BBCat - Following a tough act

When I made the decision to sell CatVert, I didn’t immediately plan on getting another Cougar. Still, it wasn’t long before I started thinking about what would come next and how to follow a car like CatVert. The car that come coming to mind from way-back-when was my ’68 Torino GT formal roof with the 390/C6 combination. But I was torn between that idea and moving on from the Cougar community. Then it hit me – why not do a Cougar GT?

It was an obvious choice and I’m surprised it took me as long as it did to reach that conclusion, but I immediately started looking around the Internet for the right candidate.
I first saw BBCat on Craigslist, advertised in Colorado. It looked pretty solid and had the option list I wanted but it was priced higher than I wanted to spend. So I kept doing my searches.

BBCat frequently showed up in the search results and so I watched as the price fell, then fell again, then finally reached a level at which it seemed a deal could be possible.
The owner turned out to be a very nice guy who also owns a W-code GT-E. He gave me a good description of BBCat but it was clear that there were things he hadn’t taken a close look at, such as the cowl. As it turned out, when he tested the cowl it leaked. The other areas I asked him to check closely also turned out to have more issues than he had thought. Negotiations produced another significant price reduction and a deal was reached. BBCat was coming to Massachusetts. That was June 2010.

The first order of business was to fix the cowl. Since BBCat was a solid driver otherwise, fixing the cowl was all I intended to do for a year or so. I just wanted to have a car to drive and didn’t want to spend much money until the economy improved and I had more confidence that we wouldn’t need the cash to sustain our business through a double-dip recession. Enter Dave Croteau.

Dave is a long-time friend that operates a restoration business from his home. For most of the years I’ve known him, it’s been a side business to his main occupation as a new-car dealership Service Manager. As things happened, though, Dave had been through multiple dealership buyouts and consolidations, eventually finding himself unemployed in the midst of the recession. The good news (for both of us, as it turned out) is that Dave was able to turn his attention full-time to his restoration business. That meant he had the time to spend on BBCat without losing the summer entirely.

Dave is old school and doesn’t like taking short cuts, so the cowl repair was done the traditional way. He pulled the fenders and hood, then proceeded to break all the welds to remove the cowl panel. As you can see from the pictures below, the collected pine needles and other debris that had found it’s way inside the cowl over the years had inflicted significant damage to the hats. One of them was actually removed from the rusted cowl just by hand, no tools required.

Of course, with that much cowl damage the floors were equally bad. Fortunately, I knew all of this before purchasing BBCat and it was all factored into the final price.

New underlayment and new carpeting complete the floor and cowl repair project and provide a step toward the interior restoration still to come.

2 weeks after arriving in Dave’s shop, BBCat was back on the road.

Wow! Thanks for posting that. That cowl repair was way over due. Looks fantastic now. Gotta love a Lime Frost '67 GT!

Good looking car. Two weeks to do the cowl and floor repair? That’s fast and from the photos the work looks top notch. Love the Big Block 67’s! :ylsuper:

Nice find, and not being too quick to settle for something that you didn’t want. Good job SalD

The plan to hold off for a year or so before starting the restoration work didn’t last too long. By October, Dave had reached a slow spot on his schedule and asked if I would consider doing the restoration sooner than planned. We agreed on an estimate to complete the project and BBCat was off to Dave’s shop.

The first order of business was to take many photos of the car as it came into his shop. That allows Dave to recreate original details such as how the pinstripes were put on the car. The photos below show the original stripes.

Next, he stripped the vinyl top from the car. We knew that the top was an aftermarket top by the flat trim pieces around the lower edge and by the grain. What we didn’t know was the butchery that lay beneath the top.

The holes you see in the photo above extended all the way across the back window and around both C-pillars. In order to repair that area and have it look right with just paint would have taken a boatload of hours to complete.

After looking at the extent of the holes and considering the work that would be involved in returning BBCat to its original no-vinyl-top state, we also considered what the final product would look like without one. As a Lime Frost car, BBCat isn’t wearing the most popular color in Cougar circles these days and adding the roof to the mix seemed like it would be too much Lime Frost. My ’68 Torino GT was a formal roof car in Lime Frost with a black vinyl top and I always liked the look of that car. So the decision was made to replace the vinyl top, but do it in the factory style. All of the holes were filled in and some new holes were made to align with the factory trim pieces. At the same time, a rusty surprise in the rear window channel was addressed.

West Coast Classic Cougars supplied the factory trim pieces. Of course, a couple of weeks later I ended up buying a parts car that already had them! WCCC also supplied the reproduction vinyl top. While I was busy collecting parts, Dave started the bodywork.

One of the things we learned quickly from BBCat was that it had never been hit and was still wearing its original paint. The paint, however, was so thin in so many spots that the option of keeping it as a survivor wasn’t really an option, especially in light of the rust areas that had to be fixed, regardless. For the most part, however, the project required minimal body work and mostly came down to prepping for paint.

While Dave continued to work on the body, his son (David Jr.) got to work detailing the tail light and front grille assemblies. Stay tuned.

Cool project! Too bad about the crazy holes for the vinyl top, but at least your roof looks solid. It’s cool that is was still original paint. Looking forward to more updates!

Awesome Bill! As you might guess, I LOVE this kinda sh!t! And this is all after the unfortunate tree limb through the trailer roof and unfortunate landing on BBCat’s roof? All the better! The car looked great when I saw it last, I can only guess how sweet it will be the next time I see it (AFN?).

Thanks for sharing!


Bob you brought up a good point. Bill all of your work was done before the tree caper right? If that happened to me I think my stomach would have been tied in knots dealing with the insurance company.

Everything I’m posting at this point was done before the tree limb came down. I just decided it was time to document the project. The cowl repair was done in August 2010. The restoration project began in late November 2010 and was essentially completed in early January 2011. By February 2011, BBCat had the new vinyl top and front leather upholstery installed. But let’s pick up again in the restoration phase with the reassembly.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Dave’s son was busy working on the grille and tail lights. I had given him an assortment of pieces I’d collected in addition to what was already on the car. David took the best pieces and went to work. Anything that needed repair got repaired. David used the WCCC website as a guide for restoring BBCat’s grille. The result you see here, including the tail light restoration, only cost me $700.00.

Here it is reinstalled on BBCat and sporting a couple of new trim pieces from WCCC:

Here is what he did with the tail lights, after much polishing, taping, and painting:

Tomorrow I will finish this story and post the pictures of BBCat as it will appear several weeks from now at All-Ford Carlisle. Good night, all!

While Dave Jr. detailed the grille and tail lights, Dave Sr. continued the body and paint work

At the same time, I continued sourcing parts. WCCC supplied the new quarter emblems and rocker panel hash marks, along with a new Cougar emblem for the trunk lock and the new running cat grille background. An extra set of stainless trim from the hood and trunk areas had been used as cores toward a newly restored set from WCCC while John’s Classic Cougars provided the rechromed bumpers (I also had an extra set of bumpers that served as cores so I have not had to let go of any of BBCats original parts).

In the picture above, the trunk lid is still sporting the original trunk sticker. Dave carefully masked it off so he could paint around it without leaving an obvious area of old paint but also not get any overspray on the sticker itself. You have to look very closely at the edges to see where he did that.

BBCat was now getting its new coat of Lime Frost in bc/cc. The roof would not be painted to save on material costs, so the color stops just above the vinyl top trim piece mounting holes.

Once the color was on and ready for the next step, Dave painted the pin stripes back on:

The next step was to detail the engine compartment, which was done with the engine still in the car. Eventually, we’ll do it again with the engine out but it actually came out quite well this way.

From Dave’s shop, BBCat went to New England Trim to have the new vinyl top and reproduction front leather upholstery from JCC installed. Next up, the finished product with before and after views.

Dave Croteau had BBCat from late November 2010 (Thanksgiving weekend, actually) to mid-Janaury 2011. For the next three weeks, BBCat stayed in the trailer waiting to go to New England Trim, which it did the second week of February. By mid-February, the restoration of the exterior and part of the interior was complete. What had been planned to take several years ended up being done in just seven months! Here are the before and after photos for direct comparison. The “After” photos were taken at the 2011 All-Ford Carlisle show a few weeks before BBCat won its class at the Cougar Nationals East.

Between the time the “After” photo was taken and the Nationals, BBCat got a new washer reservoir, new correctly marked hoses, and an Autolite repro battery. Since then the radiator cap has been changed to the correct style as well.

The “After” interior photo is not the best, but it does show the new upholstery in place. Since the previous owner kept the dash pad covered all the time, I didn’t need to replace the dash pad.

At this point, I considered BBCat mostly done, with finishing touches being all that remained to take it up another level. Little did I know that the strangest winter I’ve seen yet was fast approaching.

Great write up Bill. Interesting choice about the vinyl top. My X code is Lime Frost with no top and I thought the exact same thing about it being too much. Don’t know if I want to deviate from original though.

For the rest of the summer of 2011, I collected additional parts for the finishing touches. The window frames had pitting, the dash bezels were in rough shape, and the steering wheel was worn smooth. I wanted to use the winter to replace these items, so I collected spare parts and started sending them out to be restored. This way, I’d only have to swap everything over and not have the car torn apart for an extended period while I waited for things to come back.

The spare steering wheel went to Best in Show out in California, with a lead time of 10 weeks. The window frames (wing and quarter) went to Nu-Chrome with a lead time of 10 weeks. The dash bezels went to Instrument Specialties in Rhode Island, with a lead time of 12 weeks. The dash emblem later went to Paul’s Chrome in PA with a lead time of 10 weeks. All of this happened in September and early October with the idea that they’d be coming back during the peak winter months and could be installed well before spring arrived.

On October 27th, 2011 Mother Nature decided it would be fun to treat New England to a major snow storm. With leaves turning, but still on the trees, the heavy wet snow brought tree limbs and trees down all over New England. We spent the next several days without power, but that was the least of the trouble. A heavy tree limb had fallen from a height of about 30 feet up and speared right through the roof of the car trailer. It was like a precision-guided bomb, since it managed to hit the trailer roof directly between two cross beams right above BBCats roof.

The thin aluminum of the trailer roof probably didn’t even slow it down. It hit BBCat and buckled the roof deep into the passenger area.

So it was back to Dave’s shop once again. Although I purchased a roller from Scott Gregory, Dave elected to first try saving the original roof. To his surprise, and with a little bit of help from a Porta-power, the roof popped back into shape. All that was needed was some bodywork where the limb had actually hit the roof. For those within driving distance of New England, it also means I have a roof if anyone needs one!

The roof repair required a new vinyl top, so I called Don at WCCC. He recommended that I use the SMS version, even though he couldn’t sell it to me. It’s a more exact match for the original vinyl top. It’s got thicker vinyl and a thinner pad just like the original where the repro is essentially the reverse. The SMS top also has a seam at the top of the windshield pillar where the repro does not.

The following are photos taken when BBCat was reappraised following completion of the repairs. This is how it will look at Carlisle a few weeks from now (Mother Nature permitting, of course! :laughing: )

I look forward to seeing all those who will be in Carlisle. There are still a few things left to be done on BBCat, but it is actually now a better car than it was before nature intervened. It also now lives in the garage rather than the trailer and, right after Carlisle, will be moving to the larger, alarmed, and climate-controlled garage at our new store location.

I love your car. It is good to see you took that tree in stride. Th vinyl top looks great too.

Looks great! That sucks about the tree… Glad you were able to save the roof though! I’ll also be doing the SMS top… have seen it next to the cheap alternative and it’s a pretty big difference in quality and originality. Unfortunately the price difference is pretty big too …

Looks great now, Bill…glad the repairs went well for you. It’s a great looking combo, IMO, the lime frost and black top.

Thanks to all for the nice comments. I’m very pleased with how BBCat turned out and, of course, aware there is still more to do. I need to install a new parking brake handle, get the A/C working, and get the fuel gauge showing the right fuel level (probably by replacing/rebuilding the sender). Those will be on the to-do list for next winter.

For those who saw it at AFN last year, it should look just a smidgen better, given that the work done to the window frames and dash are more accents than anything else.

Mostly, this was just about introducing BBCat to the community here and documenting what has been an interesting and unusual first two years of ownership!

I think everyone should see the before and after of Lime Frost before they say how they feel about the color. It just looks so much nicer when it is new!