It seems that restoring a car should be at the top of the “what NOT to do in life” list. Jene and I started this project on what looked like a good deal on a 1970 Cougar Xr7 convertible. Jene fell in love with it’s lines and always wanted a convertible. So we plunked down $3250 and drove the cougar back to Jersey with the spare parts in my car (2 new floor pans and wheel wells). As we started looking at our joint investment, Jene realized we had a rust bucket. New doors were ordered, new 1/4 panel, etc and so it began… We took it to one shop to have the floor pans replaced. The guy did one and held the car up for weeks, Jene didn’t like the way he welded it and so we pulled the car out of that shop after paying for the work done Took the interior apart, replaced the convertible top hydraulics. Sanded off the paint and found what wasn’t rusted was bondo-ed. Body parts were all over the place. Did some engine fixes – replaced the carborator, various hoses. Found a place in PA to do the major body work which now included a new trunk panel and other undercarriage welding. (the winter of ’08). His finishing price was high so we had it flat bedded back to Jersey. Replaced a fender ourselves and both the doors (July 2009), ordering more body parts as needed. Checks were mailed and parts were trucked in.
We brought it to our mechanic for things we couldn’t do (it sat for nearly 2 months – that was last summer) Jene borrowed a friends welder and we manufactured some brackets that were broken or rusted off. The summer of 2010 was hot and progress was slow. Installed a layer of heat and sound proofing stuff on the floor. In the spring of 2010 we had a new convertible top put on and the body work was done in Elmwood Park (AJS). The car was painted in time for our “intent ceremony” in Sept. but was far from being road ready. So it sat in our garage for months until April 2011 when it went back to the body shop. Some quick fixes were done and pulled the car out of the shop, had a new stereo installed, and put the interior back together… Time was ticking and we worked late into the nights.
Wednesday was the first evening we drove it. Jene and I picked up my friend and took her for a spin. Thursday was my turn to test drive it since I would be driving it to the nationals and Jene would drive his ’67 Black Cat. (his prized possession since 1988). I picked up my sister and brother-in-law and toured the neighborhood.
It’s not perfect but it was show ready for this past weekend’s Cougar National Car Show in Bridgewater, NJ. Chrome was cleaned with steel wool, polished, sealed and buffed (that’s what I did while Jene was installing new headlights and everything else.
It looks good, still needs tweeking and the paint needs to re-done to our standards, but we are pretty much finished working on it ourselves.
The national competition was an eye opener as they inspect the cars on so many levels. We discovered that the engine is not the original and from a later model, the air cleaner is from a ’73. Missing decals and stock hoses knocked points off my score as did the rocker panel moulding which were from another year’s model. Too many points taken away to win a prize but then again we didn’t buy it to show, we bought it to drive and enjoy. The trip back and forth was only @ 150 miles but it took 3/4 tank of gas while Jene’s car only ate up 1/4 of his tank. Hmmmmmmm, maybe taking it cross country isn’t such a good idea. Hoping that with a good tune-up, the 351 Windsor 2 barrel engine won’t be such a gas guzzler. (BTW the ’67 won first place in the “daily driver” category)
Cost of restoring a rust bucket – $40,000. Cost of restoring a dream – PRICELESS
Jene’s ’67 is a California beauty – no rust. He loves her.
Now that most of our work on it is done what we will do with all our free time? Maybe relax and enjoy ourselves before heading off on our next Mary & Jene’s great adventure.
Lessons learned: Somethings aren’t as good as they look. Beauty can be skin deep and when it is, you pay for it in the end. Working with someone you love on something you know he/she wants to do – wonderful after the bruised fingers, egos, aching muscles are healed.
I’m sure Jene will post some of his pictures and thoughts on his blog in the near future so look at his site in a couple of days. Fuzzypictures.