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The Dirty Cougar: Just A Little Bit Of Elbow Grease And The $400 Mercury Is Already Being Driven!

The Dirty Cougar: Just A Little Bit Of Elbow Grease And The $400 Mercury Is Already Being Driven!

If you missed the first installment of the Dirty Cougar, Click Here!

It’s been five days since we removed our latest bad idea, a $400 1987 Mercury Cougar LS, from a backyard in Evansville, Indiana and dragged it back to BangShift Mid-West. Five days. That’s all the time it’s taken to get the Cougar to the point where I’m a set of tires and wheels and a set of plates away from driving this car around more than just my neighborhood. In fact, since we first fired the car four days ago, we’ve put nearly fifty miles on the car already, performing shakedown tests on farm roads and trying to figure out what is good, what is bad and what really needs some time with a pressure washer. So far, this car is turning out to be the biggest bangs for the buck I’ve ever spent money on. I’m not lying in the least, either…the Cougar is good. Really good. We still need to do some tuning and fix a few things here and there, no doubt, but so far we’ve got heat, air conditioning, radio, working lights everywhere but the “wrecked” headlight assembly, brakes, and oil pressure. We haven’t seen the car get hot yet, we haven’t noticed any leak except for the power steering pump, which doesn’t shock us one bit, and we haven’t noticed any driving issues that aren’t directly related to the two front tires. Well, minus one incident, anyways…

One of the biggest hangups with the Mercury was that the driver’s side window did not roll down. For a cheap beater, that’s a non-issue, but for racing at King of the Heap, that’s a big deal. If the window doesn’t go down, it either gets bashed out or the car gets parked. I didn’t like either option, so I got busy working on this issue. I suspected that the switch had taken a soda bath once or twice, so I uprooted the control panel out of the “consolette” and got to work.

On the plus side, I was right…there was plenty of dried soda syrup everywhere on the switch, so a scrub down with WD-40 and quick blast of contact cleaner underneath the toggles should’ve been enough to take care of the situation. For a moment, I felt like I was working on Kiowas again, fixing a press-to-talk switch.

Once reinstalled, though, the switch didn’t do squat, again. This time the door panel came off, and I found the problem after pulling the door speaker: at some point in time, some enterprising individual disconnected the power window motor and left it unplugged. I wonder how long the previous owner wondered about the driver’s side window. Once plugged in, the window went up and down line nothing ever happened. Sweet!

In the first update, I mentioned that there was an electronic connector in the column that was proving to be problematic. This is the offending item, behind the tumbler and underneath the shifter. The plastic part doesn’t want to latch into place, and refuses to stay put when the lower plastic shield is installed. I’ll need to see if I can use thin zip ties to keep it where it belongs, but for now, I’ll leave the shield off.

Fifty miles of shakedown driving couldn’t be done on the tires the car rolled in with. Five miles would’ve been too much to ask. But for now, I’ve been running the rear tires off of Haley’s Mustang with the front two tires that were on the car, seeing as they were the best. I put the 10-holes on, I tightened them, I torqued them. But after thirty miles, the lug nuts on the driver’s side jumped ship and I nearly had the wheel come off of the car with minimal warning. At the first “thump”, I was slowing the car down to pull off of the side of the road. I pulled a lug nut off of the other wheels to limp back to the garage and bought four new lug nuts immediately. I intend to replace all of the lug nuts soon.

Dirty Cougar Running Total:

Previous balance: $520.16

Four lug nuts, Dorman p/n 611-093: $12.13

NEW TOTAL: $532.29

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4 thoughts on “The Dirty Cougar: Just A Little Bit Of Elbow Grease And The $400 Mercury Is Already Being Driven!

  1. DanStokes

    Tip for you, Bryan (this from a guy who has flipped many cars and eventually learned how to make money at it). If indeed you decide to flip this one, harvest the collision parts from the salvage yard and take them immediately to your local MAACO (or maybe you have a local guy who paints in his garage) and have them made more or less the right color. Usually they can hit the color pretty closely. Let ’em harden up for a week or so and bolt the new bits back on. If you bolt the stuff on before painting it’s pretty much impossible to get the inner edges and it’ll show. Also, it’s easy to decide that “I don’t care” and the car goes on to look like crap for the rest of its natural life – and will sell for a LOT less as people buy shiny (a MAJOR lesson for me). And where are the decent $400 Cougars when I’m out looking??!!

  2. Chevy Hatin' Mad Geordie

    Well $400 buys you something that is at least the right colour!

    I just hope the front panel damage doesn’t extend to the chassis or you will have a $400 death trap – but good luck and be sure to change the colour.

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