We're not against trailer queens. They have their place in the hobby, and some cars, we feel, should stay on the trailer for posterity's sake. Nevertheless, we're glad to see that an increasing number of enthusiasts are electing to set their restoration projects loose on the highway--enthusiasts like Kendall Wilder of Waterloo, Illinois. He's thrown a lot of money at his '69 Cougar drop-top over the years, and spent many hours turning it from a rust haven into a sweet street machine. Yet when it's time to hit the road, Kendall doesn't hesitate to turn the ignition switch and drop the pedal.
Kendall bought the Cougar from the used-car lot of a local Ford dealer in January 1996. The weather at the time was just about as cool as the $1,400 sale price. That the car had some serious rust problems was considered only a minor matter.
"I have always been a Ford lover," says Kendall, "but I really loved '69 Cougars. So, when I had the chance to own one, I did it. "I started working on the car right away. It had a damaged front grille, and I also removed the 351W engine to rebuild it. I drove the car for approximately two years, and added slot mags, a hoodscoop, and a rear wing, along with engine dress-up stuff."
After this brief driving stint, Kendall decided it was high time he gave the Cougar the treatment it deserved--and so desperately needed. This included replacing massive quantities of sheetmetal, removing five layers of topcoat, and finally applying an expert coat of Calypso Coral. Friend Ben was a big help in the autobody repairs--all of which were accomplished in Kendall's home garage. As you can see, Kendall also embarked on a bit of customizing in the body department.
"I blacked out the grille and added an Eliminator reproduction fiberglass spoiler, hoodscoop, and rear wing. All are painted Medium Gloss 'John Deere' enamel black, since this is my employer."
One of the neat customizing tricks is the Cougar air-cleaner hold-down. "I custom-made the air-cleaner wing nut. I filled the back portion with epoxy to give it rigidity, and mounted the wing nut in the back side of the running cat to finish it off. It matches the valve cover."
Kendall explained that the bulk of the restoration work was completed in August 2000, with a new drop-top going on in April 2001. Still, new parts and tweaks continue to be applied.
"My car is not perfect," says Kendall, "but it's a driver. I accumulated 8,000 miles on it since I bought it--even with the 2-1/2-year layoff." You can bet that many more miles are planned for this sweet kitty.