The October 2019 Ride of the Month is Lxg44's "69 Resto Mod

Dream Machine

Each month we get a chance to learn about a different Cougar and a different owner. While we are all connected by Cougar ownership, the cars are as different as they can be. The spectrum runs from pure stock on one end to pure custom on the other. What is the same, is the passion for the cars we love, and the satisfaction we get from ownership.

Back when Rob Finnigan was a high school student driving his first car, a '69 Cougar XR-7, he had a dream. But like most high school students he lacked the funds to make it so. Never the less, he was able to add an aluminum intake, 4-barrel Holley carb, dual exhaust, wheels, tires, traction bars, deck lid spoiler and a VERY loud stereo cassette player. He drove the car for four years before finally relenting to a friend’s constant pestering that he wanted to buy the Cougar. Shortly after the sale the car was totaled, thankfully no one was hurt. But for the next 30 years the Cougar would only be a fond memory.

Rob’s story begins like many others. “Fast forward 30 years. After redirecting my energies from cars to a wife, career, building a house, decks, landscaping, having kids, coaching kids and generally trying to be a good husband and dad I found myself in a position to get back into cars. So naturally I went out and found another '69 Cougar.”

“I found this car on eBay. It’s a 69 Cougar Standard that was already resto-modded. Having been out of the car market for so long AND buying from eBay I over paid and was partially deceived in what I was getting. However, I did fly down to see the car before agreeing to the sale, so it still falls on me. The car already had a Mustang II IFS conversion, including shock tower removal, a highly modified 351W, 9” 4:11 posi rear and, I was told, a Top Loader 4 speed that turned out to be a Muncie M21 that leaked like a sieve. The body and undercarriage were in very good condition though. The plan was to get a car that didn’t need sheet metal work. I wanted something that I could wrench on with my two sons and have some fun doing bolt-on improvements and driving it. This car fit that bill.”

As it turned out they would do a lot more wrenching than driving. “We installed a Tremec TKO-600 5 speed with hydraulic clutch conversion, did major brake work, a lot of electrical work, some minor rear suspension work, and a bunch of other fixes/upgrades. Although the motor ran strong once it was tuned properly, something always seemed to fail when heading out for a cruise. On top of that, the car never really felt right when I drove it hard. The suspension seemed to float and made the car feel unsafe. I’m sure a lot of that had to do with it being a 46+ year old car but it was unnerving. Later, with both my sons in college, I found I really wanted something I could drive.”

Most of the technology that underpins the Cougar was already more than a few decades old when the cars were new. That means that there are certain limits of just how much can be done with bolt-on type modifications. Those limits left Rob short of what he wanted in a driver. “My original idea was to sell the Cougar and get a brand-new muscle car like a Mustang or Challenger. But it just seemed like every cruise-in or car event I would go to had a million of the same late model cars just different colors. The funniest was at a big event I went to that year that had 5 Hellcats lined up in 3 different colors, all identical except the color. So, after discussing it with my wife we decided to take the money I would spend on a new muscle car and put it into my Cougar.”

“The vision I had for my first cougar was a road racing style build, now more often referred to as Pro-Touring or auto cross. Shortly after I bought this Cougar in 2012, I saw an ad in Hot Rod Magazine from Schwartz Performance advertising their new G Machine Chassis for Cougars. I book marked their website and spent many an evening dreaming about installing that chassis in my car. After deciding to invest in the Cougar (LOL! I actually used “invest” when referring to a project car!!) I pulled up the Schwartz Performance website and gave Jeff & Dale Schwartz a call. Following lots of budget discussions I stripped out the drivetrain and sent the shell to them to have them install their G Machine Chassis including IFS, 14” Baer Brakes, 4 link rear suspension, Moser 9” rear, Gen II Coyote motor and a Tremec T56 Magnum 6 Speed. The project scope creeped, as usual, to include a complete rewire, 3 inch mini-tub, body, paint and interior.”

1969 Mercury Cougar Specifications

Frame & Suspension
Schwartz Performance G-Machine bolt-in full chassis & suspension system
Power steering rack
RideTech single-adjustable coilovers
Baer 14" rotors, 6-piston front & rear calipers

2015+ Ford Performance all-aluminum 5.0L DOHC Coyote
Ford Performance Boss 302 intake manifold
Custom 4" stainless-steel air intake tube with K&N air filter
Cooled by an aluminum BeCool radiator & electric fans
Vintage Air Coyote Front Runner serpentine drive system

Tremec T56 Magnum
Quicktime bell housing
Custom driveshaft
Moser full-floating 9" housing, Detroit TrueTrac differential, 4.10 gear, 1350 yoke

Long tube headers
Custom 3" stainless-steel exhaust with Magnaflow mufflers

Wheels & Tires
Forgeline DE3P w/grey center, brushed lip
19x12.5 rear, wrapped with 345/30/19 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires
19x9 front, wrapped with 255/35/19 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires

The added goodness didn’t stop beneath the Cougar’s body lines. The interior was not to be neglected. “While Schwartz was doing the major modifications, I mocked up a dash in my garage with the modern touches I wanted to incorporate into the interior. I moved the factory center AC vents down to where the radio was and added a double din mount for a 7” touch screen head unit where the vents and courtesy light switches used to be. I also modified the HVAC control location to accommodate a USB port and new Vintage Air controls. Additionally, I stripped out a factory gauge cluster I bought on eBay and sent it to Dakota Digital to have their digital VHX analog gauges custom installed in the Cougar housing. After making these changes I needed to find someone to wrap the dash pad to make it all flow which lead me to Shane Cassin at Cassin Customizing. What started out as just wrapping the dash pad led to a full custom interior. Shane was great to work with as well.”

Family harmony being a precious commodity, a project of this magnitude is so much better when everyone is on board. “My wife and sons were very involved in the decision-making process for many of the decisions needed during the build. Some of the biggest help came when my wife convinced me to stay with the Ford Blue Flame paint color (which I now love!) and my sons convinced me to go with the Forgeline DE3P wheels. They will often go with me to the various events I attend or will just hop in for a ride when I’m on my way somewhere with the car. My wife and sons are very supportive of my “habit” and are quick to give a hand when I need one.”

In the end, no matter what lies under the sheet metal, it comes down to one thing: does it look “right”? Rob nailed it: My favorite part of the build is the stance. I think the car sits perfectly with an aggressive yet classy look. Although the car is highly modified underneath the exterior of the car was all available from the factory in 1969 except for the tribute 70 style eliminator gas door. The car is basically a 2015 Mustang GT wrapped in 1969 Cougar sheet metal with a little extra horsepower.

Is any project ever complete? Rob recently updated the grill and you can see how that process went in the build thread here:

We look forward to seeing what he does next. One thing for sure, unless this Cougar is sitting still, it is damn unlikely that any of us will be able to catch it?

I followed the thread on the grill upgrade but I had no idea. Congratulations on car of the month with that incredible build. I remember seeing that advertisement in Hot Rod mag and thought, wow, not a stang or camaro, but a cougar, nice.
I’ll bet that thing is a blast!

Very nice, I knew it was highly modified but not on a custom chassis. Thats pretty slick! Love the interior. Those are the seats Im looking at to replace the stockers with obviously alot less modifications. I like the use of them in the rear to ditch the bench

Great build. Well done

Very nice! Congratulations and enjoy driving that beautiful Cougar.

Wow - would love to see it in person sometime.

Great Cougar!!

  • Phillip

Down right over the top cool! I would be happy to take it around the road course track for you :poke:

Impressive to say the least.

Bill thank you for your time putting this write-up together it gives a great snapshot of my project! One very important piece to my puzzle that wasn’t mentioned is West Coast Classic Cougar. Don and the people at WCCC were, and are, key to making the Cougar parts of this build happen. From the tinted glass package and bolt-in window change over to the hard to find trim pieces and grille. It all wouldn’t have happened without them!

Thank you all for the great feedback! I replied to Bill, when he notified me that the car was voted ROM, that I was surprised it won because this type of build isn’t everyone’s cup of tea especially with the purists. But it’s great to see that the Classic Cougar Community is interested in all types of builds from concours correct to outside the box!

Here’s a shot from this weekend showing the new grille. I will post some more pictures later in the week.

Just noticed the license plate! Nice.

Congrats, very nice car and write up. I would love to see how you go from the original unibody to the frame. And like Brian said, I’ll test it on the track for you!

Congrats! She’s a beauty!

Sweet Mary, mother’o Haysoos…:drool:…I knew I liked that car before…now…:faint:…

Now THAT is Funny!

Very nice, and a great write up on an amazing build!

Great looking Cougar and impressive build! Glad to see you finally were selected as I voted for your car every time it was nominated.

Thank you! Us '69 guys need to stick together!

Congratulations. I apologize. I got tired of nominating your car because it simply kept losing. Good for you now though! :thumbup:

I have no idea how my uncompleted not nearly as cool as LXG44s car won rotm a few months ago either, I have voted for his ride each and every time its come up for a vote! Glad to see it featured as rotm finally! :mrgreen:

Hi Rob,

Just fantastic! Love it. Are you planning on going to the Pumpkin Run next weekend? It is kind of far for me but if you’d be going, I might have to make the trip! Let me know. Maybe we could park the cats together.