Reader Question: ’68 Cougar?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Kristy writes: I have a ’68 Cougar that I bought in Tucson, AZ in 1995 when I was 19. It was my first car. I actually am picking it up today. It has been in a shop (long story short: I took it in to get it painted and someone decided it was a restoration project… it’s taken about 6 months to figure out what happened and who is responsible for the $25,000 worth of labor that was unauthorized. The owner emailed me Friday to come get it, they made a mistake and aren’t going to bill me. What a relief!)

So my questions:

It has a sunroof.  I believe it was after-market. I don’t like it (too bright and hot with the sun shining down inside.) That is one area that needs done before I can paint. I have a guy in town who restores cars that is willing to do that work (using cardboard and glue apparently, vs welding a new roof on-have you ever heard of that? I do want to put a black top on (that goes on after painting I think? I need to replace the dashboard top and front, and have found a place that can send me an imitation (pretty inexpensive), or one that will refurbish the original (more expensive).

What would you recommend?

And then I have to decide on a color…. my dad things keeping it an original Cougar color is a better idea. But it was originally gold; it was white when I bought it, and I don’t want to do either of those, or black (too hot). There are millions of shades to choose from, and I know it comes down to what I choose, but is there any particular reason I would want to keep it an original color? Trying to weigh on my options. Will it really affect the price if I were to sell it in the future?  (I’m really liking the dark/deep red on new trucks I am seeing). Anyway, I would appreciate any feedback you may have to share. As far as one comment you made about parts being easy to find, we did find out this past year that for whatever reason that has not been the case with my car.

My reply: The Cougar, of course, is a Mustang sold through Mercury dealers (RIP). It was supposed to be a more luxurious/upscale version of the Mustang, kind of like the Buick Regal GS was was vs. the Chevy Chevelle.

The sunroof  may indeed be factory; have a look at the pic I included below.

But even if not… cardboard and glue?  Cardboard is porous and has little if any structural strength. It is possible, I suppose, that there is some new type of cardboard and special glue that can be used to permanently fill a hole in a metal roof – but that’s a new one for me, if so.

Normally, the roof section would be replaced – a new piece welded in. This, of course, gets into money. But if your car has a vinyl roof – as it appears to, based on your question, a metal patch panel could be welded in place of the sunroof and it need not be a perfectly pretty repair given it will be covered by the vinyl roof.

Many cars from that era had them (again, see pic above).

Regardless,you want the metal work to be tight. Else it will leak. And then, rust. Speaking of which . . .

Vinyl is porous, too.

It is really important that the underlying metal be repaired properly and painted/sealed properly before the vinyl is installed – and that the vinyl is tight and right, especially along seams.

Which also gets into money.

Which brings me to: You might consider not recovering it in vinyl and having a new roof panel stitched in, sans the sunroof. Then paint the car a single solid color. This will eliminate the possibility of leaks down the road – and roof rust.

Vinyl roofs being notorious water traps, especially when combined with a sunroof. More places for potential leaks/seeps, even if all the install work is done meticulously. It’s the nature of the beast.

The same applies to T-Tops, by the way (been there, done that).

That said, if the car originally came with the sunroof from the factory – and had a vinyl roof from the factory – I would retain both and have them fixed properly. Both being desirable and unusual options that will add considerably to the neatness and value of your car.

You may find it will cost you less to just fix the sunroof (new seals, etc.) and have it recovered with new vinyl than to stitch in a patch panel, etc. I’d price out all the options and then decide.

On the dash: I recommend a proper repair here as well. It will be worth it in the long run. Get in touch with Just Dashes (see here). These guys will restore your original to as-new condition, which will means it’ll look new for decades to come with proper care.

On the color: Go with the color you like.  Unless the car is a highly collectible model, a color change won’t affect its value greatly. Especially if done right. Meaning, not just the exterior panels but also the door jambs, under the hood and trunk – so that it’s not obvious the car was once a different color when you open the doors/trunk, etc. I would personally try to go with a color similar to one of the original colors available in ’68 – as that will maintain the original vibe.

On parts: The issue with the Cougar is it’s not a Mustang. Mechanical parts are the same and should be just as easy to find as Mustang parts. But there are some trim parts unique to the Cougar that are harder to find because fewer Cougars were made and they are less popular today as collectibles than Mustangs.

Still, I’m betting you could find what you need through sources such as West Coast Cougar (see here).

Have you tried them?

. . .

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  1. That “cardboard and glue” idea sounds pretty weird. I have to assume what they’re talking about is making up a headliner-like cover to block the glass from the inside if the main concern is blocking excess heat and light.

  2. On the sunroof, check the parts and see if they are real Ford. Ford marks approximately every part with the ford oval, the script F and a part number. Some parts also get a date code. All it should take is removing some plastic trim and checking the backside of the parts.

    I found a youtube video showing the factory sunroof:
    Apparently Ford had it done outside so the Ford symbol I mentioned may or may not be there. Like I wrote, approximately every part.

    If it is some aftermarket thing cut in the 1980s you’ll want to fix the roof properly by welding in a piece of steel from a parts car or fabricated. It can be done. The cheap way would be the same thing but using panel bond. But with panel bond you’ll have an overlap joint which will require a lot of filler. Not great for a roof that might need to flex if something is placed on it etc. Welding can be done with butt welds and after grinding it will appear seamless. Of course that takes skill and skill costs money.


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