'68 Cougar "Daddy's Money"

My best friend had a 1980 Trans Am towards the end of high school. It was the pace car model in white with an offset hood scoop for a turbo 4.9L V8 (it actually had a 350). Very sharp and fun car. We gassed it up one day, and a guy at another pump made a scoff about it being daddy’s car. It most definitely was not. He and his step-dad built the car, along with another, and he bought it when they were done. That car ended up burning in a shop fire, but he now has an '81 Camaro Z28.

My cougar has a different story. Dad bought it in 1980 with a 289 and some body damage. He fixed it up and drove it until it hit 100k miles. In the late 80’s, he tossed that 289 aside and had a 351 Windsor built for its place. It got a mild cam, electronic ignition, bored 30 over, and eventually stronger valve springs. It got topped with an Edelbrock Proformer intake and a Holley 1650. The C4 got rebuilt with a Trans-Go shift kit. The car ran when I was a little kid, but got parked in '96 when my younger twin brother and sister were born. She got some attention almost ten years ago from Dad’s cousin and my brother, and it got some replacement parts.

Dad passed away in March 2015. Since then, it’s driven once, six years ago, and ran one other time. I was about to take it for a spin and noticed gas spitting out of the fuel line that supplies the back bowl on the carb. I popped the carb off, and it has sat in my garage ever since. Well, I’m getting married this year, and my fiance wants the car at the site. So, I rebuilt the carb a couple weeks ago, and I am heading up to get it from my cousin’s farm on Sunday.

The main goal for this car is to be a driver. A few runs down the strip would be cool, but it’s not ready for that. It will need some bodywork, but I’m not looking to make it a show car. I want a car that runs well and is fun to drive. Front disc brakes and a brake booster will be in the future.

As of now, most of this car has been bought an paid for by my dad, but it won’t be like that for long.

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Very cool to see another Cougar saved, and one that has such a neat history for you! Yup, it won’t take long before you’ve spent double what your dad had in it. But you’ll have a blast and end up with a car you will be proud of! Flush the fuel, brake, and coolant systems out before you drive it very far. Mine sat for years too, and I had the carb apart three times to clean out sediment before finally replacing the fuel system.

Very cool! Yeah, make it safely / reliably drivable and enjoy it!

Don’t forget to change all those old fluids that have been sitting in it deteriorating for the last few years! Be prepared for a gas tank replacement as well as the 50yo fuel lines. …and brake fluid / lines.

Anyhow, can’t wait to see it back on the road! You should contact your local Cougar Club. I’m sure there are folks who would love to lend a hand, or give you an excuse to take it out to a show or cruise :slight_smile:

Welcome aboard!


Thanks, guys.

It does have a new gas tank, and the heater lines are about 8 years old. My dad’s cousin and my brother took care of the really old stuff. I’ll be checking everything out when we get it home.

One thing that needs to happen is a fix for the power steering. Either a line going down to the ram, or the ram itself blows fluid out of it, and that did also get fixed with the other updates. It just didn’t hold up, I guess.

I will definitely have a lot of questions along the way.

Welcome to the group, There is not a question here that can not be answered by these guys. You are on the right track getting her running and driving again then you can tackle everything else. Great history and story to tell!

Feel free to post your progress and ask for help if needed.

I got a quote on tires yesterday. Cooper Cobra GT’s are my plan. It’ll be $600ish for the set. I’m not sure what width the rims are, but it currently has 205’s up front and 235’s in the rear. If they’re the same width, I will probably get four of the same size for rotation’s sake. The current tires are Atlas Roadhawk GT’s cicra 1988. Dad kept most of the service receipts. I also have a stack of stickers from all of the upgrades from Holley to Blackjack Headers, and also TransGo and High Energy Cams. I’ll dig those out sometime and post them on here for you guys.

I was gathering my stuff for tomorrow’s trip, and a jug of washer fluid jogged my memory a bit. The bladder on the washer pump is ruptured, and it caused fluid to drip in the cabin and rot through the floor. I do have floor pans to fix that. Anyways, I was reminded that I wanted to yank all that out, and replace it with an electronic pump. The pedal would remain, it would just just close a contact to cycle the pump.

Tomorrow is the big day, and I can’t wait. I’ll be picking up the truck and trailer this evening after a small family gathering.

Here’s another shot of the car. This is the first time I pulled it out of the garage five years ago. The rear brakes were seized up, and I pounded and sprayed the crap out of them.

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I put the Cooper Cobra 215-70R14’s on my original styled steel wheels and have been really happy with them. Great handling and traction. The best thing is they were cheap enough I don’t worry about burning off some rubber at green lights once in awhile - lol!

We made it home, and we took advantage of being up north to visit some family. I’ll post more detail tomorrow.

We left yesterday at 6am–my fiance being awake that early is a miracle in itself. She had never seen the car before, but I’ve told her stories and have shown her pictures and video. She loved it when we walked into the garage.The hood was leaned against it, and the deck lid was in the trunk. One tire was flat, but the other three had held air. I opened the door, and the smell was just as I remember it, slightly musty, but not bad. We only found one mouse nest in it, too.

I started out by cleaning up the mating surface on the intake, because it had scaled up a little bit. I mounted the carb, replaced the fuel filter, and topped off the gas (I thought it was only half full, but it only took about 2 gallons). I had filled it with 91 or 93oct fuel five years ago, and I put the appropriate amount of sta-bil in it. Whether that was necessary or not, I’m not sure. Then, I hooked up the battery, and there was no arcing. I took that to mean there were no chewed wires. I gave it three or four bursts of 10 second cranks to prime the fuel pump and oil put. I had my lady hold a cleaned out MTF bottle to catch and monitor the gas flowing out of the line. During the second set of cranks, the gas flowed and the oil pressure gauge started bouncing to 15-20psi. Time to fire.

With the pumps primed, I primed the bowls. They took more gas than I expected them to, but I had gas leak as I was filling the rear bowl. It dribbled from the top, but nothing was coming out of the weep hole. I figured the front was good, so that was good enough. I hopped in, and my fiance set up her phone to video it. I pulled the choke, turned the key, and it popped right off with a little throttle. We were ecstatic! There were no leaks present. The following starts were a little tougher, but eventually I was able to back it out.

I got the truck into position with the ramps on the raised driveway, and I made a loop around the yard. It began to feel like I was slipping on the gas, and then it lost all forward momentum and died. It took about five minutes of waiting to get it started again. While we waited, I checked the tranny fluid, and it was indeed low. My cousin ran back to his farm and grabbed a couple options. I will be replacing that fluid, as I’m sure it is the wrong stuff, but it got the car moving. It moved reliably after that. Up onto the trailer we go, and the chains and binders got set. We went over to my cousin’s house for a couple hours to visit him, his wife, and their five boys ages 2-10. It was a lot of fun.

After that, we headed to the next town over to visit my dad’s cousin who has been more like an aunt to me in my life. She is two days older than him, and they were very close throughout their lives. She and her husband wanted to see and hear the car. When I started it, it went with no choke, and it had an awesome low, choppy cam idle. It has that 1-2-3 lope sound going on. She just about started crying she was so happy to see it again. We went inside and stayed for another hour or so.

After checking the chains, we hit the road to head three hours home. As we hit bumps, I noticed the suspension cycled very nicely–no bouncing, just a sink and rebound. W?hen I got it off the trailer, the engine started without any gas on the first crank. I parked it in my jeep’s spot beside my fiance’s car.

If you’ve read this whole thin, kudos to you, because I would have had some trouble. I’ll be changing the oil and tranny fluid after work, and I’ll get the fuel/air mix set. After that, we will start taking short rides and slide cardboard underneath to check for fresh leaks.

More to come…

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It’s your call but you will be money ahead to replace the tank and fuel line. New gas dissolves the shellac layers inside the tank. The shellac goes through the carb and filter but it paints the valve stems making them very sticky. It builds up rapidly. The valves begin to stick slightly open making it develop the lope you are hearing. Eventually if you are lucky it will bend pushrods. Or a stuck valve will be hit by a piston and all hell breaks loose. I have the bent pushrods and engine rebuild receipts from my experience.

Yup - that’s exactly what happened to mine after 5 year old gas was left in the tank. Took me awhile to figure out the rocker arm dimple damage in the picture was caused by sticky valves.

Sta-bil in the gas will buy you maybe a year. But after 5 years, you have a highly corrosive and gummy mess, and most likely rusty sediment throughout the fuel system. I wasn’t convinced it was a problem either until I saw what all it did to my car. At the very least, flush everything out.

Nice you have the Cougar back on the road - enjoy!

Well, that’s not the best news, I guess. Non-oxy gas will all that, too? That’s what I put in it. I figured the lopey idle was from the cam.

Maybe it is the cam in your case, I hope so. A new tank and fuel line is pretty cheap (less than $200 all in) and you can’t go wrong. You need to replace all the rubber hose sections any way so you can knock it all out in one shot. I think the additive packages they need for modern direct injection EFI is what is dissolving the old shellac.

Yeah, you hopefully haven’t done any damage yet. My car didn’t have any other noticeable signs of sticky valves - vacuum and compression looked great, and idle was smooth once it warmed up (until the carb would plug up). But when I would first crank it over cold, there was zero compression on 2 or 3 cylinders until I cranked for a few seconds. I guess enough oil got pumped around to loosen things up and let the valves fully close.

I will definitely be looking into refreshing the fuel system. Unfortunately, I have no paperwork for the cam, like I do for most of the other things. All I have is a sticker and remembering Dad said it loped a little on idle.

I just got done working, but the fiance has been off for a while, and she started vacuuming it out. At some point, a mouse made a home out of the heating ducts. Joy. I grabbed a chunk of 12/2 out of the scrap bin to pull chunks out with.

Oil change tonight, along with bolting up the hood and deck lid. I might go have another set of keys made, too.

As far as the idle goes, I’ll video it tonight and post up here for some opinions.

I did not get to the things I wanted to tonight. I found myself in a food coma after dinner.

We did get the hood and deck lid mounted. I will need to fine tune the fit. I started it up for our neighbor to hear it, and it started easily, but then it idled terribly. The engine shook and jumped. I have not done any tuning with the air/fuel screws, I know it’s rich, but not that rich. Sticky valves? If so, what do I do besides replace the fuel system?

Mine idled just like that after an engine rebuild. I could improve things temporarily by adjusting the carb idle screws, But it progressively got worse until it wouldn’t even stay running. Pulled the carb and found it full of powdery rusty sediment from the gas tank and the idle circuits were plugged. The fuel filter only grabs the big chunks. New fuel tank and lines finally got it fixed. Yours could be something completely different, but you might try pulling the carb top and making sure the bowl doesn’t have a layer of sediment in the bottom.

Also make sure timing and dwell are set right and disconnect and plug all vacuum ports to rule out vacuum leaks. Look at engine while running after dark to make sure sparks aren’t jumping out of cracked plug wire insulation, boots, or distributor cap to ground.

I’ll check that out. I figured a new fuel filter would take most everything out.

As for timing, I noticed oil leaks from around the distributor base, so I definitely need to pull that, anyways. I’m not sure what dwell time is. I should pull the cap and check the condition of the electrodes, anyways. I guess a full tune up would be good, now that I think of it.

When the tank rusts on the inside some of the particles are so fine they go right through any fuel filter. When gas goes bad in the tank it cares not about fuel filters. The sticky varnish goes right on by.