1967 & 1968 Cougar Convertible Conversions

The Cougars that Mercury Should Have Built

 

As Mercury was developing the first-generation Cougar, the development teams were guided by a first-year sales projection of 60,000 units.  At that volume Mercury and, by extension, Ford would make money on the model and Mercury would benefit from having an upscale version of the Mustang to offer their customers.  But that 60,000 unit projection did not produce enough profit to justify the additional development costs of a convertible so Cougar was planned as a hardtop only model.  Of course, history has shown that the sales projection was conservative in the extreme since first-year sales actually hit 150,893* units and second-year sales hit 113,741* units.

In just two short years, Cougar sold nearly four-and-a-half times the initial projection.  In 1969, Ford corrected the omission and Cougar was joined by a convertible version but that change also saw a restyling that significantly altered the Cougar look.  So, if you’re a first-generation Cougar fan AND a convertible fan, you are forced to choose.  But some of us don’t like forced choices, so we identified a third option – do what Mercury should have done and make your own Cougar convertible.  A small (but growing) hardy band of souls have done just that!

Kevin Marti Leads the Way

 

Back when the first generation of Cougars was reaching old used car status and many were probably already heading for the crusher, Kevin Marti saw the potential in a Cougar convertible conversion project and decided to do something about it.  More importantly, he documented it and, in so doing, created a guided path that numerous others have followed, including yours truly.

Kevin based his approach on the Mustang convertible, recognizing the modifications that Ford made to the convertible when compared to the hardtop.  That provided a clear understanding of how Ford replaced the structural strength of a fixed roof by modifying the understructure of the convertible unibody.  Here is the result of Kevin’s pioneering project:

The above pictures were taken from the January 1992 issue of Mustang & Fords magazine feature article titled “Original Intent.”

Anyone who does a Cougar conversion project eventually has to make a design decision – will they retain the Cougar quarter window kick-up line or modify it to follow the Mustang line.  Another design decision is whether to use the Mustang’s more notchback-style roofline or retain the swept-back look of the Cougar. In both cases, Kevin adopted the Mustang lines. Whichever way one chooses to go, it’s clear that the Cougar makes for a stunning convertible and that Mercury would have sold more than enough of these to justify the development costs.

CatVert

The CatVert conversion story has already been told in depth elsewhere on this website.  Suffice to say that it has it’s own unique identity.  We followed Kevin’s script for the most part but added our own creative touches – the XR-7C badges, the extended roofline, the custom dash treatments, and the retention of the Cougar body lines.

CatVert was created by Greg Zuch, Phil Parcells, and Bill Pratt.  It currently resides in Rye, NY in the very caring custody of it’s new owner.

An Informal Registry

Owner: Sonny Dolezel

 

Barry Margolis purchased this ’68 Cougar convertible (now known as “The Redhead” on eBay around 2010. It originally resided in the Marquette, MI area., but now resides in Florida. It was based on the above-referenced  1982 CCOA  article by Kevin Marti.  Barry did some work to it that included a five-speed transmission conversion and lowering of the suspension along with the addition of new wheels. The rebuilt 289 has twin 4-barrel carburetors.

Although the previous owner said he followed Kevin’s design, it appears he did even more to the frame, including connectors from frame rail to frame rail.

The car left Barry and Carol’s garage for the last time about a week or two after his passing. Barry willed it to Sonny of The Florida Old Guys. Sonny is driving/showing it as a tribute to Barry.

Last updated (courtesy of Nancy Elder):  7/4/2018

Creator: Virgil Brown

 

This is perhaps one of the best-known Cougar convertible conversions.  Originally created by Virgil Brown of St. Louis, MO, it is now part of the George Conrad collection in Huron, OH.  Virgil passed away in 2006, having contributed much to the Cougar community.  Among his contributions was an unstinting willingness to provide consultation and advice to those who did similar conversions.  His advice gave me the confidence to undertake my own CatVert project.

The bottom picture at left is a close-up view of the quarter panel kick-up from Virgil’s car that demonstrates the difficulty of performing the convertible conversion.  Note that the upper body line follows the Mustang line instead of the shallower Cougar line.  This is the most common approach to the conversion, although CatVert retained the Cougar line and masked the window base with a modified version of the Cougar hockey stick trim along the base of the window.

The picture below shows the roof line produced by installing the Mustang folding top assembly as it was installed by the factory on the Mustang.

Although the light color of the car in the background makes it difficult to see, one can make out the rise of the upper body line into the roof from the rear.  That line creates an appearance of a roof that is more sloped than it appears here.  Note also that the filler panel between the roof and trunk is enlarged to make up the difference.

One of the neat features of Virgils car is the power antenna, seen here on the driver side rear quarter panel.

CopyCatVert”

Owner: Jody

 

CopyCatVert was done after CatVert and in the same color combination, but it’s far from just a copy.  Jody did this project himself and incorporated a number of creative custom touches that makes this car every bit as unique as any of the others on this page.

For one thing, this is a year-round car even though it’s up in Wisconsin. So it has some special amenities like late-model Jaguar power seats that had to be custom fitted to the Cougar interior. They’re even heated.

CopyCatVert has a surprise under the hood, too.  It has a 6Vcarb setup (Mopar fans might call it a 6-pack) – 3 x 2V carburetors and the engine is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission.

 

 

“TG7”

This ’68 Cougar convertible was recently shown at the Autorama show in Detroit, where it trophied. This car is a factory-like structural conversion with a custom modern take on the classic Cougar interior,.  I particularly like the console and seats in this  custom.

Added 8/11/2009

Malcolm McMillan

This custom conversion was completed in 2009 and has already begun collecting trophies.  Like several others on this page, the conversion was done mostly as it would have been done at the factory, with a few minor exceptions.

This Cougar was listed on eBay in mid-2017 and may now be with a new owner.

Added 8/11/2009

Robin Jacques

Robin started work on his custom conversion roughly 20 years ago (if I’m remembering correctly what his wife told me) doing all the work himself. The result is what you see here. These pictures were taken in June 2015 at the Carlisle, PA All-Ford Nationals where Robin won a second-place class award.  Aside from the structural conversion, Robin also upgraded the Cougar to a Cobra engine (see picture below), giving this Cougar some serious claws.

Added 6/8/2015

Lucas Hovis

 

Terrance Christy

 

Rex  Bickwell

This Cougar is a roadster conversion that resides in Texas. Similar in concept to the Ronster Mustang, Rex had not yet completed the fiberglass tonneau cover  for the rear seat area at the time this photo was taken.  Nonetheless, his creation won its class at the 2005 Cougar Club of America Nationals West.

Lindsey

This is a Cougar that resides in Canada. It has been extensively modified and is now a body-on-frame custom versus the original unibody construction.  For the full story of this conversion, follow this link:

http://www.cardomain.com/ride/3177675

Top Cat
Owner: Steven

Top Cat is currently taking shape in Sumter, South Carolina.  The original owner began the project and essentially completed the structural conversion work before selling the car to Steven.

Steven and his brother are Cougar enthusiasts who have, between them, an impressive collection. In addition to two XR-7G’s, there is Steven’s S-Code 67 and now Top Cat.

Follow the complete restoration and conversion at ClassicCougarCommunity.com

Owner: Don Rush

Don Rush is the owner of West Coast Classic Cougars. Don has been working on this project in his spare time and is following a GT-E styling theme. Although progress has been slow, those of us in the Cougar community anticipate that this will be a top-tier example of a convertible conversion when completed.

     

Brett Pavlov

In 1985, another Cougar convertible was built. Keith Meredith, who lived in a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan, wanted a 1968 Dove Gray Cougar convertible with black interior accents.  So he set about the task of building one.

The car’s only public display in a Cougar show occurred in 1987.  Keith drove through the CCOA National show held at Ford headquarters in Dearborn Michigan, and created quite a thrill to all who were there. He didn’t stay, just drove around the show field once. That fueled the rumor mill that it was an “executive car, one of 2 built”, so the rumor goes. Now, finally 24 years later, we know the correct story.

Recently, Keith sold his Cougar to Brett Pavlov. It has been through a color change since the original pictures were snapped in Dearborn and we now have some better ones to show.

 

Dwayne Macpherson

Dwayne lives in Springfield OR. According to Don Rush, owner of West Coast Classic Cougars – “I don’t know if it was rusty when the project was done as it was done in 1968 from what I remember. I located it in Canada in 1998, Dwayne has done much work since then.”

People familiar with the car consider it to have been correctly converted, meaning that all required structural reinforcement was done and it has a fully operational folding top.

Henry Schuurs

Another Canadian convertible conversion, this one is from Dorchester, Ontario. It is a C-code XR-7 that was converted in 2003.

Unknown Owners