Eric English
May 1, 2004

The year 1970 is often recognized as the zenith of domestic musclecar offerings, with a dizzying array of big-inch cars from virtually every manufacturer. At GM, a corporate cubic-inch limit had been lifted, and monster mills as big as 455 cubes could be seen in every showroom. At Ford, it was the only year in which three distinctly different, over-400-inch, high-performance engines were offered side by side-the Boss 429, the 429CJ/SCJ, and the 428CJ/SCJ. Your choice of FoMoCo models usually dictated which engine was available in your favorite ride, and on Mercury's Cougar, the 428CJ was the biggest muscle on the option sheet. We'd call it the perfect match for the luxury-minded Cougar crowd, as the 428 sported the longest stroke of the bunch-meaning prodigious torque at any engine speed.

The '70 Cougar convertible seen here sports factory Cobra Jet power, and happens to be one of only 20 428-powered droptops to be paired with a four-speed that year. From a look at the option sheet, we can imagine the original owner as a wealthy corporate executive finding the perfect blend of sportiness, luxury, and tire-melting power in this high-content cat. In addition to the stick shift and big-block, the option list included special-order silver paint, styled steel wheels, XR7 trim, ram-air, tilt steering, intermittent wipers, and power windows. Other typical Cougar luxuries included the hallmark hidden headlights, power discs, power steering, and power top. In fact, one word sums up this awesome Merc-loaded!

As is so often the case with musclecars that once stood on top of the heap, this Cougar eventually fell into the hands of someone who didn't give a rip. We don't know anything about the owner history until Todd Aicher bought the car in 1997, but it had somehow deteriorated into little more than a rust bucket. On the upside, the matching numbers drivetrain was still intact. On the downside, it had plenty of rust, and nearly everything needed to be replaced. Probably the only thing that kept this car from becoming a mechanical donor for a Mustang or Shelby restoration was Aicher's recognition that it was one rare piece. Just how rare, he wouldn't know until Kevin Marti ( acquired access to Ford's production data, but the four-speed, CJ, and convertible combination was deemed worth the effort.

More than a job for an amateur, the project was turned over to Larry Berkovich and company at West Coast Restorations in Snohomish, Washington. There, the car was torn down to the unibody in preparation for a chemical dip. once the carcass was clean of corrosion, bodyman Randy Sargent began reversing a couple decades of neglect. It was no easy task, but the project began to take shape during countless hours of careful workmanship and plenty of N.O.S. sheetmetal. Following it all up was a two-stage Deltron topcoat in the original metallic silver-said to be from the '67 Ford color palate, so a rare sight indeed.

The original Cobra Jet drivetrain was freshened up thanks to machinist Dave Bliss and the assembly and detail work of West Coast's John and Shawn Carlson. A couple of hidden upgrades were added in the form of an Auburn differential for the 3.25-geared, N-case 9-inch, and a Centerforce clutch for the factory Hurst-shifted Top loader. The results are picture perfect and seat-of-the-pants powerful.

Proving it pays to know the right people, current owner Carl Rogers' acquaintance with Berkovich put him in the driver's seat when Aicher decided to sell. And a sweet deal it was, as Carl had only to settle into the leather high-backs and drop the top for a perfect rewind to the heyday of musclecars. And while Carl, the pub owner, might bristle if told his car was most fit for a trip to the country club or a night on the town, we know this is a guy who had the machismo to order up a top-gun, shift-for-yourself powertrain, which brought the Dr. Jekyll right out of Mr. Hyde's elegant XR7. Rest easy Carl, you've got a top flight ragtop musclecar that an enthusiast of any income level-executive or otherwise-would love to own today.