Cougar Sold!

cougar_soldIt’s been a labor of love since 2003 when I drove my new 1968 Mercury Cougar XR7 home from Santa Rosa. While I didn’t know much about the Cougar or even restoring the classic I started looking for information and formulated plans for updating my new ride. It wasn’t long after I purchased the Cougar that I received a business card on my windshield, while parked at my (now) wife’s work about the Mercury Stray Cats Classic Cougar Automobile Club, in Concord. Talk about convenient, this was literally in my backyard!

I joined the club, even with my Cougar in it’s current condition and was a faithful member for a few years. I found more information than I could shake a stick at from the discussion boards at Mercury Cougar dot net. A vast wealth of knowledge for everything that prowled! As I collected articles, I tossed around ideas with a few car enthusiasts on where to start the restoration. There was not much progress until I got married and moved into our first house in Oakley.

The garage quickly became the Cougar’s den and my wife’s car was relegated to the driveway. During the early years of ownership I was gung ho on tearing down and rebuilding the Cougar. Looking back the receipts I have collected, the total exceeds $15000! Amazing, because looking at the cat you would not be able to tell I have invested that much money into the car, as well as hundreds of hours to get it to current condition today.

It’s only been the last few years I have considered selling the Cougar. After my son was born in 2005, life changed for the better. When he was young I was still able to put some time into the restoration, but after 2007 I lost interest. As he got older, money got tighter and I was not able to put any money towards the Cougar.

I debated putting the Cougar up for sale since I had no time and money to invest. I was talked into keeping the car, being told that I could work on different aspects of the car that needed attention, such as striping off surface rust and accomplishing some simple bodywork. I was good at one thing, tearing down the car, this included the engine, which was completely rebuilt by Bad Ass Engines in Napa.

Still the Cougar remained in the garage and over the last few years I can probably count on one hand the number of times I worked on it. At this point in my life with my interests elsewhere I could not justify keeping the Cougar. In our new house we didn’t have a 3 car garage, so it sat outside , under a cover. Time was still precious and being pulled in other directions allowed me no time to invest into the Cougar. My interest, while still piqued by the Cougar was nearly exhausted.

I put the Cougar up for sale at the end of November on numerous sites, include Craigslist, Ebay, as well as a post to the Mercury Cougar Forums, my web site and the Stray Cats President, who disseminated the information to club members. There was little interest initially, maybe the $5500 price was “too much” as I was just trying to recover costs from the engine rebuild. I knew I would take a huge loss, but that would be money in my pocket that I didn’t have.

Early in January I received some interest from a buyer in New York, who requested more current pictures. I ended up zipping 40 images and making them available. I communicated with him over text for about 2 weeks and then he went silent.

No sooner did that interest wane, I received an e-mail from a local Stray Cats member who wanted to know if the car was still available. Just this week we finally got together and I showed him the Cougar and provided what information I had. He shared his story of why he wanted to purchase the car and intentions for me. Made me feel good the car could possibly be going to a good house and more importantly be finished.

We talked for about 30 minutes and then came time to negotiate the price. While I wanted $5500, we agreed upon a lower price. Again, that’s money I did not have yesterday. It also got the Cougar out of my driveway and into the possession of someone who has time and money to invest.

In my opinion he got a great deal! I have boxes of new parts and most all of the original equipment, minus fuel tank, front windshield and some of the chrome trim. On Friday he left a deposit and I am waiting to be contacted so the Cougar can be picked up and trailered off.

The only remaining sticking point, the DMV fees. The last year I registered the car was 2007. I didn’t even bother registering it non operational, so the fee penalties have added up. Currently to register the Cougar will take $698. I am however going into the DMV, show them a folder full of receipts to prove the car has been under restoration and not drivable. This was a recommendation from the DMV. Hopefully we can get those fees reduced by half.

So it’s been a great time being a Cougar owner/enthusiast for the past 11+ years. I expect in the future if I am looking for a muscle car, I will stay loyal to Mercury and the Cougar. The ’68 XR7 wasn’t my first choice. What I would like to own is a 1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator, while not as abundant as the ’68 XR7, Eliminators are out there and available.

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1968 Cougar XR-7 For Sale

318409The time has come and my decision has been made. While it’s been a long time coming, I have decided to put the 1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7 up for sale. I have owned the car since March 2003 when I bought it from a friend who lived up in Santa Rosa, CA. He was the second owner, with his grandmother, who took initial delivery in 1968 as the original owner.

Prior to the birth of my son I had more free time to dedicate to restoring the Cougar. While the cat was drivable, it wasn’t safe but was excited with a smile on my face whenever I got behind the wheel. After some searching and discussion on I decided to go for a full, drivable restoration. Little did I know what I was getting into. Even if I did know prior to ripping the Cougar apart, I still would have made the decision to restore it.

As things go, priorities changed in my life. While my desire to own, restore and drive a Cougar were alive and kicking, I just didn’t have the sort of time I had when I brought the car home. Over the next few years I started putting money into what seemed like a bottomless pit.

I purchased a few front end kit in October, 2005 and sent the C4 transmission to be rebuilt by a local shop in Brentwood, CA. Delta Bay Mustang became my local go to shop for parts. Not long after the new transmission I sent the Cougar in to have a new exhaust system installed with an ‘H’ pipe, Flowmaster mufflers with chrome, stock tailpipes.

By August all four brakes and the front end were rebuilt. Looking to get the Cougar safe and drivable, I purchased parts to replace the rear end. My intentions from the start were to make this XR-7 a daily driver, but as I continued the tear down and discussed with other Cougar owners I saw how extensive this project was becoming.

In April the following year, with spring upon on I made the decision to pull the 302 from the Cougar. Originally I decided to repaint, repair and replace parts on the engine, but after looking at it and the amount of crud and oil on the engine, one thing led to another and the engine was on a hoist sitting above the engine compartment. Soon I would send the 302 to Aaron at Bad Ass Engines in Sonoma to be completely rebuilt.

Four months later I would get a call from Aaron that the engine was done and ready to be picked up. Unfortunately once the engine got home, very little else was done. Time had started to dry up and any discretionary income I previously had was going into the house for upgrades and remodeling.

If it wasn’t enough to have an empty engine compartment, I decided to start tearing shit out from the interior and trying to complete work that needed to be done that didn’t cost any money, but time. I spent time grinding and sanding the care in order to prep and shoot with a rust inhibitor. Work also started on the engine compartment to clean it up, repair the battery ledge in order to paint so I could get the engine back in the Cougar.

Now 7 years later that is where the project has stood. Time invested is priceless, but the nearly $15,000 spent has me frustrated. I just don’t have the time or space to work on the Cougar. I would love to finish this project, but realistically it will continue to sit, covered waiting.

Now I have put out feelers to a few well place Cougarholics in order to sell the 68 and get a portion of what I spent back. Obviously I won’t get what I put in, rarely does that ever happen, nor do I expect that. However, I would like to recoup a portion of the costs of the engine, which would mean giving the Cougar away, but I am okay with that.

If you are interested in tackling a project car please feel free to email me at stoumi [at] the6thfloor [dot] com or you can contact me on Facebook at Stephen Toumi. I can provide all the paperwork I have from the work I have completed, as well as updated photos of the Cougar. I would like to sell by December and you will need a trailer in order to pick the car, engine and parts up. For more information you can visit this link. For additional images of the Cougar, you can download 30 of there here.

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Cat Scratched

With a renewed enthusiasm, I returned to the garage to spend some time working on the Cougar the past few days. Assisted by a power drill and an army of wire wheels I went to work on the surface of the engine compartment. I still had a considerable amount of surface rust, paint and 40 years of gunk to clean off before spraying with a rust inhibitor and hopefully a primer. I made some very good progress as well, pulling hoses and wiring harness out of the the engine compartment to allow more room to clean and prep.

Wednesday I went and purchase a new Mikita 4.5″ grinder. My neighbor had brought his over last week and the speed at which the grinder cleared away the gunk, rust and paint was amazing. I figured it was money well spent and most likely something I would need down the line. After my son and I got home from Home Depot I pulled the Cougar midway out of the garage and made a decision to work on the inside of the trunk. This area is worse than the engine compartment as it suffered from a fire years ago. Taking a closer look at the underside of the trunk, there is heavy rust, but nothing that will compromise the structure.

I plugged in my new toy, put on my safety goggles, gloves and ear protection and went to work with the grinder. I had hoped to clean most of the floor of the trunk while standing where the fuel tank sits. About 15 minutes into grinding, the grinder kicked and caught the tip of my left index finger. One look and I knew my day was done. The grinder (11,000 RPM) had gone right through the gloves I was wearing and I saw a pool of red start to spread. After a few expletives, I removed the gloves to look at the injury. While not pretty I have a gash in top of my finger and the amount of blood made the injury look worse than it was (I believe). After cleaning with water and wrapping a towel around the finger I cleaned up the garage and pushed the Cougar back into the garage. I was off to the urgent care facility.

My son and I spent the better part of an hour, as they cleaned and addressed the cut in the finger. The doctor gave me the two options, leave the wound to heal itself, which would heal funny and promote possible infection or sutures. We decided on sutures, which I was fine with then suddenly got hit with a cold sweat and suddenly lightheaded.

The nurses laid me down from a sitting position, gave my oxygen and put ice packs on my head and behind my neck. About 5 minutes later I was feeling better. They told me this was common in males for some reason. After 3 injections of Lidocaine, two at the base of the index finger and the third in or near the wound, she began to stitch the wound. A total of 4 stitches later and gauze dressing and I was ready to leave urgent care.

When I got home I relaxed and waited for the Lidocaine to wear off. Once it did the finger was throbbing and sore. Some how the bandage had fallen off and the finger looked terrible, but worse it was very tender and sore, as to be expected. I am to follow up with my family doctor on Monday, but could remove the gauze dressing after 24 hours for bandages.

I now look at this as a learning experience. Never take safety lightly. I thought I was okay with the protection I had in place, but will need to reevaluate that when I get past the injury and start working on the Cougar again. I had a pair of lightweight leather gloves on, but next time around it will be a heavier pair of work gloves when using the grinder. Thankfully the injury was not worse and this will serve as a reminder to me when working with power tools to exercise caution. Hard lesson to learn. Might have to take a picture as an ugly reminder later.

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With or Without Direction?

When I took ownership of the 1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7 in 2003 I had no idea just what this project would encompass. Without any knowledge or hands on experience prior to acquiring this car I was able to find an online resource as well as a local car club that assisted me, providing information and sources to help me learn about the Cougar.

I believe my initial problem was not prioritizing the work, having a good starting point as opposed to just starting to tear the car apart. I chose the later option and soon I had a huge pile of parts, but nothing really got accomplished. After further discussion I decided to work on safety related items. Let me preface that by saying the drive down from Santa Rosa was shaky at best. The steering was terrible and it wasn’t until I torn down the front end and rebuilt it I found out why. After completing the front end I moved to rebuild the back end.

Prior to this work I had the transmission repaired in 2005 by a local shop, followed the be exhaust system. Once the front and rear end rebuilds started the cat was on blocks for about 11 months. Once completed I made a hasty decision to remove the engine in April, 2006. Reflecting back, it was probably a good idea, albeit a bit costly. Yet like the front and rear ends, the exhaust and transmission this work needed to be accomplished. Thankfully it was still during a time I had money to pay for the work on the 302 engine being rebuilt.

With more time falling by the wayside, I became discouraged with the Cougar. I was making very little progress, mainly because of my family and work responsibilities. When the engine returned about 4 months later (2006) I had was bitten again. Much like previous attempts, time and money were against me. I was able to find time to start cleaning the engine compartment with the goal of painting it black and reinstalling the engine.

That puts me where I am today, in a quandary as to where to begin. With the small repair made last week in the engine compartment I am thrilled to be finding some time to invest into the Cougar. Making the car drivable in the near future isn’t the current goal. I feel with many of the major parts removed from the car it could be in my best interest to fix what’s broken or replace parts due to age before working on the body in order to prep it work painting. Thankfully I have a friend who is an expert in the bodywork and painting of cars to help lead me.

The cleaning of grime, the sanding of rust and removal of sprayed undercoating continues. I am still thankful the car is not a rust bucket. While there is quite a bit of surface rust, I don’t have any major areas that will push though, like the battery tray did. I can’t even put a time frame on the completion of the cleaning of rust at this time. The engine compartment is about 90% cleaned at this time and I still need to remove some hoses and wiring harness, as well as the steering column before I can finish the remaining 10%.

I also need to inventory the new parts I have. As I mentioned, I spent quite a bit of money on new parts that are still in the box. I never opened them since I was not ready to replace them. So while I am still without a real starting point, I have much work to accomplish. Maybe jumping around from area to area is way to go. Who knows maybe it will be sooner than I expect that I could have accomplished enough work that the Cougar might actually start and roll with a driver behind the seat.

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Cougar Gets Attention

The past two days afforded me the opportunity to move the boxes and clean off the top surfaces of the Cougar, roll the cat halfway out of the garage and work on it. It’s been longer than I can remember since I last put any time or more importantly, money into the Cougar. Yesterday I spent about $21 on a piece of steel and two cans of rust inhibitor. Conversely I put in approximately 15 hours work, with the help of a neighbor and made good progress.

Goals for the past few days were simple. First make progress on the Cougar, second spend as little money as possible. Both objectives were achieved. While not immediately on the list, the battery ledge was cut out and replaced. Much of the work was cleaning and grinding surfaces to get the loose surface rust off before cleaning the surface and spraying the rust inhibitor. None of the rust (like the battery ledge) is so bad that it will require removal and replacement, so I am lucky in that respect.

A goal for this summer is to completely prep the engine compartment, which is about 95% stripped and cleaned, ready to be painted. It’s my hope to drop the engine, transmission and headers into the car in the next few months. Before that can happen I need to replace a few more parts, including the steering column and necessary stainless steel lines. Yesterday allowed to get the rest of the sanding/grinding done, with the exception of one corner that has a wiring harness and hoses coming through the firewall.

From there I moved on to the front windshield, pulling the rubber weatherstripping off and removing the glass. Unfortunately the window cracked from bottom to top. I believe it was cracked under the rubber and when I pried it up, the crack lengthen. Add another $225 to the total cost of the Cougar. Once the glass was out, I cleaned the remaining waxy substance around the window opening. I already had the back glass out, removed months ago. Much like the front window opening, I cleaned up the rear window opening. I did find one minor spot of rust, but I come bondo will easily fill that hole. I assume it’s from water, since it’s the lower corner of the rear window.

I started looking at the interior again and wanted to get the dashboard removed. I had all the interior panels removed previously, as well as the dash pad that covered the top of the dashboard. The dash pad was sun damaged and pulled years ago. I did clean up the bracket and removed the dashboard, along with the heating/cooling vents. While I will probably never use the AC system, but I do need to replace the heater core and possibly the wiring harness.

Much of the work was purely cosmetic. I was able to strip the remaining rust on the floor of the interior, as well as the walls over the wheel wells and the back deck above the seat. These areas were then sprayed with the rust inhibitor. Thankfully I had done a majority of the truck interior already. I did spray the areas I had already done, but still have some surface rust I need to know down. Lots of work and some good progress was made. I might

New battery ledge, welded and sprayed.

The most progress was made on the battery ledge, this was an area that was completely corroded due to water and battery acid. The battery tray that came with the car was not salvageable. What was worse was the ledge that tray was attached to was eaten though. Thanks to my neighbor, who is currently restoring a ’54 Chevy, he stopped over and offered his help. This turned into a 3 hour project, as he cut out the area, bent a new piece of 16 GA metal welding it to the car and then ground down some of the welds to blend it into the existing frame.

I was very pleased with the outcome, it’s strong and once the battery tray is in place you won’t notice the welded plate. I was surprised he took so much time and effort into helping me with this project. He has already offered to come back over and help me with a few other projects on the car, including a few dents on the passenger’s side of the Cougar and showing me how to use bondo to start filling in low spots on the roof.

It might be a bit too ambitious to say there will be time every week to work on the Cougar, but now that some work has been done I have been bitten…again! I will update with some pictures from the work accomplished.

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