Hey guys, I have not been online much since I moved into my new place…I’m too cheap to sign up for internet access (not joking)
Thanks for the nomination and here is a copy of my story. I also added a few new photos of the car in my new neighborhood.
I have always been interested in anything transportation related. I started with trains when I was given my dad’s old Lionel train set. I then moved onto airplanes, I even logged a few hours behind the yoke of a Cessna (pictured). I became interested in cars when I was a teenager… The first car I ever “drove” was my sister’s Nissan Sentra. I did not really drive the car, simply sat on her lap and steered. It was still a cool experience for a young kid. I continued to log time behind the wheel before officially reaching driving age. For example, I am the youngest of five and our driveway was often a cluster of cars. It took some rearranging anytime someone wanted to leave the house. I assumed the position of the family valet parker. It was only pulling the cars in and out of the driveway, but it was still very cool to a 15 year old car guy.
Naturally, I was waiting in line at the DMV the day I became eligible to drive. My first car was a 1997 Ford Explorer. Just about any car is cool to a 16 year old, and I was especially proud of my Explorer. SUVs were the craze, and the Explorer was the most popular of the bunch. I have always been a Ford guy… I remember arguing with classmates who spoke negatively about Fords. I have always been very patriotic and feel Ford is a symbol of America. My favorite topic for school papers was always related to automobiles or “Buying American”.
My favorite television shows involved classic car restoration. I really enjoyed “A Car is Reborn” which spotlighted the restoration of an E-type Jaguar. Out of the blue, my dad asked me if I would be interested in looking at a 1966 Mustang (I was about 16 at the time). I of course said yes, and we ended up purchasing the car. It was a springtime yellow coupe with a black vinyl top, 289, and black pony interior. It was un-restored but was fully drivable. I intended to restore the Mustang, but was distracted by another car.
My dad decided to start an LLC and began purchasing classic cars. At one point we had about eight cars. One day we went out and test drove a 1967 Mercury Cougar. The Cougar was a standard polar white coupe with the black vinyl top. It had a rebuilt 289, C4, light blue interior, sport console, power steering, and power brakes. I quickly began to favor the Cougar… I tend to like the finer things, and the Cougar is certainly a step up from a Mustang. I remember people telling me to sell the Cougar and restore the Mustang. They argued that the Mustang was the more valuable car. I did not listen, and the Mustang was eventually sold…
I drove the Cougar everyday my senior year of high school. In fact, it was even featured in the school yearbook. My neighbor who wrote the article mentioned that I worked on the car day and night, and she was not exaggerating. I could be found outside working on the Cougar at midnight many times. I began with cosmetic jobs such as painting the valances or sprucing up the interior. My first major mechanical job was rebuilding the front suspension. I get a lot of enjoyment out of fixing things, and I find the work quite easy with the proper tools and instructions. I absorbed a lot of useful information from articles on the Classic Cougar Network and advice from Art on the Mercury Cougar forums.
My first Cougar was a 20-footer and the body was rough. The hood had a spot of cancer that stuck out like a sore thumb. A friend from school mentioned that his dad (Steve) used to paint show cars for Cadillac. Steve agreed to help me repaint the hood. At the time I knew nothing about painting cars. We began by chemically stripping the hood, metal prep, epoxy prime, block sanding, and finally paint. I remember Steve telling me that I would want to do the rest of the car once I bolted on the hood. He was right.
I continued to drive the car every day until I realized classic cars are not ideal daily drivers. They are high maintenance and require a lot of fuel. I used the money from the sale of my Mustang to purchase a nice Lincoln Town Car. Anyway, I wanted to keep my Cougar but I knew I was in for a lot of metal work if I wanted to have it repainted. I decided it would be best to find a donor car.
I began searching on Craigslist and found a 67 standard out of Tucson. I contacted the gentleman and told him what I was looking for. He told me he had a 67 Arizona car with a perfect body. The car was connected with the Ronstadt family and had been sitting for many years. I drove down to Tucson and ended up purchasing the car. I began working part time at Lowe’s while going to college. I put nearly my entire income toward car parts. I had photos of the Cougar in my work vest to show coworkers and customers. I befriended car guys at work and school and would talk cars at every available moment.
Work started the day the Cougar was delivered (October 2007). I ended up taking the best parts from both cars and combining them into one. The first few projects involved the steering and brakes. I had the power steering rebuilt by Rodes, and converted the front brakes to power discs from a 1970. Everything else was new or rebuilt. A friend helped me pull the engine and transmission from my first Cougar and install it in the Arizona car. The car was pretty much ready for paint at that point. The paint and body work was one area that I thought would be better left to the professionals. I ran into many problems with the body shop and the car ended up being in “body shop jail” for nearly 8 months.
The car came together quite quickly when I finally got it back from the body shop. I decided early on that I wanted to maintain the color scheme of polar white with a light blue interior. This was the scheme that was featured in many 1967 dealer brochures and advertisements. The restoration was “completed” on October 2009. I did everything myself but paint the car…down to aligning the suspension at home. Since 2009 I have done a few modifications such as installing a 4R70W electronic overdrive transmission. I like the fact that the car appears basically stock, but still has some modern components that make it unique.