1968 Cougar XR-7 - 302-4V, T5 Manual
|This Cougar was purchased from Don Rush at West
Coast Classic Cougars in Salem, Oregon, in December of
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since Carlisle, CatVert has gone on to win a Best in Show and two First Place awards.
Specifications & Equipment:
302-4V w/ Edelbrock 600cfm carb & 351W HO camshaft, Flamethrower ignition coil, Ford Racing distributor w/ Pertronix.
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.
1997 Jaguar XK8, 4.0 V-8, 5-speed automatic
The sale of Cheshire Cat made possible the purchase of this Jaguar. With CatVert nearing completion, I will have a vintage Cougar convertible to drive in the summer and decided it made sense to get something I could drive on clear, dry days during the winter. The XK8 is a phenomenal car that is just a blast to drive.
The level of luxury in this car is enough to spoil anyone, yet prices on the early models can be comparable to other used cars of similar vintage. These early Jags do have their foibles but, if bought right, can be a bargain.
This particular car is a special-order color - aquamarine. It came from New York, went to a second owner in Connecticut, and is now in Massachusetts.
It is optioned with the cold weather package, which added $2,000 to the 1997 sticker price of $69,000.
Features include memory seating, mirror, and steering wheel settings plus full power seats (both), auto-dimming rearview mirror, Connolly leather upholstery, traction control, stability control, automatic roof, and all the usual power accessories.
The interior of the XK8 is an incredibly warm and hushed place to be, even in traffic. There is no wind noise, unusual for a convertible in the price range that most of us occupy. Every control moves with either no sound or a minimum of sound and feels like silk.
The view over the hood is reminiscent of a C4 Corvette, which has a clear power-to-weight ratio advantage. The Jaguar, however, leaves the Corvette a distant also-ran for pure panache.
Anyone interested in buying one of these cars needs to determine if it is subject to a known problem with the cam chain tensioners.
If those have not been replaced, expect to pay anywhere from $1400 - $2000 to have them replaced, depending on location. A failed cam chain tensioner can give no warning at all, but usually is preceded by a rattling sound at start-up. Once the failure occurs, an engine rebuild or replacement is the only fix for the resulting damage. That cost can run $10,000 or more. The replacement tensioners now on the market are not considered susceptible to the same failure as the original, so this should only have to be done once, unless the car accumulates significant mileage. Any 1997-2000 XK8 that has 50K miles or more should be accompanied by proof that the tensioners were replaced or it should be assummed that they have not and need to be replaced at the earliest opportunity.