The September 2017 Ride of the Month is Darren Hoult's '70 XR-7

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The September 2017 Ride of the Month is Darren Hoult's '70 XR-7

Post by xr7g428 » 10 Sep 2017, 10:22

For many Cougar enthusiasts the story begins when a Cougar came into their lives. For Darren Hoult, the Cougar arrived on the scene before he did.

New for 1970!

Mercury dealers had a lot riding on the Cougar in summer of 1969. The Cougar had completely reinvigorated the brand. The refreshed Cougar design of 1969 had sold well, but the distinctive electric razor grill, that was so much a part of the Cougars Identity, was missing. For some buyers that was a turn off. This was going to be even more important for 1970.



In the late 60's car buyers tended to enter the market every three years. The last of the payment coupons had been mailed off and their old car had enough equity to help get them into an even nicer new car. Many buyers that had jumped on the Cougar bandwagon in 1967 would now be in the market for new Cougar. It was unusual for designers to refresh a car after just one year in the market, but the Cougar was just too important not to get right. For 1970 the electric razor grill would return in an even more appealing form.

Today many Cougar enthusiasts consider the '70 Cougar to be the high water mark. The '69 had brought more headroom, and a more logical dashboard layout. Under the hood the 351 2V had become standard power, a big step up from the 289. The 351 4V insured that no one missed the demise of the old 390 2V and the 390 4V with its massive 427 foot pounds of torque was still available. And of curse there was a new convertible, the Eliminator, the Boss 302, and of course the Cobra Jet 428 (now with or without Ram Air) if you wanted to get serious. If the '69 was an improvement, then the '70 was perfection.

As with any mew model introduction the '69 Cougar had a few teething pains. Elimination of the side vent windows gave the new Cougar a dramatic look. Regrettably the change would also include glued-in-place side windows. In an effort to streamline the under dash wiring a new printed circuit style harness would connect the instruments, well it was supposed to at least. In the trunk a new solid state flasher would create almost as many new problems as it solved. By 1970 all of these issues were resolved for the better. Inside the high-back bucket seats introduced in the '69 Eliminator would be standard across the board. Flow through ventilation would become standard. All four speed transmissions would now be connected to a tee-handle equipped Hurst shifter. And every Cougar would be a little more secure with the new locking steering column that locked the ignition, steering, and even the transmission.

Perhaps the biggest news was under the hood. The new Cougar would get Ford's newest engine, the NASCAR inspired 351 Cleveland. For the first time no one could complain that a Ford didn't breathe as well as a Chevy. The new Cleveland heads featured a semi-hemi combustion chamber and splayed valves. The intake and exhaust passages looked so big that they were described as being big as tennis balls (an exaggeration for sure..). The new 351 was rated at 300 HP (up 10 HP from the Windsor) and sported Ford's highest compression ratio at 11:1. And to keep every one guessing, Cougars ordered with the base H code 351 2V could have been equipped with either the Windsor or the Cleveland.

Of course a few things would go away for 1970. Speed Control would disappear from the option list and the venerable 390 was no longer available. Ram Air would become an option only available on the Q code 428 CJ. For trivia fans, for the first time, the Mercury man symbol would not appear anywhere on the Cougar.

In the beginning...

On Monday July 7th 1969 the Mid Canada District Sales Office received an order for an new Cougar XR-7. It would be one of only 10 XR-7's, (one convertible the rest hardtops), that would be ordered there. The 1969 production year was still going strong so the new Cougar wasn't expected any time soon. With some luck, Percival Mercury Sales would receive the new Cougar in time for the big new-model introduction the end of September.

The new Cougar would be the center of attraction in the show room so it made sense to really think through the options that needed to be selected. You couldn't go wrong with a red car, and the dark red leather buckets and black vinyl top would be a perfect match. Under the hood the new 351 4V Cleveland would haul the mail. An FMX automatic and 3.0 axle would put the power down. Power Front Disc Brakes and Power Steering would make driving nearly effortless. Inside, the sports console, AM/FM Stereo Radio, and Deluxe Belts, would trim out the interior. Saskatchewan weather is unpredictable, but you could bank on cold winters. An Immersion Block Heater would make it much easier to start on cold mornings. Intermittent Windshield Wipers and Rear Window Defrost would make inclement weather a little less unbearable. A new luxury touch would make owning a two door a little easier; Mercury now offered Automatic Seat Back Releases that operated when ever the door was open.




Two months would pass before the Cougar would be built. Finally, on September 17th the Cougar was bucked and it was built and released from the plant on the 22nd. The new Cougar would arrive in Regina Saskatchewan in time for the new model introduction.

On February 28th of 1970 Bob Hoult became the owner of the beautiful new Cougar XR-7. Just two years later, the Cougar would play an important role in the latest addition to the Hoult family, bring Bob's new born son Darren home from the hospital where he was born. Both the Cougar and Darren must have had the right stuff. Bob decided they were both worth keeping.



As he was growing up the Cougar was a constant part of Darren's life until his father decided to let Darren's older cousin Brad use the car for a bit. It was in the early 80's and Darren was still years away from getting his license. Darren tells us; "Brad re-painted the car and hopped up the motor. It looked good and sounded mean. I was a early teen and this really boosted my interest in hopped up muscle cars, especially the Cougar. I got my driver’s license in ’88 and in my hometown of Regina, Saskatchewan there were a ton of super cool Musclecars still terrorizing the streets. It was a fun time for sure. Brad still had the Cougar so a month after I got my license I purchased a 1968 Cougar that was dark red with black décor interior. It had a stock 302 4bbl. This was the car I really learned how to tinker on. I was able to build a new beefed up 289 for it and swapped out the auto for a 4 speed top-loader. That 68 was fun to rip around in as a 17 year old! I was a gearhead from that point on. After high school I bought another '68. This one was a blue with a white vinyl top, XR-7, 302 4bl, with automatic transmission. I planned to restore it some day. I ended up selling both those cars years later."



It wasn't long before Darren was back in the Cougar business. "In my early 20’s I eventually got my dad’s 70 Cougar XR7 back from Brad. He left it sitting in a barn at the farm for several years. When I got the car it looked OK; it was red black vinyl top but the paint job wasn’t very good and it started to show lots of bondo in the quarters from previous rust. The interior was in miserable shape, with crushed velvet on the door panels and dash (it looked terrible!) I think Brad was trying to cover up a cracked dash pad."

Among other things, a fire had damaged the carpet and worst of all the wiring harness. Following a fracas with the insurance company they got the Cougar back but not before the XR7 parts had been stripped and a '69 wiring harness hacked into place. Darren put it this way. "I had a nightmare wiring harness situation to deal with, very difficult XR7 specific interior pieces to find and so on. The car was never the same."

Originally, Darren's Cougar was Cardinal Red.


Darren fixed the car up the best he could in the late 90's. "I didn’t have a lot of money to put into it but I was able to polish the paint so it looked good at 25ft and refreshed the motor with rings and bearings. I drove the car on weekends for a few years then it sat in my garage and moved to 3 different homes and cities before I dug back into it."

When the time came to restore the car Darren described the process this way. "The car needed a complete nut and bolt restoration. It was in rough shape. I started by stripping off all the trim and vinyl top, the interior, motor, and transmission. I did this all myself and placed parts in bins with labels on everything. I located an auto body guy named Norm, he was 82 years old at the time and had been doing bodywork since the 40s. Norm had a huge shop with a built in booth and his son would help at times. I had seen the work he’d done and didn’t mind the 9 months it took to complete. Norm had to replace both quarters, the passenger door and do a little patching on a front fender. The hood, trunk lid and roof were solid. "



"I’m thankful for my friend Kim in Abbotsford as he was able to help me source some really nice quarters and a mountain of other parts at a reasonable cost. I spent the 9 months banging dings and scratches out of all the stainless trim followed by hours of polishing."



"When I got the car back I took out all the suspension and rear end. I spent a lot of time striping the bottom of the car and repainting, something I wish I had done before paint (too much time spent masking to protect paint) I spent countless hours using my sand blaster to strip parts and bolts to be repainted and such. I did acquire a full body AMK bolt kit."

A race car mechanic rebuilt the 9 inch differential with all new bearings and seals and installed a Yukon Trac Loc 3.5:1 center. The FMX was rebuilt and upgraded with a 2800 RPM stall converter and performance shift kit.

"I am a bit of a gear head and really enjoy building engines; I’ve done a few. I had a very reputable guy do all the machining on my correct VIN stamped 351C 4V block and heads. I had the heads machined for screw in studs, bronze guides, stainless swirl-polished Intake & Exhaust valves, and hardened seats installed. Dual valve springs spec’d for my custom grind Hydraulic roller cam with Morel link bar lifters and Scorpion roller rockers. I used forged flat-top pistons, .012 thou in the holes, with file fit Sealed Power rings. It topped off with a Quickfuel 680 VS carb atop an Edelbrock RPM Air Gap intake. Hooker long tube headers breathe into a 2 1/2 inch dual Magnaflow exhaust system."



"I assembled the entire car myself, I re-wired the entire car myself (another thing I enjoy is the challenge of electrical work). The car came home from paint June 2013 and I didn’t have it road ready till June 2017. The delay? Well, in addition to a very busy life, I’m too fussy with making every part look shiny and new!"



Darren's Cougar is solid evidence that all that fussiness really did pay off. You can see Darren's Cougar at shows in the Kelowna area or maybe on an ice cream run with his wife, their 10 year old daughter. and possibly the family dog.

Recently Darren's father got a chance to see the Cougar; he hadn’t seen it since the restoration was completed. "My parents were just out and went for a ride in the Cougar for the first time in over 20 years. My dad was very impressed with it and said it reminded him of when it was new."

For the Classic Cougar Community, we think it is far better than new! It wouldn't surprise us to see this Cougar still in the family a generation from now.

Bill Basore, Editor / Publisher
Legendary Cougar Magazine
Currently in the Cat House
'67 XR7 GT 390 4 speed, AC, AM FM, Lime Frost Green
'68 XR7-G 428CJ C6, Tilt-Away, AM, Black Cherry
'68 XR7-G 390 4 speed, Sunroof, Cardinal Red
'68 XR7 GT-E 427 C6 AM Cardinal Red
'68 XR7 resto mod 351W, soon to be AOD, Black Cherry

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Re: The September 2017 Ride of the Month is Darren Hoult's '70 XR-7

Post by badcatt » 10 Sep 2017, 10:44

Congratulations Darren.You have a sweet Cougar.
Neal Jacobson.
1970 XR-7 "Ginger"
1970 XR-7 Convertible The New Money Pit.
1971 XR-7 Bright Blue with Blue "Up Beat" interior
See ya on the hiways,
The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter,
they are an entire banquet
.
- Mark Twain -

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Re: The September 2017 Ride of the Month is Darren Hoult's '70 XR-7

Post by propayne » 10 Sep 2017, 13:25

Love it! :beerchug:

- Phillip

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Re: The September 2017 Ride of the Month is Darren Hoult's '70 XR-7

Post by 1967 S Code » 10 Sep 2017, 16:55

Congratulations Darren. Your Cougar looks great at the top of the page!
Steven
Image

Our Cougars

Image

1967 Standard
Dan Gurney Special

6.5 Litre, Black / Black, AC Whisperaire, Am/FM, Sports Console,
Front and Rear Bumper Guards, Clock

1968 XR7-G
302 4V, Lime Frost / Black Leather, AM/FM, Black Vinyl, Tilt-A-Way
Heavy Duty Suspension, Power Disc Brakes, Rader Wheels


1968 XR7-G Hertz
390 4V, Black Cherry/ Dark Red Leather, Black Vinyl, Sunroof, Tilt-A-Way,
Cruise, Rear Defrost, AC Whisperaire


1968 Convertible Conversion "Top Cat"
Standard, 302 4V, XR7G Console, XR7G Front Valance

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Re: The September 2017 Ride of the Month is Darren Hoult's '70 XR-7

Post by COUGRR » 10 Sep 2017, 18:37

Congrats!

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Re: The September 2017 Ride of the Month is Darren Hoult's '70 XR-7

Post by d-vitell » 10 Sep 2017, 21:51

Have to agree with the "Today many Cougar enthusiasts consider the '70 Cougar to be the high water mark." quote in the write up. I have a definite soft spot for the 1970 model year Cougar.
Darren, you look to have a real special Cat indeed! Congrats!
1970 Cougar XR7 Vert 351C 4V Tremec 5 Speed

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badcatt
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Re: The September 2017 Ride of the Month is Darren Hoult's '70 XR-7

Post by badcatt » 10 Sep 2017, 22:08

Darren's Black paint job is so clean I was able to get a fairly nice reflection of my Cougar on his quarter panel. This was at the Fordnutz 50th show last July at Fort Langley B.C.
Image
Neal Jacobson.
1970 XR-7 "Ginger"
1970 XR-7 Convertible The New Money Pit.
1971 XR-7 Bright Blue with Blue "Up Beat" interior
See ya on the hiways,
The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter,
they are an entire banquet
.
- Mark Twain -

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Re: The September 2017 Ride of the Month is Darren Hoult's '70 XR-7

Post by 7TXR7 » 10 Sep 2017, 22:58

That's a nice black and white picture there Neal!! That was a good show.
I have to say, classic Cougar enthusiasts are some of the nicest most down to earth people in the car collector scene.
Thanks for the votes people!!
1970 XR7 M-code

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Re: The September 2017 Ride of the Month is Darren Hoult's '70 XR-7

Post by DeadStang » 12 Sep 2017, 20:46

NICE!!!

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Re: The September 2017 Ride of the Month is Darren Hoult's '70 XR-7

Post by 70 Cougar » 12 Sep 2017, 22:03

Congrats Darren! She turned out awesome. The black on red with red pinstripes and red center caps are a sharp combo.
- Steve O

1970 Mercury Cougar
2004 SVT Cobra

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