As a seasoned attendee of SEMA, Barrett-Jackson and other car shows, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at resto-modded muscle cars. I can tell you that Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes, Chevelles, Novas, GTOs, Chargers, and similar cars are by far the most popular models that people restore. At these events, a car like a first-generation Mercury Cougar would be a real stand-out for the sheer novelty of being something different that you haven’t seen a hundred times before.
This 1969 Mercury Cougar convertible scores points for originality and hits a home run for being an extremely well done build. Nicknamed the “Cool Cat,” it was built by Hot Rod Express out of Blue Springs, Missouri.
You might notice that the car is slammed to the ground, which is generally not a great idea since the first-gen Cougar rides on the same unibody platform as the Mustang II. However, this car has had a custom fabircated, boxed, and welded tubular frame that gives the chassis additional strength. It’s got a Heidt’s suspension package up front and a triangulated 4-bar suspension in the rear.
The car has a 4-way air bag system from Air Ride Technologies and a custom notched floorpan which allows the body panels to sit flush with the bottom of the frame. When aired down, the car is a mere 3/4″ off the ground! And of course, it rides on a set of Torque Thrust II wheels which are 18″ up front and 20″ in the rear.
I’m happy to say that Hot Rod Express put just as much effort into the rest of the car as they did into the ride and handling. Almost all of the sheet metal for the body was replaced with panels from a donor car, which were then shaved and smoothed of their locks, handles, and side marker lights. The entire car was then sprayed in PPG Vibrant “Nutmeg,” a color which I think looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s a tiny bit darker than the 1965 Riviera Gran Sport I spotted last year, and I just think it’s a great color for a car.
The interior is no less detailed, with BMW carpeted floors and ultra-leather seats with custom nickel embossed rings. The factory dashboard was sectioned 5″ and then custom panels were made of imported Carpathian elm wood, giving the car an extremely classy look. A set of Classic Instruments gauges, Vintage Heat and Air, and a Kenwood touch-screen stereo with GPS and Satellite Radio offer all the comforts a driver could want.
With all of that said, my favorite part about this car is the engine. It would have been easy to just throw in a Ford or Shelby crate motor and call it a day, but this is a pretty unique combination that someone spent their time on.
Hiding beneath the custom cowl hood is a 32-valve DOHC 4.6L block from a 1997 SVT Cobra with a Lincoln Mark VIII intake manifold. There are also one-off ceramic coated headers, a cold-air intake, and a huge aluminum radiator with a 3,000cfm electric fan. Power is routed through an Inland drive shaft to a narrowed Ford 9″ rear end with 3.73 gears with Posi-traction and 31-spline axles. The engine is coupled to an AOD 4-speed automatic with a B&M shifter.
As you might imagine, a build like this draws a lot of attention. The “Cool Cat” Cougar has been featured in multiple magazines and has won the Best in Class at World of Wheels, Goodguys Top 5 award, ROUSH Racing award, Ford in a Ford award and ISCA Top Show Winner just to name a few.
The car sold at Barrett-Jackson 2014 for just $77,000 – which seems like a bargain to me considering how much work has gone into this thing. From the custom frame to the suspension, interior, and engine, I am surprised that this car didn’t fetch at least a hundred grand. Take one look at it up close as I did, and you’ll see that it’s worth it.