My love affair with Cougars started back in 1991. I had always been into classic cars, and as I approached my 16th birthday I started searching for “my car.” I saw many cars I would love to have and looked at a few that were realistic. I looked at ’61 Impalas, Chevelle’s, etc. Finally, my dad pointed out an ad he had seen at work for a 1968 Mercury Cougar. After looking at the car we decided the deal was right and Dad bought the car for me and thus the addiction started.
I am the third owner of this San Jose built 68 standard. The second owner bought the car circa 1969 and cared for it up until I acquired it. Luckily, the second owner kept meticulous records and I have receipts all the way back to when she bought the car. When I took possession of the car it was un-wrecked and mostly original. The previous owner had the sides of the car repainted some years back and had also had a aftermarket AM/FM installed in the car, but other than that it was unscathed. Unfortunately, the paint shop did not have good moisture filters and the paint had bubbles all over it. But hey, it was a classic and it was mine; I could not have been happier. As the car stood it had meager options including Décor Interior, floor console and power steering.
Since I grew up around cars and car shows it was always my intent to restore the car someday. So in 2002 I finally decided to take on the project. First I had to convince my dad to let me take over his garage. Once that was done I gutted the interior minus the driver’s seat and drove it over to Dad’s house. Then we proceeded to finish tearing it down. The only thing that did not come out of the car was the wiring. Paint and body work were the typical horror story that you always hear. He quoted me a price and said 3 months. He proceeded to flake on the body work which I had to farm out. And when it was all said and done he took over 18 months. All in all the body work was not that bad; it needed the passenger side floor pans replaced and a small patch of one of the quarter panels. I had the cowls redone while I was at it but it was not required as the car spent the majority of its life garaged.
I made the most of the down time while the car was at paint and body. I sent the interior out to be done. And as most of you know it takes a great deal of time to acquire the usual items for these cars. On top of that I had ideas for my own touches to the car. I wanted to add correct 1968 head rests, a rear window defogger, the “cougar” aluminum finned valve covers and air cleaner, deluxe seatbelts and a correct AM/FM stereo with speakers on the package trays and in the kick panels. Part way through the project I decided to add a GT-E “Power Dome” Hood Scoop and grille bars and XR7-G center caps and trunk lock inserts. At the end of it I had lived on E-Bay and had managed to give the car an identity crisis of sorts.
Once the car was back from the paint shop Dad and I drew the line in the sand…we wanted the car to debut at Prowl 2006. We had a long way to go. First the grille was taken apart, detailed and reassembled. Then the engine was painted, detailed and dropped in with the freshly rebuilt transmission. Next the interior was installed, including fabricating the package tray and cutting the holes for the kick panel speaker buckets. Finally we reassembled the front clip on the car and got it aligned. The last touches were the emblems and the likes which we put on the car at 2:30 am the day of the show. We managed to make the show, albeit sleep deprived, and I must say that the reception the car received was great.
Upcoming projects include adding the correct H-pipe, putting a new exhaust system on the car, and having modern inner workings including an iPod receiver installed in the AM/FM stereo. In closing, I would like to extend many thanks to a group of people too long to list in this article. Special thanks go out to my dad; without his time and garage this project would not have gotten done. I would also like to thank my good friend Jim Pinkerton whose expertise was instrumental in getting this car done. Many an hour was spent on the phone or looking at one of his cars as a reference. Finally, many thanks to John Benoit of Cascade Classics for getting me parts and giving me advice many times along the way. Here’s hoping to see all of you at Prowl and other future events. Happy Cougaring…..Chris.
Special thanks go to the Cascade Cougar Club where this article originally appeared. It is published here with the permission of the authors.