The September 2016 Ride of the Month is WhataCougar's '68 XR-7

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The September 2016 Ride of the Month is WhataCougar's '68 XR-7


Post by xr7g428 » 10 Sep 2016, 15:58

Congratulations to WhataCougar, Roy M, on the selection of his '68 XR-7 as the September 2106 Ride of the Month!

A Conversation with Roy.

When I begin the process of writing up a Ride of the Month the first thing I do is send a questionnaire to the owner. Maybe it is because I know Roy, and I can hear every word in his voice and see his smile, but I thought that his story just sounds best in his own words.

1) First off, tell us a bit about yourself.

Roy McGrew, 60 years young, and married to Nancy for 41 of those years. We never got around to having kids but she has two dachshunds that are as spoiled as any grandkid. I’ve been involved in water treatment for almost 40 years. For the past 8 years I’ve been working in clinics and hospitals installing medical water systems. Every week I’m in a different city, anywhere in the 50 states.


2) Tell us about your experience as a car enthusiast and especially, how does it factor in to your enthusiasm for classic Mercury Cougars from 1967 to 1973. Is the car being profiled your first Cougar? If not, please tell us about other classic Cougars you've owned over the years.

When the Cougar was introduced I was 11 and very interested in cars, I knew every make, model and year of every American car on the road. My 19 year old sister really wanted a Mustang or Cougar but my dad considered them coffins on wheels. I’m assuming it was her interest in Cougars that sparked mine.

By the time I was old enough to buy a car, anything with 4 wheels and a motor would do…and that’s what I got. It was the ugliest year of Ford Fairlane ever made; 1965. It was a square box with 4 doors and 6 cylinders. It didn’t take me long to decide that not just any car would do, it was time for a Cougar.

My second car, a worn-out, beat-up 67 Cougar came later in 1972, or early 73, the start of my senior year when I really had to have a cool car. The Cougar wasn’t just another used car, it was the car I dreamt of since the commercials started in 1966…well, not this Cougar, but it was the best I could do for $700.00.

This one started off as a crap brown/copper (I believe Mercury probably had their own name for it) standard Cougar with a 289 and automatic. By the time I got it it was transformed into a 289 4-speed, with an XR7 dash. An equally talent-less classmate made the modifications possible with the transmission and dashboard from a really nice dark green 68 XR7 that he had recently totaled.


Since I was fairly new at buying cars, and I had to have a Cougar, I didn’t really notice that the clutch pedal traveled as much east and west as it did north and south. I also didn’t immediately notice that when I drove it on to the lift at the Standard Oil station, where I worked, that the front tires were centered on the ramps while the rear tires chose to ride on the raised edge on the left side of the ramps.

It was still a cool Cougar with air shocks and nearly bald rear tires. It would have been even cooler if it had started up and run more often than it did. I finally had to give up on the Cougar dream and cross over into the Mopar world with a 68 Barracuda fastback.

Skipping many cars and a few years takes me to 1979 when one too many Northern Indiana blizzards convinced me that Arizona was the place I oughta be so I loaded up the truck and….crap…I can’t rhyme this with Tucson.

My wife and I drove my 70 Chevy C10 rust bucket, pulling our fresh new 79 Monza with a tow bar and a car payment to the land of sun and no snow shovels. Having more than $20.00 in my bank account for the first time, after the successful sale of a house that I wasn’t supposed to buy because I was too young, I decided that a used 1970 XR7 Arizona car made much more sense than a 79 Monza with a car payment.

This wasn’t the 68 XR7 that I always wanted but it did have the nice head gouger hood that wasn’t offered on the 68 models. It also had a 351 Cleveland 2 barrel, automatic, nice navy blue leather interior with a light blue exterior and navy blue vinyl top. I guess that the 7 years of maturity from 1972 to 1979 was enough to convince me that the factory stance, whitewalls, and wheel covers actually made it a nicer Cougar than my first one…but it wasn’t a 68 XR7.

3) How did you come to acquire the Cougar being featured? Tell us about how you found it, what was its condition and mileage, and what attracted you to this particular Cougar.

Time to jump a few non-eventful years from 1979 to 2003. I’d like to say that my wife and I were busy raising kids, or maybe my band’s tours kept me traveling the world for 20 plus years, but I didn’t have kids or a band. I guess I was just in the go-to-car-shows-and –look-at-other-guy’s-cars stage. I hadn’t given up on appreciating old cars, I just gave up on thinking I’d ever own one.

Standing in a customer’s driveway in January 2003 I was drooling over a 1965 Mustang convertible that he had just had restored. His wife bought it new in 65 and hadn’t used it for many years. I was just amazed to see a car looking at least as good as it did 38 years earlier. I wanted it.
In our conversation I had mentioned how much I like Mustangs but I also had a thing for Cougars since I saw the first ads. One of the details about the Cougar that stuck in my brain was the little, lighted PRNDL buttons on the console. I think I could have satisfied half of my Cougar obsession if I could just own a Cougar console.

As we finished our long conversation and I was leaving his driveway I said something about maybe I should keep my eye out for a Mustang that I could restore someday. My older and wiser customer stopped me and said “No, forget about the Mustang, “go find yourself a '68 Cougar XR7, that’s what you want”. Damn! It was like he put a spell on me…or at least knocked some sense into me.

The first chance I had I Googled 1968 Cougar XR7. Even though I had some internet experience I was still shocked to see that there seemed to be a lot of people interested in Cougars, and they even had a forum. That just threw some gas on my fire. Now I had to infiltrate this group and figure out how one finds a Cougar for sale.

Since I didn’t yet have a Cougar but I wanted to join the forum, I needed to come up with a forum name. I was pretty sure that Roy wasn’t going to be catchy enough. One day while driving with no thoughts in my mind I heard a hamburger commercial and realized that Whataburger kind of sounds like Whatacougar. Knowing that I could spend weeks trying to come up with a name for a dog, maybe I should settle on Whatacougar… but not for a dog.


Armed with a new name and determined to find a Cougar I started a ritual of searching internet ads every morning before work and every evening after work. I limited my search to mostly western states. Although if you can believe the ads, it seems that all of the AZ Cougars are now in the Midwest. Finding one in AZ was going to be tough. From January 2003 to April 2003 I saw many ads and looked at a few cars that made my 67 look good.

Early one April morning a new listing showed up from the Sacramento Bee. When I called later that morning the owner’s wife was shocked because she said the newspaper hasn’t come out yet, but the ad showed up on the internet. Her husband called me back and explained that he had inherited it from his uncle 10 years earlier but had never titled it; it just sat in a garage near Reno. When they moved to Sacramento his wife decided she wanted space in the garage so the Cougar had to find a new home. His aunt and uncle bought it new in Van Nuys CA but after his aunt died it was rarely driven.

The story almost sounded too good to be true but this guy seemed to be very honest about everything. I told him I’d send him a deposit then I bought a one-way ticket to Sacramento.


My first sight of the car really disappointed me; I saw a very fresh Polar White paint job. He insisted he only painted it to make it easier to sell. Rather than accepting that story I spent about an hour crawling around that car with a magnet and a flashlight. Soon I was convinced that there was no bondo and no recent damage repair. Now, 13 years later and being very familiar with every inch of that car, I know that it actually is rust free…everywhere.

4) After acquiring the car, what did it need to be brought up to its current presentation? If the car required restoration, tell us about the process. Did you do the work yourself? If not, are there people and shops that you would like to mention?

It had 76k documented miles when I drove it home to Tucson; it was in pretty good unmolested condition.

The ugliest part of the car was a well-worn interior and a wavy dashpad. I had a pretty successful transaction with Ken in OK to get a full set of nugget gold upholstery. I did it all myself with advice from a coworker.

I replaced most every part of the font suspension with conventional components. I did all the work except the alignment.

In 2004 I rebuilt the original 302 myself. I’d never fully rebuilt a motor but I must have done something right, it just keeps running better after about 25K miles.

The only things I’ve paid anyone to do are alignment, charge new AC system, balance a driveshaft, and the machine work on the block. Working on a 60’s car brings back good memories of my late teen wrenching days while working at the Standard Oil station.

I can’t mention any shops but I’m sure glad that Don Rush never got around to getting a real job.


5) After getting your car to its current level of presentation, what do you think is the car's best attribute?

Besides the 302 running like a Swiss watch ;), it would have to be the fact that it has never had rust and only very minor body damage in nearly 50 years.

6) After getting your car to its current condition, did you start attending any multi-marque cars shows and cruise events? If so, please tell us about the experiences and if people found it at all unusual that you were displaying a Mercury Cougar rather than something more common like a Mustang or Camaro.

Unfortunately I have so little time in Tucson that I can barely find time to walk through a car show occasionally. I don’t have any real desire to sit around at a show although I do enjoy answering anyone’s questions when I’m approached in parking lots, gas stations, etc.

7) Since acquiring your car have you gotten involved in any local or national Cougar club activities, like the Cougar Club of America?

I can’t say involved but I have paid dues a few times to feel like I belong to something. The best activities have always been the Basore Bash after a day at the auction.

8) Are there any vendors or suppliers that have been especially helpful in keeping your Cougar healthy an on the road?

I haven’t been buying many parts lately but I buy most everything from Don (West Coast Classic Cougar). I really do appreciate the work you two have done getting reproduction parts for us.

One day at Don’s shop he handed me one of the repro hash marks to check out. I immediately realized what it must feel like when a woman touches jewelry, it felt great. So great that I eventually bought a set for my 68. So great that I got up the nerve to drill 28 holes in my rocker panels. Sometimes I feel stupid about putting them on there but they look so much better than rocker panel mouldings.


9) Is your family involved in your classic Cougar passions? If so, please describe.

Unfortunately no, My wife has accepted that my car is really cheap therapy so she’s fine with me having it, she’s just not into cars. Oddly enough though, she does like the 68 to 70 AMXs so I haven’t given up hope on having a big block 4 speed someday. She has no idea what the AMX was known for.

10) In closing, since your car's story will be seen by hundreds of Cougar enthusiasts, what would you like to say that wasn't covered in the previous questions.

Obviously putting hash marks on a 68 excludes me from membership in the purists club, but I do sometimes struggle with modifications. I sat in Art Hopkin's XR7-G, in those Porsche seats, and immediately started a frantic search for seats. Then I reminded myself that I want the feel of a 1968 car. The feel, the smell, the sound, and the aggravation. Now I keep thinking that EFI is a great thing these days, why not bring my Cougar up to date? Then I remember I have two other vehicles with EFI that I can drive, but only one with a four barrel carb.

I will probably keep my Cougar the way it is but I think I need an old truck with a modern drivetrain. Then I’ll be done….sure. Or maybe a modified AMX?

Thank you for taking the time to share your classic Cougar experience!


Bill Basore, Editor / Publisher
Legendary Cougar Magazine
Currently in the Cat House
'67 XR7 GT 390 4 speed, AC, AM FM, Lime Frost Green
'68 XR7-G 428CJ C6, Tilt-Away, AM, Black Cherry
'68 XR7-G 390 4 speed, Sunroof, Cardinal Red
'68 XR7 GT-E 427 C6 AM Cardinal Red
'68 XR7 resto mod 351W, soon to be AOD, Black Cherry

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Re: The September 2016 Ride of the Month is WhataCougar's '68 XR-7


Post by berns68 » 11 Sep 2016, 05:36

Congratulations Roy! Great car and story too. I was looking at your Marti report and saw that your cat was built 31 days after mine at the same plant. From the VIN #'s the difference was 4596 Cougars in one month!

1968 Standard Hardtop, Nordic Blue
302 F code, updated to 4V
Originally 1 of 2
ROTM May 2014
C.A.T.S. Classic Cougar Club member #16-10
CCOA member #9618

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Re: The September 2016 Ride of the Month is WhataCougar's '68 XR-7


Post by SPLINEHEAD » 11 Sep 2016, 07:38

Congrats Roy! I see an AMX in your future, lol.

Gary Hill
Pole Cat
1969 XR7 390 S code 4bbl C6 3.0 TrueTrac rear end

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Re: The September 2016 Ride of the Month is WhataCougar's '68 XR-7


Post by relentless » 11 Sep 2016, 12:43

Nice story, thanks for sharing and congrats on ROTM!

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Re: The September 2016 Ride of the Month is WhataCougar's '68 XR-7


Post by propayne » 11 Sep 2016, 13:54

Beautiful - love the color combo!

- Phillip

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Re: The September 2016 Ride of the Month is WhataCougar's '68 XR-7


Post by Caleb » 11 Sep 2016, 15:46


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Re: The September 2016 Ride of the Month is WhataCougar's '68 XR-7


Post by Whatacougar » 12 Sep 2016, 20:53

Thanks guys. This is a great group to be a part of. I won't be leaving anytime soon. In fact, if I have to wait as long for an AMX as I did for a clean Cougar I should be in my early 90s when I get it.

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Re: The September 2016 Ride of the Month is WhataCougar's '68 XR-7


Post by C7XR7 » 13 Sep 2016, 15:20

One of my favorites! Congratulations Roy, see you at Barrett Jackson time?
...1967 XR7*Polar White*Saddle Tan*PS*PB*AC*AOD

.................Everyone is entitled to my opinion................

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Re: The September 2016 Ride of the Month is WhataCougar's '68 XR-7


Post by Whatacougar » 13 Sep 2016, 19:54

C7XR7 wrote:One of my favorites! Congratulations Roy, see you at Barrett Jackson time?
The eight ball says chances are very good.

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Re: The September 2016 Ride of the Month is WhataCougar's '68 XR-7


Post by GavinS » 13 Sep 2016, 21:31

Congratulations! Amazing story and it certainly was a great read.

I'm looking forward to Bill and Debbie resuming their traditional auction bash. There have been great events the past few years with the hospitality of Scott Taylor and his amazing family opening their home.

There are a great group of people in the AZ club and a welcoming community to all the travel to Phoenix in Jaunary for the auction weekend to see amazing cats and great people.

Thank you also for your support of the CCOA

Your car is as amazing in person as the photos
image.jpeg (644.1 KiB) Viewed 1146 times
image.jpeg (613.69 KiB) Viewed 1146 times
image.jpeg (580.98 KiB) Viewed 1146 times
Gavin Schlesinger
1968 XR7 428 CJ - Lime Frost
1968 XR7 427 GT-E - Wellington Blue
1968 XR7 427 GT-E - Cardinal Red

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Stray Cats Mercury Cougar Club

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