1968 Cougar XR-7 - 302-4V, T5 Manual, Custom Convertible Conversion



This Cougar was purchased from Don Rush at West Coast Classic Cougars in Salem, Oregon, in December of 2002. 

CatVert initially was a very close match to the Cougar I first owned shortly after leaving the Navy.  My original plan was to restore it to match that original Cougar, but things turned out a wee bit differently than planned.



The change in direction came about because I already had another 1968 Cougar XR-7, known as the Cheshire Cat, that was restored to stock specifications.

I didn't need two of the same thing and I had a desire to do something different and unique. The opportunity to use this Cougar to create the 1968 convertible that Mercury should have built was too good to resist and CatVert was born.

The pictures you see here are the finished product. Click this link for in-progress restoration and conversion  photos.






  • Celebrity Pick  - Carlisle, PA All-Ford Nationals 6/2006


  • Class 2nd Place - Carlisle, PA All-Ford Nationals 6/2006


  • Best of Show - Buffalo, NY All-Ford Show 6/2006


  • Class 1st Place - Buffalo, NY All-Ford Show 6/2006


  • Class 1st Place, Nashua, NH All-Ford Show 6/2006


  • Class 1st Place, Northbridge, MA American Legion Show, 8/2006


  • Class 1st Place - Shrewsbury, MA MCCNE New England Regional All-Ford Show 8/2006


  • Top 50 Award - Millbury, MA MII AutoFest 10/2006


  • Celebrity Pick Award - Carlisle, PA All-Ford Nationals, June 2007


  • Class 1st Place - Carlisle, PA All-Ford Nationals, June 2008


  • Class 1st Place - Nashua, NH N.H. Mustang Club All-Ford Show June 2008


  • Top 50 Award - Millbury, MA MII AutoFest 10;/2009

The conversion and most of the restoration was accomplished by Greg Zuch of Batavia, NY with technical and hands-on reassembly assistance from Phil Parcells.  Phil is the Cougar Club of America National Database Administrator and recognized expert on the early Cougars.

Greg is an experienced restorer who works out of his home.  He has done other convertible conversions and was the right person to handle this project.

The body preparation and paint work was performed by Custom Auto Body of Lancaster, NY.

Throughout the project, Team CatVert had one overriding mission - to create the car that Mercury should have built and to do it in such a way that only a Cougar enthusiast would know that the factory hadn't built this car.

Unique characteristics of this car include the custom XR-7C badges where the original factory badges were located.  In addition to the convertible conversion, we also decided to create CatVert in the style of the original XR-7G models, a theme that involved installation of Lucas driving lights in the modified front valance, a Shelby-style console, and Shelby pipe-within-a-pipe exhaust cutouts in the rear valence.


The project began in November of 2004 and "finished" just in time for the All-Ford show in Carlisle, PA in June of 2006. Arriving a day late and still in need of some finish work, CatVert nonetheless was awarded a Second Place in class and a Celebrity Pick Award.  Immediately after the show, it was back to Greg in Batavia for another two weeks of final reassembly and detailing.

Upon completion of the work in Batavia, CatVert came home to the Worcester, MA area where New England Trim of Shrewsbury, MA did the final fit of the custom top, made a custom boot for when the top is down, and refurbished the door panels.

Perhaps the biggest engineering challenge was to ensure a roofline that retained the Cougar flavor and to preserve the upper body lines as much as possible while seamlessly integrating them into the convertible well area. Greg did a phenomenal job in meeting that challenge.


Specifications & Equipment:

  • 302-4V w/ Edelbrock 600cfm carb & 351W HO camshaft, Flamethrower ignition coil, Ford Racing distributor w/ Pertronix.

  • Dual exhaust
  • T5 Manual transmission with Ford Racing clutch
  • 3.25:1 8" open rear axle
  • 15" full chrome Cougar-style wheels with 225/60-15 BFG Radial T/A tires
  • Power top, Air-conditioning, power steering with tilt/tilt-away, power windows, power disc brakes, and dual map lights in base of rear-view mirror. 



Click this link for more in-progress restoration photos.