Wayne Cook
April 1, 2005
Photos By: Jim Smart

These powerful Mercury musclecars belong to Ken Compher of Spotsylvannia, Virginia. In 1999, Ken had just sold his '69 Mach 1 and was thinking about buying something different. Ken tells us it wasn't long before he was "bitten by the bug again." The happy outcome was the purchase of this unusual '69 Cougar with 428 Cobra Jet power, and, later, a '03 Mercury Marauder.

Ken found his Cougar in the Wichita, Kansas area, and it nearly didn't make it home to Virginia. Right before Ken took delivery, the auto transport driver called insisting Ken come to Maryland immediately. The Cougar had come halfway off the carrier and was dangling in front of the tractor's windshield. It was a dicey situation until they were finally able to jockey it back onto the carrier. It was certainly a close call and not a very auspicious beginning.

This is a great looking car loaded with unusual equipment for a Cougar. To begin with, Ken's Cougar had been ordered with the Sports Special trim package, which included special bullet rocker moldings, streamlined racing mirrors, and turbine-style wheel covers. This, combined with the unique Burnt Orange color, made for a striking and unusual car from the start. When you add a legendary engine into the equation, things get even more interesting. The standard Cougar big-block offering is the 390 High Performance V-8 sporting 320 hp. In this cat is the rare 335-horse 428 Cobra Jet with more torque on tap. With a bore of 4.130 inches and a stroke nearly the same dimension at 3.980 inches, the 428 CJ was the largest engine available in the Mercury lineup that year. The big R-code ram-air CJ is mated to a C-6 three-speed automatic transmission. The twist travels to a 3.00:1 9-inch axle. What makes this unusual is conventional cogs, void of Traction-Lok. To add to the luxury feel of this powerful automobile, Select-Aire air conditioning was checked on the option list.

Because all this sounded like an unusual option package to Ken, he checked with Kevin Marti at Marti Auto Works for the facts. Just eight '69 Cougars were made with both the 428 Cobra Jet engine and the Sports Special package. Half of those cars were non-ram-air Q-code, while the other half were R-code or ram-air equipped like Ken's car. Of the four R-code Cougars made, Ken's car was the only one equipped with the C-6 transmission. Ken's gut instincts turned out to be right about having a rare ride. It's a one-of-one built.

He then set out to make the one-off big-block Cougar as nice as possible. He did a complete repaint with extensive detailing under the hood. He installed a new front suspension to both improve handling and make the car safer.

The car was factory equipped with front disc brakes. The wheels are the original 14x6-inch steel wheels adorned with the Sports Special turbine-style wheel covers. Shod with Goodyear Polyglass rubber in the F70x14 size, Ken's rolling stock is period correct. Even the inside of this car is factory fresh with new carpet, upholstery, trim panels, and console.

This leads us to the '03 Mercury Marauder standing watch over Mercury's legacy of high-performance cars. In 1969, Mercury's most powerful ride was the Cobra Jet Cougar. In 2003, it was the 4.6L DOHC Marauder sedan. Considering the Marauder's reputation for fast interstate cruising, we're not surprised Ken thought of Mercury's most powerful ride in Ford's 100th year. The Marauder is a great road car for the baby boomer who remembers vintage Mercury muscle, with the smooth ride and great handling of a modern sedan. When Ken needs the power, the throaty 4.6L, 32-valve V-8 accelerates him to speed in short order, just like the 428 Cobra Jet of 1969. But the Marauder does it with a smoothness the classic Cougar could never match.

Ken has outfitted his stable with Mercury musclecars that do the legacy proud.