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.


Since I am not in a real big hurry to get  my Cougar back together, I thought I might continue pulling it apart.  Seems I am a genius at that. Oddly enough, sometimes I wonder when I  stare at my car, “Will I be able to put this all back together?” I am  sure the answer is yes, but its a bit mind boggling sometimes to think  just all of what I have accomplished up to this point on my restoration.

I  continue to work on the engine compartment while the engine [302-4V] is  being rebuilt up in Sonoma at Bad Ass Racing.  Last Wednesday Arron sent me an e-mail that said, “I haven’t done much with the engine yet other than tear it all  down.” So I am counting 15-20 days from that period and will have a  general idea when it will be finished. I am looking so forward to a  brand new, rebuilt engine, it’s going to look so damn sexy!?

But, with that said, there is  still a plethora of work to be accomplished before I even consider  dropping the engine back into the compartment. Today, in about 45  minutes, I was able to finally remove the power brake booster from the  firewall. God damn if did not see a nut I was supposed to remove, so I  sat there trying to pry the booster off the firewall, until I realized I  had not removed all the nuts. Sort of felt stupid for missing it after  the fact. On recommendation from the MC.net forumgoers, I am going to  get my power booster rebuilt at a place in Oregon called, Booster  Dewey’s. The owner rebuilds them and exchanges them. I think I will  call him tomorrow and talk to him. After 36 years, I am sure the booster needs some work.

With the booster out of the way, I can turn my  attention to the proportioning valve and the brake lines that connect to  it. Two of the lines that run to the master cylinder need to be  replaced. I am not sure if they can be purchased separately or if I have  to buy an entire set for the front end. Once I remove the valve, I can  continue working on the engine compartment, cleaning, degreasing and sanding it before I prime and paint the engine compartment. IF, that’s a very big if, I had a full day, I could accomplish the necessary work in  about 7 hours, possibly even priming it. Once primed I will  spray it with a semi-gloss black before bolting on all the parts I  removed in order to clean the compartment. This will be the best looking  part of my Cougar yet! Then again, that is where it all counts, under  the hood.

“It smells like gas…”

…yeah, that’s what it is, the sweet,  sweet smell of gasoline! And why is that? Because yesterday I finally  accomplished what I intended to do, remove and replace the intake manifold and carburetor. And yes honey, there is a STRONG smell of gasoline fumes. Sorry about that, nothing a bit of fresh air cannot clean.

The more time I put into the Cougar the more things I  think need replacing. I continue to tell myself, “Self, this is not a concourse car. This is going to be a drive on the weekend/project car,  you do not have to go balls out on it.” Now I recall why I gave up  drafting, because I am a perfectionist. Every line, shape and texture  had to be perfect. The Cougar I fear is turning out the same way.

This  “rebuild” all started with the detection of a leak from the water pump  was the conclusion drawn by myself and those enthusiasts on Mercury Cougar Forums. So I picked up a new pump,  painted it and then started to say, “what if I…” Well, that statement  has led to more of the engine being dismantled. Which is not necessarily  a bad thing because the last complete rebuild was 1988 by the previous  owner.

This gives me a chance to clean inches of grime and gunk,  wipe down all the parts. The previous owner did say, “there were some  oil leaks I neglected to take care of, I suspect much of the crud  belched out from under the valve covers, I constantly forgot to tighten  shit up.” Yeah, and now, 17 years later it shows. No worries, this was  work that needed to be done, the nasty, tedious part of the job. Working  my way back from the water pump, I now have the manifold and valve covers off. I also unbolted the alternator, since it was in need of  “freshening up” and the wires are very brittle and corroded.

I  hesitate removing the distributor, as if you don’t mark it correctly,  you could find yourself having one hell of a time replacing it. But  after the manifold is in, I might consider it. Yet another remove and  replace part. That really is all I am doing, no toying with the internal components, with the exception of the timing chain, I will remove the  fuel pump and move it around with a screwdriver and see if it loose.

I  need to order an engine bolt kit from AMK Products Inc. since most of my bolts, washers and fasteners are rusted out or  stripped. My target date continues to be April 22, the date of the first  2006 Spring Cougar Run for the Stray Cats. Not sure I will have enough time to finish the work, but progress is being  made.?

Tranny Repairs

Just got off the phone with Brentwood Transmission. The good news is  that the transmission is in rather good condition, since its last rebuild in 1997. I guess there are some bad splines on the front planet  and the transmission mounts need replacing. As for the bad news, the flywheel and starter need replacing, engine mounts are shot and there is a vibration in the drive shaft. A bit more than expected, but nonetheless it needed to be repaired, so I just told them to go ahead  and do it. I should have the Cougar back by Wednesday, hopefully by then  the parts from PST will have arrived. Just called them and was told by the sales agent, the parts were  shipping on Friday, April 8. I could have a busy weekend working on the  front end?.

Christmas in April

The new parts continue to arrive for the front end rebuild, just picked up the strut rod bushings today, as well  as a full set of door hinge pins and bushings for both doors. Yeah, I  now those have nothing to do with the front end, but I did notice I had  to hold the doors up when I closed them. As for the transmission, I did  receive a call yesterday from Doug at Brentwood Transmission, so I dropped by today to get the information on the transmission. Aside from  being low on fluid, the transmission is leaking like a sieve. They are  going to pull the transmission on Monday and replace the seals, along  with diagnosing the mechanical parts inside. I don’t suspect I will see the cat back in the garage until late next week.?