Jeff & Linda Stone's 1969 Mercury Cougar XR7 Convertible
(from Volume 17, Issue 189)

Jeff and Linda Stone bought their 1969 Mercury Cougar XR7 convertible in Madison, Wisconsin, where they lived until recently. Last year Linda’s job offered her a transfer to their St. Petersburg office, and while they might be new to Florida, cars have been a part of their lives forever.

Though they both like cars that are a little different, they were not really looking for a Cougar. It was 1999, and the 1967 pro street Camaro that had been in their family since the early 70’s was just not that much fun for them to drive more than a short distance - not to mention there was no back seat for the grand kids since it was tubbed out. The Stones had met a guy several times at car shows that really liked their Camaro and wanted to buy it, but could not come up with their asking price. Then he showed up at a swap meet the Stones were also attending with a 1969 Mercury Cougar XR7 convertible and some cash, and wanted to know if they would be willing to trade. Jeff and Linda did not know much at all about Cougars at the time, but thought a convertible would be fun to have, so they made the trade.

After becoming the Cougar’s new owners they thought all that was needed was to fix the floors and it would be a decent driver. Since they had never fully restored an older car before they had no idea how things would snowball. Well, a year and a half later there were not only new floors, but also inner rockers, torque boxes, both rear quarters, several thousand dollars worth of other parts, plus three coats of PPC Competition Orange covered in six coats of clear. The beautiful, and then still original looking Cougar became their pride and joy, and it was a fun convertible to go cruising in, just like they had originally thought.

However, after four years of going to car shows all over Wisconsin and winning a few trophies along the way, the 351w two-barrel engine just wasn’t getting it done any more, with Jeff’s thirst for speed. So a 400hp, 351w crate motor was purchased. It has 9.7:1 compression, an Elgin cam, Edelbrock aluminum heads and performance RPM air gap intake, and a 650 cfm AVS carb. Also installed were Hedman ceramic coated long tube headers, Be Cool radiator, and high performance AOD overdrive transmission with a high stall B&M converter. Modifications to the Ford 9-inch rear end include a Richmond Powertrax limited slip unit, and Richmond 4.11:1 gears. That setup worked well until three years ago, when Jeff got the urge to shift gears - literally. So a 5-speed Tremec manual transmission was swapped for the AOD automatic.

Their Cougar was now perfect! They continued to go to car shows, but since there was only one other Cougar in their area, they spent most of their time explaining to people what kind of car it was. Also, because of the modifications the car no longer fit in many of the judge’s classifications, and thus wound up competing with lots of Camaros, Corvettes and Firebirds.

Last March when Linda was trying to make the decision on moving from Wisconsin to Florida they attended the Spring Car Show at the Daytona Speedway. They knew then Florida was their place upon seeing all the Cougars and meeting the Sunshine State Cougar Club, which hosts their own “Show Within The Show” at the Spring Daytona event. They are a really fun group of people, and made the Stones feel at home.

After settling in Land O’ Lakes, Florida, Jeff and Linda were able to attend events all over central Florida. Since they were now putting on way more miles than they ever though they would, Jeff decided the car needed to handle better on the highway. The latest additions include Global West tubular control arms, front springs, sub frame connectors, and a Monte Carlo sway bar. A unisteer rack and pinion unit, a set of MB Wheels “Old School” 17x18-inch chrome wheels, and Hankook 245/45 radials complete the package to make it handle like a modern sports car. Now it’s done! (Well, maybe. They have thought that several times before!).

The Stones would like to give special thanks to the Paint Doctor in Wisconsin for the paint job that still looks fantastic after 10 years. Also to Matt Sommers at Sommers Racing & Performance in Hudson, Florida for the suspension upgrades, and to everyone at the Sunshine State Cougar Club for making them feel so at home in Florida. CN