This Cougar XR7-G Hertz was a rental rascal, now it’s up for grabs


Back in 1966, $17 a day, 17 cents a mile, an early enough birthday, and a Hertz Sports Club membership got you a sexy and striped 306-horsepower Mustang from the guy who built the Cobra. We’re talking, of course, about the GT350H, an endeavor that got both Hertz and Shelby a lot of great publicity. (The “rent-a-racer” term, however, was not used at the time.) For the program, Hertz order 1000 Shelby GT350 Mustangs and rented them out to thrill seekers and speed freaks all over the country, leading to countless stories and legends of unsanctioned on-track antics before returning to the Hertz counter on Monday. The GT350H is probably the most famous rental car of all time, as well as one of the only rental fleet veterans anyone would actually want to own, and it’s was just the entry point in a long line of fast Fords you could pick up from Hertz over the years. One of them, a Cougar XR7-G, is up for Mecum auction this month.

Once the ’66 GT350Hs had been retired from service and sold off into private hands, Hertz continued to offer Shelby Mustangs at the counter with 1968 and ’69 GT350s as well as 1969-70 Mach 1 Ford Mustangs. By this time, Shelbys were heavier, softer, less overtly sporty, and built in Michigan rather than California. Carroll Shelby had little direct involvement in their production. But bloated or not, a Shelby Mustang was still way cooler than the dowdy sedans in the Hertz lot, and so were the hot Cougars also available from Hertz.

Introduced in 1967 on the same chassis as the Mustang to fill a semi-luxury, semi-sporty gap between it and the Thunderbird, the first-generation Cougar is sort of like a Mustang in a nice suit. But any Bond movie proves beyond doubt it’s still possible to move pretty quickly in a coat and tie, and from 1968–70 Hertz would gladly loan out the Cougars with the sharpest claws: the Cougar Eliminator and the Cougar XR7-G.


While the 1969-70 Eliminator was basically equivalent to the Mustang Boss 302 and Mach 1, the 1968 XR7-G was a one-year only performance model with more of a Shelby connection. Shelby Automotive ran the project and the “G” stands for “Gurney,” as in racer Dan Gurney, who drove the Bud Moore-prepped Cougar in the 1967 Trans Am series. Conversion to “G” trim was carried out at the facilities of a supplier called A.O. Smith in Ionia, Michigan.

At first glance an XR7-G doesn’t look that much different from a normal ’68 Cougar, but there are several details that make these cars special. A special fiberglass hood scoop, hood pins, Marchal or Lucas driving lights, a Talbot racing mirror, XR7-G badges, and special Rader wheels (later recalled because of a defect) distinguished the Shelbified Cougar. A sunroof by American Sunroof Company also offered blue sky views. XR7-Gs also came with a 390-cubic-inch V-8 engine and C6 automatic transmission as well as power front disc brakes, tilting steering column, Whisper-Aire air conditioning, and an accessory gauge pack from Shelby.

Just 619 of these 1968-only Cougars sold, with 200 of them going to Hertz for its rental fleet and scattered throughout America’s airports and train stations. After that, they went on to private owners, sold as used cars through local Ford and Mercury dealerships, with some sources saying they were sold as “demos” or “executive program” cars. (It sounds nicer than “ex-Cleveland airport rental car.”)

The XR7-G up for auction with Mecum in Tennessee this month is one of those 200, is powered by its original “S-Code” 390/325-hp engine and transmission, and has been restored in its original colors of Black Cherry with black vinyl roof over dark red leather. Crossing the block on Saturday, October 14 at Mecum’s Chattanooga auction, it has no presale estimate, but the Hagerty Price Guide puts XR7-Gs at $66,200 in #2 (Excellent) condition or $47,200 in #3 (Good) condition.

Mecum Andrew Newton
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    Mr Newton, thanks for this story. I don’t know if any of the ’68 “G” cars made it to Hertz in Canada, but I have fond memories of the ’67 XR-7s that my stylish mother and my aunt (!) had back then. Nice to read this piece on my late mother’s birthday today!

    The Hertz rental “G”s all got the 390 4V, but a “G” could be ordered with other engines. From a 302 2V to a 428CJ. I know of a “G” in B.C. that has a 302 4V, and makes it out to shows on both sides of the border. Thanks for the story.

    I love the ad copy that states the Mach 1 has a 351 cubic-inch displacement, yet the car in the ad shows 428 on the hood.

    Funny that you should mention Bond movies, even if you were being sartorially broad and generic.

    A Mercury Cougar DID feature prominently; in 1969’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.

    In the film, it was owned and driven by Diana Rigg’s character “Tracy”, the only Bond girl to lead 007 to the altar, (maybe by a halter.)
    I’m pretty sure that it had more screen time than the Aston Martin of this film.

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