Rare "R" code 428-4V CJ Ram Air engine, Factory A/C, am/fm radio, tilt steering wheel, leather seats, 78,330 three owner miles.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
When Tony Miglecz takes his tasty '69 Mercury Cougar to show-and-shines and cruise nights, he says "a lot of people just walk right on by. They think it's a Mustang."
On its introduction, the Mustang caused a sensation - and created a new segment for high-styled, small-sized personal cars. It didn't take long for other brands to jump on the ponycar bandwagon and one of those brands was Ford's companion brand, Mercury.
The tall foreheads at Ford Motor Company thought they discerned a gap in the product lineup between the Mustang and the Thunderbird. What was needed, they thought, was a car between the two in size and price that offered more luxury than the Mustang. They decided to have Mercury dealers sell the new offering, and called it the Mercury Cougar.
Introduced for the 1967 model year, the Cougar sold 150,893 copies in that first year. The 1968 style was very similar to that of the first-year car, but the '69 version was quite different. Sales that year were down, to just over 100,000, perhaps because Ford had pulled back on the Cougar's very successful racing effort.
In 1990, Tony Miglecz was driving through Inglewood on his way to look at a big-engined Ford Torino. As he passed a used car lot, he spotted a black '69 Cougar and ended up buying it. The two-door hardtop had just over 65,000 miles on it, but it was about to get some hard use.
"I drove it to the rig for five years," Miglecz says. "It's been out Forestry Trunk Road. It's been out to Grande Prairie and all areas north of Grande Prairie." While he was driving the car "all over Alberta," Miglecz says, he was rounding up good parts for its eventual restoration.
"Every year, I'd bring the car in and spend $1,000 on it," he says. Underneath, the car was improved with a negative wedge camber corrector, bigger front and rear sway bars and '71 Torino brakes. "It was a 351 Windsor two-barrel single exhaust car, so right away I got the dual exhaust on it and put on an Offenhauser dual-plane manifold with a four-barrel carb."
Ford products came with one of two 351 cubic inch engines in '69 - either the 351 Windsor or the 351 Cleveland, named after the engine plants where the power plants originated. The Cleveland, Miglecz says, was the engine of choice. "They make really good power. They sound completely different and it's a nice motor, too, to look at."
The Cougar's original Windsor engine did provide one benefit, he admits. "The undercarriage was in good shape. That's part of the 351 Windsor thing because the rear seal used to leak like crazy. On the way up to Grand Prairie I used to stop at Drayton Valley for a tank of gas and a litre of oil. That's what saved the floor - that 351 Windsor slobbering all over it."
Once he decided to get to work on the Cougar, Miglecz started using all those parts he had collected. "I always wanted a Cleveland (with a) four-speed," he says, and that is what now powers the car. One door that he had collected along the way proved to be something of a mystery as it was painted an odd purple colour that was never offered on production cars. What Miglecz discovered was that the door had come from one of 150 cars all painted the same shade and used by an insurance company.
The car, originally black, is now gold, he confides, because there used to be another black '69 Cougar in town that sometimes was driven in an overly-spirited manner. "I got into some trouble a few times because of that," Miglecz explains, "so I figured I'd change colours.
"When you get off work from the rigs, sometimes you're used to graveyards," Miglecz says. "I'd get up at two in the morning and go out to the garage. I always figured it was a successful week if I got one part done."
Something he found a bit liberating was that, unlike more popular cars with large fan bases, some of whom are purists that disparage any change from a car's original configuration, Cougars are just about unknown. This freed him to make some non-stock changes like the side scoops on the car, which came from a Mercury Marauder.
"When I put that side scoop on, 98 per cent of the population doesn't know that it doesn't belong on the car," he says. "I figured I could do anything to it. It's exactly the way I like it. I build them how I like them and if other people like them too, I'm glad to hear that."
The blue '69 Mercury Cougar shown here belongs to Jason Bushman-a 19-year-old, dyed-in-the-wool Blue Oval fan from Edmonds, Washington. The good-looking cat has been lovingly restored by Jason and his father, with a little help from the folks at the Northwest Pony Shop. Jason tells us he was born into a Ford family and that he drives this car every day to school and to work. He and his dad certainly had their work cut out for them, as the '69 Cougar didn't always look this good.
The Bushmans discovered this car sitting forlornly at a construction site, the victim of a recent theft and recovery. All the glass had been smashed out and the upholstery was ripped to shreds, but they were not discouraged. For one thing, the Cougar still has its original 351 Windsor engine. Five hundred dollars did the trick for the pink slip, and then the massive amount of refurbishment work began.
The first thing to do was to strip the whole body down to bare metal. Once this was accomplished, Jason and his dad did most of the bodywork at home in the family driveway. The Northwest Pony Shop completed the details on the bodywork and the Cougar was painted '70 Mustang Grabber Blue in place of the original light-powder-blue color. Straight, crisp lines now show on the car's body, along with a perfect grille with the famous hide-away headlights. A fresh set of 14x7 Magnum 500 wheels shod with Pirelli rubber completes the outside look
The Cougar was originally equipped with the deluxe interior package, so new deluxe upholstery and carpeting bring things up to spec. The interior's original instrument cluster is in good condition and the OE Rim-Blow steering wheel is still present. The car was also equipped with the rare rear-window defogger option, while the sound department has been upgraded with an Alpine amplifier, a Sony CD player, and Pioneer speakers and sub.
When Jason and his family discovered the car, it had only 83,000 original miles. As the 351W engine ran just fine, they decided to leave well enough alone-for now. They carefully cleaned and detailed everything in the engine compartment. The engine looks good, sporting a set of Cobra rocker covers and a stock air-cleaner assembly. The only performance upgrades so far include an Edelbrock Performer 351 intake manifold and a 650-cfm, four-barrel carb.
The mild-mannered Windsor mill is connected to the original FMX three-speed automatic transmission, and power then goes back to a nine-inch axle with 3.00:1 gears. An Optima battery adds peace of mind. The whole package now runs low 15s.
All this hard work resulted in a First-Place finish at the Mustang Roundup teen class. The blue cat was also recently displayed at the Seattle Roadster show. We think it's safe to say that Jason does indeed come from a Ford family, as other notable Blue Oval cars in the Bushman stable have included a '69 Cougar Eliminator and a '67 Mustang 2+2. We think Jason sure is a lucky guy to have this great car, as well as such super support from his family.
This Blue Cougar Makes Us Green With Envy
By Wayne Cook
Photography by Jeff Ford
By Wayne Cook
Photography by Jeff Ford