Modified Mustangs & Fords
1969 Mercury Cougar XR7 Convertible - Surprise, Surprise!
Sometimes, Cars Can Determine Your Future
Life is often full of little surprises and over the years, we've found that cars can create some interesting ones. This big cat adventure begins with Jeff and Linda Stone, active automotive enthusiasts, living in Wisconsin and enjoying their Pro-Street Camaro that Linda used for drag racing. The car was fun on short trips, but it was time to find something a little easier to drive. Coincidentally, a friend contacted them who wanted to trade the Camaro for his '69 Mercury Cougar. Neither Jeff, nor Linda, knew much about Cougars at the time, but it was a convertible and both wanted something more suitable than their drag racing Bow Tie. A deal was made and naturally, some upgrades were planned.
Originally, the Cougar was just going to be a daily driver after the floors were replaced, rust spots attended to, and a few mechanical issues were addressed. As the minor restoration morphed into a more elaborate undertaking, the next surprise was how cool the old car was coming together. Their friend, who owned a body shop, would call on a regular basis, suggesting a few modifications to the original plan. One thing led to another and the "quick rehab" turned into an 18-month effort.
When the Cougar emerged, sporting its new Competition Orange paintjob, the time and money were well spent. Several new factory options were in place-such as the hoodscoop, hoodpins, front spoiler, and rear wing. Old-school chromed MB 17-inch wheels and 45-series Hankook rubber got it rolling in classic style. The car's interior remained fairly stock, except that the front seats were recovered in XR7 leather and auxiliary gauges were added to the dash. The cool Cougar got a hot stereo, using a JVC Chameleon head unit to control the Memphis Audio amp in the trunk and the component speakers in the doors and rear quarter-panels. Continuing the list of surprises, the Cougar amazed the Stones again with the number of trophies it began collecting at car shows.
Not ones to rest on their laurels, Jeff and Linda began phase two of the Cougar makeover about four years later, upgrading the tired 351 Windsor under the hood. Limited by its two-barrel carb and automatic transmission, the high-mileage V-8 needed to go, and was replaced with a new 351 Windsor crate engine from the Engine Factory in Lebanon, New Jersey. It pumped an impressive 400 hp to the beefed up AOD transmission, built by Badger Transmissions in Madison, Wisconsin. That extra power comes from a Christmas list of aftermarket goodies squeezed into the Windsor that includes hypereutectic 9.5:1 pistons, a nodular cast crank, roller rockers, and an Elgin cam. Breathing was enhanced with Edelbrock Performer aluminum heads, a Performer Air Gap intake manifold, a 650-cfm Thunder series carb, and a K&N air filter. An MSD ignition with a 6AL box lights the fire, while full-length, ceramic-coated Hedman headers dump exhaust gases into a pair of aluminized MagnaFlow mufflers. A Be Cool aluminum radiator keeps coolant temps in the green.
Power without control isn't much fun, so planting the ponies was the next task. That began with a Global West front suspension package that included tubular control arms, 1-inch lowering springs, and subframe connectors. A Monte Carlo bar was added under the hood and a Scott Drake Mustang lowering kit was adapted to the Cougar rear suspension. A Unisteer rack-and-pinion modernized the turns, while new SSBC front brake rotors guaranteed quick stops, and KYB gas shocks stabilize all four corners. For bulletproof reliability, a Ford 9-inch rear with 4.11 gears was bolted in, along with a Richmond Powertrax Lock-Right Locker to ensure both rear tires light up on command. The upgrades gave new life to the old car, modernized even more two years later with a new Tremec five-speed transmission and a Slick Stik shifter.