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.

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.

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.

Cat to Growl?

It’s time to dust off the ’68 Cougar category. It’s been a bit over 2 years since I last visited this topic. Money is the one thing you need when you are restoring a classic cat. While I am not intending my car to be show quality, it will be consider a complete restoration. Along with money, which I am not putting towards the cat, is time. With my family responsibilities, going to work, the gym and other priorities, spending a few hours during my day off working on the car has been non-existent.

I walked across the street to see how my neighbor was coming on his 50-something Chevy. Needless to say he has made great progress in the last few years on the body and much of the undercarriage. While I am sure I have more pressing priorities, I might actually try to finish up the engine compartment and get the engine on its mounts in the next few months. At this time, the compartment is nearly stripped and I was looking to spray a rubberized undercoating on it before dropping the engine in.

There are quite a few other tasks that need to be accomplished in the engine compartment before I could install the engine. With a few days to myself, as my wife and son are on vacation, I might roll the Cougar backwards tomorrow and put some time into the restoration. It’s hard to believe I have dropped over $15,000 into this car and it’s nowhere near drivable.

At this point I think it’s a matter of taking inventory on the parts I have and get to work on those items I can. Drivable looking like a clunker is fine with me. Some might actually call it a “sleeper” but we will see. with any luck I can put a solid day of work into the Cougar tomorrow.

Resolutions 2009

I believe this is the third of fourth year I have posted resolutions for the upcoming year. Interesting to back in time and see what I was able to resolve and those that just did not happen. I fear looking at what I wrote for 2008 because I know I was not successful on some of them, unlike 2007.

So let’s look at Resolutions 2008 that were posted a year ago today. It seems I did carry a few over from 2007,m such as working out with the Bowflex we own. Again, I started and stopped numerous times and really did not get into any workout regime. So this remains on my list, especially after talking to my doctor when I got my physical in November. He told me the BMI was 29, which is technically 1 point away from the “obese” category. Although I don’t look obese or fat, but as I get older it will only be more difficult to keep weight off. So working out is still on the list.

I was able to keep off the carbonated drinks…soft drinks, energy drink, not beer. I probably drank more beer because of passing on sodas. This will be easy to keep. The ’68 Cougar is still on block and has not moved now for almost 3 years. Couple the time factor with the investment in order to work on the Cougar and the car remains untouched. I did do some work on it, started removing the chrome and taillights in order to trailer it to a body shop. This will really depend on any extra income I want to throw at the Cougar. As I tell my 3 year old son, “the car will be ready when you can drive.” That gives me 13 years to work on it. LOL!

Finally, one ’08 resolution I was successful at, learning CW. Sure I might be a 5 WPM operator, which is really slow when in the HF bands, but I do know all the letters, numbers and pro-signs, which means a lot to me. Hell, my son even learned two letters and he is 3 years old. He knows ‘D’ and ‘E’. I have made a number of CW contacts and worked in one CW contest. So mark this as resolved, but it will forever be a learning process in order to increase the speed.

As for Urban Terror, I retired from any form of online gaming and support. I retired Urban Radio, shoutcasting and Just Push Play. I can cite any reason, from no free time, to lack of desire to no reward from the community (outside a few die hard supports, whom I thank). Retiring from this was the best thing I did in the past 10 years. I still find it hard to believe I wasted so many years and energy on this project. There were many good times, prior to that past 18 months or so leading up to my retirement, but after that period it was no longer enjoyable. Thus, my decision. I deleted any reference to the game, all IRC channels, had someone remove all my account details. I am done, never to return.

As we are hours away from 2009 let’s look at what we can resolve. First off I want to put more time into ham radio. This has really become an enjoyable hobby, now that I have learned CW. I want to become more involved in contesting from N6RO as part of the NCCC [Northern California Contest Club]. He is the local “big gun” station in Oakley and usually has hams working many of the contests. My first opportunity comes up January 3-4 in the ARRL RTTY Roundup.

While this might not sound like a resolution, I feel it is important in my son’s growing up. The family needs to get organized, get time off and get down to my parent’s house in San Diego County (Poway). My parents are not getting any younger and have had the free time to drive up to NoCal, but the 2-day trip really ends up taking a toll on them, as well as staying in a hotel because there is not enough room in our house. So hopefully I can load up my wife and son and get to SoCal.

I also want to spend more quality time with the family. That past year, after finishing training at work my schedule was a mixed bag of start times and days off. Now I have a set schedule with set days off and actually get home when it is still light out. Things have become a bit better, being able to see my son and wife and eat dinner together. Now that my son is 3 years old, it is becoming easier to keep him entertained and interested in new hobbies. I also want to spend more time with my wife when I am off. Sure radios and the Cougar are great hobbies, but it’s not the same when you have a family who loves you and depends on you. So I resolve to be the best husband and father I can in order to foster open communication and relationship.

Outside of those resolutions I look forward to the new year. Everyone have a safe New Years Eve if you are planning on going out. Thanks for the continued support here on T6F. I look forward to 2009.