The Perfect Match
Some things seem meant to happen.
On October 31st, Halloween day in 1966, David Siedchaglag was born. The very next day, November 1st 1966. Ford Motor Company completed the assembly of a new Mercury Cougar in the Dearborn assembly plant. It would be the 16,306th Mercury scheduled for production in the plant. Just nine days later it was delivered to the first owner. Over the next 50 plus years the Cougar would change hands only three times, eventually becoming David’s car.
Like many of us, David got his automotive bug early on. His dad was always working on something; fixing up a '68 Grand Prix that was mostly white but with at least a couple of colors of primer peaking through. Then there was a '64 GMC fleet side pick up that carried bags of feed to the farm. A bluish-gray paint job tried to conceal the utility orange of the local power and light company underneath. Under the hood there was once a 400 inch Pontiac motor and then later they put in a Chevy 283 with a 3 speed overdrive. It would be his first amateur attempt at restoration with his dad. The paint was changed to Golden Rod yellow…
Eventually, just before he got his license, a '66 Fairlane with a 289 entered the scene. It had an 8-track tape player, and under dash AC. It was white with a red interior. He hoped it might become his first car. But bad floors turned into a sag in the body. Hours spent reading Hot Rod magazine in the school library revealed a possible fix, but a lack of confidence on his father’s part, and a lock of time, meant the car would leave on a flat bed never to be seen again. He really wanted that car to be his.
You never know what path your life will follow. All that research started David down a new road. He had learned a good deal about Fords, and he liked them. His first car turned out to be a '66 Ford Fairlane wagon with a 289. By the mid 80’s he was hooked on Mustangs. His first Mustang was pretty far gone to begin with and eventually ended up in the scarp yard. He acquired another '65 and was working on it when he could. As it turned out, his then girl friend was pretty good at spending money and the Mustang had to wait. It was in about 1992, the girl friend now in the rear view mirror, when things took a different turn.
David had been on the hunt for what would have been his second stocker to race on the local dirt track when he stumbled across a '67 standard Cougar. It was way too nice to be turned into a race car. He bought it and stored it away as a future project. He started collecting parts and fixing it up little by little. As his knowledge of the Cougar grew, so did his enthusiasm. But Cougars were not the only thing in his life. It was around this time that he married Jode.
Between David and Jode they have five children and 11 grandkids. So David is good at more than just building first rate Cougars. He is a self employed millwright designing, installing and maintaining mostly grain systems and feed mills. We can guess that those kids and grand kids have taught him patience and his work has taught him that details are important. The results are easy to see in his incredible Cougar.
Good things seem to never come easily. After years of work the first Cougar got snagged in red-tape hell. David explains; “After several years of working on the first Cougar I bought, I ended up in a disappointing battle with the State of Wisconsin. It’s a long story but it was obvious we were not going to legally be able to get a clear title for the original S-code auto car. Being that we had a rebuilt 390 and numerous other parts acquired the thing to do was hunt down another S-code.” In 2002, his search took him to eBay and it was there that he found the Cougar that would become our Ride of the Month. “There just happened to be a S-code on there but better than the original one purchased. This one was a factory 4-speed with limited slip rear axle and was a factory A/C car and ordered with a sports console. I didn’t know at the time that it also had factory 8-track. The e-bay seller represented the car honestly. It was in overall pretty good condition with about 115,000 miles. It only had half the engine. It was missing a few other parts as well like the console, but had some good used and reproduction parts that came with it.”
As it turned out the new S code Cougar was great find, a good deal of work had already been done. David tells us; “The rear quarters had been replaced with original ones from WCCC. A section of the front floor board on the passengers side had already been patched, probably due to a leaky heater core or the A/C drain hose having leaked over the years. Whoever he did the work did a very professional job. You couldn’t even tell where the floor section was done. The welds were all smoothed with a hammer and dolly. The original doors were pretty dinged up but repaired using a pair of replacement door skins. Not sure where he got them. Don Rush has said in all his years of handling Cougar parts he has never seen a set of door skins for a 67-68 car.”
If it sounds like the car was ready for paint, nothing could be further from the truth. David did the balance of the sheet metal work other than replacing the door skins. David tells us: “There were a few other minor patches the car needed as well as needing one of the frame rail/floor supports replaced because it was so bent up probably from misplacing jack stands. I also sandblasted the entire inside, underside and engine bay of the car. Primer went on, body color paint on the inside (except the dash it’s Ivy), black in the engine bay, and undercoat on the whole underside. I was going to tackle it myself even though I don’t have a paint booth, but about that time a customer of mine had a son who was in his final year of auto body at Madison Area Tech College here in WI, and he and his class partner needed a project for their final test and grade. The price was right so I rolled the dice and the car went to them. They replaced the door skins, fixed a couple other things and put the car in paint. It came out pretty good. Not a high end job by any means, but really nice and I sowed into the next generation.”
Once the car came back from paint David and his son dropped in the engine and transmission. The engine he had on hand had already been rebuilt: bored .030 over, crank turned, new bearings, heads worked, ready to run. They went through the top-loader 4 speed, installed a new clutch disc and had the pressure plate and fly wheel surfaced. The Hurst Competition shifter needed a bit of work and David found a way to make it work with a stock console. The rear end got a complete refresh and went back in on the original springs which may get re-arched or replaced in the future.
All of the exterior trim consists of restored originals. Fortunately the chrome on the front grill and tail light bezels was still usable so all he had to do was to restore the paint. One part of a restoration that never gets mentioned are the restoration and painting of all those other parts: media blast and new paint on all of the brackets, vacuum canisters, exhaust hangers and so on…
The Cougar’s interior was not over looked. David says: “I restored the A/C box, acquired and restored an original center console, restored seat tracks; nothing went untouched. New backer boards were finished out with re-dye on the door panels. I had acquired two different sets of Ivy seats so I had plenty of good to choose from there. I did use a lot of the good reproduction parts that are out there. A/C vents, front turn signal and backup lights, window cranks and door handles, and more. There are several things I did and then redid, and several things I would have done different. I learned a lot along the way, but I’m happy with the end result.”
One of the coolest things about David’s Cougar are the unique set of wheels. David shares how they came to find their way on his Cougar. “I have a set of turbine wheel covers that I like, but I really wanted something unique. I always had a vision of something in matte black with a chrome accent look. One year at the Jefferson WI car show and swap meet I picked up a set of the '69 steel wheels with the 12 windows. I also managed to find some good used trim rings, and the wheels came with a set of the ‘GT’ caps. Then one day. checking out things on WCCC. I stumbled across the Montego styled dog-dish caps with the Mercury man in the center. I also found the reproduction ‘window’ accents for the wheels so I knew then what I was going to do.” The end result looks like something Mercury could have, and definitely should have, offered.
David hasn’t had the Cougar to any shows yet, it was “finished” too late in 2018 take it anywhere, and much of 2019 was spent chasing temperature issues that were finally resolved as timing and temp sender unit issues. Spring can’t be that far off now, can it?
Everything is better when you can share it with the ones you love and in that respect David is very lucky indeed. "My son Craig shares my interest and passion for our classic Cougar and helped me work on it a few times. He’s always been interested in hearing how things are going with the car and that’s given us some priceless common ground to share over the years. However, I’d say my wife Jode is the family member that’s been most involved. Although she isn’t a huge car enthusiast, if it were not for her the car just wouldn’t be. She has given me a hand now and then but mostly she has given me more grace, love, support and understanding than I’ve probably deserved over the years. There have been too many times I put the car ahead of her, and ahead of family. Although I know there is still a bit of hurt for her around that, she’s by far my biggest supporter. When the plates finally went on after 20+ years and it went down the road complete for the first time on my birthday last year, she was right there and celebrated with me. She was taking pictures and putting them on Facebook, sharing the big news with our kids, etc. She even sent out Christmas cards with the two of us in the Cougar on her momentous maiden voyage around the country block! Our annual family Christmas ornament for 2018 is an awesome glass plaque type ornament with a picture of our classy Lime Frost 67. "
“Is she involved?….more than I can thank her for!”
Well done David, Well done!