The February 2018 Ride of the Month is Charlie Brown's '67 XR-7

The February 2018 Ride of the Month is Charlie Brown’s '67 XR-7!

Charlie’s Story and the Mysterious Origin of Number 650241

Page 1: Charlie’s Cougar

You know how the story begins: Charlie Brown’s first car was a '68 Cougar XR-7, it was Black Cherry with a white vinyl top. He always regretted letting that one go. Haven’t we all been there?

Fifteen years would pass before he would find another Cougar to take it’s place. Fortunately his wife Paula was supportive, but the years had made finding any Cougar difficult, much less an XR-7 in decent shape. Finally, on January 1st of 2002 he found his car.

You don’t expect to see much in the used car classifieds on New Years day. Charlie was relaxing reading the paper, the Rose Bowl parade on the TV in the background, when he decided to check out he classifieds anyway. There she was, a 1967 Cougar XR-7 on a local dealer lot. A call to the lot confirmed they were open. A change of clothes and Charlie was out the door to check out the Cougar.

Charlie describes what he saw this way: “She had 97K miles and showed it. She had a big dent in the driver side where the previous owner, an older lady, had decided to take her for a drive and hit a telephone pole when the brakes locked up. The interior was all there and not bad; the bones were good. She had no rust except for a rear quarter; the rest was very clean.”

After he got the Cougar home the process of bring the Cougar back to life began. “It took about a month to figure out what I wanted to do. She needed some new tires, so I went and put on American Racing Salt Flats and BFGoodrich radial TA’s on. I wanted something different. Now, I had to decide on my next steps. I wanted one like I had in high school, but I am purist and had to leave it Cinnamon Frost. My brother Joel and I spent the better part of a week pulling the interior out, pulling all the chrome, and prepping it for body work. My brother was a fantastic body guy and between him and James Shiew, another good friend, they did all the body work and paint. The color is Cinnamon Frost and yes, some people just call it brown or copper, but it IS Cinnamon Frost.”

While the Cougar was at his brothers place, Charlie had the motor, transmission and differential rebuilt. When the car returned to his shop in the fall of 2002 he rebuilt or replaced all of the suspension components front and rear. Finally, they were able to put the drive line back in. “She sounded great the first time she fired up. She then went to Tulsa Auto Trim to have a new vinyl top and headliner installed. Then the fun part of putting the interior back started. All new dash pad, carpet and kick panels. It all went pretty well and the fall of 2002 she was rolled out of the garage ready to go.”

Once the Cougar was back in prime shape Charlie started attending a few shows. “The first car show I took her to was in Spring of 2003 and I took 2nd in the Classic Muscle Class. She has won several other awards since 2003, but I don’t really attend to win a trophy.” Charlie’s biggest reward from attending shows is getting to meet other enthusiasts. “I had a chance meeting with several members of Mid America Classic Cougars that had just started up. They had the same love for the Cougar as I did, so we all clicked. We attend shows together, but we want to talk to people about their cars and what they have in their garage and barns. One of the most memorable was last year at the Daryl Starbird show here in Tulsa. Randy Christian and I had the chance to put both of our Cougars in that show. We spent 3 days talking to hundreds of people and handing out MACC and CCOA forms and trying to gain new members. We still hear the proverbial; “What is that.” MACC is up to 57 members now.”

If you have read this far you know that Charlie’s story is not too far removed from many of our own. And on the surface, Charlie’s Cougar is a nice well optioned car but not incredibly rare in the 1 of 1 department. To understand the significance of Charlies Cougar you have to know The Rest of the Story.

The Mysterious Origin of 650241

Charlie’s Cougar was built in the Dearborn Michigan plant as were all 1967 Cougars. It was ordered through the Dallas District Sales Office by Fred Jones Lincoln Mercury for its Tulsa Oklahoma dealership. All of that is ordinary enough.

The full VIN number is 7F93C650241. That decodes to 1967 Cougar XR-7 with the C code 289 2V engine, the sequence number was 650241. At first that may seem unremarkable except for one thing. The sequence number of Mercury vehicles should start with 500000 . The higher number means that over 100,000 Mercury vehicles had been scheduled by the time this Cougar was built. In fact, this was a very late production '67 Cougar. The highest production number was 651900. Vehicles are not built according to the sequence number, but if they were Charlie’s Cougar and the last Cougar were less than one days production apart.

The Rest of the Story

On September 6th, 1967 the UAW called for a company wide strike. It would continue for 66 days, until they reached an agreement October 22nd finally ratified by the local bargaining units on November 11th, becoming the longest strike in Ford history. On September 15th an article in the Ford Times described the strike.

“An eerie—and costly silence continued this week at the Ford Plants across the country. On assembly lines sit new '68 models unfinished and untouched since 159,800 hourly employees represented by the United Auto Workers walked off their jobs at 11:59PM Sept 6.”

At most Assembly Plants a skeleton crew was maintained by agreement to keep certain operations at a minimum as to not damage systems such as heating, electricity and at the Glass Plant. A seven man crew maintained the furnace where molten glass was stored. Shutting down the Coke Oven took a week slowly dropping the heat until the ovens were sufficiently cooled as not to cause damage. At the The Rouge plant 300 workers a day maintained the operations compared to the normal 32,461 Workers.

Dealers were desperate for cars by the time the strike was over. It had occurred during the critical new car introduction and many lots were completely bare.

Yet, in the middle of this strike, some how Fred Jones Lincoln-Mercury was delivered a brand new 1967 Cougar. Charlie’s Cougar was ordered before the strike began, the order received by Ford on June 6th. The sequence number was also assigned before the strike on July 19th. The buck date is missing, but it must have been before the strike began. What we next know is that the scheduled build date was August 7th , and the actual build date was August 10th and the car was released to transport the next day. All this time the factory should have been dark, completely shut down minus the UAW workforce. And we know the date to be correct because the new owner had the car in service on August 28th.

How did that happen? To begin with Fred Jones Lincoln Mercury was not your average dealership. Fred Jones had started his automotive career working in the new Ford Assembly plant in Oklahoma City in 1916. He rapidly moved up the ladder but decided that he preferred sales and opened his first dealership in Oklahoma City in 1922. By 1926 he had built the largest Ford dealership in the southwest. By 1955 he was the nation’s number one seller of Ford cars and trucks. Not in New York. Not in California, but in tiny Oklahoma.

If that were not enough he also started Fred Jones Manufacturing where they re-manufactured parts for cars and trucks. The facility grew so large it was commonly called the little Rouge River plant. In 1968 he acquired the old Ford assembly plant where he started in 1916,and converted it into his new factory. He was serving 2500 dealers through a distribution network that spanned the US. It is fair to say that Fred Jones was very well connected within the Ford organization. If Fred Jones wanted cars, chances were he would get them.

We have to speculate about the details but here is what makes sense. Typically a car ordered for stock was built within a few weeks of the date it was serialized. Because the order type was Stock, it would be lower priority than a Retail order so it could be bumped for later production if higher priority orders arrived. As the strike deadline loomed, dealers would begin to clamor for cars, and a well connected dealer like Fred Jones would be heard loud and clear.

The buck date is missing but the Cougar must have been bucked and run through most of the assembly process before the strike. After the strike began some white collar non union members of management and engineering could enter the plants to see if there were any cars that could be completed and shipped. These cars would have had to be substantially completed, perhaps needing only final inspection and adjustments before leaving the plant.

So Charlie’s Cougar was produced by a factory that for all intents and purposes was closed. The research goes on!

The (Real) Rest of the Story

Fred Jones Lincoln-Mercury was located at 12th and Boston in downtown Tulsa. Just on the other side of Route 66, and a block to the north, was Tulsa Central High school. In 1939 a promising young Central High grad named Paul Harvey Aurandt probably saw the all new Mercury when it was introduced. Paul already had four years experience in radio working for the local Tulsa station KVOO. Later, he was a correspondent stationed in Pearl Harbor during the raid that brought the US into WWII. But he is far better known for his radio show that always began with; “Hello Americans, this is Paul Harvey. Stand-by for NEWS!” What would follow was a spell binding story with a twist at the end, called The Rest of the Story. For years, listening to Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story at noon on the ABC Radio Network was a regular part of the day. Harvey worked right up until his death in 2009, at age 90. His works lives on in the Chrysler Farmer Ad.

Great story. Congratulations Charlie.

I accidentally hit submit instead of preview so sorry for the many edits…

Great write up. Neat to see a Tulsa car still in Tulsa and on the road.

Very interesting story. Congrats Charlie on beating me out of “ride of the month”. Only a guy named Charlie Brown can get away with displaying peanuts characters on his Cougar.

Wonderful color combo! :beerchug:

  • Phillip

Congratulations, very nice car and an interesting story to go with it. I was always a big fan of Paul Harveys storys on the radio.

I posted this last night, but it disappeared overnight. We’ll see if it sticks this time.

Congrats, great story!!!

Ah memories.

I can tell you that if the engineers finished that car it was no easy feat. In my 43 years of working in those plants I have had to cross the picket lines three times. One time at Chrysler’s Lynch Road axle plant where I was confronted as I tried to go in and work on our spline roller. I said “look brother, I’m just a blue collar guy like you trying to make a buck” I explained further that I was fixing the spline roller in department x and they left me alone. Afterwards, whenever I went back in that plant the two guys that were confronting me went way out of their way to help me.

Now you know the rest of the story.

Listened to Paul Harvey every day I could, great stories.

Again, congrats!!

Have you ever done something really stupid? Well, I just did. When I was researching Charlie’s car I had jotted down the dates and started going to work to see what was happening in the world at that point in time. Only I wrote down the wrong dates… I think they call this garbage in, garbage out. Anyway when I finished the story I noticed the dates were wrong and I changed them, not realizing that the correct dates would completely negate the premise of the story. DOH!

As it turns out his car was built in August and that does indeed come before September, and before the strike.

The rest of the story is true, to the best of my knowledge and we all know how well that works. Some cars were literally pushed out of the factory during the strike. Fred Jones was a personal friend of Henry Ford and was responsible for keeping many pre-war Fords on the road for the duration of WWII.

Congrats on the win, CB!

The Heap is also a Fred Jones car, still in Tulsa county…though not back ‘on the road’ again yet…yeah, yeah, I’m working on it. If Charlie keeps hounding me, it may actually even get wrenched on soon.

Cool car, cool story, great storyteller. Facts, schmacts, kudos all around.

My world has been pretty upside down lately. My brother in law that I have known for about 48 years, passed away suddenly Tuesday the 30th. He watching the State of the Union address and when my sister went to see if he was ready for bed he had already passed. She never heard a thing. This past Tuesday was the service in Oklahoma which I could not attend since the magazine came out of the printers the same day and I already had an appointment with the Post Office for mailing on Wednesday morning. Then my wife left Thursday to take care of her elderly mother for a week. And yesterday my daughter called to tell us that they are inducing labor on Monday morning. So if I screw something up, I hope it is not too serious. In the mean time if I am supposed to be doing something, you probably will need to remind me of it…

I hope I am speaking for all here, Take a little Mr time. I can wait. Go hold you new Grandchild and give your wife a huge hug and decompress. I am sorry to hear about your brother in law.

Best of luck Bill with everything you have on your plate just now. Good things, bad things, all part of the rich tapestry of life my old man would say.

Thank you all and thank you Bill for all the work you do for the Cougar Community. Take care of yourself because we need someone with all the history to keep telling the great stories. The facts and information you add is really interesting to read.


Prayers sent Bill.

Thanks guys, I don’t want the thread to be about me. Actually I am pretty happy over my new grandson’s early arrival.

One thing that I like about Charlie’s car is the Cinnamon Frost with Saddle color combination. Just like the 1967 XR-7 that they used for the proof of concept XR7-G.

I kinda like those '70 bucket seats too. They look comfy.