Past Cars

My Former Cats (and 'Bird)

Page Revised: 6 May 2019

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Article by
Eric Dess

As humans tend to do, it's easy to look backwards and see what shaped me, what we drove, why cars were important to me at that particular moment in time. Below are the cars that became an influential part of the COOL CATS world, for one reason or another. I don't believe any of them exist today but I've got plenty of great memories.


 

1984 Cougar GS V6


This is the car that started it all: my very first car, a stunning 1984 Light Cadet Blue Metallic Cougar GS V6, purchased in May 1987. While not a stellar performer, it had everything in the looks department and we were inseparable. It took me through college, back and forth to my first job, a few vacations, and many in-town excursions with friends. There were only a very few instances where the car left me stranded (broken inertia switch, broken ball joint) but otherwise the car remained trouble-free for over 100,000 miles. After finding the '86 V8 car (see below), though, I knew the days of this car in my care were numbered, so I found a family that needed a first car for their daughter, and the transition couldn't have been smoother. Essentially everything on this site is the culmination of knowledge that began with this very car.

1984 Cougar GS V6

The car as purchased in May of 1987. Remember, this was only 3 years old at the time.

1984 Cougar GS V6

Not long after purchasing the car, I did what everyone cool back in those days did—bought a front-end cover (aka the "Bra"). I also bought a matching pair of matching—and rare—LeBra mirror covers (yes, I still have them). And I found a set of used Mustang-style TRX rims with 4 relatively matching tires from salvage yards, and slapped 'em on. Now it was beginning to look sporty.

1984 Cougar GS V6

Eventually I went a bit further, adding a full ground effects kit painted silver. I also painted the mirrors flat silver and sandblasted the chrome to create a flat metallic finish. I hand-made a set of clear headlight covers with the Cougar logo etched on the inside. One last touch was an illuminated hood ornament, courtesy of one of the C-pillar coach lamps I found at the salvage yard.

1984 Cougar GS V6

Out back I swapped in a pair of '85 taillights—not an easy thing to do, it turns out. I filled in the reflectors and painted the section light blue. Also, I airbrushed the cat head on the backup lights to simulate the 1987-88 taillights, and painted black "laser stripes" (similar to those on the Topaz and Grand Marquis) on the lenses. The MERCURY and COUGAR letters were airbrushed onto the trunklid.

1984 Cougar GS V6

The interior held up quite well, even after the 6 years I had the car. There was one small cigarette burn on the driver's seat, and the stock leather on the steering wheel fell apart, necessitating the dark blue cover you see here. This car ended up being a real experiment for my Cougars to come. I definitely had Cat scratch fever, all because of this blue gem.

 


 

1986 Cougar GS V8


This was my second car overall and it become a daily driver immediately after purchase in 1992. It's also the first factory V8 car that I'd ever owned. Although the car had seen better days it was reliable enough for daily duty. And it provided a platform for my experimentation, both mechanically and visually. But it was truly a black Cat in every sense of the phrase. I was glad to buy it and just as glad to see it go.

1986 Cougar GS V8

Immediately after purchasing the car the 14" polycast road wheels got replaced with 15" XR7 rims from my storage shed.

1986 Cougar GS V8

I didn't intend to create an evil-looking car but after an accident (not my fault) in January 1996, the repair shop was able to install all the cool parts I'd been accumulating for the car: Turbo Coupe hood, front air dam and rear valance. Prior to the accident I had experimented with the Tempo mirror conversion. On went a pair of '83 clear turn signals, and installed Marchal fog lamps.

1986 Cougar GS V8

A custom grille, painted side markers and blackout headlight covers completed the ominous transformation. It wasn't fast, it wasn't loud, but it looked m-e-a-n. The car's paint finish was actually very bad (cracks and peeling) and didn't look nearly as nice as it does in these photos. But that's the magic of photography!

1986 Cougar GS V8

Inside, an XR7 2-spoke sport steering wheel, console, painted dash and console panels, carbon fiber-simulated dash trim, and a Turbo Coupe instrument cluster all got installed.

1986 Cougar GS V8

A work-in-progress shot of the interior. Notice the rotary heater panel conversion, Taurus cupholder assembly, Taurus rear window defroster switch, and light-up Cougar nomenclature above the glove box.

1986 Cougar GS V8

A closer look at the Tempo mirror conversion.

1986 Cougar GS V8

One of my last photos of the car before it got banged up in yet another accident (also not my fault) in November 1996. It was disheartening to see the accomplishments that I'd put into the car get destroyed. At that point, I did not feel like putting more money into this car and promptly sold it. Can't really say I miss it. I'd like to think that it inspired a few people though.

 


 

1988 Cougar XR7


This 1988 XR7 was purchased in February 1998. It desperately needed wax but otherwise was in decent shape for daily driving duties. As such, I vowed not to sink too much money into this one and I kept that promise. It turned out to be one of the most trouble-free Cougars I've ever owned. It was sold in October 2001 with 154,000 problem-free miles on the odometer.

1988 Cougar XR7

While the body wasn't perfect, it was good enough for daily driving duty.

1988 Cougar XR7

Mechanically, the car was excellent. In fact this particular car's stock 155hp V8 mated to that AOD was the most perfect combination I've yet found in a Cougar. The shifts were crisp, precise, and always timed perfectly.

1988 Cougar XR7

The addition of factory white Cougar mudflaps helped accentuate the all-white theme of the car.

1988 Cougar XR7

Note the customized clear taillight mod.

 


 

1988 Cougar Blue Max V6


Ever since the Blue Max Editions were brand new I'd always wanted one. As luck would have it, in July of 2000 I was able to get one, albeit damaged. The car had been driven off-road and into a tree. Structurally the car was mostly fine but it needed some new fenders, a new header panel, and a new radiator. Unfortunately there were also a few other issues that I felt were unfair to pass onto someone else, therefore we salvaged what we could and scrapped the car. They can't all be saved.

1988 Cougar Blue Max Edition (V6)

The car in all its carnage, not long after coming off the tow truck.

1988 Cougar Blue Max Edition (V6)

After some parts hunting I was able to get the car back together physically, for the most part. Unfortunately the body was too far gone to make it worthwhile to get back on the road.

1988 Cougar Blue Max Edition (V6)

After some time it simply wouldn't start or stay running. In fact I never drove the car more than a quarter of a mile. Better to let this one go.

 


 

1988 Cougar Blue Max V8


In the fall of 2002 I happened upon this Twilight Blue '88 Blue Max Cougar V8 locally via eBay. The original plan was to use this car as a daily driver. When I got the car home I discovered that it needed a lot more work than planned. It spent the winter of '02 and spring of '03 in storage, and in the summer of '03 I finally got a few things fixed on the car in time for show car season. As time moved on, though, I reassessed my vehicle situation: I liked this car but was never really in love with it. In the summer of 2006 it was sold to a very worthy family.

1988 Cougar Blue Max Edition (V8)

The car as I originally purchased it.

1988 Cougar Blue Max Edition (V8)

Another shot at sunset.

1988 Cougar Blue Max Edition (V8)

The original, untouched interior as it was when I bought it.

1988 Cougar Blue Max Edition (V8)

The stunning color lends itself great to the Blue Max package, which consists of the lower grey striping, luggage rack, red accent striping in the molding, and special badging. The car is still based on an LS, although there is no LS badging.

1988 Cougar Blue Max Edition (V8)

I installed a pair of good used buckets from a parted out '88 XR7, along with its console, dash panels and matching sport steering wheel. The car was converted to floor shift when the replacement transmission was installed. The stereo system was rewired and upgraded as well.

1988 Cougar Blue Max Edition (V8)

A set of 15" turbine rims made the exterior look fantastic.

 


 

1988 Thunderbird Sport V8


The only non-Cougar daily driver Fox that I owned was a 1988 Ford Thunderbird V8 Sport. It was a great deal—sitting in the salvage yard, it was mostly complete and after I made an offer, it was accepted and I got it towed home. I didn't know the transmission was completely shot. But I quickly found a new one, got it replaced, and just drove it as-is. While it ran pretty well, it was definitely lacking in the power department. In February 2002 the car was treated to an HO conversion with a modified exhaust system. My mechanic had the HO parts literally laying around, and he did the engine and exhaust work himself. The car idled so smoothly that it was sometimes difficult to tell that it was even running. The car saw daily driver duty through summer 2005. With a shift in priorities in life, I decided to sell the Thunderbird in September 2005.

1988 Thunderbird Sport V8

The 1988 Thunderbird Sport V8 after getting cleaned up for the first time in awhile.

1988 Thunderbird Sport V8

This car was absolutely loaded, with every option except the leather seats.

1988 Thunderbird Sport V8

The original 14" steel wheels were eventually replaced with 15" turbine rims.