engine but quickly ran into the problem that I didn’t really wanted to sacrifice any kits I was still going to complete… Until I found the old spare of a 1970 Ford Torino GT I once purchased for the chassis, engine and interior to slap into the ’71 Mercury Cyclone Spoiler I got coming up sooner or later. I thought, y’know what, this is a worthwhile thing, the basic engine/transmission seemed to fit the engine bay exactly and even fit the mounts perfectly(just had to drill a hole in the oil pan, that’s it). The only problem was, the ’68 Cougar did not have the type of engine the ’70 Torino GT had… A 429 Cobra Jet. Oooohhh weeell, it sits in there, it looks much better than the original and it might even just look good.

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The interior has quite nice detail to it as well, even a weird addition I’ve never seen before: seat belts on the stock seats. Molded in there, in decent quality. I mean, it’s a bit odd but… nice at the same time. The chassis on the other hand is quite mediocre, but it’s just something all of the model kit designers from the sixties through the eighties did, the thought of “no-one looks at the bottom” reigned supreme for long. The ridiculous age of the kit, fifty years old in a few months, has had some downsides on a few parts… One was the rubber wheels, which had gone rock hard and shrunk to the point that none of the wheels still fit them, so I tried to solve that particular problem via AMT Ertl’s one-size-fits-fuck-all tires and they actually fit for the first time, ever. Though the tires aren’t the right size for the model and it sits… weird, but it sorta works. At least it’s got the friggin’ wheels on, that was a fight in its own right.

1968MercuryCougarXR7 (16)The other problem is that back in those times, they shoved the whole kit in one plastic bag. This nowadays isn’t done anymore for one simple reason; it wrecked the damn kit. Parts interconnected, the tires can rot and melt to a piece and be conjoined forever. And last but not least, the thing that happened to this kit; the clear piece got scratched to high heaven in the baggie. But whatever, time and decay go hand in hand. At the end of it all, the kit went together so unbelievably well, even with the whole replacement engine in mind. Keith Marks’ decals topped off an incredible package and was worth every penny, not to mention it really brings the detail out, especially on the grille.

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Worth the 100 euro or so investment? Hell yes. Worth investing if you ever stumble upon one for not a whole lot of money? Oh hell yes. Wishing along with me for a re-release or a new tool of the ’67-’68 and ’70 Cougars? Hell. Yes.

’68 Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT specifications:
Kit: AMT5328-200
Skill Level: N/A
Parts: 109
Molded in: White
Scale: 1/25

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