First Real Drive

Hi everyone!

Figured I’d share a story about the first real drive I’ve had in my Cougar after owning it for more than a decade.

About the car - it’s a 1968 Dan Gurney Special that I bought off eBay in 2007 when I was 21 years old. It spent most of its life in Hawaii before being shipped to Mass by the guy I bought it from. I think he realized it was a basket case and decided to pass it along, and the few shops I’ve since taken it to recommended I do the same, but I always loved these cars and it was a rare example of a Cougar located in the northeast that wasn’t a complete rust bucket that was in my price range. The car was unsafe to drive when I bought it due to the ball joints being shot, and it had a massive head gasket leak. The original 302 and trans had been replaced at some point with the drive train out of a '78 Mustang II.

It’s followed me around from apartment to apartment, being stored in rented garages, where working on it over the years was difficult due to distance and life getting in the way. Finally, the last apartment I lived in came with a garage that allowed me to get a lot of work done: my brother and I got rid of the emissions-strangled engine Mustang II engine for a rebuilt '68 302, and replaced most of the front end while in the process. That was three years ago, and the Cougar then got sidelined by other life events - my wedding, my brothers wedding, and looking for/buying/fixing up a house. Extra effort was spent on my end making the house’s garage suitable with added power, lights and rebuilding the crumbled uneven floor. But this past summer I finally finished and moved the car to its new home.

In all this time, I had driven the car maybe a collective 20 miles, from one garage to another, or around the block here and there to test out components etc. So naturally, when the 2020 Lemons Rally Fall Fail-iage Tour in October popped up, my brother and I figured it was the perfect car to embark on a 4-state, 3-day, 1,400 mile round trip. What better way to make up all those years of missed driving? Sure, the brakes were garbage, the alignment was way off, the heater didn’t work, the cowl dumped icy New England air into the cabin, and a lack of working defroster meant I needed windshield wipers for the inside, but I was finally driving it! We didn’t come in first, but the car made it without any major issues - and we didn’t come in last either!

I’ve always loved this car, but that trip has reinvigorated my goal of restoring it to the former glory the car deserves.

Great story! Never give up!

Very cool! Keep on “Cattin”around!

Great pics and great story!

Keep us up-to-date on your progress.

  • Phillip

Many people in your situation would have thrown in the towel years ago. Good for you for sticking with it and congratulations on being brave enough to make that trip.

No doubt awesome! That’s some dedication to not loose sight of the prize. That road trip will be a huge motivator for now and will make for some great history in your story with your car!

It was a blast; we had been wanting to do a Lemons Rally for a long time and this one just got the timing and location right. The car has been a work in progress for as long as I’ve owned it, and still has a ways to go, but for the most part it’s been a rewarding and educational experience. Plus the help from this forum has been invaluable over the years, so thanks everyone for all the tips and advice!

Good job and keep hanging in there, you will get it done!

You know that point when you have a project that you have never driven, or haven’t in a very long time, and on getting behind the wheel there is this sense that you can put the key into the ignition, turn the engine and drive. The car seems to take a life of its’ own at that point. That itself is a very surreal feeling. Still, you can’t, not yet anyway for there is a lot more work to be done. So, when you get to that point and all that time, effort and all else has come to fruition were you now have a driving car that sense of accomplishment is on a whole other level.