Jim Smart
September 1, 2005
Photos By: Jeff Ford

There's just something about a wide-track Cougar. It's a road hugger. It is also a road tamer. It growls. It scratches. It bites. It roars. And it just plain takes our breath away. There has always been a mystique about the Cougar cats from Lincoln-Mercury. When they rolled across our television screens in the fall of 1966, they were cat scratch fever out of the blue. The styling was as startling as the growling snarl that rattled the speaker. It was those finned, concealed twin-set headlamps. And it was that sculptured, long front end and the snappy, short rear deck. On the road, it was those sequencing taillights that caught our eye. The all-new Cougar had an awesome side profile, sexier than the Mustang's, with a commanding persona that was overwhelming.

For 1968, the Cougar only got better, with side markers, a better line-up of V-8 engines, and the Dan Gurney-inspired XR7-G limited-edition model.

For 1969, Ford stylists softened the Cougar's commanding lines. Product planners and engineers blessed the Cougar with a greater array of powerful V-8 engines, ranging from a standard 351 Windsor two-barrel V-8 to the 428 Cobra Jet. Classic Cougars were never available with a six-cylinder engine. The message from Mercury was luxury and power.

Tom and Tammy Sladek own this Wimbledon White '69 Cougar hardtop. We like what Tom and Tammy did to this pseudo Cougar Eliminator notchback. They started with a vanilla cat ride that needed a lot of imagination. So they went for broke, conceiving and building one of the nicest Cougars we have ever seen.

This Cougar's message is clearly power-a 351W-based 410ci stroker with 351C heads, affectionately known as the Clevor, yields all the benefits of a lean and mean Windsor block with the air flow of Cleveland heads. Inside this 410-inch stroker is a 4.00-inch stroke steel crank with H-beam custom 6.125-inch rods for plenty of dwell time at the top. Ross pistons give Tom 11:1 compression with help from SpeedPro plasma-moly rings. A high-volume Sealed Power oil pump sits deep in the Milodon 8-quart pan.

Earlier, we mentioned Cleveland heads, which are important to the Cougar power picture. These are '70 351C closed wedge chamber heads with stainless steel 2.19-inch intake and 1.71-inch exhaust valves from Milodon. Harland-Sharp roller rockers provide the action, along with Crane dual springs. Tom opted for Lunati power with .602/.610-inch lift along with 265/272 degrees of duration from a custom ground mechanical camshaft. Can't you just hear the clatter of mechanical tappets? We can.

On top is Holley's time-proven 850-cfm double-pumper perched on top of a custom-made fiberglass intake manifold fabricated by Tom at Cobra Fiberglass in southeast Missouri. Mallory's Unilite ignition lights the mixture. Hooker Super Comp headers scavenge the hot gasses.

The cool thing about the driveline is the innovative thinking that went into its conception. Behind the powerful 410 Merc is a 26-spline C4 transmission with a 4,500-rpm stall converter. This is where horsepower and torque go to work at just the right moment in a vintage Ford. Mix this together with a 9-inch Ford with 4.11 gears, and you have a formula for going fast in short order.

At first glance, this Cougar seems rather sedate, but it isn't. This is where tasteful shakes hands with brute power. Those are 15x7-inch Magnums in front, followed by 15x8-inch Magnums in back. Mickey Thompson ET street tires help theCougar hook up at the track when the butterflies are pinned.

Inside, Tom and Tammy aimed for understated elegance with a stock '69 Cougar XR-7 interior. Have a seat and admire the rich elegance combined with the throaty roar of a Clevor powerhouse on the other side of the firewall.

If you lie on the ground and look underneath, you might be surprised to see a relatively stock suspension package. BFGoodrich skins give Tom and Tammy plenty of contact patch. Factory underpinnings do the rest.