Stealthy Upgrades! 1968 Mercury Cougar

Wide tires, lowered stance, and a matte black shaker hood mark a mere sample of the purposeful modifications on this 1968 Mercury Cougar. Anyone suspecting a tired stock 302 powers this Williamsport, Pennsylvania Cougar would be only partially correct. The bored and stroked 302 makes a stout 400 HP and 425 lb-ft of torque, according to the seller, and a tight suspension and manual transmission complete the road-racing theme. This park-anywhere corner carver can be yours here on eBay, where at least eight bidders have raised its market value above $7500.

The weathered factory valve covers and “shaker” air cleaner housing help disguise the 400 HP 331 cid (5.4L) small block V8. Even the black-painted aluminum radiator helps the stealth look, though the “…Racing Engines” sticker sort-of blows the low profile. Apparently, the sale comes with a 1/2″ wrench in the export brace.

The seller’s points of pride are evident when the listing shows undercarriage pictures but no shots of the car’s rear. Checkout these pictures of other ’68 Cougar hindquarters, and don’t miss the nifty sequential taillights. The high-strung small block, long tube headers, suspension parts, subframe connectors, and a slick T56 Magnum six speed manual transmission honor the early Cougars’ Trans-Am road-racing history.

Updated original-style instruments and the Trans-Am steering wheel look perfect for a sporty street car. Blacked-out Magnum 500 wheels could pass for NASCAR-style D-holes from a distance. Speaking of long-distance, the seller calls the sun-baked Mercury’s non-original orange hue a “1500 yard paint job.”

Red XR-7 door panels came with the car. Check out that rudimentary drink holder, and is that an “oil slick” button? Whether leather or vinyl, those seats look comfortable unless you’re cornering at 10/10ths.

Subframe connectors help stiffen the unibody Cougar, which was Mustang-based in this generation. While this Cougar lacks a fully-modern suspension, it’s close to what did well in late ’60s Trans Am racing, and the gap between this car and today’s V8 RWD muscle cars would come down to driver skill. Most drivers have no idea how quickly their cars can corner, basing their opinions purely on subjective experiences well below the limits. This Cougar’s next owner could easily take this build in a Pro-Touring direction with true racing suspension, killer paint, air conditioning, big brakes, and meatier rolling gear. Would you take this Cougar to the next level or daily drive it with the existing upgrades?


  1. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Pretty cool sleeper especially as a 54 year old tired looking classic! Nice tribute to the realTrans Am racing series in street execution-lots of love, time and money in tied up in this kitty. GLWTS

    Like 23
  2. mike

    Very nicely done owner.Should be a fun driver.

    Like 18
  3. Rw

    I don’t see anything sleeper about it,looks like a runner to me,I bet it doesn’t sound like a sleeper.

    Like 12
  4. $ where mouth is

    Wow, wow, annnd wow =D
    Check, check, check…
    I wouldnt change a thing, well, does it have power windows ?
    and ya, Jesus does rock !

    If your reading this, owner of the car:
    you built a perfect ‘hot rod’
    hope you got your thrills
    Now what ?, you going to Disney Land ?

    Like 10
  5. Howard A Member

    Sigh, someone went through a ton of money and work, to make this what it isn’t. Aside from Parnelli Jones, who had a hankerin’ for Mercurys, I don’t recall many Cougars in racing. Google images supports that.. It’s an unlikely venue for a Mustang in an evening gown. Cougars appealed to a more, shall we say, civilized group. While they could be ordered the same as their Mustang cousins, it was more for bragging rights at the country club. They were a classy ride, something this seems to be avoiding. Good catch on the wrench, I got quite a chuckle out of that, I suspect, to adjust the timing, what else could it be for? Nope, not a fan of this “bastardization” of a really nice car,,,for shame.

    Like 4
    • SirRaoulDuke

      Who cares who raced Cougars, someone built what they liked and had a vision of. And I’d bet someone else will appreciate it and buy it. Patina is cool these days, and it likely runs like the proverbial violated ape. I’d give it a hard look if I itching to pick up something to raise some hell in on Sunday morning back roads.

      Like 11
  6. tiger66

    BF: “Anyone suspecting a tired stock 302 powers this …”

    VIN shows it’s a C-code car, so it had a 289 2-V originally, not a 302. Yes, you could still get the 289 in the base ’68 Cougars.

    Like 3
    • Donnie L Sears

      All the Cougars back then had V8’s. No 6 cylinders.

      Like 3
  7. Todd Fitch Staff

    Howard – point taken on the Cougar being like a golf set Mustang. Dan Gurney and others flung them around road courses with much success, but that wasn’t their sweet spot in the market. Don’t take this as a rebuttal, but that got me thinking about this car and ones like it. Among all the available non-special-model ’60s Cougars around, it’s my opinion (worth no more than anyone else’s) that there’s plenty of room for someone to build and enjoy one like this. There will always be people who view other people’s cars through the lens of their opinion, those who look at a car that’s all stock except the wheels and tires and say “Looks great except it needs the original wheels and tires.” LOL I’m not convinced that FoMoCo or any company achieved perfection when they made any car, or they would never change them. If someone thinks they should all be stock, by all means buy them all and return them all to stock, or make yours perfectly stock, but accept the fact that nobody has to play by your rules with their car, and thankfully the converse applies as well! If you have a vision and the end result pleases you, that’s the best way to honor the hobby. Don’t let naysayers get you down. If they don’t like your car, they can buy one like it and do theirs the “right way.”

    Like 39
    • Rw

      Well played Todd.

      Like 10
    • Mike76

      Could not have said it nearly as eloquent as Mr. Fitch but I agree 1000%. My dad schooled me a long time ago when I was 17 and we were at a local car show. I knew it all at this point. I just bought my first (of many) Olds, a 70 C/S and I just had an opinion on everything, and especially cars. There was a gent in his mid to late 40’s with a really clean 66 442, and I recall vividly not liking his choice of wheels for the car. I told the owner this, and that it would look much better with stock wheels. After my Dad and I moved away from the 66, he pulled me aside and said, “you never criticize another person’s car, unsolicited, the owner assembled it the way that they prefer, and although it may not be to your taste, respect theirs.” That has always stuck with me. I’ve seen plenty of cars that I would change certain things, from wheels to air cleaners and everything in between, as I am sure, with my cars, others would change things that I have done, but I have learned to keep my opinions to myself. The beauty of these cars is like most things in life, it’s highly personal based about taste and personality. Who are any of us, to judge others on what makes them happy?

      Like 37
      • Mike Haines

        Anybody notice that the the interior picture is from the 70s. There haven’t been any pull tab cans since then. I wonder what the interior looks like now?

        Like 1
    • $ where mouth is

      Im applauding you Sir T.F

      good ol H.A. once again, out of his league and over his head ;
      ‘sigh’ indeed

      Like 2
      • Todd Fitch Staff

        I don’t want my comment to be seen as a reply to or rebuke of Howard, whose opinions I often agree with and who has probably forgotten more about cars and especially trucks than I ever knew. I was trying to make a more general point. We welcome the full cast of characters here to keep things interesting!

        Like 5
    • Cadmanls Member

      Todd you and I are on the same page. I happen to think this is his car and not every car needs to remain stock and pristine. This is what hot rodding is about. The paint on the wheels is just fine and the 331 is for the thrill factor, 5 speed does the highway.

      Like 5
    • Richard McBride

      Just saying…nice rebuttal

      Like 1
  8. Gary

    Man, I bet that kitty purrs. A little interior work to bring it to 100% inside and drive it. Sweet ride

    Like 6
    • MTBorst

      Gary, don’t you remember the mazaratti vs old clunker commercial ?

  9. TorinoSCJ69

    That is a really, really nicely built Cougar. I drove a ’68, 4 speed 390 Cougar XR-7 from ’77 -’82, and this was my “color” as well.
    Late 70’s – available but worn out and tired, which this one is clearly not.

    I loved driving that faded, tired red Cougar! Cannot imagine how well this beauty handles, drives and accelerates with the extra rigidity of the subframe connectors and that built engine. Looked up that cam, a lot for the street but may run milder with the retro-Roller cam/lifter setup. At least no need for the old ZDDP heavy oil with the roller setup.

    I would pawn possessions to feed this baby. Owner spent and worked to make this a better driver, not just faster.

    Good Luck with the Sale!

    Like 8
  10. scottymac

    Howard: Surely you’ve heard of Bud Moore? His Cougar team came within four points of snatching the ’67 Trans Am championship from Ford. Think that explains why you didn’t see them in ’68, Ford didn’t need the in-house competition with Penske (Chubbies) breathing down their neck. This car was built as a tribute to that success, I feel. In addition, Cougar was probably the last Ford 427 powered car you could buy, the GT-E. 1969 brought the Eliminator model with Boss 302s or 428 SCJs, or just about anything else in between. Weight is always the enemy in racing, and I agree with you to a point, but feel you’ve slighted a big part of Mercury history.

    Wish I could talk to the seller. The “walnut” (plastic) steering wheel is the same as used on the 7 Litre and some other Fords and Shelbys (reproduced now), but I’m curious about the horn button that says: “Trans American Championship – Group 2”. Homemade?

    Mike76: Sorry, but I HATE black wheels!

    Like 9

      The Cougar could very well have won the 1967 Trans-Am championship if not for a very strong suggestion from high above that it would not look good for the Mercury team to beat the Mustang team. There are several restored 67 Cougar Trans-Am race cars and quite a few more tributes/restomods.

      For the record the 1968 Cougar GTE was the last FoMoCo product to leave the factory with the 427 engine.

      In other racing let’s not forget the likes of Dyno Don Nickleson and Fast Eddie Schartman who drag raced Cougars for several years. They were both given a new 1969 Boss 429 Cougar to race. There were also quite a few others who drag raced Cougars in the late 60s to early 70s.

      I too, would like to know where the owner found the Group 2 horn button. Mercury did build a Group 2 1967 Cougar so perhaps that horn button was something that might have been an over the counter part back in the day.

      Like 6
  11. John D

    I had a 67 black XR7 and a 68 blue XR7 years ago I wish I still had the 67, that said if I had the cash I would buy this one in a heartbeat all the driveline and suspension upgrades I’m sure this is quite the driver, the no rust to be found is almost unheard of on these. So the interior and paint need work big deal you can still drive it and have a blast just the way it is. If I were lucky enough to buy this one I would repaint the original green I always loved that color. Because I’m an option pig I would eventually replace the interior with all the XR7 goodie’s.
    Any of us that has a fun car the only one that has to like it it the owner, yes it’s nice when others appreciate your ride but to each there own. That said I’ve never come across someone’s pride and joy and not finding something about it I liked even if the car was not my taste. Find something to complement the owner on who knows you may end up with a great friend.

    Like 5
  12. SirRaoulDuke

    First order of business would be to replace those buckets with some modern seats to hold your rear end in place. Next step would be to fire this thing down some back roads at criminal speeds, and later do whatever upgrades float your boat.

    Me, I like builds like this. The car hobby is about having fun, and this car looks like it would be a blast. On a few occasions I’ve been lucky enough to run into well thought-out performance builds on back roads and had the driver hang with me, while I was piloting much more modern weaponry…those kinds of surprises make me smile.

    Like 3
  13. RMac

    Todd I agree with you in the day most people personalized their cars so why keep them stock now the car hoppy always was about personal expression if you are a pure stock guy fine but to each his own and lots of people like to personalize their car Since I was 14 I have never kept any car or truck I owned completely stock
    Great car I personally love it

  14. Frank Stantyos

    my friend tommy was a hardcore chevy guy. he was always bent up on thinking chevy was the best. strangely his older brother always bought fords. i remember when his brother bought a 1970 torino gt with a 351 4v cleveland.
    automatic all stock and no posi and bias ply tires. he took it to national speedway and raced it against all the neighborhoods worked street cars. 340 cuda, a 383 roadrunner, a 400 gto and other people who raced in that class. he won the class and the trophy was about 4 ft tall and his brother held it in his hand on the top of the roof and was doing donuts in the parking lot celebrating the victory. later on he bought a 351 cleveland 4v powered cougar. i remember that car the front springs were shot. but the car was a rocket ship because the cougar was lighter. those were the days going up.

  15. Mark P

    Love this car. Every bit. A car you drive. To me it’s something Gator McCloskey (Burt Reynolds) would drive running moon shine.

  16. Robt

    Awesome car. The kind of setup I always dreamed of for my old 66 fairlane hardtop.

  17. Tooyoung4heyday Tooyoung4heyday Member

    Really cool driver car to just go cruise or beat the life out of. Tastefully done for its theme but as we all know, projects are never truly done. The next owner has their choice to build upon this start or start over. Id drive it as is, but switch to black door panels…..

    Like 1

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