Once I got the Cougar home, I parked it in the driveway and basically went through the car. To be honest, I had no idea what was actually wrong with the Cougar. I never professed to being a mechanic, but I did know there were problems. For example, while the drive home was uneventful, the steering was sloppy and loose. The brakes were also pretty bad, but as advertised the engine was strong! I opened both doors, the hood and trunk and turned on all the lights to make sure they were in working order. The vacuum headlights flipped up, while the sequential tail lights had some problems.
A visual inspection of the car was tough to swallow. I knew it would require a lot of bodywork in order to prep it for new paint. Aside the the original Augusta Green paint being faded, there was surface rust on many of the panels, but none that had eaten through the metal. The passenger’s side door had some areas that were bulging out, while the right front fender had a big dent, visually the worst dent on the Cougar. Originally my main concern was the rooftop. The Medium Saddle Levant Grain Vinyl had long since been removed, so the roof of the car had been exposed to the elements for some length of time. Aside from the metal being strong, there were no soft spots or holes but the roof was heavily pitted and tinted an ugly brownish-orange.
Turning to the interior, all the parts were there, which was a plus, but the saddle tan leather would need to be replaced. The headliner was torn and sagging, while the driver’s seat had seen better days. The seat was torn exposed what remained of the foam, as the springs popped through being covered by nothing more than an old, dirty tan shirt. The backseat and door panels were in good condition, as was the instrument cluster and center console. The dash pad would need to be replaced, as the center was cracked and raising up exposing the inner foam from which it was formed.
Finally I looked under the hood, but not having a mechanic’s eye, I did not know what was wrong or what needed to be replaced. I knew there would be some mechanical work required, but I was not the one who would diagnose what. All I knew was I had just purchased my first “classic” muscle car and had big plans for it in the future. While I drove the car only a few times in the next few months, it would not be until August 2004 I would start looking at the restoration process.