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1969 Mercury Cougar - Calculated Cat
Tim Halstead Built This Cougar Fast By Design
Tim Halstead of Groveport, Ohio, has his trusty '69 Mercury Cougar dialed-in precisely. We say trusty because Tim has owned this fast feline for over 20 years. In its current condition, the car runs consistent 10.70s at 125 mph. Originally equipped with a 351 Windsor engine, the prime motivation for this car now comes from a Cleveland-edition 351. Combined with all the other calculated modifications, the result is one extremely fast cat. Let's look at Tim's recipe for the 10s.
It takes a lot to run a 10-second quarter-mile, and Tim hasn't overlooked anything. About 20 years ago, a talented high school buddy with a vacant garage painted the straight car a good-looking Lincoln maroon. It's adorned with a set of Weld Pro Star wheels, and, after all this time, the car still looks pretty darn good. However, this car is about more than just looking good.
The 351 Cleveland engine in Tim's Cougar is a '70 version, and it has been stroked to yield a final displacement of 377 ci. The only modification to the block is the use of an oil-restrictor kit, which increases oil flow to the crankshaft main bearings. A stud girdle helps the 377 hang together at those 7,300-rpm shift points and 7,800-rpm blasts through the traps. A 12.25:1 compression ratio is achieved with Ross pop-up slugs mounted on a set of Eagle H-beam rods. At the center of the block lives a custom-ground, solid-roller camshaft with .689 lift on intake and .690 lift for exhaust. Duration is 266 and 270 degrees, respectively, with lobe center at 109 degrees. The cam has been installed with 4 degrees advance. For cylinder heads, Tim went with aluminum versions of the Cleveland 4V iron castings. Known as A3s, they're an early relative of the popular Yates head. Compared to the factory 4V design, they have smaller intake and exhaust ports to increase port velocity, as well as raised exhaust ports. The heads have been equipped with 1.73:1-ratio rocker-arms and breathe out through a set of custom-made headers featuring 171/48-inch-diameter primaries, which dump into 311/42-inch collectors. On the inlet side is a Ford Motorsport/Jack Roush intake manifold PN M9424-A331. A Barry Grant Gold Claw carburetor feeds the engine at a maximum rate of 825 cfm. A Mallory Unilite mechanical advance distributor fires off the engine, and an aluminum radiator from Be Cool keeps the engine temperature under control.
Although Tim clearly has the engine department covered, it takes more than just a bad-boy motor to go fast. Tim built the C4 automatic that is now in the car. The stout transmission features a reverse-pattern, full manual valvebody with a TCI servo, and it utilizes a 5,000-stall ATI converter. Power then moves to a Ford 9-inch housing. It has 31-spline axles and a Detroit locker centersection with 4.86:1-ratio Richmond gears.
Putting this much power to the ground takes some careful preparation. To this end, John Calvert Racing was a lot of help. Calvert Cal Trac two-piece monoleaf springs were used along with Cal Trac bars and Rancho shocks. Power is put to the ground with a set of Mickey Thompson ET Drag slicks, sized 28x10.5x15. Two-by-three-inch square steel tubing serves for subframe connectors, which are integrated with the floorpan and welded into position. To assist with weight transfer on launch, non-A/C, six-cylinder coil springs were used out front in concert with Competition Engineering 90/10 drag shocks. A pair of Goodyear Front Runner tires sized 28x4.5x15 reside on the front axle. A 60-foot time of 1.46 seconds tells us that Tim has his car really hooking up successfully and getting with the program.
Tim runs the whole show from an all-business interior, which is surrounded by an eight-point rollcage. Summit plastic racing seats are up front. An Auto Meter 5-inch shift light tach is used to monitor engine rpm, while additional Auto Meter gauges keep track of other engine vital signs.
This car looks so nice and low key, you might be fooled into thinking it's a street-usable car. But we're willing to bet that Tim doesn't take this Cougar through McDonald's drive-thru very often. But he does race this car two or three times a week for the whole racing season. We've seen this sweet car run 10.66 at 124 mph, and we're here to tell you, this is one vintage Mercury racer done right.