The June 2016 Ride of the Month is Gavin Schlesingers '68 XR7-G!

Congratulations Gavin!

The following appeared in Legendary Cougar Magazine Volume 2 Issue 1

The Presidential Limo

Gavin Schlesinger is the President of the Cougar Club of America. His daily driver seems like the perfect choice for a the top cat at the CCOA, a 1968 Cougar XR7-G.

Gavin Schlesinger must have been pretty persuasive even as a kid growing up. The house he grew up in had a two car garage and somehow, to his parents dismay both of those spots and at least one on the driveway were filled with Gavin’s cars. Even then Gavin had a car that was polished to perfection for show duty, a daily driver, and one to fix up and flip or to part out to pay for his hobby.

Gavin’s, love affair with cars started out with… well a Mustang. Many of us have gone the way of the horse at one point or another so I am sure that Gavin can be forgiven for this early indiscretion. Like many first cars it was in less than perfect condition. Gavin and his father rebuilt the carburetor together on the kitchen table that would, from that point on, bear the scars of becoming an automotive work bench. Together they would spend hours waxing and polishing the car before every show.

The local hang out for car guys was at Jenro’s bar on the edge of Norfolk Virginia. Gavin was there with his '68 Mustang when he was approached by a local fireman who had a Cougar to sell. It was a 1969 Standard. It was yellow with saddle interior and except for a problem that would not allow the windows to seal, it was in decent shape. After driving a rattle trap Mustang the Cougar felt like a luxury car. Following the exchange of $800 the Cougar was his. and the Mustang was history.

In the late '80’s Cougar information was difficult to find. The internet was in its infancy and very few car magazines were covering the Cougar. Fortunately Gavin met Sherry and David Johnson, Cougar owners from Virginia Beach. Sherry had a triple black 1969 XR-7 and David had a Madras Blue '68 with a dropped in 428. Sherry and David introduced Gavin to the Cougar Club of America (CCOA). The CCOA was just about the only source of Cougar specific anything and Gavin became a member. He had no idea how this would change his life in the future.

As is often the case, Gavin discovered that once you own one Cougar, well you need to get another. The wheelchair bound owner of a 1967 Dan Gurney Special spotted Gavin’s '69 on display at the start of the Great Race and approached Gavin. The car was in great shape except for the fact that it had been parked for many years. This time $1200 changed hands and Gavin owned his second Cougar. Shortly afterwards he spotted a 1967 XR-7 in traffic. He followed the Cougar home and the owner offered the car to Gavin. In short order Gavin now had a three car Cougar collection. Many other Cougars would come and go but ultimately marriage and career and kids would come in-between Gavin and his Cougar affinity.

Following a move to California in 2009, the Cougar bug would strike again. The 428 equipped 1968 owned by David Johnson back in Virginia Beach had left a lasting impression. This time Gavin had his heart set on a big block Cougar. This time around there were lots of places to look including the MercuryCougar.Net forums, Craigslist, and eBay. His search turned up a big block Cougar but this was something more, an XR7-G. Although Gavin had owned a number of Cougars, this was his first time to actually see a G car. Fortunately, Royce Peterson the XR7-G registrar, and Brian Aust the owner, were able to provide a complete education about the finer points of the G.

The car was exactly what Gavin was looking for. It had the S code 390 4 barrel engine, and a list of very desirable options to go with it. It was in very good condition although it would benefit from a little maintenance to make it a reliable daily driver. Brakes are important. Gavin said this; “I noticed that the brakes were not as firm as I would like. I needed to use two feet to hold it at a traffic light. I decided it was finally time to do a total brake job. I went to my local O’ Riley’s Auto Parts store and ordered the parts. After they came in wrong for the 3rd time, I contacted John’s Classic Cougar and John sent me the correct parts.”

Over the years Gavin has replaced or repaired most things as needed to kee[p the car on the road. Gavin says “Owning a classic Cougar is lots of work, which is more difficult on a big block, as this is my 1st, but it’s an amazing car to drive on the streets.” And the XR7-G is not a car that you see very often in daily driver duty. There were 619 XR7-Gs built. To put that in contrast there were 4,451 Shelby Mustangs built the same year. Never the less, Gavin drove the Cougar for ten motns straight to prove the point of how road worthy the classic Cougar really is. .gavin put it this way. “After the 2015 CCOA Western National Event I hopped into my car at 5:30am, gassed up and met Mike and Gary Brown on the road in San Ramon California. Together we traveled 391 miles down I-5 to Redondo Beach. It was something you don’t see every day: Mike and Gary in their Diamond Blue XR7-G Hertz “Rent-a-Racer”, and me in my Black-Cherry XR7-G.”

What is an XR7-G

THe XR7-G was Mercury’s answer to the Shelby Mustang. The G stood for Gurney, as in Dan Gurney, captain of the 1967 Team Cougar Trans Am Team. All XR7-G’s were made in the Dearborm Assembly Plant and then shipped, along with all of the Shelby Mustangs to A.O. Smith in Livonia Michigan for finally assembly. Special XR7-G parts all carry Shelby part numbers. The G pacakge added $666.95 to the window sticker. The power sunroof was a popular option included on many G cars, but it was not included. The sunroof added an additional $375 to the window sticker, making a well equipped G considerable more expensive than the much bigger Thunderbird.

• XR-7 interior
• Unique interior console with switches for fog lamps and sunroof (even on cars without sunroof!)
• Aluminum running cat valve covers (not used on Hertz G)
• Aluminum wheels made by Rader (early cars) or Cougar styled steel wheels with XR7-G center caps
• Lucas Fog lights in a unique front valance panel
• Bullet shaped remote controlled racing side view mirror
• Fiberglas hood scoop, non functional except 428 CJ
• Functional hood scoop with ram air on 428 CJ models only
• Stainless steel hood pins
• Vinyl Oxford roof
• Leather door pull straps
• XR7-G trunk lock cover
• Vinyl wrapped steering wheel with gold Cougar emblem
• Dashboard identification Cougar XR7-G in gold
• Wood shift knob with inlaid gold running cat (automatic equipped cars only)
• XR7-G badges on passenger side headlamp cover and C-pillars
• Rear valance with chrome cutouts for slash cut “pipe-in-pipe” exhaust tips
• A third, extra-loud horn, made by Delco-Remy

Gavin’s XR7-G came very well equipped to make it a very nice car to drive with including Whisperaire air-conditioning, Tilt-Away Steering Wheel, AM/FM Stereo radio, tinted glass, head rests and more. One thing that you won’t see on Gavins car is the standard vinyl Oxford roof. At some point in the Cougars life the Oxford roof was removed and the XR7-G pillar badges were replaced.

Driving his XR7-G daily was not enough to satisfy Gavin’s passion for all things Mercury Cougar. Gavin says. “In 2012 I was contacted by Phil Parcells, CCOA registrar, who called me one Saturday morning to discuss my XR7-G and the CCOA. I really enjoyed my conversation with Phil and decided to see how I could assist the CCOA. On a business trip to the East Coast I arranged to meet with Randy Goodling, then CCOA President, to discuss the CCOA and its open positions. I was interested in the Club Services Director role. After submitting my application the board voted to appoint me to the role. In 2013 I was elected to be President of the Mercury Stray Cats. I was a club member for 3 years and attended events, I wasn’t sure that I could juggle a job, family, travel, and a leadership role in my local club. With everyone’s support I was willing to try.”
As president of the Stray Cats, Gavin went to work. California is home to a very large number of absolutely beautiful Cougars and it was time to create an event that would bring them out of the garage. The entire Stray Cats club embraced the idea and with the support of the CCOA the 2014 CCOA Western Regionals would become the largest Cougar event in recent history. Response was so strong that the show sold out at almost 100 cars. 2014 would also be an election year for the CCOA and Gavin decided to throw his hat into the ring, this time running for President of the CCOA. He won the election and began his term on January 1st of 2015.

Gavin and the Stray Cats Club would throw a second Western Regional Event in 2015 attracting even more cars than in 2014. The event was bitter-sweet for Gavin. As it turned out the last day of the show would also be his last day living in Northern California. Changes in his employment would force a move to Redondo Beach, and the Sunday morning following the show he would drive his XR7-G to his new home.

The next few years will be important ones for the Cougar community. The 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Cougar will happen on September 30th of 2016. Already many regional Cougar Clubs are planning events starting in 2016 and spanning all of 2017 to commemorate the anniversary. The CCOA will be a big part of these events, so keep your eyes open for the Presidential Limousine, Gavin’s '68 XR7-G.

congratulations to Gavin. Great Cougar. Great story.

Congratulations, Gavin and great article! That goofy Competition Green Cougar should have been photoshopped out of the background of the rear seat picture though.

Congrats buddy !

Congratulations Gavin !!!

Thank you guys for the nice comments and Bill for the great write up. It is amazing how many people are lives touch, I’ve spent the better part of 30 years hanging out in parking lots with people and have made many lifelong friends along the way.

Jeff it was a great weekend in 2014, and I am glad that we were able to spend so much time hanging out.

Bill it was an honor and thrill to be featured in LCM it was a surprise to make the cover as well.

Congrats Gavin. Gorgeous cat.

Congrats, I like it! Thank You for everything Cougar that you do.


Nice job Gavin.

Congrats Gavin!

Congratulations, Gavin!

I can say from personal viewing/riding experience that this is a very nice car in a stunning color combination.

Congratulations Gavin. Your Cat is lovely and thanks for all you do for the Classic Cougar community. We truly appreciate all you do.

I’ve had some “happy to have my car go to a good owner” stories in my life…but this one is by far the best. All the best, Gavin!


Congratulations. Great story and beautiful car.

Thanks everyone. Brian it is amazing how a car hobby brings so many people together.

Dennis #54 where are you…lol It is odd that we actually met and became friends due to both of us knowing Brian. The 11 hour brake rebuild day was an amazing day, and my XR7-G I would think stops as well if not better than most cars on the road today.

I’m looking forward to the event next weekend. It will be fun spending time out at the event speaking with people and checking out the cats.

**Gary you will be missed, it is understandable as work and family are a priority.

Gavin Congratulation on ROTM. The pictures that you posted look nice was there a filter used? The daytime affects reflecting off the Cougars looks cool, almost like Matchbox cars. If no filter was used great photos. :thumbup:

I want to say it is amazing that you posted exactly at 4:28, always fun to see.

The photos with the filter were taken by my friend Luigi who hosts a website it is his style to add dramatic effects and sometimes subtle ones as well.

Luigi is a person I met at a car show and today is very active as a volunteer CCOA photographer and also has photos with Bill Watkins posted in very first issue with the Houndstooth story.