In the heady days of the muscle car wars of 1968, luxury cars with performance upgrades tended to get lost in all the horsepower hype. Plymouth was touting its Road Runner with rubber floor mats and a 383ci big-block, Chevy was pushing hard with 375hp 396ci Chevelles, and Ford had its big-block Mustangs. Lost in the shuffle was the '68 Mercury Cougar. The one thing everybody remembers about the Cougars of that era was their sequential turn signals. Even less well known was a performance upgrade to the popular XR-7 package called the GT-E. It was only available in 1968, and most of the cars were fitted with 7.0L 427 FE engines.
Hidden among these 357 GT-E cars were exactly 37 Cougars upgraded with 340hp 428ci Cobra Jet engines. These FE-family big-block Fords were fitted with Holley carbs and fed through fully functional Ram Air hoodscoops and air cleaner assemblies. Way back in 1977, Gary Woodward persuaded his dad to loan him the money to buy this Augusta Green cat from its original owner. Since then, he's rebuilt the original 428 and painted the car, but that's the original interior-a classic reminder that even in 1968, not all performance cars were stripped-down muscle machines.
Who: Gary Woodward
What: '68 Mercury Cougar GT-E
Where: Sunland, CA
Engine: 428ci Cobra Jet with 10.5:1 compression, a hydraulic flat-tappet cam, cast-iron heads with 2.09/1.66-inch valves, a single four-barrel Holley 735-cfm vacuum-secondary carburetor, and cast-iron exhaust manifolds.
Transmission: Three-speed Merc-O-Matic transmission with floor shifter. The GT-E Registry lists three 428ci cars (and no 427 cars) built with four-speed Top Loader transmissions.
Bodywork: The GT-E-version Cougars came with blacked-out grilles, vacuum-controlled headlight doors, unique quad exhaust tips, and special GT-E Cougar badging.
Interior: Gary sits on a combination of leather and vinyl bucket seats and looks at a woodgrain dash with a 6,000-rpm tachometer, accessory toggle switches, and custom interior lighting.
Wheels/Tires: The original GT-Es came with styled-steel, five-spoke, 14-inch wheels and FR70 tires. Gary purchased reproduction 15-inch wheels mounted with 225/60R15 and 235/60R15 Dunlop GT Qualifiers.
Even though the Cougar GT-E was considered a luxury performance car, there wasn't room under the hood for an A/C compressor, so conditioned air wasn't available with either 7.0L engine.