Project Phoenix - 1971 XR-7 Convertible

Welcome to my project thread.

Please follow along with the restoration of my 1971 XR-7 Convertible

This is an M-code car that I converted to 4 speed. It is a blue-plate California car from new. Well equipped, including competition suspension (staggered shocks, 5/8" rear sway bar) Traction-Lok, functional cold air hood (my own design), and lots of cool convenience options - PW, tilt, AM-FM, AC.

The car was damaged in a fuel fire in 2017. The fire was largely cosmetic, damaging paint, underhood wiring, engine bay plastics. Then, the car was lost to three years in body-shop jail. It’s now back in my shop and steady progress finally being made.

It will live again!


Before and after the fire.

Prior to the fire, this was a nice driver that looked good and drove fantastically.

After the fire, it was a mess. I was devastated.

An interior photo before the fire.

Power windows, tilt, AM-FM Stereo, and A/C.

A nicely equipped car

Strip down before the body went for media blasting


Wiring harness took the worst of the fire. Fully restored using the correct wire gauges and color codes from used Ford harnesses in my shop.

Motor evaluated for damage. Oil pan gaskets, intake gaskets, valve cover gaskets replaced, motor repainted.

This is a 1972 4 bolt CJ block/crank, 1971 4V closed chamber heads, roller cam, roller rockers, Blue Thunder intake, Sanderson shorty headers, 780 CFM Holley, Canton high capacity pan, balanced and blueprinted.

A sweet running, potent little 351C

Placed on stand, cylinders fogged with oil for storage

Interior color will be changed to black

Dash pad restored by Just Dashes

Entire dash assembly re-dyed with SEM plastic paint, assembled and detailed.

It will be installed as a complete unit - pretty sure that’s how Ford did it on the assembly line.

Body has very little rust. This is a San Jose DSO 84 car that lived in Southern California until 2014.

Trunk floor was WASTED though - the well liner for the convertible top was torn to shreds and water was pooling on the trunk floor.

Adapting the 71 Mustang trunk floor was tough. The Mustang floor was 4" shorter than the Cougar, so I had to fab up a strip, spot weld it in. I also had to totally reshape the corners nearest the wheel houses. A lot of hammer, dolly and English wheel work required.

Plus the shape of the gas tank required the central hump to be made taller to clear the tank vent fitting and raised boss around the filler hole.

A HUGE project.

Prepping the underside of the hood. Getting ready to shoot the car in an epoxy sealer prior to filler work.

Rocker moldings and door top moldings sent to King of Trim in California for re-anodizing. Picture is before restoration…

They did a nice job.

Bumpers were shipped to Tri-City plating in Tennessee for rechroming. Again, decent work at a fair price.

Nice work. How many hours would you guess it took to make your own harness?

Cool to see your build thread since I am currently restoring my 71 xr7 429 car… I have untold hours of work in my trunk floor too! Sadly nothing is reproduced for these 71-73 cars unless it also fits a mustang… makes them tough to restore. Keep up the good work!

I didn’t really make it, just cut out the burned wires and soldered / shrink wrapped in correct replacement wires and connectors.

However, it still took at least a day to finish.

Wow, that’s WAY beyond anything I had to deal with. Fortunately my quarters, rear panel and trunk extensions were in excellent shape.

Fortunately you’ve got a valuable car that justifies a project that big!

Good luck, I admire people willing to tackle major surgery like that…


Fire damage sucks, only thing worse then the fire damage is that done by a dry chemical fire extinguisher.

Did you figure out what the cause of the fuel fire was?

The fire was sadly my own damn fault. A moment of carelessness that nearly cost me my house, Cougar, GT350, and Porsche 911

Did a conversion to Holley Sniper FI. Since the steel fuel line was newish, and in excellent shape, I decided to use it again, not seeing a hidden rubber fuel hose splice under the driver’s side hood hinge. Under 58 PSI of fuel pressure, the small rubber splice ruptured, spilling/spraying gas everywhere. Caught fire inside the garage when I turned off the ignition and the power window relay made a spark.

A careless mistake, that nearly cost me everything.

It was horrifying.

Door hinges rebuilt.

Pin and bushing kit costs less than $10.

Money well spent for doors that don’t sag.

Bottom of hood sanded and soon ready for epoxy primer.

A dirty, ugly job that I’m glad is behind me.

Looks great!

I know i am 1 year off but i had to cut the back half of my 70 to repair many years of real bad bodywork. It sucks that there is no reproduction panels that are correct for our cats…


My God. That’s terrifying!

Way beyond my talent levels…I’m in awe of those that tackle such huge projects