New Cougar Owner Looking for Guidance

I’ve recently purchased my first classic car and it’s a 72 Cougar XR7 with a 351C. I’m 34 and my earlier years were spent working on Hondas and Acuras. I’m looking forward to learning and first up is to identify what I’m working with. I purchased this car from the son of the previous owner after he passed and unfortunately I was provided little history on the vehicle. I was informed that the engine was pulled and worked on to some extent, the son believes a new cam was installed but no additional details could be provided. I was able to start the car and drive it around the block but it ran rough and bogged down upon throttle. I installed a new Pertronics distributor to replace the points system because the mechanical advance was sticking and I thought that was the problem. Anyways, my next train of thought is to check for vacuum leaks. I tried setting the timing but it won’t idle with anything less than 25 degrees of advance.
I’ve attached pictures of the engine bay and I’m looking for help identifying any obvious concerns that I might be overlooking. One area that looks concerning to me are the intake manifold gaskets. It appears they may not be the correct ones for the head and manifold combination. You can see the blue rubber bead on the gasket and to me this doesn’t look right, thoughts? Also, I’m trying to confirm that these are the original heads and first thing I noticed is that the head on the left side does not have the 2 in the upper corner (see pictures). Can anyone explain why this would be?
Any other thoughts or advise would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!

Welcome to the site and to the world of american iron. They are quite different the hondas and acuras! Make sure you have a nice selection of standard tools instead of metric! At least your car should be all standard hardware and not a mix of metric and standard that was the norm until the last 90s!

One thing I did not see mentioned was fuel. If the car has been sitting for any length of time you need to check the fuel tank and all lines for rust and corrosion. If it has any replace all of it from tank to carb, rebuild and clean the carb before you go much further.

You are correct on your assumption of intake gaskets being an issue. I can also see those sealing surfaces in other photos. It looks like it may be mounted upside down or incorrect application. This could be one of your main issues on drivability as it would cause a large vacuum leak around the intake to head mounting.

While I agree that the gaskets look wonky, my eyes caught the fuel filter. In the pic it looks like glass, maybe not, but you don’t want to run with the glass bodied filters, they can break. Won’t help your drive-ability, well maybe.

Welcome to the madness,

Are you going to be upset if we identify a number of issues? I know some times guys just want answer to the question they are asking and no more. Just trying to be considerate.

Quick follow up since I’m still at work but thanks guys for the feedback! xr7g428, no I won’t be upset or offended if you point out other obvious issues that exactly what I’m looking for.
At the time of purchase this car wouldn’t start at all, I installed a new fuel pump and fuel filter and she fired up with a little help. The old gas was drained from the tank, lines were purged, and new fuel went in the tank.
That’s it for now, back to work, but thanks again for the feedback!

IIRC the 2 on the passenger side would be in the back by the firewall. The heads are the same casting for left or right and it is only in one corner. You may have a 4V head intake gasket installed, hence the overage.

The driver side head has a 2 in the upper left and right hand corner. The passenger side had however does not have a marking in either corner. Does anyone know why? Is it possible that I have two different heads on this engine?

You have a lot of little things that need to be addressed. The cooling fan is too small to have any real effect. You would be better served to go back with the original fan and clutch. That style air filter is very commonly associated with engine fires as is the glass fuel filter ( Use them only during trouble shooting). The wiring for the electric choke, coil, and distributor, is sketchy You need to take a look and see what is going on there. The distributor appears to be in at least one tooth off. The vacuum advance diaphragm should end up closer to being pointed forwards or towards the passenger side. Number one cylinder on a Ford is front passenger side. Number 5 (driver side front) fires after number 1 so if you hook it up like a Chevy you get some very strange readings. Note: Ford cylinders are 1 through 4 on the passenger side 5 through 8 on drivers side not the side to side way that Chevys are numbered.